Heidi: I don’t want my night to ever fizzle off, I want to finish it with an explosion
In Miami last year I discovered a DJ named Heidi Van Den Amstel, who played a brilliant set at Sunday School one of the closing events during Miami’s annual party week (WMC) in March. When I got back to London I made sure I checked her out again as soon as I could, the next time I saw her play was an eight hour long set, during which time she kept my friends and I dancing all night. She’s one of those DJs who really knows how to please a crowd and she always seems to enjoy having a dance just as much as the people she’s playing to. She currently hosts a fortnightly show on Radio 1, while also putting on her own Jackathon parties around the world and she’s just launched her own label. A few weeks ago we sat in a north London pub together and had a long chat covering everything from her love of Spiritualized, her myriad of projects, DJ groupies, and her first ever visit to Glastonbury.
So you’re hosting documentaries now?
Yeah, the BBC are starting documentaries for electronic music and the first one is on Richie Hawtin and they thought, because we’ve been friends for a long time, that I’d be a good person to interview him. I’ll do that next month, it should be ready by July, and then I’ll hopefully be doing one every month – it’s for an hour every Monday night. They have someone interviewing each person and then [talking head] clips from all the people that know them. It’s cool because I get to do that and the radio show.
Could you ever have envisaged that you’d end up doing that kind of thing?
No, never in a million years would I have expected that anyone would have wanted to hear my voice on the radio! But I guess the gift of the gab worked for me, and also I’m very persistant… I mean , when I heard ‘In New DJs We Trust’ was finishing I made a conscious decision to move back to London because I was like “I need to be involved, I need to be as in-their-face as possible and say ‘Look I’m here and I’m dedicated, I wanna do something’”.
I think it’s really good that someone like you is in that position because you play different kinds of house across the board, so the uninitiated don’t get a skewed idea of what house is.
Yeah, I play old stuff too. I have two features on my show, one called my ‘Classic Cuts’ where I play something really old then I do my ‘Below The Belt’ track, which is self-explanatory – a track that hits you below the belt – and I have a half hour guest mix. I’m just glad that I have two hours now, so I can spread it out a bit. And they’re really open to whatever, it’s nice to have that kind of freedom.
Your Facebook status recently commented on someone criticising you playing an old track?
Someone said: “You always play that one track ‘I Get Deep’ and I was like “Yeah, because have you seen the crowd reaction every time I play it?!”. I love that track, it’s a crowd pleaser, why not play it?
When people ask me about you I always tell them “She’s a crowd pleaser”. But I don’t mean that in a negative way, you just play tracks that people love to hear.
That’s my job!
You know some people are so snobby about it…
I can also do a set of a load of tracks people don’t even know and still please the crowd. It’s the way you bring it. If I stood there staring into my laptop and not looking at the crowd once, I could play all the hits and it would sound like shit because I wasn’t interest in it. But yeah, I always play crowd pleasers…
Last year when you played for eight hours, me and my friends couldn’t stop dancing.
Me neither and I wasn’t even drinking because I had to go to Ibiza the next day. That was intense. But yeah, I will play something and I don’t care if it’s ‘played out’ – to all those people on the dancefloor it’s not played out because they aren’t sitting there listening to dance music 24/7. I remember when I was younger and going out and being quite annoyed because I didn’t hear certain tracks and that also made me want to become a DJ because I was tired of not hearing what I wanted to hear. I came from the dancefloor, I love dancing, it’s disappointing when you leave without a strong memory from the night, that’s why I always try and finish with a pop track or a hip-hop track to leave people with something in their mind. I don’t want my night to ever fizzle off, I want to finish it with an explosion.
So tell me about the Jackathon EP?
It’s out next month… I’m starting a new label, a sub-label of Get Physical. I thought it was the next logical step, people were like ‘You should start a label’. I’ve got Eats Everything remixing Jamie Jones, Deniz Kurtel remixes Solomun and Richy Ahmed remixes Mathias Kaden, which is my favourite, it’s an awesome track. It’s a big release, then I’ve got six EPs lined up already. The first one is Maya Jane Coles on one side and Miss Kittin on the other, then I’ve got Darius Syrossian with a couple of huge bombs, he’s killing it and he makes those tracks in like a day!
He’s one of those guys that’s slightly overlooked as well.
Yeah he works so hard and he’s been around for a while. His tracks are great, he makes really good house music… and then, I don’t know what I’m gonna have to do to get this but Nic Fanciulli did an edit of Moodymann – Shades Of Jae, which he only gave to six people. I said “If Moodymann says yes, can we release it on Jackathon?” and he said yeah, but I know Moodymann’s a tough cookie so I might have to give my first-born child for that one. Then we’ve got Lauhaus and Jesse Perez, and Eats Everything, he’s doing me an EP with Lukas. The label is gonna be called ‘Heidi Presents Jackaton Jams’.
How do you juggle all the different things you do?
I don’t know. At the moment I’m pretty overwhelmed, but it’s worth it.
You ended up quite ill last year, didn’t you?
I was super ill, I was stuck in in Ibiza, literally stuck in a hotel that cost me like a million dollars a day to stay longer, with the blinds closed and doctors coming to my room and giving me injections. I made it to Sonar, and I was so snapped up on Spanish pharmaceuticals you could have asked me anything and I would’ve said “Sure!”. But it happens to everybody, everybody burns out because we’re not robots, even though people think we are.
As much as you have lots of cool aspects to your job, there is a flip side too.
You have to give up a lot for what you get, but you get as much as you give. It’s like any person who travels like that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a trader or whatever, if you’re on a plane that many times a week and crossing that many time zones, you’re gonna lose your mind. I wouldn’t want to put anyone I know through that.
Where does your love of music come from?
My dad was heavily into rock music. I am too.
Do you still listen to rock music?
Hell yeah, that’s all I listen to. I just bought the new Jack White album yesterday… I’ve seen him like 40 times, in every band that he’s been in. He’s great. I love rock music and… everything, I like everything. This is another thing people always want to talk about now, what’s happening in America, with ‘EDM’. But you know what, I’ve been there and played at those parties. When there’s 60,000 people in front of the stage going completely ballistic, even if the music is a nightmare for me, I can lose myself in it for at least 20 minutes. You’re sucking up the vibes from all those people.
What are your other loves apart from music?
I like to cook when I have time. My speciality is lasagne, ‘heart-attack lasagne’ I call it. It’s massive with like seven different cheeses in it, lots of meat, chilli, garlic… It weighs more than a stone, it could feed a small army.
So when did everything start coming together for you?
I started in 2004, then it kinda kicked off during the summer of 2006. That’s when Get Physical were at their peak and the M.A.N.D.Y guys took me under their wing, and DJ.T. I wasn’t on the map in the UK much but I had things going on in other places. I wasn’t making music, so that didn’t help – if you really want to step it up you’ve got to make music but I don’t make music, so I do it in other forms with the radio show and the label.
Male DJs seem to get their fair share of groupies, what’s it like for you as a woman?
The complete opposite, it’s like tumbleweeds in the DJ booth. I’ve never been approached by anybody ever in the last, I don’t know how many years.
I think men get intimidated.
I know they are, they’ve told me straight to my face. Even guys I’ve dated in the past, I’ve asked them to be straight with me and they’ve been like “You’re too much, you’re too confident”. So, I need to keep my mouth shut, sit there, look pretty… I’d rather be single than sit there and pretend I’m something I’m not…Heidi Van Den Amstel, House, Jackathon, music, radio 1
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