Jim Heist Muir released his first single in 2003.
Since then he’s released upwards of 100 singles and EPs on some of the most respected and influential labels in drum & bass from Playaz to Metalheadz via Horizons, Philly Blunt, Get Hype and Low Down Deep (not forgetting his own labels Co-Lab and Calypso Muzak) He’s crafted sub-soaked rumbling rollers from Rusks, sculpted glacial deep steppers from cans of iced Sierra Mist and whipped up more face-melting jump-up basslines than you’ve had Mooseknuckles or bowls of Crunchy Nut Bass.
Yet he’s not released a debut album… Until now.
Since April Heist has been dropping a series of EPs that comprise his debut artist LP. Entitled Iacon (pronounced ‘eye-a-con’) and released on Low Down Deep, the album focuses on the more gnarlier, jump-up, heavyweight corners of Heist’s extensive palette and is his way of saluting the fans who’ve supported that style of his music over the years.
It’s also a salute to the eras in which the Essex-based producer grew up and became inspired; 80s animations and movie aesthetics are referenced in the artwork and subtly placed ‘skit’ style synth compositions while the schematics and style are a heavy nod to his favourite album: Dillinja’s Cybotron.
Above all, it’s a fun body of work that does exactly what Muir envisioned: it hits with an atlas-level womp on the dancefloor but still pops your Grotty Chops as a full body of work. Time to dissect the past…
Iacon: I’m getting a strong Transformer theme here…
You are. It’s that 80s animated sci-fi aesthetic overall. Not just Transformers. An ‘old’ look, I guess. One of the guys on the label said ‘it looks kind old… In a bad way.’
That’s what I wanted. I don’t want the psychedelic, super-sharp photoshop kinda vibe. I want something from before that era. All the way through the album is there are some samples from cartoons and programmes of that era. Transformers and a few others going back further to Battlestar Galactica days. There’s also a bit of a revival in terms of the sounds. Kinda Flight Of The Navigator, Bladerunner style. I want that transportation from that era.
I’m getting that. It’s mad this is your debut album by the way….
I’ve always wanted to do one but I’ve been torn by the difference between a body of work that represents everything I do as an artist and a body of work that my fans would want from me. I did half an album with Metalheadz – the Violent Rain EP – and that didn’t get received as well as my jump-up stuff. So I thought instead of doing a deep, various styles album, which I do really want to do, the first album I should do is something the fans, people who have supported me, would like.
It’s been interesting to develop the album over a series of EPs. I hadn’t quite appreciated how successful that format is for rolling out something bigger than a single and to have space for tracks you wouldn’t necessarily include on a EP, but also make sure that people who don’t have time to go through a whole album. Not everyone has time to hunt dubs or scour Soundcloud all day because they have lives to lead so EPs gradually unwinding to reveal a bigger picture gives everyone a chance to digest the music.
Yeah the music has time to breathe
You’re right man and it’s nice to be able to have a reason to continue talking about the album and finding different ways to get it out there. Some people have been like ‘are you mad? No one does albums these days, no one cares…’ But it depends how you deliver it. And I’m not sitting here saying ‘wow I’ve got 10 gigs coming in every day off the back of it’ Because I haven’t. But the gigs will follow as the album gets played and bits and bobs start happening. I have to say I didn’t do it for gigs. I did it for a bunch of reasons… I did it because I felt I’d reached a level as an engineer where I felt I could make an album, I wanted to do an album before I hit 40, just as a little milestone, and I felt I had enough of a following who’d appreciate an album. I’ve not always felt that I was out there enough until maybe a few years ago. I felt I reached a plateau where it was like ‘okay there’s enough of people listening, let’s do the album.’ This is the result and it’s made with that and people who enjoy my music in mind. If you like Heist music, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this album.
Were there any moments along the way that led to that realisation? Like moments of vindication?
Vindication is a good word. I think one pivotal moment was when I did the Violent Rain EP for Goldie and he suggested an album back then but I wanted to test things and see where it goes. When I put it out and it didn’t get as well received as my jump-up work it made me realise that it was time to exorcise my jump-up demons and do the album everyone who supports my jump-up wants to hear. That’s the album people expect of me, that’s the album I should make because you only get one chance with your debut album and I want it to resonate with the people who’ve supported me.
The next album will have the darker styles, liquid styles, experimental styles all mixed with the jump-up altogether. I’ve seen so many people deliver albums that don’t hit what their fans want and they try to be something they’re not and the tunes don’t get played in the club, they don’t get radio support and it ultimately falls down. I didn’t want to do that. So that’s why I’ve focused this album within one style. And to do that was quite a challenge because I also wanted diversity and a range within the consistency that makes it a body of work. There were a few times where I thought this wasn’t going to come out at all and the tunes I had started sounding older and weren’t quite working.
I was going to ask if you were going through your WIPs or writing things fresh?
A bit of both but I was writing things fresh and coming up with tunes which were heavy but didn’t fit in with what I’d done. It felt like a race against time. The boat was sailing but I needed to get the right bodies on the boat. Then I moved studio half way through which was another challenge. The final three were done completely fresh in the new studio. They’re all on the last EP. They were the freshest so it felt right to release them last; the other tracks had floated on dub for a bit among a few people so it’s like each EP had a fresh wave to it. The first tracks on the first EP were the oldest.
So there’s a kinda accidental chronology running through the album?
Yeah totally, I never intended that but it’s interesting how it all kinda planned out.
And you got it done on time
I did. The thing was I had a very distinct vision of what I wanted the album to do in my head. I have to shout Dillinja for this in terms of inspiration. For me he wrote the blueprint dancefloor album.
Cybotron. The best drum & bass album ever made. It was an album everyone could dance to. All the tunes had that tear-out factor but had its own vibe and they weren’t all as angry as each other. Some were stripped back and angry, some were a bit warmer and funkier but a little bit angry and others were just plain nasty angry and that’s what I wanted to do with jump-up. There are so many shades of jump-up; there’s the heavier screechier stuff that Guv and Hedex do, there’s the more Bristolly old school stuff, there’s the jungle influenced stuff and I love it all. I have no prejudice over any subgenre and love playing it all. Jump-up crowds react differently to other crowds, it’s party music.
It’s fun. Everyone drops it. Even liquid DJs have their own persy stash of jump up tunes to get them out of trouble and rouse the crowd.
The fun! Thank you. The album is fun, I’m happy to say. And there’s something for everyone, too. The deeper heads will find things, the screechy guys will enjoy some bits on it and there are some bits people have never heard before. Every style under the jump-up banner but all different shades and sizes and flavours. I made every tune up from scratch; they all have different drums, different bass sounds. There’s no templates or reused sounds and that’s important. It would be easy to knock out the same album with the same bass noises and drums. There are no fillers in there either, it might not be your jam but you can play it in the club.
The whole reusing thing seems lazy
Yeah I think so too. Even if the listener doesn’t directly notice, it’s a subconscious thing and you can feel when the drums are all different or if they’re the same. It’s hard to do across an entire album and there were points where I felt like getting some old drums out but I stuck at it.
Was that the biggest challenge? Albums have this strange duality where you’re looking in micro details in a track then zooming out for a much wider picture to see if it all works together.
Absolutely. There was so much of that; making sure there was a consistency in sound throughout which gets picked up in mastering but I also master everything so that was something I was aware of at all times. I was also keen not to go over 12 tracks. if the album didn’t say what I wanted it to say in 12 tracks then I hadn’t done a good enough job. And I also included a bit of a journey on the CD version of the album as there are some hidden surprises at the end of certain tracks.
Basically. But not as individual tracks, they’re at the end of tracks. So when you check it in a playlist it has that flow and those little elements that build a story. They kinda cleanse the palette a bit between the vibes. You don’t find them on the EPs but they’re a bonus for everyone who’s bought the album. Let me play you one…. [plays track]
Me too man and that’s a rarity for me these days. It’s been fun and a nice subtle way to do something different. You can’t skip through them either, so you kinda have to listen to them.
Nice way to celebrate the art of the album in the modern age
Yeah a nice way to scratch that more musical itch I have. Jump-up albums don’t usually necessitate synth compositions but I’ve managed to weld them into the album anyway.
That piece you played had that poignant end-of-the-movie 80s aesthetic vibe you were referring to earlier
That’s exactly what I had in mind. Late 80s, early 90s. You know the emotional type of stuff.
The type of stuff you explored with your Trespass project
It is the Trespass in me. Exactly. Maybe he’ll make a resurgence now I’ve got this jump-up album done? For now Iacon is the album I think people want from me. A way of saying thanks for supporting my music. Now it’s done it’s time to get stuck into my modular set-up, unleash my inner Trespass a bit and go back to the Heist I once was and keep people on their toes with releases and surprise people with things and do things you don’t expect.
I think even during the time you’ve been making the album there’s been an element of that. It’s kinda your signature
I guess so and you’re right, the tunes I made that didn’t fit the album will be out in other projects, I guess I’ve felt shackled by the album and so I should do… An album’s not meant to be easy is it? It’s meant to push me, but now I want to push the other way again.
Featured image: Chelone Wolf