With album number three in stores now, we chat to Hiem's Bozz Boswell
David 'Bozz' Boswell is in a surprisingly good mood, a reflection perhaps of the positive reviews the new Hiem album is picking up.
"I'm telling you now, there's going to be no moaning today," laughs the bearded half of the Sheffield duo (his partner-in-crime, Nick Eastwood, is otherwise engaged when iDJ calls). "I think the trick is to get happy with what you're doing, whether people like it or not. I've been called all sorts over the years, but I realised years ago that not everybody is going to like your music."
While iDJ was once among the naysayers - there was even a negative review by this writer many moons ago - we've long had a soft spot for Boswell and Eastwoods' particular brand of fuzzy techno-pop. We were certainly impressed by their new album Hot Space, a joyous, multi-coloured fusion of off-kilter synth-pop, space disco, nu-disco, quirky electronic interludes and songs influenced by the greats of post-punk pop.
"Roxy Music is definitely in there in some way, " Boswell says. "We wanted to do something that had a 1976-77 kind of vibe. It was influenced by German Krautrock of that period, plus Iggy Pop and Bowie. There are lots of other reference points that people can pick out, too. Really, we just wanted to get away from making techno. We can do the techno stuff on remixes if that's what people want, but when it comes to the albums it has to be a more song-based sound."
Boswell and Eastwood first joined forces as Hiem back in the early 2000s, rising to prominence via a series of angular, fuzzy club cuts for the likes of Crosstown Rebels and Eskimo Recordings. While they were erroneously bundled in with the electroclash movement of the period - something that still rankles - the pair's work during that period really sat somewhere between stripped-back German techno, stylish electro and moody synth-pop.
It was via a move to Nang Records in 2011 - a partnership that continues to this day - that the Steel City outfit really began to find their feet. The revolution began with 2013 album Escape From Division Street - the title a reference to the quirky Sheffield shopping thoroughfare that once boasted the Warp Records shop.
"The last album, which had people like Phil Oakey and Roots Manuva on it, sort of worked but it was made up of tracks that we had made over a seven- or eight-year period," Boswell says. "With this one, I think we've really found our own sound over the last two or three years. Hot Space is definitely a showcase for our sound and feels like a milestone in our development."
Certainly, Hot Space is a thoroughly enjoyable set, with the pair's tongue-in-cheek Sheffield humour and heartfelt lyrics being underpinned by some of their most attractive music to date. It's been getting rave reviews and could well help raise awareness of one of Sheffield's lesser-celebrated acts.
"I'd like to think that the album is one that sticks around for a long time – like a proper album," Boswell says. "When my red vinyl copy turned up the other day, I was so excited! Hopefully other people will be excited when they hear it, too."
Words: Matt Anniss
Hot Space is out now on Nang Records