Teenager tastes change as rapidly as personality phases, a tendency that didn't escape Heckle: "I think it was around the age of 16 where I was listening to standard techno and I got a bit bored and disillusioned by the records that were coming out. I started listening to the British Murder Boys—all the industrial influences they had in their music, I found that really interesting and pretty new compared to what I knew at the time. Listening to their influences and old industrial records sort of lead on to listening to old house music... by the time I was 17 I had a decent record collection of mostly old records, to be honest."
Classic industrial and classic house records aren't the most obvious combination, but the unusual duality is another facet of Heckle's work. He doesn't find it so strange: "I think some of it—not all of it—goes hand in hand because in the old industrial days there were a lot of DJs that would play Chicago house and industrial records, they're both really raw sounding musics and they were both innovative for the time. When I was about 16, they were both what I wanted from dance music."
Rough around the edges is what Heckle appreciates most, disavowing "minimal techno" (while quick to praise Robert Hood): "it's the too clean sounds, too well-produced minimal that's big here around Liverpool. I've never quite understood that music," he puts. Heckle enjoyed putting his own stamp on the local scene that he was "getting bored with... I was looking further back in music to find stuff more interesting and more innovative—even though it could be as much as 25 years older than the stuff coming out now—and then that was when I thought 'I want to do this,' not as a living, but carry on doing it as a hobby. To play music out, music that I like, to people, because I get a kick out of seeing people enjoying the music I've taken the time to dig out," he humbly relates.
Long drawn out mixes are the norm in minimal circles. And in this way Heckle also differs: "I tend to mix quite quickly, and I know that's not always to people's tastes. Sometimes it splits a crowd—they want to hear a record for the duration—but with more than two turntables I throw records in and out. If I do play my own records, it'll only be three or four of them for about one and a half minutes at a time. That's just the style I've adopted," adding "it's from Jeff Mills, really, I've seen him DJ about eight or nine times."
The result of such variety means that Heckle's own music, in addition to his sets, pulls down the dividers between house and techno, appealing equally to both sides. Heckle is indifferent—the so-called house producer "started to call it house only recently. A lot of the early Chicago records, like Lil Louis, that was always techno to me. I'd call everything techno, really. This is just what I've learned from growing up in Liverpool, everything that's played is called techno."
having the music underneath your fingers."
Appropriately for someone who doesn't seem to care too much about genres or labels, Heckle's music is all over the map, though there are some specific inspirations that shed some light on his own productions: "the first time I really tried to make tracks like the ones I'm making now was after I'd got back from a gig, me and a friend had went over to Belgium to see Surgeon and Jamal Moss play. I'd sort of been taken by Jamal's set and I thought I'd never heard anything like it in a club basically, just playing samples over the top and it was a bit unpredictable, you didn't know what was coming next."
Imagine what British Murder Boys, Trax Records and Jeff Mills mashed together would sound like, and you're maybe close to describing Heckle's music. But you're still missing a key ingredient: Heckle releases primarily on Chicago-based Mathematics Recordings, and in some ways he's the epitome of the label's unique sound, all abused analogue and derailed house rhythms. It's no coincidence. "I actually had a Mathematics t-shirt on [at the gig in Belgium]. I went up to the DJ booth and just said 'hello, I've come over from Liverpool,' just the usual stuff. When I got home and made the four tracks that ended up being on [debut Mathematics EP] Life on Titan, I held onto them for a while but knew he was on MySpace... after a few months, I was out for a drink with a couple of friends, and I got home and sent them off to his MySpace, didn't hear anything for a couple of weeks or so. If it wasn't for the fact that I was a bit drunk I probably wouldn't have sent them off. I thought at first, 'I've probably made a fool of myself' but then I got an email back with details of a contract. I was over the moon after that."
The release unveiled an embryonic talent with enough confidence to try on all sorts of hats, maintaining a surprisingly firm aesthetic grip through it all. The 12 minute title track is something to behold, an epic of build and restraint that sounds equally soothing as it is powerful. The novelty of releasing on your favourite label isn't lost on Heckle. "Mathematics is where I want to be. I've been doing records on Tabernacle and some other things, but Mathematics... before Life on Titan I would thought I had to work my way up to Mathematics," he marvels.
And that's where we land in the present, fresh off of the release of Heckle's debut album Second Son. The full-length sees Heckle fully unhinged, unconcerned with the dance floor and free to chase any idea that might pop into his head. "When I'm setting up my synths and my drum machines, I won't have any idea how it's going to sound in the end because I've never learned the ins and outs of production," he admits. "When I was getting to the latter stages of the album, Jamal knew what was missing so he suggested making certain style records, putting an ambient track here or there, which was the first time I was thinking 'this is what this record needs,'" he explains. His setup is perhaps unusual in a world where DJs moonlight as technophiles and gear wizards: "I've got a lot of hardware, and it's all hardware. The only software I need to use is Ableton and that's just for recording the audio from all that hardware. Hardware is a great feeling, like having the music underneath your fingers. When you've got a set of keys in front of you and all the knobs and sliders that are on a synth, to be able to feel it coming out of those synths is a much greater feeling than I've ever had coming out of a computer."
Even with all the attention he's garnered over the past few months, Heckle remains humble and grounded, happy where he is: "I love Liverpool, I don't think I'd like to be anywhere else. Music-wise, of course, there's The Beatles, that's what most of the city listened to. It's hard not to be inspired by the fact that arguably the biggest band in the world is from your city. I think Liverpool has become a lot more cosmopolitan over the last decade, a big melting pot of different cultures and different ideas of how music should sound. I think it's a good place to be to get a lot of ideas to put towards your own music."
He has a growing "list," as he calls it, of musical commitments and commissions, but Heckle remains as non-commercial as ever. "Unfortunately [music] isn't a full-time thing, I'm a barman so I do a few bar shifts a week and I like to get out and play football. I try not to put all my effort into music as I find I can get a bit of a mental block... if music was just... me sitting all day, I don't think I'd have any inspiration to make anything good," but he says that if he could make it viable, full-time music would be ideal. "A good thing about where I'm at, at the minute, is that I can't really see too far into the future; the fact that I'm not sure how it's going to turn out—if the album is received well—is quite exciting. I'm happy to see how it comes and take it pretty easy at the moment."