Following An Unexpected Path: Heidi Talks


Heidi Van Den Amstel is about to embark on a whirlwind summer of festivals and gigs across the globe. The UK residing Canadian will be making her debut at the seminal festival, Sónar, in Barcelona in June this year. A gig that, after 12 years of honing her craft, she is extremely excited about and jokingly hopes came about from all those years of hard work and "not some under the table money exchange".

"I have always been obsessed with music my whole life. It consumed me…..I'm a proper indie/rock chick. I thought I would move here and try and get a job working for a label and helping bands but that obviously didn't happen. There was another path waiting for me unexpectedly."

That unexpected path that Heidi took came when she was working at the now defunct Koobla Records on Berwick Street in Soho. Settling in the UK in 2000, she found out about Koobla through her then boyfriend and started to shop there for records, becoming friendly with the staff who then offered her a job. A year later Heidi, Simon Rigg and Tom Relleen were approached to open up their own record shop- Phonica. A record store still going strong today and still ran by Rigg. The shop was a melting pot of musical "in the know" movers and shakers. Everyone in the business from producers to pluggers to DJs would shop there. It was, and still is, something of a mecca for wax and a meeting point for like-minded individuals in the industry.

Spurred on by her peers, Heidi began DJing at the nights of her then boyfriend starting out spinning old school hip-hop, dub and reggae in the back rooms. Around 2004 she met the Get Physical crew at a gig in Berlin and from there you could say that the rest is history. Now, Heidi can count having gigs at some of the world's biggest club nights under her belt, she's had a hit Radio 1 show and now runs her own label, 'Jackathon Jams' which has seen releases from Derrick Carter, Maya Jane Coles and Catz 'N Dogz. She's also been running her own night 'Heidi Presents The Jackathon' since 2009 and has had a residency at London's XOYO. But what does Heidi think of the club scene in London? Is it actually dying, as is often reported via the world of social media?

"I think London is booming right now but [you're] very spoilt for choice. On any given night there are at least 20/30 shows going on and it's diluting the industry a bit. People became very greedy a few years ago and it's having a knock on effect now. There are also about 1 million people all trying to do the same thing. So you really need to hold your head high and try and keep it real or else you'll get lost in the abyss."

It's this "keeping it real" that is the driving force behind Heidi's success, as well as the key thing that herself and Marea Stamper (aka The Black Madonna) bonded over after meeting on Heidi's Radio 1 show. They played back to back for the first time at Circo Loco at the legendary Ibizan club DC10 last summer. 

"We just have the same mentality about the whole scene. It's about the party. No one wants to go to a rave and stand around scratching their chins. They want to dance and sweat their asses off. Well we do at least. We have a lot of love for the same music and the knowledge. We have much respect for one another and the same DJs and producers around us. Basically we just want to have fun with the crowd and knock it out of the ball park."

You could say that Heidi is living the dream. Touring her music globally, playing to a mass of adoring fans night after night, playing alongside some of her cohorts and heros. But it's also a dream job that isn't without its drawbacks and has seen a slew of DJs discuss the mental health issues and 'DJ burnout' that can often come out of such a hectic, sleep deprived lifestyle. So far, Heidi seems to have been relatively unscathed by this. How has she managed this?

"This whole career is a sort of surrealist dream. It can be completely overwhelming in the best possible way….It can be the most incredible and the [most] loneliest job on earth….I've spent the most part of 12 years alone on the road all over the world….and it's scary because you are so high from the love, energy and adrenaline that the crowd give you, but the whole before and after can be the loneliest place on earth. I have spent many years with highs and lows in that department especially as I get older and your group of friends get smaller. That's why I throw parties. So I'm not on my own and I have like minded, funny, caring people around me. I also have a wonderful man in my life who has given me so much balance."

Heidi has a busy summer ahead of her encompassing more Jackathon parties, releases on her label- the latest EP 'Time For Action' came out last week from the duo Shaun J Wright and Alinka. For now, she's looking forward to Sónar where she hopes to catch the Soulwax live show, Carl Craig's 'Versus Synthesizer Ensemble' and Fat Freddy's Drop who she played alongside with in Sydney on New Years Eve; "they blew me away". She also hints at a new broadcasting venture "but I can't let that cat out of the bag yet".

For more on Heidi head HERE.

To catch Heidi at Sónar go HERE.

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