Making a great Escape

HIEMrc''Hiem tank
HIEMrc''Hiem tank

IT can’t be that often that a trip down Division Street results in a critically-acclaimed album.

But it did for Sheffield electro duo Hiem.

For Hiem, it was Division Street’s string of over-priced shops and Starbucks homogeneity that inspired their latest album - several years in the making – Escape from Division Street.

Nicco Eastwood takes up the cause: “Division Street used to be this place where you’d have sole traders, lots of independent record shops – even dance music specialists. It had a good vibe. But a couple of years ago we were sat in a café on Division Street and realised that it’s just like any other street in the UK – it’s got a Starbucks and a Greggs. That’s where we got the idea from,” he says. “And we always like films like Planet of the Apes, where it’s a bit strange or films in which someone has to escape from somewhere.”

David ‘Boz’ Bozzwell – Hiem’s other half – is no stranger to escaping. Originally from north Wales, the DJ / songwriter / producer and multi-instrumentalist moved to Liverpool, from where he escaped to Sheffield as a result of management problems. Living and working from the city’s YMCA, Boz restarted his songwriting career. Then, at Reading festival, he met Hiem partner Nicco Eastwood, with whom Bozzwell has been songwriting for ten years.

The album – like Hiem itself – is a DIY effort. Hiem have taken the entire project on themselves – a decision based on years of dealing with record labels and posh PR women. In the 1990s Bozzwell was the singer in All Seeing I, whose 1998 hit The Beat Goes On catapulted the group into head-spinning, champagne-fuelled success. Bozzwell would experience that success again, with Hiem, in 2001, with the single hit Chelsea Girl. “We’re veterans of the industry and we don’t really trust any of it. One time we were taken out for a really posh lunch by this record label and they said ‘order whatever you like,’ so we had about three bottles of champagne each and stuffed our faces with food. A few months later we were sent the bill – more than £3,000!” says Bozzwell.

His distrust of the industry goes beyond label bosses, too: “DJs do a lot of back slapping but all they do is put a beat on a track. Your phone’s going off all the time when you’ve got a hit but then the week after it’s dead It can be very silly really – and very fickle.”

But Hiem’s album, perhaps, is something to back slap about. The album’s 12 tracks range from disco-based groove numbers, such as album opener Freaky Nights, to romantic tales such as Mutual Feeling. “That’s about how you become attracted to someone and they’re attracted to you but you’re not able to express it,” says Eastwood.

Other tracks are less universal, and more autiobiographical. Lemons and Limes take it names from the club night that Eastwood ran at the Casbah called Le Citrus. “The whole song is about how a dream about lemons hanging from the ceiling led to the creation of a club night. It’s amazing that all that started from just a weird dream,” says Eastwood. This week, according to Bozzwell, Jarvis Cocker played the track on his Radio 6 show.

The album also features some impressive guest appearances, including Roots Manuva and The Human League’s Phil Oakey. “Phil sings on 2am – a track about when your night’s cut short by a law or a closing time like 2am and you want the night to keep going,” says Bozzwell.

And at least, for now, Hiem’s party is still going. The duo perform as part of their album launch gig at The Harley, Glossop Road on April 16. Escape Division Street is officially released at the end of next month.