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4 Dec

Re-writing Heist-story

“We’ve always really loved being a part of it and hosting part of ADE as locals,” says Maarten Smeets, one half of the Amsterdam-based duo Dam Swindle. “Being a good host, telling people the best places to go – and the bars to avoid.”

Smeets, who actually lives just outside the city, because, he says, it’s nice to think his kids can play outside without getting hit by a tram, and his inner city partner in the project Lars Dales, have certainly thrown themselves into events this year.

“We released our record on the Friday,” he continues, referring to the three track ‘Minor Fools’ EP,  “so on the Thursday night we did a mixer at a really nice bar called Bordello Apretivo and invited everybody we knew would be in town, label people, distributors, our DJ friends and that was really fun.  Louie Vega came by, he was in reporter mode – he had his phone on for quite a lot of the evening.”

The pair are not one to do things by halves, and of course that was just the start of a weekend of DJ action that saw them stage a party for their Heist label, part of the celebrations for the label’s ten year anniversary for the label.  “It was super busy anyway, I think we did seven gigs in three days.”

So do people look to them to do something significant, we ask, to create a cornerstone of the event?

“I think we mostly think that,” answers Dales, rather than anyone else pressuring them, “because it’s our city we really want to do something nice.  We’ve been doing it almost every year since we’ve started, obviously not in Covid years – although actually even during the last year of Covid year we managed to do a party until midnight.  That was really nice, perhaps one of the best parties we ever did at ADE.”

Smeets adds fondly: “People were just so excited to be out and partying”

So that was your rule – clubs open but close at midnight?

“The government tried a few different things,” Smeets says.  “We had sit down parties, we did parties like that which were super weird.  Then, when things were opened up a bit, we had parties from 6pm – midnight.  Nobody really knew what to expect.  It was a quiet ADE that year (2021), quiet in the sense that not many people travelled from abroad, a lot of people weren’t allowed to and everybody was still quite anxious. There were so many locals, and people had some much energy, it was actually the wildest party we ever did in Amsterdam.

ADE this year was a really big global event, we venture, almost like Europe’s answer to the Miami Winter Music Conference perhaps?

Kind of, Smeets says, although it’s a bit different in tone. “For the people from the US who were over here, they were super happy to be at ADE.  It just seems a little bit more serious than Miami.  There’s much more room for underground and the topics discussed at the conference are more relevant in dance music whether that’s inclusivity or the role of AI and tech.”

So when it came to releases, how did they approach celebrating a decade in the label business?

“We had this idea to do compilations for a while,” explains Dales, “but apart from the end of year ones we do every year, we hadn’t done any.  We felt like we had to do something special for the ten year thing.  There was so much material that had flown under the radar over the past ten years, and if you listen back them they’re like ‘wow’, these are very current, you could play these in a set right now.  So we went back and looked through the back catalogue and picked the tracks we thought could get some renewed attention.  Then we made an extra effort with the design, and coloured vinyl to make them really special.”

Ever changing tastes and the bubblegum nature of releasing 12”s – get one out and move onto the next – means that some tracks that might have made for interesting dubs or more experimental B-side tracks can, when viewed in a fresh new light, suddenly seem like essential tunes.

“We always try to mix up the kind of tracks that we do,” Smeets adds, “and there have been quite a few releases where we gave a platform to up and coming producers and since then some have grown, internationally, and others have taken a sidestep into a different area of the music industry, so we looked at that to.  What are they doing now and what are they doing and how can we help to build on that?

“There this track that we put out on the ‘best of remixes’ by DJ Boring that we put out, a remix of Perdu, a Dutch DJ who normally plays in the Netherlands.  He plays more the ravey sound now – I think that release was seven years ago.  But DJ Boring really nailed the sound and if you play it now it’s just like it could have been released today.  That’s really nice to see, because the scene has built up around the artist.”

Very much in keeping with the pair’s own output as producers, the Heist label’s offerings have always touched on all corners of house music, from US-slanted to more European sounding grooves and more electronic and more soulful areas represented.  That was an important template when compiling the tenth anniversary re-releases, as well as making sure that Heist’s greatest hits were also re-invigorated via the swankiest looking and sounding new pressings they could muster.

“We wanted to make the most obscene object that made no sense at all in terms of money,” laughs Smeets, “something that was just a beautiful present to ourselves and our vinyl buying public.”

Well, we point out, it’s an anniversary, so you’re entitled to a present.  “Well,” says Smeet by way of  return, “we gave a lot of presents away this year!”

Not that that has hindered the duo in a succession of superlative vinyl offerings, right up until the end of the year.  So, after the duo’s own ‘Minor Fools’ EP in October and the second Heist Classics of the year, this time featuring Crackazat, Andy Hart, Makez, Kassian and Nachtbraker and dropping last month, they’re closing this very special 2023 with four tracks from a very special artist – DJ Sneak.

The ’Back To Love’ EP, out at the end of the this week, marks the first time the Chicago house icon has ever featured on Heist. 

“We’ve been in touch with him for quite a while,” Smeet says, “we’ve done a few ADE parties with him.  Even during his ‘angry Sneak on Twitter’ phase we were in good contact with him.

“He’d stopped doing music during Covid and really had to re-set.  Then when we spoke to him again he had this whole renewed energy and was saying ‘I just want to go back to what I love’”

If you were looking for a cherry on top of an anniversary celebration cake, then they don’t come much sweeter than this.  You might also forgive the pair for resting on their laurels come 2024, but not a sniff of it.  They’ll be continuing their ongoing and seemingly neverending world tour, which calls into London’s Night Tales on January 5, as well as – as ever – continuing to source the hottest tracks around for year 11 of the Heist story.

As Dales, laughing but also deadly serious as he says it, declares: “We’re only just getting started!”

Ben Willmott

Digital Creations is an IT company providing solutions for businesses to accomplish their goals currently and in the future.

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