Thursday, June 14, 2012

Interview with Hanni El Khatib

Our good friend and extremely talented musician Hanni El Khatib spared a few minutes from his busy touring schedule to sit down with us for an interview. He shed some light on what it's like to be on tour, leaving his job an art director of HUF to pursue music career, state of modern music business and a whole lot more. A San Francisco native Hanni El Khatib has been enjoying success and recognition in US and Europe as well as landing his music on variety of TV Shows and films.

YS: What are your musical influences and how did they help shape your own musical style and how did you start?

Hanni El Khatib: I'm influenced by a lot of different types of music. It really varies depending on the mood i'm in. I listen to everything from The Cramps, The Sonics, Billy Childish, Black Sabbath, Captain Beefheart, The Stooges, The Talking Heads, I mean the list could really go on and on for me. Good music is good music and i try to be open to it all. I also get really into specific eras of music and really try to examine what was going on in the different music scenes during certain time frames. Fortunately with the resurgence of vinyl these days it's becoming a little bit easier to discover some of the more obscure stuff out there.

YS: What was it like to transition from being an art director of HUF to be a touring / recording artist?

HEK: The transition was pretty smooth and happened pretty gradually. I had already been playing tons of shows and doing little 2 week tours here and there while i was working over there. So it didn't feel much different when i parted ways.

YS: Do you think being on the forefront of  streetwear culture helped you with your band?

HEK: I don't know if it specifically helped me with the music or my band, but it really taught me a lot about connecting to your audience and the importance of staying consistent and being persistent with your ideals and vision.

YS: With the mainstream music press buzzing around saying that the traditional business model of the music industry is dying and record sales are soon to be extinct, what is your take on it as a working musician and a record label owner?

HEK: I actually think that there is some truth to that, but i'm not too sure that i'm sold on the fact the music industry is completely dead. There are plenty of people succeeding in this industry and doing great things. I think now it's more about how the labels and musicians adapt to the climate of the industry. If you do things your way and be smart there is plenty of room to be successful on your own terms. Now that you can pretty much do everything independently, it really allows people to focus and be creative.

YS: Now that the band grew from just two people to three, what was the motivation behind it?

HEK: I never like it when i feel like i'm getting too comfortable. I think that's when creativity and passion becomes stale and complacent. I always like the idea of throwing in a new element to see how i'll react to it. I enjoy challenging myself when i can, otherwise i go crazy and become really bored of what i'm doing.

YS: How was your tour? How is the middle America doing?

HEK: Tour was awesome. America is a weird place. This time was a bit more grueling then some of our tours in the past, but we managed to pull through. No one got arrested or injured so i feel good about that. wait..... actually our guitar/organ player got pneumonia and was out for a couple days. That sucked, but he beat it and jumped back on tour. So all was fine in the end.

YS: What is your favorite venue to play and why?

HEK: There are a lot of good ones out there, I will say the backstage area at the Bottle Tree in Birmingham, AL is probably the coolest we've experienced. They've got a couple tricked out Airstreams and even let you stay the night in them if you want. Good folks out there.

YS: I know that you are working on a new record with the "Black Keys" own Dan Aurbach, how did it happen and if you could, please give us some details.

HEK: I actually met Dan at this bar in Paris called "Le Pompon" that our mutual friend owns. We got introduced while i was DJing an after party one night and we just started shooting the shit and talking music. We stayed in touch when i got stateside and eventually started talking about working together. He and I share a lot of the same musical tastes and values so I think the record will be really easy and fun to make. I'll be doing the whole thing at his studio in Nashville.

YS: It seems that the visual element is very important to you guys, starting with the band's merch designs to videos. Could you tell us more about it?

HEK: I think that the visual representation of a band is almost equally important as the music itself. For me it's the one element that can help connect a lot of dots when trying to understand a band and their vision. Even when i'm recording and writing music i'm already thinking about the visual component to it. I guess it's one of those things that i need to do for myself to help me realize my point of view.

YS: What's next for Hanni El Khatib?

HEK: I just got home from about 4 months on the road and i'm heading back out in a couple weeks again. I've got some dates in Europe and then i'll be recording my next album and then i'll be back out in Europe to hit the summer festival circuit. Should be some good times ahead.

YS: Thanks a lot and we are really forward to the new record!

Photos by Nick Walker

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