Hannah Wants Talks DJing, Producing, and BBC Radio 1 Residency
One of the best use of samples of Daft Punk’s “Technologic” is that of the 2006 “Touch It” single by Busta Rhymes. For DJ-producer Hannah Wants, what started out as an easy listening of “Touch It” in the car sparked her interested in creating the aptly titled track, “Rhymes.” Hannah says, “I was listening to that Busta track in my car – that little vocal lead part – and I was just like ‘wow.’ It just sounded sick. I just thought it’d sound sick in a club.” Subsequently, Hannah along with producer Chris Lorenzo created the addictive, bass house “Rhymes.” The UK-based DJ landed her first notable gigs at various clubs and events in Ibiza in 2010. Since then, Hannah’s gone on to leave her house signature on tracks such as “Dappy,” genre-defying monthly mixes (she’s been a mastermind of mixes for years), music festivals on a global scale – and as of recent her very own BBC Radio 1 residency. Sans clichés, Hannah Wants’ passionate drive pushes her to excel both in the studio and live behind the decks. She adds, “I truly believe deejaying is an art and I’m super passionate about it. I think that sometimes it can get lost with the ‘producer’ label. It’s its own talent, its own art.” Here, Life + Times speaks to Hannah Wants about her art of deejaying.
Life + Times: First off, “Rhymes” is what’s up! I know that you’re typically known for your live sets, but now you do production. What’s something you keep at the forefront of your mind before you start producing a track in the studio?
Hannah Wants: You know what, it’s just about my concern for if it’s gonna work on the dance floor. I know that the sample in “Rhymes” originally comes from a Daft Punk track called “Technologic” and then obviously it got used in a Busta Rhymes track which I’m sure you probably know that. I was listening to that Busta track in my car – that little vocal lead part – and I was just like ‘wow.’ It just sounded sick. I just thought it’d sound sick in a club. I just felt that it could work, so I took it into the studio with Chris [Lorenzo]. He loved it too. We kept the track simple and just let the vocal do the talking. We come out of the studio thinking that’s our best track, you know. So far today, I think it is gonna be our most successful. So, I’m super happy with it.
L+T: And so are we! Nice work on that. You also do a monthly mix, besides obviously sounding good, what are some of the determining factors in who you’ll include?
HW: My mixtapes are something that I’ve been doing for years now. It’s something that I absolutely love to do. I spend as many hours as I can searching for music that can be on YouTube, Soundcloud, Beatport, and just the most random sites. It’s something that I’m super passionate about so I spend hours and hours searching for music. The mixtapes are something really important to me because it shows the whole of me as an artist. For example, my sound when I’m deejaying live will be more ’peak time’, more hard-hitting but my mixtapes can go on a journey… It’s my expression of music. I can show everybody that this is what I’m about. It takes me days to put them together. I really do work hard and long on them because I’m a perfectionist and it’s got to sound perfect. I absolutely love putting them out and just letting people listen to the whole of me, you know.
L+T: What I appreciate about your mixes is that none of them sound the same. So, you take a lot of pride in trying new sounds and experimenting – which some artists aren’t open to. Kudos to you.
HW: Thank you. Yeah, I do like to experiment. Sound is always evolving anyway, you know. Sometimes I can struggle a bit. Sometimes I’ll listen to over 100 demos in my inbox and not be really in love with any of them. It’s times like this that I can delve back into my hard drives to over ten years worth of music and go and find a track that I can pull out that will still fit perfectly into the sound that I’m putting out. So, it’s always really exciting and I always have so much fun doing them.
L+T: Very cool. You were sixteen when you started deejaying, so you’ve seen the evolution of dance music. What’s been one of the moments you particularly love about the changes within the culture?
HW: For me, you know I come from Birmingham. When I started deejaying when I was sixteen, the scene that was big was called speed garage and bassline house. UK garage was pretty big too. For me just the exciting thing was just watching those sounds evolve. I still drop the odd UK garage, bassline house or speed garage tune, they still go down so well in a club! Today I’d class the music I play as house and bass, a lot of the key elements are the same… It’s just played about 10 BPM slower. It’s just exciting to see the change. The root core of the music is still the same, but it just kind of developed over the years. It’s still just as big in Birmingham as it was back then.
L+T: Yeah, you’re right. Those sounds are classics, they’ll just continue to evolve and create sub-genres.
HW: Yeah, 100 percent.
L+T: Last question – and I end this with every producer-DJ – do you think a DJ is a musician?
HW: I’m gonna say ‘yes’ because I’m really passionate about the art of deejaying. I think it’s something that can get lost now because the lines are getting blurred between producers and DJs. I remember back when I started – or probably a little bit before – producers made the music, passed it to the DJs, the DJs played the music, and now it’s completely different. If you make a tune and it gets to number one, you get booked to DJ regardless of their DJ experience or competence. Have you heard of DJ EZ? He’s what I’d depict as a true DJ. He shows how it’s just an art. He’s somebody I look up to and admire. He’s just an incredible DJ.