interview-haai

Interview: HAAi

Published On 28/09/2017 | Interviews

Much of the buzz in London these days surrounds Phonox resident HAAi.

Hailing from Australia, and with a background in shoegaze and psyche bands, a chance trip to Berghain provided the inspiration to focus on electronic music, as well as a move to Europe. Flash forward some five years and now HAAi has secured her busiest year to date. Indulging in her more esoteric taste in music, HAAi, and her Coconut Beats imprint, travel the world, as well as handling duties inside the Phonox booth every Saturday. Her 2017 has also included her Ibiza debut (Pikes, alongside Midland), as well as festival appearances at Sunfall, Lost Village, and at The Black Madonna curated Lux Fragil night in Portugal.

Last weekend, at Morocco’s Oasis Festival, I caught up with HAAi after her Friday evening set. Over the course of our talk we covered everything from her latest release – ‘Be Good’ to her start at Phonox, experience in Morocco and more.

“When I first stepped into the booth it felt like home”

When I was watching your set I have to ask about your chain?
A really good friend of mine made it for me! I almost didn’t wear it so I’m glad I did. He has been making jewellery as long as I’ve known him and made this collection called Teneil. I had this in my suitcase pocket and had forgotten about it for a while until about a month ago.

It’s pretty awesome!
Yeah! It’s super heavy too.

I was walking around the market yesterday and realised that I am in the “market” for a thick, gold chain...
…well, I could hook you up!

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I’ll probably work my haggle game and go back tomorrow…
…I actually have a really hard time with that. It’s not really in my nature.

It’s pretty intense. I felt a bit overwhelmed yesterday but I think once you get your routine down it gets a bit better…
When I went yesterday, there were a few things I liked and I figured it out, but when I first went it was a bit much.

So, it’s your first time in Morocco. Are you in and out or do you get some time to hang out a bit?
I got here on Sunday andI have to play in London tomorrow night. I have been soaking up Marrakech over the last few days though.

Have you been to any other North African countries recently? I was recently in Tunisia and that was an interesting experience as well!
I never have. This is my first time. My father’s mother, who i never met, is South African so i was waiting to feel a bit of affinity. I did when I landed, but a lot of that was based around the landscape. It reminds me so much of Australia!

To me, it reminds me of states like Arizona or New Mexico…
…ya, the color and the heat…

Tomorrow you said you’re back in London. Do you go straight to Phonox?
Yes, straight to the club! I left from Phonox to the airport last Saturday and I arrive and go straight back. I’d rather be nowhere else. I love that place!

How did this opportunity come about for you?
I was working at a friend’s place, which was new and had a cool bar. It had a bit of a dance floor but a crappy soundsystem. I felt the music needed a bit more life so I started playing records there. Over time I ended up playing every week.

How long were you there for?
About 3 years since the first record I played. At the time I was playing in a band. Then, this guy Joe Coghill came in and told me he liked what I was doing. He got me to support his artist Jacques Greene. It’s not unusual to have these conversations, but so often it is a drunken dialogue like “oh, we should do something together,” but this wasn’t. It was for real!

Going back to the original conversation (when you realised it was real), what was that dialogue like? How did you present your ideas? Did that evolve over time?
When they took me on, they wanted to get the party going and get the crowd excited. Maybe a week before I was nervous, but it turned out to be one of the first things in my life where I felt very comfortable. When I first stepped into the booth it felt like home, so I was conscious to keep it a real party vibe from the start.

Coconut Beats is your imprint and brand. Was your Phonox residency immediately associated with it?
No, that came later. The previous resident, Jasper James, who had more of a DJ background, would bring guests in and they would be his pals like Jackmaster. I didn’t have too many comrades in the scene at that time. I think they wanted to bring a similar atmosphere so we started thinking about ideas. I had done these Coconut Beats parties before and it seemed like something that could fit. Then they asked me for a dream list of artists who would come down and we would go from there. It really was something that developed by a few people who were excited about it.

Do you give much thought to where you want to see your brand to go?
There are some ideas about what I’d like to do with the parties, but it’s really growing on its own and I’m happy about that. I feel like it would go against the ethos of the parties if I focused too much on brand development. I would love to have a stage at a festival in the future, but that’s really as much as I’ve thought about it.

Your latest release ‘Be Good’ is out now. I always ask creative minds, what was the project’s seed?
In all honesty, it was a loop of African music that I was time stretching. My computer was taking ages to do it, so I went to bed. When I woke up, it had stretched out like 30 times. That was the beginning. It sounded gross but cool at the same time. It was very different from anything I had done before and allowed me to explore textural avenues I hadn’t yet.

Finally, I wanted to ask, since it’s about the end of summer, with all its travels and demands, how do you maintain your spiritual core during its rigors?
It’s something I am learning. By nature I’m pretty calm BUT this summer has been pretty busy. For the bulk of it you are by yourself, which I am generally fine with, but there are points where you wish you could share your experiences with someone. I was in Israel recently, for the first time, which was an example of this. I was chilling out a lot but there were some moments over the few days I was there where I thought I could really do with a pal right now.

“Be Good” is NOW AVAILABLE via Coconut Beats BUY

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About The Author

Steve comes to Amsterdam by way of Brooklyn, Connecticut, Mumbai, and Tokyo. He researches media culture at UvA, while already holding degrees from UCONN (CT) and The New School (NYC). Aside from DHA, Steve is the Senior Editor for cinema platform IndieNYC.com, and writes on issues relating to film, culture, politics & electronic music. Every so often he also dabbles in photography and filmmaking.