2014’s House Music Queen: Interview with Hannah Wants
What is it that Hannah (REALLY) Wants?
This was the question we asked ourselves as we prepared to meet with our extremely badass, musical girl crush Hannah Wants. This leading lady hails from Birmingham, UK, which as you may know, has a longstanding musical history; housing jazz, rock n’ roll and electronic legends. Having only entered the electronic music industry quite a few years ago, Hannah has managed to soar to the forefront of the scene, gaining residency at one of Ibiza’s top clubs, Amnesia, as well as playing at a variety of music festivals around the world. What we love most about Hannah is her absolute dedication to her music and her sweet, down to earth attitude. She continues to amaze her fans with her hour-long, bi-monthly mix tapes that successfully blend the lines between tech house, deep house and garage (with a little somethin’ extra mixed in). Her style is one of a kind and we look forward to seeing what top-notch material she has coming our way in the latter half of 2014. And without further adieu ladies and gentlemen, Miss Hannah Wants…
OTB: So I know that you are a self-taught DJ, having started quite a few years back. What initially got you interested in fooling around with the decks?
HW: I don’t know exactly. I’ve just always loved music, and when I went out clubbing, I was underage back then, and I just saw the DJ, and I don’t know what it was. I just kind of looked at the DJ and I thought “wow, that’s what I want to do. I want to play music.” Ever since then, I got some decks and started practicing and that was that.
OTB: So where did the moniker Hannah Wants come from?
HW: I wish I had an exciting story, but I don’t. I needed a name. My second name is Smith, and I was DJ’ing under the name “Hannah S” for ages, but I knew that wasn’t the name that I needed or wanted, so I literally sat on my bed one time-I’m not the most imaginative of people-so I just sat on my bed and opened the dictionary. I like the letter ‘W’ so I opened up the dictionary to the letter ‘W’ and I wrote down some words, and I just saw wants and straight away I put them together and I was like “yeah.” It was one of those moments.
OTB: I like the name Wants, too. It’s kind of sexy.
HW: (laughs) Yeah, I like the open-endedness to it. It could mean that I want something, or it could mean different things. I don’t know, I just like it.
OTB: As a fellow Hannah, I have another question. What is your middle name?
OTB: I’m always amazed when your bi-monthly mixes come out and they’re all so good with a ton of material. What is your process of finding new tracks like? Do you spend all of your free time in the studio?
HW: Yeah, whenever I can I’ll spend hours and hours searching for music. I get sent a lot of music, too, but because my mixtapes have all sorts of different kind of stuff in them, I have to go searching for that myself. I love searching for new music. I also go back through my old hard drives. I do that every two months because, I think if I were doing it every month, I wouldn’t have enough material. I wouldn’t want to wear the sound out. As soon as I finish one mixtape, I start making a list of songs for my next mixtape, so I’m constantly looking for tracks.
OTB: Is there a song or artist that was most influential to you or really sparked your interest in DJing?
HW: Not particularly a DJ back then. I mean, I love the whole UK garage scene, and speed garage was big in Birmingham back in the day. DJ EZ was someone I listened to– all his compilation albums. His style is very unique. I was listening to him 10 years ago, and he’s still DJ’ing and headlining events now. That’s how good he is. And he’s one of those DJs that you watch, and you’re just mesmerized by his skills behind the decks, and he’s definitely someone that I look up to DJ’ing-wise.
OTB: At what point did making music and DJing become more of a profession than a hobby for you?
HW: I just finished university. And I had been DJing during uni and just before. I don’t know, it just kind of happened. I just finished uni, but I was getting so many bookings that I could actually do it full time. It was just kind of a natural progression. It was very fortunate that I had just finished and I didn’t need to go out and get a job. It was a risk, it was a chance, but I kind of just did it and it paid off.
OTB: So how does it feel doing this as a job?
HW: It’s my dream job and it’s the best job in the world. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for years and years and years, and now I’m doing it. I’m blessed to travel the world, and have fun, and play music for people. You couldn’t get a better job anywhere else.
OTB: How would you define your sound?
HW: A lot of people ask this, and I think I would just say house and bass music. I do play a lot of UK garage as well, old school… but I think house and bass is kind of like an umbrella term. I’ll play tech house, deep house… loads of subgenres within house. And then, obviously my set is quite bass-influenced. So house and bass, with some garage as well.
“I’m blessed to travel the world, and have fun, and play music for people. You couldn’t get a better job anywhere else.”
OTB: I know the music scene is a lot different over in the UK than here in the US. What’s coming from the UK that hasn’t really hit the US yet?
HW: You know, I’m just going to be a big DJ EZ fan, and I’m just going to say EZ again. I think he’s recently come over to do a tour. He’s somebody that gets booked on his DJing skills alone, you know, not because he’s made tunes or whatnot. And I respect that. If you do get to watch him, go and see him. You’ll know what I mean when you watch. He’s just an unbelievable talent behind the decks.
OTB: What’s it like being such a commanding female force in an industry that’s so male-dominated?
HW: It’s something that I don’t pay much attention to, and I don’t really realize, just because, you know, you do what you do anyway. I guess there are a lot fewer females. It has its pros and it has its cons. I’ve never felt any discrimination, not to my face anyway. If anything, it’s a good thing, because when you see a girl behind the decks, you’re more inclined to find out who they are.
OTB: And it’s really refreshing to see a female DJ like you who is not oversexualized, you’re just talented.
HW: I actually had this woman come up to me in Portland the other day and she said “I admire you for not taking your clothes off.” Is this a big thing in America? Where DJs are like sexualized?
OTB: Oh yeah. Would you say it’s a lot different in the UK?
HW: It happens sometimes, but it’s really not a big thing. I would never—I couldn’t be naked. I move around too much (laughs).
OTB: I can’t interview you without mentioning your insane shoe collection- have you always been a sneakerhead? Will we ever see you in a dress in heels or will you always be rocking your signature laid back style?
HW: You know, I do like to wear a dress and heels, but I would never DJ in them, because I like to be comfortable. I dance around on the decks a lot. That’s why I put my hair up. I like to wear it down, but it would just get in the way of my headphones and stuff.
OTB: Give us a little insight on what it’s like to have residency at Amnesia. What was it like playing in Ibiza for the first time?
HW: My first time in Ibiza was at 16, and I was mesmerized, I was just like “OH MY GOD.” Last year, I had two sets at Amnesia. And then they asked me to come back for a residency, and I was just floored. Amnesia is my favorite club in Ibiza, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s just incredible. The only bad thing is having to turn up and leave within 24 hours. I always want to stay in Ibiza.
OTB: I know you said that you just finished university pretty recently, but has there been a point in your career so far in which you’ve just kind of realized “aha! I’ve made it”?
HW: You know what, I don’t think that I’ve made it yet. I think I’m living my dream and doing what I want to do, but in terms of “making it,” I haven’t accomplished what I want to accomplish yet. There’s so much more. I mean, I’m just breaking into America, and I’m starting to headline events in the UK. I’m starting at the bottom here in America, and I’m a little bit higher in Europe, but I don’t think I’ve made it yet. I think it’s going to be a progression over the next…I hope it’s the next 10 years!
OTB: Well, we’re excited to see you progress!
HW: Thank you! I’m excited for you to see me play.
OTB: This is your first time in the US, correct?
HW: Yeah, first time ever ever! I haven’t even visited for holiday or anything.
OTB: How has it been so far?
HW: Amazing! You know, apparently people say that it’s usually cloudy here, but we’ve had some great weather. I managed to go to the Nike employee store in Portland, so I got loads and loads of sneakers.
OTB: Speaking of the Northwest music scene, we are very excited to see you on the Shambhala lineup!
HW: I’m excited for it! Are you going to be there? I’ve heard so many good things about Shambhala. Everyone I’ve spoken to says it is one of the most magical festivals in the world.
OTB: Do you have any funny tour stories or weird rituals you’d be willing to share with us?
HW: I’m pretty super boring. My ritual literally involves going to grab some food and going back to the hotel.
OTB: What’s your favorite post-show meal?
HW: Oh my god, I love rice. So I just eat chicken and rice whenever I can. That’s my thing.
OTB: Do you like pizza?
HW: I do like pizza, but I like Chinese better.
OTB: What’s your favorite pizza topping?
HW: Chicken… (laughs) I love chicken. And I’m so boring, I literally eat chicken for every meal. I love it so much.
OTB: Which artist would you love to have a pizza party (or chicken party) with?
HW: Uuuh Justin Martin.
OTB: Dirtybird pizza party with some dirty bird on your pizza?
HW: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. He’s a pizza freak. I’ll tell Justin to bring the pizza and I’ll bring chicken and rice and we’ll share.
OTB: What does Hannah have in store for us in the second half of 2014? Any new releases or tour dates to look forward to?
HW: When I go back to England after this little tour, I’ve got to do my 0914 mix, which will obviously be out at the end of August. And there’s another track, Signs, which is a collaboration with Chris [Lorenzo] and Janai. There’s a potential other track at the end of the summer, which I’m really excited about, but it’s just being talked about at the moment. I’m coming back to America in October for a really extensive tour; it’s like 12 nights, with Night Bass…AC Slater, Jack Beats, I’m really excited for it.
OTB: Any final words for your fans?
HW: Just thank you for supporting me. Check out my mixtapes and hope to catch you in October!
Check out the rest of Hannah Wants’ music here.
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