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Interview: Hanni El Khatib

Before his show at London’s Village Underground, we sat down with multi-instrumentalist Hanni El Khatib to have a quick chat about his latest album ‘Savage Times’, and his new approach to recording and creating.

You released your latest album ‘Savage Times’ earlier this year, and it’s pretty easy to say it’s very different from your previous ones, but then again, all your other ones have been different from the ones before. What stands out about this one though, is that you’ve covered a lot of ground, and it’s different to pin it down under one genre or category as one song is so different from the next one. In many ways, it sounds like a greatest hits compilation, besides the fact that all the songs were new and have never appeared on an album before.
HEK: Well it was kind of recorded and released that way as well. My whole plan was to release music as quickly as possible after I’d recorded it. Essentially, every two or three weeks I’d put out a song, and at the end of each month or whatever I’d collect them and release them as an EP. I did that about every month, month and a half, for eight months, before releasing it all in a box set with 10 inches, which ended up being the ‘Savage Times’ collection. I never wanted to release it as a collected set, that was more the industry way of making sense of it. I didn’t want to do an album as I’m kind of sick of the traditional way of making and releasing music, the whole circle of pretty much having to release an album before going on tour. Press found it hard promoting the idea of this tour if there wasn’t an actual album to promote with it. I just wanted to release EP’s until I felt I was done. In many ways I don’t look at ‘Savage Times’ as an album, as it was never recorded that way. It’s just a compilation of songs I recorded over the course of a year.

As I mentioned before, you covered a lot of ground with this album, compilation or whatever we should call it, as there’s some classic garage rock n roll songs, some funk on there, and some more poppy songs – is this a result of a wide spectre of influences?
HEK: I listen to pretty much everything, and it changes every day. I tend to make a lot of playlists for myself, which sort of reflects why I made the record the way I did. It was also a result of me wanting to see if I was able to record and make the sort of music I was feeling that day. I didn’t even write all of it before going into the studio. I’d book the studio for three days at a time, sometimes with space in between, just so I would never have the same set up. Every day I’d start a new song, and I’d have to start from scratch. It wasn’t very efficient, but I didn’t want it to be efficient. I wanted to let the day dictate the song. I’m a partner in my record label in America, so there wasn’t really anyone that could tell me I couldn’t do it that way anyway – although I wish sometimes people would; “Alright dude, this is a bad idea…” I have to monitor myself, and for me, creatively, it did what I wanted it to do, and I don’t really care too much about the results.

It’s cool though when you listen through it as you never know what’ll come next, also the fact that you’ve already changed and developed so much between your former records, then you release this and manage to surprise us yet again.
HEK: I’m not quite done yet either, we recorded something in the hotel room and I’d like to put that out while we’re still on tour. We’ve done some alternate versions of some of the songs as well. I did a music video for ‘Paralyzed’ where there’s a woman performing as me, and through that, we found out she could actually sing, so we re-recorded the song with her on vocals, and rearranged the music and brought in a string section, all with her vocals. I feel like this is just a good time to experiment and do what you want. I’m comfortable with where I’m at, and I’m ok to take a risk by myself and do stuff like this, cause whatever happens, happens. If you think about the outcome too much, it fucks up the real purposes of why you’re doing things.

When you do record the way you do, do you play all instruments yourself, or do you let other people get involved?
HEK: It really depends, for the most part I’ll do it myself, or this guy Johnny who plays bass, he’s on the road with us now. He’s an engineer and he’s got a studio in Long Beach, and through the way I was recording it quickly turned from engineer to co-producer – and player. I’ve been making music with Johnny for a long time, so we work really well together.

So it’s not like you need to maintain creative control over every aspect of it?
HEK: No, I kind of relinquished that because to me, doing that and being stubborn like I was on my third record slowed down the creative process. Especially since I wanted this to be done so quickly, it’s good to have a second pair of hands or an extra opinion to get things done. I like this way of recording, and I’ll continue to do so until I’m ready for another album.

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New Music: LYZA – ‘Easy ft. Bisk’

At The Great Frog, we highly encourage any sort of creative outlet whether it’s jewellery, music, painting or whatever else might float your boat. Here’s our very own Lyza Jane who’s just released her latest single ‘Easy’ from her upcoming EP ‘Nobody but you’. With the majority of her childhood spent touring and on the road, music was always a big part of Lyza’s life she fell into songwriting and music production at an early age.

Can you tell us a bit about your background in music, and what kickstarted the interest in the first place?
Lyza: Luckily I had a really musical upbringing. My stepdad was an incredible musician and both my parents had impeccable taste in tunes. Getting to spend a lot of time on tour as a kid, I knew I just wanted to hang out in studios and be around music. It took me a while figure out what it was I wanted to create. My main influence is probably Tricky, his songwriting, production and outlook on music is what I think I reflect most on. His album ‘Maxinquaye’ is what got me into producing, but I mainly listen to reggae, West coast Hop-Hip and what my friends are making to be honest, so I draw influence from everywhere. In my last single I used a Black Sabbath, sample so theres really no music I dont learn from.

When did you start making your own music?
Lyza: I was a backing siger in the band ‘Alabama 3’ from the age of 17 but wasn’t until I was about 19 that i started learning to use software. I just came to the conclusion that you can’t expect people to hear what you do in your own head.. you just have to make it yourself!

How do you work with other rappers and producers? Do you tend to keep most of the creative control yourself?
Lyza: I like to think i keep total control over everything, haha. I’m unsigned and make most of my own music, but since working with other musicians and producers like Formz and being introduced to the Blah records family I’ve learnt that the best stuff comes from good vibes and late nights. I’ve been lucky enough to get some really talented rappers on this next project so can’t wait to share it. I still like to make beats on my own though and i often record alone if its for my own stuff.

Can you tell a bit about your latest single and upcoming EP?
Lyza: It’s actually something i made a little while ago when i first moved into my place in Acton. It’s such a great creative space and i’d just started working with a pianist called Jack. I made a few beats with Formz and we just thought the vibe was really cool and different. The beautiful sax is played by Taurean who plays with Rudimental, he’s on a lot of the upcoming EP ‘Nobody But You’ which I’m psyched about as there’s few things I like more than saxophone. The EP’s out November 30th and will also be available on vinyl.

Find the latest single ‘Easy’ ft. Bisk on iTunes here.

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