If you’re looking for the latest talent this past Two year, look no further! His name is Hanni El Khatib, he comes from Los Angeles, has been skateboarding since he was in diapers, riding old Chevys since he was a teenager and is now working on a pretty explosive cocktail: a rough kind of rock ‘n’ roll with a garage, blues, soul feel. Sulphurous, rebellious, classy and just plain cool, a raw sound that’s a cross between the fabulous vintage sounds of the 50′s and the best of what you can find nowadays. If Hanni’s music kicks ass on stage, his long awaited first album « Will The Guns Come Out » (which will be released this summer under his label Innovative Leisure) is already a best seller. Critics are unanimous, girls fall head over heels for him which makes every boy, green with envy, dream of knifing him in a dark alley (…if only they didn’t like his music so much!) With the help of his inseparable drummer, Nicky Flemming, the duet are performing in almost every concert hall in the United States at the moment. Good news for us, we managed to catch him just after his amazing appearance at the SXSW festival to ask him a few questions.
ITW by Guillaume LeGoff
You skate, right?
Skateboarding’s my life! Besides that, yeah, I was the art director of HUF for 6 years. I designed the products, and also helped to look after the marketing and branding side.
I met Keith Hufnagel skating in San Francisco and everything went from there. I had to leave HUF recently to concentrate on my music, to dedicate myself to it full time. But it was an amazing ride! And I still skate, it is always a blast to go skating with the boys. I’ve been skateboarding for so long now, it’s really a part of my life. I still enjoy myself so why should I stop!
Artistically, do you feel in sync with your era?
I don’t know if I make music of today, but I strive to create stuff that reflects who I am, and that makes me proud of what I do. I hope that I manage to express all my past and present influences in a unique and modern way. Honestly, I make this music mainly for myself, because it’s what I like, and if people like it, well, then that’s cool, but if they didn’t, well, I’d probably still continue to play exactly the same way.
Nowadays, what makes you feel enthusiastic and confident?
Really, the fact that today, thanks to technology, more and more people can create, produce and share almost anything, whatever, wherever, fills me with hope and pushes me perpetually forward. On the other hand, the same technology irritates me a little because it takes us further and further away from reality such as certain traditional forms of art or music.
What has inspired you most recently?
Being on the road and playing on stage in front of an audience! I think that that’s where I feel the most alive and in sync with my music. Its what makes me want to keep on going. Frankly, you forget all your problems when you play live, nothing else exists, it’s one of the best feelings in the world…
Are there any people in particular who have had a decisive influence on you?
Yes, my drummer, Nicky Flemming has a big influence on my way of composing and playing. We’re always experimenting, rehearsing and doing gigs. It’s become almost natural the way our ideas bounce off one another, a ping pong of permanent exchange. My friend Ricky Saiz helps me a lot too, he teaches me heaps of things, he’s always on the look out for cool arty stuff, anything creative. And then my other buddy Slap-E, well, he always has a story to tell, whether it is about guitars, guns or skateboards! An incredible guy, really.
Getting back to the group, can you tell us a bit more about your story?
Well, I began to record this album a while ago thanks to the help of a really good friend, Marc Bianchi. It’s he who constantly urged me on to record in studio. I started to have a lot of good songs and as he was on tour with his group (Her Space Holiday) on the west coast, he asked me to do the first part. At that time, I had no group strictly to speak and before accepting his offer, I had to come up with a plan quick in order to go on tour. So I called my buddy Nicky (Flemming) because I knew that he knew how to drum, and asked him if he’d do a few concerts with me. As I couldn’t find a bass player, I eventually gave up and said to myself « OK, we’ll go without one » and it started off like that, just guitar and drums.
Somehow, the idea that everything could stop tomorrow has always motivated me and has made me happy just to be in all these cool places, playing my music.
Can you tell us a bit more about your tours?
I really like being on the road, everything’s so different from everyday life. One day everythings perfect, the next you lose your wallet or you find yourself in an unknown place, wondering how the hell you’re gonna manage to do your show the next day. The adrenalin is always pumping, I love it.
Got any recent anecdotes for us?
Oh yeah, got one for you! It was last November, the night before our first date with the group Florence + The Machine. We were in Boston a day early, with some time to kill… We thought « Ok, lets go check out the city tonight » So, driven by hunger and thirst, we end up in this restaurant in the Chinese district. This place has a capacity of at least 1000 people but here we are, just the 5 of us eating there, wierd place. To have a laugh, we decided to drink anything on the menu that had a dodgy name, like « the wizard scorpion », shit like that… and we end up totally legless, get thrown out of everywhere and end up having a massive fight – between ourselves, of course – in the middle of the street. Good times haha!
Can you tell us more about your last and rather appropriately named album « Will The Guns Come Out »?
Generally, I’m pretty spontaneous in a recording studio. I like to turn up with a few ideas jotted down, and just let it rip. I try not to think too much of the final result, anything can happen. I like recording with friends, I let the general atmosphere decide on what happens next. I can’t wait to release this album, I’ve been on it for ages now, it’s the start of everything. I tried to combine all my various influences, all my ideas and show them in a simple and plain manner. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to make good honest music.
So, what’s next on the list for you?
To do heaps of concerts, to tour a lot in order to share my music with as many people possible, then to head off to record some new songs for the next album.
(A big thanks to Jamie Strong/Stones Throw)