Released more than a year ago, 2071 – the electrifying album from DJ, producer, songwriter and vocalist Hanna Haïs – continues to inspire us with its fusion of Deep, Afro and Soulful sounds and remixes & re-interpretations that are still being released. Ahead of “Paris Luna,” the final single from 2071, Hanna sat down with us for a brief profile and the next 5 Mag Mix, 5 Magazine’s signature House Music mix series.
Hanna Haïs: The 5 Mag Mix
Hanna Haïs: The 5 Mag Interview
I think of Distance from the late 1990s through early 2000s and I think of so many great records. Blaze’s Lovelee Dae, Larry Heard, all those tasty Sandy Rivera/Kings of Tomorrow EPs and singles. How did you wind up with Distance? Are they good memories that you have?
I had a friend who was working at Distance, I went to the office, they gave me some promos including Larry Heard’s album. So it must have been a sign!
I have a lot of good memories of Distance, the Distance party at Queen club in Paris with Kevin Yost and Richard Les Crees, the Distance parties at What’s Up bar, listening to KOT’s “Finally” for the first time, receiving the white label of my first single, playing it for the first time…
Is that how you wound up working with Larry Heard for “Il Parlait Pas Francais”? And did you pull anything from that experience? That was your first track or close to it?
I had some tracks demoed, I played them to the Distance crew and it went really smoothly from there. I finalized the tracks and they came up with the idea of asking Larry Heard to work on one of the tracks. “Il Parlait Pas Francais” was my first solo single but before that I had done another single with Christoph Kardek. Christoph is the one who recorded the vocals of ‘Il Parlait Pas Francais,” a song I had written in 1997.
When was the last time you listened to it or heard it? Like I think that DJs often play their own tracks (even make their own tracks specifically for their own performance) but singers often feel different about listening to their own music.
I heard it last in Miami during WMC in a store. It’s almost unbearable to listen to your own music, I hear all the imperfections, all the things I could have done it better. The only exception is when you hear your own music on the radio. I remember once driving my car and suddenly they played one of my tracks. It sounded so good!
As a songwriter, how did you wind up in dance music, and do you feel it’s fulfilling to you as an artist to express yourself?
I come from a musical family – my older brother is a singer, my mother had a cousin that was a very famous singer in the 1930s and I have been singing since I was five or six years old. My father was recording me singing on a small cassette recorder.
As a kid I always liked dance music, a little older I got into Acid Jazz, I was spending a lot of time in record stores, buying a lot of vinyl, so when I started going out to clubs (mostly in Saint Tropez) it was the beginning of House Music in Europe. So it was a natural progression for me to try to write dance songs.
Dance music offered me the opportunity to write, compose, produce, perform both as a singer and as a DJ, so I would say that yes I am fully able to express myself as an artist.
As a DJ then, if you weren’t playing dance music, what would you be playing?
Classic American singers from the ’50s and ’60s: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald… and Acid Jazz.
You’ve worked with several artists and producers from South Africa. When did you discover this music and what were your impressions of the music? Have you toured there in the past?
It must have been at the WMC that I got into South African artists and producers. I remember hearing Kentphonik for the first time in Miami and I was also working with Ralf Gum, who had been there a few times. He told me how big the scene was there, so when I got to the opportunity to go I grabbed it and went! It was really amazing, I have been there a few times since then and hope to go back soon as I have a lot of fans in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola. For the last few years as a DJ I have been playing mostly music from these countries.
When you’re writing, are you thinking as a singer, or a producer, or even a DJ? What do you think of yourself being first-and-foremost?
First I’m a songwriter, in the studio I’m a singer and producer and in a club I’m a DJ. I like to DJ and sing a bit but singing in a club is technically difficult so I prefer to DJ.
Who inspires you as an artist today?
Ibiza is my main source of inspiration, I try to go there as often as possible during the summer season. There’s a very special vibe on this island – either you love it or you hate it. Ibiza is not all about clubbing and going out like crazy. Actually most parties I go to are day parties, I like to go Circo Loco on Mondays, the line-ups are amazing and very eclectic: Carl Craig, Culoe de Song, Ellen Alien, Kerri Chandler, Chez Damier, Apollonia… very inspirational.
You seem to have marked your career by milestones with albums. As we know these are often ignored by listeners who might stream independent tracks, and DJs who will pick up remixes or singles. What can you say in defense of the album in 2016? What are we missing without them? (Maybe what would people miss if they didn’t listen to all of the album 2071?)
As an artist the single format is not right to express one’s vision. Listening to Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On as a whole makes you understand Marvin Gaye the artist and the man, he speaks to your soul. It’s what I tried to do with my 2071 album which is a concept album, it’s my vision of the world in 2071.
What do you have coming up next?!
I just had a single out on Paso Music, a label from Berlin. The single is called “No” and I did it with Mark Deutsche & Musoe, with a remix from Alican who is from Turkey. This is something I like about dance music – the possibility to work with people with totally different backgrounds. I have been working on a remix of “Rendez-Vous” from my 2071 album, once this is released we will release “Paris Luna” which will be the last single taken from the album.
Originally published first in 5 Magazine Issue 139, featuring Jerome Baker, Hanna Hais, David Mancuso, Surface and Karen Copeland & more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music.