This frenetic week is finally ending for Hanni El Khatib. In between of the release of his new album, Savage Times (on march 3rd) and the launch of his clothing collection he designed for HUF, the Californian rock musician has a busy schedule. His vocal cords are tired but he’s happy to be here, at the Sonos’ House.
Comfortably settled on a couch, in the middle of the pop-up store he set up here for the week-end, Hanni seems to feel at home. He talks about his new album, how he likes to curate playlists, and about his free and raw connection towards creation.
Can you tell me about the story of Savage Times : how did you conceive it ?
I didn’t conceive it as an album. It wasn’t really intended to be this kind of format. What I did intend on was just going to that studio and recording music. We never have free time and we felt like it. I wanted to record it and release it immediately. The point was to record a song and put it out on the internet. I didn’t want to spend time making a record per se, with one concept. Savage Times cataloged diverse EPs I released, alongside a few new songs. On this album, there is no continuity on the sonics of it.
Where did you compose and record the songs ?
Mostly, it was made at a studio in Long Beach called Jazzcats. For the most part, I compose it alone, even if the owner of the studio, who registered and engineered the record, Jonny Bell, was there at every step. I typically compose alone. I did all my records by myself, except for my second album, Head in the Dirt: I did it with Dan Auerbach, from Black Keys. I never compose with a band. But it doesn’t mean I don’t play on stage with a band.
The album is so diverse that it makes me think of a play-list. Regarding to music, would you define yourself as eclectic ?
I listen to music all the time, every kind of music. I can listen to Toro y Moi, then 70’s disco. On this album, I listened to a lot of funk, and a lot of disco. And a lot of rap too. The album should sound like a play-list, I wanted to be like this. I like to discover and share music with my friends and my band. I do it all the time. I make a lot of play-lists. I have a playlist that I do for the public (Savage Selects, on Spotify). I add 10-20 chansons every couple of weeks.
How do you discover music?
Everyday I am searching for something new, on the internet. It is a place where everyone can put some music immediately. Three weeks ago, Travis Scott and Young Thug put out a song on the internet, for 24 hours. Then it disappeared. I still collect vinyl records though. I go to record stores to buy them. We have a connected Sonos system in the office. You can put music somewhere and listen to it in any other room. It’s really cool. When we’ll have added the Sonos Connect that links the sound system to the turntables, it will be perfect.
Where do you listen to music ?
Everywhere and anytime. Mostly in my car, in California. I test all my sound mixes from my records in the car and on the computer speaker. If it doesn’t sound good in the car or on the computer speaker, it’s not ok. I listen to music at home too: I have a room just for music, where I put my records, my instruments and my record player. I don’t like silence and I can’t sit still!
Is there a correlation between creating music and creating clothes ? How is the process connected, if it is ?
I feel like it’s just the same process, the same inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, or clothing, or photography. I like clothes and I collect them, just like music. It’s fun, and you can set up a graphic language. You can tell a message with clothing. Tee-shirts are like a billboard, they say something.
You introduced an EP at the Sonos House last fall, here in Paris. What made you willing to come back ?
The vib here is cool. I feel like home, it is a home. I want to live here ! My favorite rooms are the living-room, and the office upstairs. It’s pretty cool, with the record player and the little balcony. Paris is a second musical home for me. I feel more connected to Paris than I do with New York or something. It’s like this ever since I started bringing up records here: from the beginning, it has been some sort of relationship. My craziest memory is when we opened up for Johnny Hallyday at Bercy, for three nights. It was very interesting. Johnny Hallyday was so nice to us.