HAAi is one of the most interesting up and coming artists across both house and techno due to her residency in London club Phonox among other things, she chatted with Cóilí Collins ahead of her Irish debut in Pyg this weekend.
A bustling café backdrops a chirpy “Hello!” from HAAi as she answers the phone and her enthusiasm doesn’t dip when she moves to the quieter exterior of the building. The unwavering display of upbeat character despite her seemingly hectic surroundings mirrors her eclectic DJ sets; varying in textures and backgrounds but sharing the same steadfast energy throughout. That undying energy can take a HAAi set from the depths of African drum-led house into the most hypnotic, droning techno. She has gained an army of followers in the shape of clubbers and club land’s most elite DJs, a group that is growing on a weekly basis.
“When it comes to shorter sets I tend to plan them out loosely a little bit more or I’ll make my playlist a little bit more organised, whereas with the longer ones, I don’t really plan anything, I just go with the flow. It’s never long enough at festivals, but that’s just how it is and you still kind of get into it enough, I still keep the mixes as long as possible and psychedelic.”
“I had to really push with Phonox to play the weirder stuff that I like to play, the more psychedelic techno stuff. They wanted Saturday nights to be about upbeat house and disco stuff, but I’m there every week and I know the people want to hear more interesting music and people are captivated when they’re hearing stuff that they haven’t heard before. I really had to fight with them to get to do that, but now I’m in every week and it’s getting cooler and it really works in there.”
“Ultimately, it’s not a totally self-indulgent thing, it’s more about getting people excited about stuff they haven’t before and hearing stuff that just doesn’t get played out that much.”
“When I was playing at Annie Mac’s festival in Malta I was talking to a friend of mine who’s quite a commercial DJ and he was worried that my music wasn’t going to go down that well, as I was playing on the main stage, because people would want to hear cheesy hits and stuff. I still didn’t do that because you can’t discount! It was probably one of my favourite sets.”
“I was in Tel Aviv last year for my Boiler Room and I didn’t know what I wanted to wear. I had this orange shirt and I saw these orange trousers that looked like motorbike riding trousers. It kind of ties in with all of the Coconut Beats stuff and with all the artwork with the releases and stuff too which is good.”
“I changed to Worldwide FM about two months ago, it’s a Coconut Beats show to do with the label and parties so the shows really represent what the whole idea of what the label is. Now that it’s on Worldwide I can kind of go a bit deeper, less dance-y than I can on Rinse. I really loved doing the Rinse shows but I felt like I was compromising things a little bit. I didn’t want to ostracise their normal listeners by doing loads of weird shit. People that listen to Worldwide are ready to go deep.”
“I think the DJing has helped when I have released stuff. The kind of tunes I make aren’t there to dominate dancefloors. The tracks that I make only work when I play them [laughs], but I can’t imagine anyone else playing them. People can listen to them at home! I feel like when I’m writing, I’m thinking about them in a live setting because I’m trying to put together a live set.”
“Dan [Avery] has a really good crossover with that stuff. On his new record I feel like there are tracks there that sound like My Bloody Valentine.”
“I’ve been really, really lucky. All of the bookings have been quality and I’ve got some big ones at the end of the year that I’m really excited for and some big changes that are going to happen around September and October,” she explains, as if you could see her eyes widening on the other end of the phone. “This year I find myself constantly busy but I’m just trying to keep my feet on the ground as much as possible. It’s the after parties that get me!”