WORDS: Alex Caslano
Aspiring DJs take note: if you’re intending on getting anywhere in this industry, then prepare to graft, hard. Just graduating from bedroom to club takes persistence, but breaking through and being recognised requires dogged determination. It's something Hannah Wants has in reserve and she's given 100% every step of the way.
“I’ve loved every part of my journey” says the DJ and producer who was behind underground-turned-chart-smash, ‘Rhymes’ with Chris Lorenzo. “From playing to no one in a small bar on some really ancient equipment to playing at major festivals in front of thousands of people; I think it’s all part and parcel of the career path and it’s important to earn your stripes as a DJ.”
And Hannah is definitely someone who has earned her stripes. From teaching herself the basics to spending a summer in Ibiza where she entered and won a series of DJ competitions (eventually securing her own residency), to smashing the Mixmag/Creamfields comp to play at the festival in 2012, Wants is the living, breathing embodiment of ‘hard work pays off’. DJ’ing is her passion and she’s pursued it relentlessly.
Generating a buzz with her energetic sets and acquiring a reputation for enviable skills behind the decks, her own productions were perhaps inevitable, with the aforementioned ‘Rhymes’ exceeding her expectations: “Never in a million years did I think it would sign to a major, especially with a Daft Punk sample” she tells us. “Somehow Annie (Mac) put the track in Daft Punk’s hands in the hope they’d clear the ‘Technologic’ sample, and to our delight they loved it!”
But the success of ‘Rhymes’ is only part of Wants’ impressive resume. She also holds down her own show as part of the Radio 1 Residency with an Essential Mix due at the end of May, while her burgeoning party ‘What Hannah Wants’ will be a prominent feature over the summer. “I want to be the biggest and best I can be” she says with assured confidence. “I eat, breathe and sleep music, love what I do and I wake up each day with a smile on my face...I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about!”
Check out a recent mix from Hannah below, as well as the full interview in which we talk more about her aspirations, the downside of DJ fame and why she’s not interested in becoming a mainstream artist:
SynthGlasgow: We really like the line “what Hannah Wants, Hannah Earns” in your bio as it seems like you’ve really grafted hard to get where you are today. What’s been the toughest part of the journey so far?
Hannah Wants: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s been tough, you know. I’ve loved every part of my journey and enjoyed slowly climbing the ladder from playing to no one in a small bar on some really ancient equipment to playing at major festivals in front of thousands of people. I think it’s all part and parcel of the career path and it’s important to earn your stripes as a DJ.
The only thing I can think of that’s been “tough” perhaps, has been learning to adapt to a new life in the music industry spotlight. Getting noticed out and about, internet trolls, seeing people and things change because my circumstances have changed; all the stuff nobody tells you about that comes with a little bit of success.
SG: You had a defining season in Ibiza five years ago when you won a series of competitions and were asked to headline at Es Paradis. Why did you feel Ibiza was important in helping establish your career as a DJ?
Hannah: Ibiza is the capital of house music so what better place to try and get noticed!? Spending a summer in Ibiza was something I was always interested in. The weather, music, events and parties happening seven days a week, meeting new people, experiencing new things...it all came hand in hand. It was the perfect place to start pursuing my dream.
SG: You were a DJ before you started dabbling with production and you’re of course well recognised for having some exceptional skills behind the decks. What motivated you to start producing? Was it the natural next step?
Hannah: I started to make music just for fun and to be able to put an individual stamp on my DJ sets, but the tracks started getting support from big players in the scene, which progressed me further and quicker as an artist.
DJ’ing without doubt is my main passion...crate digging, travelling and DJ’ing takes up most of my time, but I’ve been working on and testing some solo material over the last few months which I’m really excited to release over the summer!
SG: It seems like you’re really in high demand at the moment, with a gig schedule which would reduce most of us to a quivering wreck; do you manage to get some downtime during the week and what’s a normal day like for you when you’re not travelling?
Hannah: I don’t really get any downtime, no; I’m lucky if I get an hour or two on an evening to try and relax. To be fair I’m not really any good at relaxing anymore, it’s always a massive fail. I’d rather be working. If I’m at home I’ll be up early and into my gym and then it’ll be a long day working in the office/studio doing whatever needs to be done! Then bed. And repeat.
SG: ‘Rhymes’ is arguably one of the biggest tracks of the year so far and we’re really interested to know how the track made the jump from underground to chart; was it exciting to see it take on a life of it’s own and when was the decision made to push it for mainstream release?
Hannah: ‘Rhymes’ was always made for the dancefloor. Never in a million years did I think it would sign to a major, especially with a Daft Punk sample. We have Annie Mac to thank for that. She loved the track and was rinsing it in her sets during the whole of last summer. Somehow Annie put the track in Daft Punk’s hands in the hope they’d clear the ‘Technologic’ sample. To our delight they loved it, Virgin got on board and the rest is history.
SG: The single debuted at #13 in the official UK chart earlier this year which is a huge achievement. Did you feel any pressure as an artist to follow it with another single which would work well on daytime radio?
Hannah: No. Becoming a more mainstream artist is not something I’ll ever push for. ‘Rhymes’ just so happened to cross over like Ten Walls ‘Walking With Elephants’ did. Sometimes it just works. I’m happy it did but I’m definitely not looking to change myself as an artist to get into the charts. I’m a house music DJ/producer and I’ll always stay true to myself and my sound as an artist. Wherever that takes me, we’ll see!
SG: You’re joining us at in Glasgow this Saturday for Club Shangrila; what track have you resurrected for your sets recently which has been doing the business?
Hannah: You know what? I’ve been digging through my hard drives for my BBC Radio 1 Essential mix later this month. I found Wadsworth ‘Lime & Pink'...banger! I can’t wait to drop this one again at the weekend! I love finding old gems that you haven’t played for a while; it’s always nice to dust them off.
SG: Finally, as mentioned, you’ve just announced that you’ll be making your Essential Mix debut later this month, you’ve got an R1 Residency, your own ‘What Hannah Wants’ party and a top 20 single. What’s next on the hit-list?
Hannah: Honestly, it’s to fully continue on this little dream journey I’m on. I want to be the biggest and best I can be. I eat, breathe and sleep music, love what I do and I wake up each day with a smile on my face...I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about!
New music from myself will be dropping very soon, my Radio 1 Residency is continuing until the end of the year; I’ll be DJ’ing around the world with a crazy schedule and my brand 'What Hannah Wants' will be hosting some real nice parties, boats and tents over the summer before embarking on an Autumn/Winter UK tour - even bigger and better than the last!
Hannah Wants plays Club Shangrila at SWG3 this Saturday (please note venue change). Support comes from DJ Barely Legal and Tom Shortez. Advance tickets are available from The Arches website. Hannah Wants & Chris Lorenzo ‘Rhymes’ is out now.