Lex Deluxe, asking the BIG questions
HAAi is back in the motherland to play a very special set at Output 2018. Expect the rarest music oddities that are sure to get you body moving! We dished this Aussie expat some hard hitting questions about her snap-quick rise to fame, the catalyst for learning CDJs, and an insight into her latest EP, ‘Motorik Voodoo Bush Doof Musik’.
Lex Deluxe: Hey Teneil, so lovely to meet you, I’m very excited to sling you some questions about the incredible projects of HAAi and Coconut Beats, and everything else in your sphere. A lot of people might not know that you’re from Sydney originally right? When did you start the HAAi project, and make the move over to London?
HAAi: Hey there, great news! I’m actually from Karratha and grew up down near Margaret River. I lived in Sydney for 8 years before relocating to London tho. I moved to the UK just over 7 years ago with a shoegaze/psych band I was playing in. When that hit the skids around 3 or so years ago I kind of just fell into DJing more seriously while I was licking my wounds from the split. I was given some very lucky opportunities that lead me to play clubs supporting bigger artists and was fortunately pretty embraced by the scene here. “HAAi” came about maybe 3 years ago as I felt like the project needed it’s own identity and it seemed to just work. I kind of haven’t looked back since.
L.D: A lot has changed in the Sydney scene since you left, do you keep a watchful eye on what’s going on over here?
H: It really has. It kind of kicked off as I was leaving. It’s a question that comes up a lot for me over here (UK/EU) in interviews and just in general. I try to keep up to date with it as much as possible from across the pond.
Tyson Koh who spearheaded the “Keep Sydney Open” campaign was over here a year or so ago and was really interesting to pick his brain on it. I’m really curious to see what it’s like over there when I’m back and to see if there have been any big changes.
L.D: Huge congrats for all your successes to date, your Phonox (London) residency is an incredible feat for any DJ, and the way you came into it is a well-deserved chance! Could you tell us the story, and how you prepared for the first show?
H: It really was a massive chance that I was given that completely changed the trajectory of my life. I’ll be forever grateful for it. I basically shat myself for about a month, cried a bit and then just got to work, sorting playlists, spent a lot of time in Phonica and Sounds of the Universe. I also learned to use CDJs the week I started the residency as before that I was only mixing vinyl. Given that I was playing for 6 hours every Saturday it would have been just too much wax to cart down to the club week in week out. Jono Ma (Jagwar Ma) actually taught the ins n outs of the CDJ..
L.D: Coming out of your Phonox residency, you hit another DJ milestone with the BBC Essential Mix – how this come about? How did you prepare for it all?
H: I know! My head still spins when I think about it tbh.
So weird because I think in the back of any “up and coming” DJs mind, you are always like “I wonder if/when my first essential mix will be”. Mine kind of caught me by surprise, however I was way more ready than I thought I would have been. I was only given just over 2 weeks before the deadline, which was for the best in the end. I wanted it to represent music I have been playing over the past couple of years as well and have some super weird shit that I love in there as well. I feel the mix is quite hyperactive which is like my brain, but also wanted it to keel kind of psychedelic in parts. I was really proud of how it came out. I played with Pete Tong at the essential mix Warehouse Project recently in Manchester. It was the night the mix was being aired and he came up as was super nice about it. I was like “ummmm no, thank you m8”.
L.D: Having just wrapped up the Phonox residency after a couple of big years (b2b sets with The Black Madonna and heaps more!), what’s next for HAAi?
H: The bulk of the next 6-12 months will be just touring. Which is really exciting. We have some really great things in the cannon for next year that I can’t wait to announce. I’m now able to produce more on the road which has been really helpful. I’m currently on tour thru the eu with Jon Hopkins. This has been a great test in being able to still make music whilst traveling so much. I’ll be releasing lots more myself next year as well as other artists on Coconut Beats. I have some Fkn cool B2B’s happening next year which I’m so excited about. Love a good old btoob.
L.D: You have played some pretty incredible parties over the past few years, can you give us a few standout memories?
H: Woof, that’s a tough. There’s been so many great ones! DGTL in Amsterdam this year was a biggie for me. I played the Resident Adviser stage which was one of my favourite sets at that point. I then played the afterparty right after Jeff Mills to 5000 ravers. Was a pretty life defining day for sure. I also ended up playing a b2b2b with Denis Sulta and MALL GRAB at this mental club in Nottingham over the summer called ‘Rock City”. That was a special night as I’m the three of us are super close but rarely in the same place at the same time.
L.D: The ‘Motorik Voodoo Bush Doof Musik EP’ is a journey through different soundscapes, emotions, from YDIF’s psychedelic throb, percussive movement in MVBDM, a rollercoaster of sounds and energy in Care For Jungle, and finally an ever-evolving euphoric GUWMC that takes you deep inside HAAi’s mind. What did you set out to achieve in this EP, was it written for a person/place/feeling?
H: It was really just what came out at the time. With this release I basically realised that I’m not a straight up techno producer and needed to nurture and be comfortable with the weirder side of the stuff I like. I feel theres this expectation that there needs to be a common thread with releases, like it needs to tell some kind of sonic story. I don’t really agree with that as a necessity. It’s ok to make something because thats what felt right at the time. It’s music, it’s supposed to be universal not overthought (IMO). That was the point of Motorik Voodoo Bush Doof Musik. Just a bunch of sounds smooshed together into an ep. With the exception of Growing Up With Muscle Cars. That was written for my step dad. He restores old muscle cars. When I was a kid I used to spend so much time after school in his workshop with all these old revving engines. I guess that was the motivation behind that track.
L.D: And does the EP title have any reference to our beloved droogs Motorik over here in AUS?!
H: Ha! I have been asked this by many Aussies. Although they are great old homies, unfortunately it doesn’t. It’s more a car reference and a nod to Plastikman and my childhood. I do Fkn love what the Motorik gang are up to tho.
L.D: Are there any other artists on the Output line-up who you wanna catch on the day?
H: I’m really keen just to check out as many people as possible tbh. I haven’t been to any festivals in oz for years now so am not super in the loop with what’s going on locally.I have lots of pals playing which will be fun, but definitely keen to watch some new legends.
L.D: And finally… are you sticking around in Australia for a while after Output? Catching up with the fam, hitting some of our fave eateries?!
H: I really wish I was! I’m sadly in and out this time round. I’ll be heading straight to Asia for a few shows and festivals and finishing up in Japan doing a field recording project. Will squeeze in as much there as possible though. Will basically be eating my way across the country!