Australian born HAAi is anything but predictable. Her eclectic DJ sets incorporate various sounds, birthing an audio mix of techno, twitchy bass and global funk. Rising to popularity during her residency at London club Phonox, HAAi has gone on to release her own singles and EPs; played shows all over the world and earned the crown for essential mix of 2018 from BBC Radio 1. We spoke to HAAi as she geared up to release her upcoming extended EP, touching on her creative process, learning her craft and DJ culture in 2019.
What’s your creative process like?
There isn’t really one. I’ll have an idea of something I want to do, so I’ll just open up Ableton - a programme I use for making beats and producing electronic stuff. I always go in with an idea in mind, then I make a mistake or a weird sound, then that becomes the song.
I feel like the best songs are usually created by accident...
Yeah, and sometimes you’re like ‘this wasn’t really my idea, but I like it’. It’s about not being afraid of mistakes, that’s the beautiful bit. Maybe one day I’ll be able to achieve what I set out to do.
How did you learn how to produce?
I kind of taught myself, I’ve got a lot of friends that are producers. I was a musician first, I used to be in a Shoegaze band called Dark Bells.
What part did you play in the band?
I was lead guitar and I sang. I really enjoyed the songwriting element. When that ended, my next-door neighbour gave me an old Mac with Logic and Ableton on it. I didn’t really understand how to use it. He showed me a few little bits and pieces, and if I was ever stuck, I’d knock on his door and be like ‘I can’t get this to record’.
When did you move to London?
I’ve been here almost eight years exactly. And half of that time was spent being a shoegazer, the other half of it I’ve been a slave to the club.
Why the move to London?
It was music, we moved as a band basically.
Did you feel like there were more opportunities?
Yeah, I felt like for what we were doing, we knew that there was quite a big scene over here. it was so much more nurturing. I think when you’re making that sort of music, there’s such a small pot, so it was quite competitive. Whereas here there were so many places to play and so many more people that wanted to come to shows, it felt like more of a nurturing environment. And that became even more so once I started playing the clubs.
"I WAS A HAIRDRESSER, AND I CALLED UP MY MUM ONE DAY AND I WAS LIKE, ‘I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE’."
So what was your light bulb moment where you were like ‘Ok, I was put on earth to do this?’
I was always really musical, but when I was about 19, I was l writing songs with an acoustic guitar. I was a hairdresser, and I called up my mum one day and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. I was so, so passionate about hairdressing as well, I really cared about it. I think when you have a career, your parents are like ‘alright, that’s sorted’. And then if you suggest something silly… She probably didn’t know how much I was playing and writing.
When do you she realised how serious you were?
I guess it was when I started to get shows. Actually, when I was playing in my old band, she came to one of our gigs and she saw how much people were into it. She’s really musical; she’s never really pursued it but like naturally she’s quite musical. She really loved that I would just go for it and not let anything stop me from doing it.
Would you say you’re quite a focused person?
Yeah, 90% of the time.
You mentioned coming to London and the other DJs and the community. Would you say people were quite supportive?
Yeah, they were actually, I’ve been really fortunate. I feel really lucky, but I just genuinely think that the areas of music that I’m part of are filled with really warm people who want to help you and want to give advice. Everyone always looks like they’re having a great time.
How would you describe the DJ scene at the moment?
I feel like it’s a really exciting time actually. There are so many really interesting new artists coming through. And because of where music and technology are at, it’s easy to make tracks on your computer. If you’ve kind of grown up with that as well, I just think it’s a really good melting pot. It’s a wicked time to be in music.
"I JUST GENUINELY THINK THAT THE AREAS OF MUSIC THAT I’M PART OF ARE FILLED WITH REALLY WARM PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HELP YOU AND WANT TO GIVE ADVICE."
How do you feel about your young female fans?
I always try and be really open, I’d like to reply to everyone that asks for a bit of advice. And I really love how forthcoming and open people are, I think that’s wicked.
What advice would you give to yourself starting out?
Just take your time. I think with anyone that’s learning something from scratch, it just takes time. There’s so much of it that you can’t learn from a lesson, like intuition with a crowd. You’ve just got t do it over and over again. And don’t be afraid of the fuck up.
What your favourite thing about your job?
I really love travelling, the excitement of: ‘Oh wicked, I’m going to Switzerland on Friday’. And then you’re like ‘Oh great, now I just get to go and play this wicked club in this city.' The only hard thing is trying to find a routine in a life that has none.
Do you think having a routine is important to the creative process?
I think to stretch out your creativity, yeah. Rather than feeling you’re being like led by ideas.
Can you tell us what the LP is going to sound like?
It will be quite collaborative actually, it will be more like a studio LP as opposed to the music that I make at the moment. I wouldn’t say it’s like studio music, so just like technology really - techno.
So, any upcoming releases on your label Coconut Beats?
Well yeah, funny you should ask, I’ve decided to put Coconut Beats to rest for a little bit. I’m starting a new label called Radical New Theory or like RNT. With Coconut Beats, the idea was for it to be like a showcase for music from all around the globe. And then when I had my show, I became so busy, I never got to release anyone else’s. And then I gave up worldwide because I got a show on Radio 1. So everything kind of just like changed very rapidly. So Coconut Beats is just on the bench for a bit.
What’s next for HAAi? What are your mood board goals 2020?
2020 is pretty fucking busy already if I’m honest with shows and festivals. I’m curating my first Motion in Bristol in January (tickets here). I have some big London all night long shows being announced real soon, but production wise I’ll be working on an LP which I’m very excited about. I also started a label with my girlfriend Alice with the first release set for January.
I really wanna bring my mum out to Pike’s in ibiza in the summer as well. She’s such a massive Freddie Mercury fan, so I think she’d be made up if she could come.