Hannah Wants Interview: 'The pressure is high'

We spoke to one of the industry's most talked about artists to discuss the pressure to produce, her Birmingham origins and the pros and cons of social media.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 3rd Feb 2017.
Originally published: 12th Sep 2016

Arguably Birmingham's biggest dance music export, Hannah Wants' bass-heavy house sound has shaped the experiences of a generation of clubbers as she's built a reputation as one of the most in demand additions to any club or festival line up, which is why she'll be joining Manchester's Parklife once again on Saturday 10th June.

Wants' name is always a hot topic in clubland, and most recently it's been brought to attention through similarities and accusations of plagiarism of Joy Orbison and Boddika's 'Mercy (VIP)' track following the debuting of a new release from her titled 'Found The Ground'.

Following the track's removal on the web, Hannah released a statement on her Facebook page, explaining that the likeness between that original track and hers was intentional, and she firmly stood her ground against the backlash, insisting that she would continue to pride herself on professionalism.

We spoke to her about her career beginnings, the trials of social media and the pressure on artists to produce...

Hi Hannah, the last time we spoke to you was way back in October 2014, you were in the midst of a pretty hefty gig schedule and you said something it can take you a few seconds to remember what country, city and hotel you're in. Has the way you tour changed at all since then? Do you ever feel like you need to take your foot off the gas?

Hey! The way I tour has definitely changed since 2014, it’s gotten even heftier. Sometimes I feel like I need to take my foot off the gas because my schedule, especially in summer, can be exhausting. I’m still yet to find that healthy work balance. There’s always something to be done so whenever, if ever I stop, my mind can’t rest and so I’ll get back to work. It’s a good job, I love what I do.

Going back a bit to when you were younger, can you tell us a little bit about the crossover period for you between playing professional football, and falling in love with clubland? 

I gave up football around four or five years ago. I was playing for Leicester City LFC and I was getting in from local club gigs around 6am/7am in the morning then having to travel around the country to play football. Needless to say it started to have a detrimental effect, something had to give.

Women’s football has progressed a lot in the past five years and whilst women get paid for being professional ballers now they didn’t when I was playing.

I’d been playing since the age of six, achieved my goals of playing premier league and representing my country and my DJing career was getting busier and better. I just knew it was time to quit football and pursue my next dream.

You grew up on a diet of speed garage and UK garage, what was the scene like back then in comparison to now?

About 10bpm faster! Haha. The Birmingham Speed Garage / 4x4 / UKG scene was massive when I first started to DJ back in like 2002 and it definitely grew my love for a bassline.

I guess the clubs are a lot stricter and safer now, back in the day clubs used to get rushed on a weekly basis, the Speed Garage scene was unfortunately renowned for it which unfortunately played a part in it’s popularity and decline. The speed of the music slowed down though, the sound evolved and a new bassline house kinda scene was born. 

Tell us a bit more about the DJ competitions you entered during your early career, which ones made the difference?

There are a few that stand out… 

I spent the summers of 2010 and 2011 in Ibiza and entered as many DJ competitions as possible out there. I won a few and they just generally opened doors and created opportunities for me in the DJ circuit.

In 2012 I entered a competition with Mixmag, you had to send in a 30 minute mix and the winner got to play a set at Creamfields on the opening day and I won. I got there and quickly realised it was a silent disco and in a tent playing to around 2000 people. Both of which I’d never experienced before, it was nerve wracking and mad but I learned a lot.

Fast forward four years and I can happily say I’ve been a part of Creamfields for the past three years to full capacity tents and it’s without doubt one of my favourite UK festivals to play. 

Having just announced that you'll be responsible for the upcoming fabriclive, how important do you think mix compilations are to the current scene? 

I’ve been making bi-monthly mixtapes on my SoundCloud for years now and so I personally think that mixtapes are extremely important. In my opinion they allow an artist to showcase their sound and style as a whole as well as enabling fan bases around the world to keep in touch with them on a personal and musical level. 

You've previously said that you can't ever see yourself making an album, so is putting together something like a compilation a middle ground for you, to show what you're about musically without concentrating on production?

I’d definitely put out a small EP yeah, say 3-5 track that showcases what I’m about. It’s something I’ve actually been thinking about doing as my sound has most definitely changed and broadened over the past couple years, I think it’d surprise a few people if I put out some of music I’ve been working on.

I’m playing and making less hard hitting crazy bass stuff and I guess I’m now touching on different sounds, genres and sub-genres. My music, sound and personal taste is ever evolving and I love that, it’s what makes the journey interesting.

How much pressure do you think is on DJs, both upcoming and established to produce as well as DJ in order to further their career?

I think the pressure is high and I also think it’s a shame. Just because you’re an absolute wizard on Ableton does not mean you can deliver a big high quality DJ set in front of hundreds or thousands of people. And visa versa. They’re completely different skill sets and should be seen that way but it’s a topic that often gets confused. 

You're very active on social media, what would you say are the major helps and hindrances that comes with it?

I’ve always been mega active on social media as I think it’s important and also just generally nice to be personable with the people who support what you do. Without the people who support me, the people who support my music, the people who buy tickets to my events etc, well I wouldn’t be living my dream would I and so I appreciate the ridiculous amounts of insane support I receive.

The only way is down if you ever think you’re bigger than the music or the ravers. 

The down side of this is the time it takes to stay active across all socials and then this obviously detracts you from other work. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc… There’s now more apps than ever to feature on but yeah I limit myself to these four channels and try to engage as much as possible.  

Last up, hypothetically, if you could take 'What Hannah Wants' do any location in the world for a party, where would it take place and who would be on the line up?

I’m gonna say Amsterdam. I guess the place is on my mind anyway because I’m on my way there right now but wow, they sure know how to rave. Some of the raw warehouse venues they have there are just incredible and so I’d have one of those, obviously.

The line up? Hmmm… It’d be varied but bursting with DJ talent. Monki, EZ, Mele, Devstar, Jack Swift, Ellie Cocks, Sam Divine… I could go on but this would defo be a rave for sure!

Hannah Wants plays Parklife on 10th-11th June. Parklife tickets available below.

View upcoming Hannah Wants gigs.

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