Birmingham born DJ, Hannah Wants, had an incredible past year winning awards for the Best Breakthrough DJ at the DJ Mag awards and became Mixmag’s Best Breakthrough DJ and Star of the Year. As a self taught DJ, Hannah has found her niche in the house and bass music scene where she has played some of the biggest festivals and clubs around the world. We had a chance to catch up with the down to earth DJ Queen before her first Chicago performance to discuss her love for the art of DJing, her solo material to be released this summer and what her plans are for the end of 2015.
The Dankles: What is your full name and age?
Hannah Wants: Hannah Alicia Smith and I’m 27 years old.
TD: How would you describe your music and DJ style to people unfamiliar with Hannah Wants?
HW: Simpliy put, it’s house music. The majority of it is bass influenced. I’ll dip into most subgeneres of house. If I like it, I’ll play it. I like to sort through new music and old music.
TD: As we know house music originated in Chicago, have you drawn any influences from the Chicago house scene? If not, what are some of your biggest influences?
HW: I’m not too familiar with Chicago house, it’s probably a little before my time growing up. I’ve only heard like Eats Everything who kind of speaks about it and draws influence. But for me personally, I am not the most knowledgeable about it which is why am I excited to watch Green Velvet later and see what kind of thing he does. I’m intrigued.
TD: So where do you draw most of your influences?
HW: My influences came from speed garage, UK garage and baseline house. When I was 16 and just started going out and learning how to DJ, those things were big in Birmingham. My sound, I guess, kind of still are those sounds, ya know…baselines, garage beats and house beats, but obviously the sound has evolved a little bit. So yeah, speed garage and UK garage were my thing back in the day.
TD: Are there any UK garage artists that influenced you the most or any artist in particular?
HW: Sounds over people influence me the most, if you know what I mean. One influence that has definitely been inspiration is DJ EZ (pronounced DJ E-ZED), I’m not sure if you have ever heard of him. He is a Garage legend. His DJ skills are something that I aspire to be like because I want to be known for DJing and my live sets. If you have ever watched his live sets, his boiler room sets on youtube, his technically ability is up there with the best in the world. I want to be known on his kind of legendary level. I pride myself in the art of DJing and he is my inspiration.
TD: In a male saturated market, what, if any, gender stereotypes have you experienced?
HW: Literally none. None to my face anyway. It’s something that I don’t pay any notice to and haven’t experienced any prejudice to my face. And if anything, I like and thrive off being a minority. I enjoy it.
TD: As a DJ and then a producer, are there any artists you would like to produce with in the future and do you have any production mentors?
HW: No I don’t have any production mentors. It’s something I’ve been learning for a few years now. Obviously it wasn’t in the forefront when I was DJing locally, I was just making music for fun so I could have my own track in my set. This is something that took off bigger and faster than I thought it would. Yes, one collaboration, I’m not sure if you heard of them, My Nu Leng. They’re two lads from the UK, their sound is pretty cool and they’re really good friends so I’m hoping we can collaborate in the future. We’ve spoke about it, but at the moment I am focusing on my solo material because it’s been a long time coming since I have only collaborated in the past. I’m looking forward to having my own stuff. I’ve waited for the right time. A lot of people said I should have done it earlier, but for me, obviously since I am a DJ first and foremost, I’ve been waiting for the right time. I’ve been testing out a couple records that I’ve been working on and they are going to come out this summer so I am really excited about that.
TD: What has been the biggest challenge you have come across in your career so far?
HW: Hmmm…I genuinely don’t have any. It’s all a journey. I don’t think I have had something I haven’t been able to do. It’s a big roller coaster progression, I’m doing what I love and it’s not really a challenge so things are kind of just happening for me. So I don’t think I have had a specific challenge. Maybe dealing with the fame side of things. Nobody tells you that the bigger you get the kind of things that will change in your personal life like sometimes I’d just like to go into a club and just be a raver. I don’t mind being noticed or whatever, but having pictures all the time and being spoken to then i can’t really experience that rave as a proper clubber anymore and just silly things like that, being noticed in airports or the hater kind of side of things. That’s probably been the biggest challenge. I love it though. I wouldn’t change it because at the end of the day, I want to get ten times bigger, twenty times bigger. It’s something that you have to learn how to adapt to. For example, my friends and I go to Ibiza once a year since I use to spend a couple of my summers there. We just like to walk around normally and then I kind of get mobbed and things. I can’t just walk down the street sometimes. It’s insane. Stacey, my manager, always says to me that I don’t realize how big I’ve gotten because I’m just the most normal person. I won’t ever change.
TD: If you only had five minutes on earth to perform one song that could have an impact on the world today, what song would you perform and why would did you choose this particular piece?
HW: I’m going to pick On Off by Cirez D. It’s one of my favorite tracks ever. It’s kind of a tech house track and was released in 2010. I’m still playing in my sets now because it really works and I found that no matter where I am around the world, everyone kind of engages in it. It’s just one where they put their hands in the air. I’m not sure if it would change the world, but it’s a great, great track.
TD: Recently you played on Holy Ship’s January sailing, what was your experience like?
HW: That was one of the best things that I have ever done in my whole entire life. It was bazaar. I always said I wouldn’t go on a cruise ship because I’m not the biggest fan of the sea and I was a bit scared, but I’m so glad I did it. Everybody is nice. I love the fact that the artist and the ravers all integrate. Everyone’s friendly. It blows your mind because you are just raving on a ship and your are surrounded by the sea. I’m hoping to go next year. I would absolutely love to return.
TD: Do you have any pre show rituals?
HW: Not any weird ones or anything. I just like to get to the venue about an hour before hand so I can have a look at the venue and the dance floor. I like to catch the previous DJ’s set to kind of see what they are doing. Then that just means I can start planning where I want to take my set and what I want to start with, things like that. Other than that, I like to have a couple vodkas and that’s about it.
TD: Do you ever have a set playlist or do you just go off the vibe of the crowd?
HW: I never have a setlist. I might have tracks that I know I want to test or play, but other than that, I just have my folders on my USB. It depends on the night, the crowd, the venue, ya know? I have a core list of tracks that are working in my current set, but I just kind of play around that core if you know what I mean.
TD: What are your plans for summer and the end of 2015?
HW: My plan for summer is literally gigging. When I return back from the U.S. next week, it goes into a whole year of traveling the world. The summer is going to consist of lots of festivals, club shows and events including Ibiza. After Ibiza, it’s back to the UK and I’ll be doing my second What Hannah Wants UK tour that will be around October time. Then it looks like I will be going out to Australia at the end of the year. It’s literally living out of a suitcase. I love it. I love traveling.
TD: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me, do you have any last words for your fans?
HW: Thank you for the continued support. That was something that kind of overwhelmed me being in America. I didn’t know how some of the mid week shows would turn out. For example, Tuesday in Miami. Who goes out on a Tuesday? The turn out has been incredible for every single gig. I have had people coming up and chatting with me and giving me gifts. The support has been incredible more than I ever thought it would be. The last time I was in America I was here for the Night Bass tour with AC, Jack Beats, Kry wolf. This time coming out on my own was a bit nerve wracking because you never know since I’m not that big in America yet, but I’ve just been overwhelmed with support so just a big thank you for that and I’ve got a lot more stuff to come!