4

Hanni El Khatib and Black Keys' Dan Auerbach Spin Garage Gold

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

The most obvious difference in Hanni El Khatib's music these days is a sense of control. The former skate punk -- "playing the world's worst guitar" (but "Guitar Hero is helping out)," he jokes -- still dabbles in garage, psychedelia, punk, and blues, only now his songs are tighter, more realized. They're still menacing in places, but never filled with the raw, reckless abandon that marked such all-out thrashers as "Fuck It, You Win," "Build Destroy Rebuild," and "Roach Cock" from 2011's Will the Guns Come Out. Instead, that tension now gives these songs a pulsating edge.

See also:

-Cold War Kids to Headline New Times' Carnaval Eléctrico at Crescent Ballroom

The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach gets some credit for this musical makeover, redirecting the raw angst and explosiveness in producing Head in the Dirt, due April 30. "He was able to help me look at song structure and arrangement in a different frame of mind," El Khatib explains via e-mail from Paris, "especially playing with different instrumentation that I've never played with or had on my records."

The pair met in a Paris nightclub by chance. After a night of DJing together and "vibing off each other's records," a friendship was formed. When a touring break presented itself, the pair reconnected inside Auerbach's Nashville studio.

See also:

-Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys is an Awesome Producer

Initially, there was slight hitch -- El Khatib arrived at the studio with no guitar and no complete songs or demos. His idea was to approach the sessions with no preconceived notions of what a song should be.

"I'm always writing and recording demos or random ideas. Some of which date back years, while others are done while on the fly," he says. "I shared some with Dan ahead of time, but by the time I arrived in Nashville, it was a relatively blank canvas. Some of the songs were further along than others, but the idea was to get into the studio and see what could be created on the spot."

It was up to Auerbach -- the hot producer du jour -- to work his magic much as he'd done with many other artists. Not unexpectedly, Auerbach brought many of his studio intricacies and played on much of the album. The guitar riff on "Can't Win 'Em All," the fuzzy blues rocker partially debuting during Audi's controversial Super Bowl "Prom" commercial, is signature Auerbach.

Ironically, "Skinny Little Girl," which sounds like a leftover Black Keys song from

Brothers

, based on the underlying rhythm, thunderous bass riffs, and fat, bluesy guitar tone, was actually a true-to-form El Khatib composition.

"It's actually not that far off from my original demo that I brought with me to Nashville," he says. "Dan and Patrick [Keeler] added a little bit to it in the studio, but is true to the original idea."

As with Will the Guns Come Out, El Khatib manages to squeeze many of his influences into a wide range of song styles, including Clash-inspired punk, dub reggae, bubbly rhythm and blues, Detroit garage rock, and blues.

"The songs on this record and the sequencing all make sense," he says, defending the variety of styles.

But that's one of the joys of El Khatib's musical mindset -- variety keeps it interesting. And with a new polished sound and connection to Auerbach, could this open the door to an expanded fan base?

"That's not really for me to worry about. I make music for myself and as long as I'm happy at the end of the day, that's all that matters," he says. "I'm extremely grateful that I even have fans, regardless if they are from the skate scene or straight-edge scene. A fan is a fan, and it's a rewarding feel to know you've touched someone's life with your music."

Hanni El Khatib is scheduled to perform at Carnaval Eléctrico at Crescent Ballroom on Friday, March 8.

See also:

-Mergence Adds "Surf-Samba" Track to Its Arsenal -In The Valley Below: Irresistible Synth Pop for Even the Most Jaded Indie Fan -Cold War Kids to Headline New Times' Carnaval Eléctrico at Crescent Ballroom -New Times' Carnaval Eléctrico Expands With Wooden Indian, Diners, and Stan Devereaux & The Funky Suns


Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.