"A lot of people joke that Hook n Sling is a duo,” says Anthony Maniscalco, a.k.a. Hook n Sling. You might assume that the joke stems from the two-part moniker for the DJ and producer, but it’s really rooted in the fact that Maniscalco’s hits are collaborations and remixes of tracks from big names like Galantis and Sam Feldt.
Historically, producing electronic music tracks has been a very solitary process.
Few DJ/producers truly collaborate, and many rely on file sharing over in-person meetups (proximity and touring tends to play a role in this, too). However, others tend to shine brighter when they’re working with others.
Maniscalco’s career is proof.
The L.A.-based musician grew up in Australia, teaching himself guitar from the extensive record collection and sheet music that lay around his dad’s house — lots of Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, and Jimi Hendrix.
It wasn’t until college that he started listening to the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, almost by accident, during the mega-parties he and his friends threw.
The parties grew so big that local bar and club owners took notice, and they asked Maniscalco to DJ at their venues in hopes of getting a bite of the large college crowds he was attracting. He did, and it worked.
After college, Maniscalco wanted a new creative outlet besides his graphic design career. So, he started producing his own music.
This was at a pivotal time in the Australian dance music scene, which helped shape the style of what would evolve into Hook n Sling, a name that’s borrowed from a funk/soul record by Eddie Bo.
“Funk and breaks and all that kind of sound that was huge in Australia; it was a sound in Australia that wasn’t so big anywhere else,” Maniscalco says. “You could go to a club and play ’80s funk or ’70s funk … that was really sort of special for Australia.”
Maniscalco never really established a clear vision or roadmap for Hook n Sling. That is, not until his first major collaboration, which cleared the path for what was next.
“I was lucky enough to work with Axwell in 2013/2014 on a track together, ‘Tokyo by Night,’ which was going to be a collaboration but couldn’t be because he had contractual obligations,” he recalls. “But getting to work with him and getting to learn about how he puts records together and the standards that he works to … it flipped a switch for me around that time.”
From that point on, Maniscalco found himself wanting to make more meaningful music.
“I wanted to put records that were special, that I could keep coming back to and love,” he says. “I feel I want to keep the standard high.”
While some of Hook n Sling’s older music falls into more of an electro-house category, his newer music leans toward EDM in style.
“It’s hard to explain, because sometimes I want to write a song that is 100 BPM and it’s just guitar and drums for example,” he says, “but there is a contingency that you have to somewhat keep aware of.”
Maniscalco explains that he is “constantly influenced by different things,” but he seems to shine when he is collaborating with others, whether it’s songwriters, singers, or other DJs and producers.
“I like bouncing off someone else in the studio,” he says.
And Maniscalco doesn’t adhere to a formula. For example, “Open Your Eyes” was written by Maniscalco and a songwriter. Though he knew it sounded like something Sam Feldt would do within a day of writing the song, Feldt didn’t come on board until much later. However, Maniscalco wrote “Love on Me” with Galantis in mind from the start.
Are more remixes and collabs in store for Hook n Sling in the near future? Most definitely.
Expect to hear samples of music he was inspired by in a single coming out at the end of June with RCA records. Maniscalco is also moving to Astralwerks, so it’s fair to assume more collaborations from that stable of artists are in the works.
His live performances are somewhat collaborative, too. The crowd’s responses completely dictate the approach he takes.
“I’m not one of those DJs who plans their set. I’m completely proud of that,” he says. “That’s half the fun, I’m playing in a club and something doesn’t work, that’s when you know to change it up.”
Hook n Sling performs at Maya Day & Nightclub in Scottsdale on Friday, June 23. Tickets are $10.