When Jasper James announced his residency at Brixton's, still relatively new, club Phonox was coming to an end, the question as to who would replace him was naturally one of the first thoughts. After all, James has had a pretty amazing year in the club, and it's obvious just how much his stock has increased since he took on the Saturday night mantle. It was difficult to see how the club was going to replace someone as popular as he has proven over the past twelve months. Well, the answer? Time for something completely different.
Introducing HAAi (Teneil Throssell), Brixton's newest permanent resident. Famed for eclectic sets, as comfortable taking in Turkish disco as they are acid house, she looks set to develop Phonox's identity in completely new directions from its already strong debut year. Having cut her teeth as a resident at Dalston's Ridley Road Market, Phonox owner Andy Peyton was alerted to her presence by a friend, and after HAAi impressed during a couple of support slots for Jacques Greene, the deal was as good as done. We had a quick chat with HAAi about her plans for the club, and what will surely be an exciting time for Phonox and a London scene in dire need of some good news.
THUMP: Hi HAAi, firstly, congratulations! How did the residency come about?
HAAi: Thank you! I played the club earlier in the year supporting Jacques Greene over two weekends and had an absolute blast. A handful of the Phonox guys were there and were really pumped on the show and so I played a couple parties for them over the summer. Never did I think it would lead into this.
What were your first impressions of it as a space?
I did hang round on both of the nights after warming up for JG and had a good dance in the crowd. The place certainly has a pretty special vibe to it that I haven't seen in many clubs before.
You've held a residency already at Ridley Road Market Bar in Dalston. What lessons have you taken away from that?
I think the biggest lesson I learned at Ridley was how to unify a divided crowd. The nature of that bar is that sometimes half the punters come to hear and dance to music they'd never heard before and the other half would want familiar party classics. I always really loved the challenge of finding a common thread to get everybody moving. It's kind of why I prefer playing extended sets. I find people tend to trust you more the longer you're up there for. It's a sense that you're all in it together.
Your selections rely on a wide-range of esoteric, international influences, which might not be what we'd normally expect from a regular weekly set in a major London club—are you going to filter your choices at all for this new audience, or is this just a bigger platform to share those sounds with people?
Definitely more of a platform for those sounds! There's obviously a big difference between wanting to challenge people with weird stuff that you love and alienating them. I feel like however broad the sets are the bulk of the tunes still have a pretty primal element to them which is what makes people want to dance in the first place.
Do you anticipate having to change your sets to suit this new venue, compared to what you were playing in your previous residency?
The only change will be due to the sound system being a Funktion One. This means I will hopefully be able to push things a little further than I was able to previously. As for style, that's something I think is evolving week to week.
You've spoken of a love of Turkish records. As someone who knows next to nothing about Turkish music, what records should I start with?
Early on I started listening to Selda Bağcan and Erken Koray who have both made two of my all time favourite tunes, Selda's being "Yaylalar" and Koray's being "Cemalim" (which I'm listening to right now).They are a great place to start! Now due to the nature of my sets if I play Turkish or Middle-Eastern tunes they tend to be edits/remixes. There are some great compilations available such as Hammam House and Hammam Disco comps, as well as disco Halal records that are so well curated and would be a pretty great intro into that world.
It seems like the idea of a resident DJ has been making something of a resurgence in the last year or so—how important are they to club culture?
I feel it's super important having one night a week where someone kind of represents the vibe of a club. Who people can get to know and rely on as a constant. I'd love to see more of it as a DJ and as a punter.
Have you put a time limit on your stint as Phonox's resident, or are you in for the long haul?
I'm here for the long haul! At the very least I'll be there for a year. As long as everybody is having a blast I'll be there.
You've been compared favourably to Optimo—who are your chief influences as selectors go?
I heard that and it made me feel a little nervous as, well, they're Optimo and they're the masters. I definitely have my heroes in selectors like Weatherall, John Talbot, Ben UFO, and Helena Hauff. They're all pretty unique for different reasons.
Finally, any ideas what the first track of your residency will be?
I have a few options lined up but will be keeping that as a surprise!
HAAi's opening night as Phonox resident is this Saturday. Find out more here.