The Savage Times of Hanni El Khatib's American Dream

The LA garage rocker opens up about his visceral new project documenting the chaos of 2016, and what it means to be an American when you're born brown.

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Mar 6 2017, 5:05pm

Hanni El Khatib was supposed to take last year off. As 2015 drew to a close, the garage rocker was in the home stretch of a months-long touring cycle behind his third LP,  Moonlight, which itself punctuated about five straight years on the road and intermittent studio visits. Drained from night after night of the fitful, high octane performances that drew his routinely sold-out crowds, the singer-guitarist looked forward to one last gig in Paris before returning home to LA for 2016.

But that gig never happened. Days before his scheduled performance, a group of gunmen opened fire on the crowd at Le Bataclan during Eagles of Death Metal's performance, killing 137 people in the now-infamous terrorist attack. El Khatib was already in Paris, attending a best friend's wedding. He found out the way most did, in a surreal flurry of news alerts and text messages. There were people he knew at the concert, others he knew playing shows nearby. His friends in The Arcs had just stepped off stage at another venue down the street. "We're getting out of Paris immediately," they wrote him.

If the experience hit home for El Khatib, it also left him without closure. Back in LA, the San Francisco native's base for the past eight years, the tranquility and steadiness he sought post-tour continued to elude him; he was finally home, but its meaning had changed on him.

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