Teneil Throssell, known as HAAi, is an Australian DJ based in London. We talked about her new album Baby, We’re Ascending, the pride season and the gender mainstreaming with the Istanbul admirer.
You are an Australian living in the UK. What made you live in Europe? How did it influence your music?
I moved to London 12 years ago. I actually used to play in bands and that was my reason for moving to the UK,I was following my dreams. That was long before I was into dance music or anything like that, I moved over with a band which was just me and another person. That was the main reason.
We have seen a content about you that involves your favorite Turkish music and lots of 70s vibes are there. Is it possible to say you have a special connection with Turkey and is it possible to hear Turkish melodies from your songs?
I used to and still really love it so much. A big part of what we were influenced by in our band came from Turkish psych and Turkish funk. I always felt a real affinity with the drums and the bass. Turkish funk has its own groove that I wasn’t hearing in any other kind of music, and I think I’ve really carried that with me in all the music that I love now as well. . All of the music that I like right now is sort of the extension of that sound.I always get such a warm welcome when I come to Turkey which I’m really grateful for.
Besides your music genre which is techno, what other music do you like listening to?
I listen to all sorts of music. For instance, my goddaughter came to visit from Berlin, she’s 9 years old and I took her to Billie Eilish’s concert. I think she is incredible and the show was incredible. When it comes to listening to music at ome I listen to all genres depending on the mood and the ambiance. My schedule is very intense at the moment so I’ve been listening to some ambient music. I certainly don’t listen to dance music all the time because as soon as I do I turn into club mode which is not a bad thing but sometimes I need to relax.
What are the difficulties of being a DJ? As you are Spotify’s #SpotifyEQUAL ambassador, as a woman what do you think about this industry?
We’ve come a long way for sure but I think there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. One thing that I do see, and this is not just for women but also for non-binary people, it seems to be the people who are on that side of the fence who are doing most of the work and are trying to make a difference. It’s something I’ve noticed between myself and my friends who are non-cis-male artists, and this is not a criticism towards straight men, but I feel like the majority of the efforts are coming from people who aren’t them. My friends who are non-male are the people who are fighting for change for being heard. In our industry, and in a lot of industries, straight, often white men are at the top of the pile and have never been kind of challenged before. So if you’ve never really been challenged on that before you wouldn’t necessarily think about how to create change unless it’s really brought to your attention. But I do think that we are in a very positive place at the moment where there are more efforts going into equalizing things in music. The way that I see it personally is for things to really have a long-lasting impact, it’s beyond just lineups being equal. It’s about the people who are working behind the scenes, the people who are running record labels, festivals, and promoting events, those teams need to be balanced as well. It’s great to be presenting a 50/50 lineup, with local artists, international artists, male, female, non-binary, queer, etc., but if the team behind that isn’t diverse and representative of the inclusive and equal lineups, then I feel like it’s a bit more tokenistic.
What is the most unforgettable performance in your career?
I would probably have to say my recent live-show. But I’ve also played 3 times in Istanbul, and every time after the show I’m thinking “that was my favorite show”. I played the same venue 3 times in Istanbul and for it to feel so special every time is really something amazing. The last time that I played there was for Sonar and I came back from Australia via Belfast on a 30 hour trip to Belfast. I had about 2 hours of sleep and then flew to Istanbul Istanbul and it was snowing in Istanbul. My flight was delayed by 6 hours and was stuck on the tarmac when we landed. At that point I had been traveling for over 40 hours for one show and I was about to miss it. Anyhow so I get to the Zorlu Center and after all of the craziness got on the stage 1 minute before my set. I ran onto the stage and I was like “I’m here!”.
Do you play any instruments? If yes, it is possible to say this diversity made you better as a DJ?
I play the guitar. I can only speak for myself but I think that because I used to play in bands for years it has definitely influenced what I do now. Being a non-male artist, you become really protective over your output and the creation of it, because some people still assume that there’s a guy in the background pushing all the buttons and doing all the work. Which is why I’ve always been really protective about how I work. There was a time when I wouldn’t let anyone in on my process at all because I didn’t want to give anybody a chance to challenge that I wasn’t making my music. But now over time I’ve become much more comfortable with that and opened up, started working with more people and brought more women and queer women into the creative process and I’ve learnt a lot though doing that.
Especially for your new album, Baby, We’re Ascending, can we say that the music is explicitly nature-focused?
Well, I wouldn’t say it is nature-focused. It was definitely environmental because it was written over the pandemic and produced during it. So naturally, it was a self-reflective time for everyone because we had time to think and to over analyze stuff. . It also allowed me to finish the album in a studio whereas before I would always work on it in transit somewhere, so having access to a studio, hardware, and instruments, is definitely an environmental aspect that influenced the album.
The human voice is a vital addition to this album. This is the first time that you have sung in your electronic music. What was this experience like?
It was kind of terrifying at the start and I used to sing in my band years ago but it had been a while. And for me, it’s easy to sit behind electronics and get immersed in that world so putting more vulnerability out there was a bit terrifying at the start. It started off with me just having one track that I was singing on which is Tardigrade and I sent it to Mute, my label, and I was quite nervous because it wasn’t like anything I had sent them before. They called me and said they loved it and asked if I would be interested in trying to write something similar. They were very gentle and I am really glad that they spoke up, because of that I wrote other tracks.
We are officially in Pride Month and our magazine is a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. Is there anything you want to say about the LGBTQ+ community?
I was having this conversation with my goddaughter yesterday because I took her down to Carnaby Street and because it’s Pride Month and they have these big glitter rainbows and she was like “I love rainbows!”. And I was like “You know the reason that the rainbows are here today is because of Pride Month.” I was just trying to explain to a quite a young girl what Pride is and it was the first time that I really thought about how to explain what Pride is to someone who has never heard of it before. There is obviously a lot to explain and I feel like in a lot of ways in some parts of the world we’ve been very fortunate with so much progress and I feel so grateful for the fight that have been fought before my time and that also encourages me to defend queerness and be very proud of it and support it.