An Extremely Important Interview with Hanni El Khatib
The only problem with over the phone interviews is the person I’m talking to can’t see how great my hair looks, but this article isn’t about me or my hair, it’s about LA based rocker Hanni El Khatib, who took some time out from packing for his trip to Nashville (where he’s working on his newest album with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys), to speak with me, Lauren Reeves, awesome music journalist to the stars.
El Khatib is best known at the moment for putting his own stomp-and-slide sound on Sam Theard’s “You Rascal You,” which can now be heard in Captain Morgan’s “Secret Passage” ad. The rest of his work checks out: it’s snarly, sexy, toothy rock all the way down (which makes Auerbach the perfect collaborator).
Before I called him, I did my research, I used this great website called “Google” and I typed in his name. I read a Wikipedia entry on him (another great go-to website) and then, just for fun, I typed in El Khatib El Khatib + Sex Tape. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I guess I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for.
Something I did find interesting is El Khatib is known as a “skateboard rocker,” and maybe I’m old or something (I’m totally not! I’m under 30!) but I wasn’t too familiar with the term, so I asked him what it meant. “It’s kind of a bulls**t title, something the PR people thought would describe what I do. It doesn’t really mean anything.” He was the creative director of the skateboard fashion label HUF for six years, but is now 100% focused on being a rockstar, so now it’s all making sense to me. His first album Will the Guns Come Out was released in September of 2011.
El Khatib got his start in music as a young boy, when his mother made him take piano lessons. As most young boys will tell you, it was a bore. He says, “If I was going to play an instrument, I may as well play something I liked,” so he picked up a guitar and taught himself, “I snuck in only 1, maybe 2 lessons with a teacher. I always loved guitar and became really good at it.” but once he hit high school, he put the axe down for a bit and did what most kids dream of doing, “I was more into smoking weed and skateboarding.”
Several years later El Khatib started rocking out again and spends the majority of his time in recent years traveling the world on tour. You’ve probably heard his music on TV too, “Artists need to get out there in as many ways possible, you can made a good living making music for commercials, TV shows and movies.” His work can be found in Captain Morgan ads, Nike, Nissan, on HBO’s Hung and Showtime’s Californication to name a few. El Khatib doesn’t stop there. He’s one of the owners and the artistic director of an LA record label, representing 10 other artists.
I know it’s a personal question but as a super serious music journalist, I need to know what kind of music El Khatib has on his iPod and I need to now. “I listen to a lot of the older bands, ’50s, ’60s era. I’m really into the British garage band scene, I’m too scatterbrained to get into only one band.” On a recent trip from L.A. to France, he made a playlist with some of his favorites: The Misfits, Frantics, Danzig, The Isley Brothers, Jonathan Richman, Wanda Jackson, Danzig again.
He and his band had a scare while on tour in Europe with carbon monoxide poisoning. I’ll save you the graphic details about how sick they were but the moral of his story is if your entire band gets really ill, type in the symptoms on Google (that website I told you about earlier) and see what pops up. There’s a chance you could have carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty ventilation system in a P.O.S. van in a European country. If you’re not in a van or Europe, I don’t what to tell you.
I asked El Khatib for some advice for up and coming artists, (besides the whole “Don’t die in a carbon monoxide-filled van” deal). “Young artists can do anything they want, keep making whatever you can, get out there and record as much as possible. Don’t waste your time analyzing and criticizing your music, just record it, put it out in the world, and then make the next song or album better. After I put out my first album there were things I would’ve fixed but I’m not gonna waste my time thinking about it, I’ll just make the next album better.”
I feel like I learned a lot from El Khatib during our half hour over the phone interview, and I’m over the fact that he didn’t get to see how great my hair looked on that particular day. His new album drops in early 2013 and guess what? I’m totally buying it because I support people who have their s**t together.
Lauren Reeves is just another one of those girls who grew up on a goldmine in Alaska and moved to New York City at age 20. She spent 3 years working as a reporter and anchor for both ABC and NBC affiliates before transitioning into TV hosting, modeling, acting and comedy. Lauren has trained and performed in numerous shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, performs characters on Letterman, Conan and Fallon, and even starred in the show Goldfathers on National Geographic. Lauren suggests you follow her on twitter because all the cool kids are doing it, don’t you want to be cool???