San Francisco born Hanni El Khatib is a vintage blues rocker in the vein of The Black Keys, but with a little dab of punk and funk. He’s garnered more than 8 million spins on Spotify with his four releases, the most recent of which, Savage Times, is a collection of 5 EPs released throughout 2016 plus four new songs. Bursting with raw energy, his songs hit you hard and leave a mark.
“If the ones who hate me don’t kill me first /
the ones that love me gonna harm me worse”
~ Hanni El Khatib in “Gonna Die Alone”
In advance of his sold out Noise Pop set at The Chapel tomorrow (Friday) night, El Khatib took a few minutes to answer some of SF Critic’s pressing questions about where he went to school in town, how the current political climate is affecting his music, and, most importantly, his favorite local burrito spot.
SF CRITIC (SFC): You’re an SF native! Rad. What schools did you go to?
HANNI EL KHATIB (HEK): Alamo & SH
SFC: The influences in your music are too many to name. What are the influences that we might not hear -musicians or other artists who impacted your art but aren’t referenced necessarily in the sound?
HEK: I dunno. I like all the rhythmic stuff that goes on in a lot of Nigerian music. I also love the vocal production on the Travis Scott and Young Thug stuff.
SFC: Your recent release Savage Times has 19 tracks on it. 15 of those were released on EPs in 2016 and the 4 new tracks were just released. That’s a seriously high level of productivity. I’m curious about your musical life that allows you so much time in the studio …? Were you touring much in 2016?
HEK: At the top of 2016 I told myself I’d take some time off touring. The road life is draining and I was pretty much over it at the time. So to keep myself busy, I pretty much booked every available free day either myself or the studio had open to work on music.
SFC: The track “Born Brown” is so powerful. The song speaks to your parents’ arrival in the states (from Palestine and the Philippines, yes?), your birth, and being born brown in the US. You don’t specifically comment on the rise of anti-immigrant fervor and bigotry in the country – but the anger in your voice, the distortion, the loud/fast/driving nature of the song is so political. Do you see the song as a protest song? (With a nod to how fucked up it is that in our country saying “I was born brown” is a political statement rather than a statement of reality.)
HEK: When I recorded the song It wasn’t necessarily intended to come off as a big political statement or anything. I just wanted to write something that paid homage to my family and heritage. It’s all about being proud of who you are and where you came from. And I think it almost serves as reminder to myself to never lose that pride.
SFC: Forgive me because I am new to your music, but it seems like songs about your family (“Mangos and Rice”) and politics (“Born Brown” “Gun Clap Hero” “Black Constellation” “Savage times”) are new to this release. (Correct me if I’m wrong!) Has what’s been happening in the past year+ changed your approach to music?
HEK: In addition to the global climate and the tension felt around the world these days, I’m just in a different place personally and musically now. I think all of this contributed to how I approached all this new music.
SFC: Because we’re an SF-Focused blog I have to ask – where’s your favorite burrito in SF? And are there any SF bands that you’re listening to these days?
HEK: My personal favorite burrito is from Gordo at the Clement location only. I think it’s because I grew up down the street and i used to go here all the time. There’s plenty of classics in SF, but this spot just reminds me of when I was young and it’s still super good. As for music from the bay? Im definitely down for Nef The Pharoah