Hannah Holland - How To Lead In A Male-Dominated Industry
Hannah Holland is a DJ and producer who owns her own labels, Batty Bass and Native City. This variety and freedom paved the way for her to fuse together her own distinct sound. A hybrid of house, techno and bass forged in the basements and warehouses of London's early 2000 electroclash scene then out into Europe, China, Singapore, Australia and North America.. Hannah’s first DJ residencies all began at legendary nights such as Trailer Trash and at the East end venu, Dalston Superstore and not forgetting her own highly successful night Batty Base. (Named after her label). These were the same nights I was having all types of fun in during my mid 20's and it wasn't long before we were introduced. Hannah manages to mix a cool DJ edginess with a genuinely warm and welcoming nature. She proves that it's possible to be a super talented and taken seriously in the music industry, without having bust anyone's balls. Or bring down the competition. Hannah’s confidence in her craft has helped her flourish in everything she turns her creative hand to. We would occasionally end up at the same parties due to all our mutual friends and I always remember how friendly and approachable Hannah was for someone so successful. Hannah now regularly appears at clubs such as Berghain, Panorama Bar, Fabric London, Dance Tunnel, and Bugged Out. I catch up with Hannah Holland for LSA to talk about her DJ career and how she was able to lead in the male-dominated music industry.
Mark Butcher LSA Interview with DJ & Producer Hannah Holland
Q|Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself ‘I want to be a professional DJ’? What/who were your early passions and influences?
"Well my first insight into clubbing was early on in my teenage years as I discovered drum 'n' bass, jungle, pirate radio stations with a group of friends in south London. This was very much part of the mix in the area where I was from in South London. We used to go to Metal Heads, which was Goldie’s night, every Sunday. That club night had a real profound affect on me! Such an amazing experience. Then a bit later on in my late teens a couple of mates who were a bit older and regular DJs would take me to gigs and let me have a go on their decks. Pretty soon after that I became obsessed, I knew music and DJing was gonna play a big part of my life. I left school at 16 and got a job as a runner for a music video production company. I saved up and got some decks of my own, I practised and gained the confidence to start playing on the decks at house parties whenever I could. When I think back I realise that everything I did involved music in some way! By early 2000 I started going to a night called Body Rockers which was David Lazarus night, early electroclash came on the scene, a whole new era of music was all around me, I began collecting records much more and I was DJing a lot".
Q|Describe the feelings you want to evoke in your audience when you DJ? When was the last time you experienced an euphoric connection between you and your audience?
"I think the ultimate goal is just to kind of get People really lost in the sound, forget about everything else and have a real high from just dancing, not really caring about anything else other than the sounds and for that moment, without even realising it anything weighing you down just vanishes".
Q|Which moments in your DJ career do you consider to be the most significant and transformative?
"Probably the one that stands out the most was at Batty Base, (a club night I ran, named after my label). We celebrated a night recently in an intimate warehouse party setting and invited just three hundred people. Everybody was really invested in the night and really passionate about the music. However, the night where I began to DJ really professionally was at Trailer Trash. I had a DJ residency every Friday night and the first club night I was involved in that was slam packed every week without fail. There was a definite sound to the club and everyone was really committed it its ongoing success. That was the club night where I really cut my teeth as a DJ".
Q|Who do you have a lot of respect for? What was the most significant thing they did or said that grabbed your attention?
"Within our industry, one of my favourite DJs, who is a friend of mine also is Steffi who has a residency at Panorama Bar. She has her own Label, she make incredible productions. In my view she is one of the best DJs in the world. She has a creative energy that’s explosive, impeccable taste and a way of playing that’s completely her own".
Q|Are you able to share any of your secret DJ hacks, tips or cheats?
"Sadly I don't think there are any DJ hacks or cheats, not any that would be worth doing. The main thing when you’re starting and continuing is just to practice all the time and to always be researching music, knowing what you’re playing and where it came from. If you like a particular genre, know its origins, discover the history. Go on a journey, go back to the 80's, the 70's go way back, go on a learning experience, discover amazing tracks. If you are serious about music, which you should be if you want to be a DJ. This is something you should definitely delve into".
Q|What is one mistake you see a lot of up and coming DJs making? What advice would you give to an aspiring DJ in order to avoid those common pitfalls?
"I think people when they're starting out expect things to come straight away. Most of the time it's just about being consistent and honing your craft. Making mixes, sending them out, getting ignored, You have to do the groundwork and often it wont come straight away. You can get a lot of rejection before anybody is like okay you're actually someone worth listening to! Before that happens, just continue to be original, be yourself, collaborate, make videos, build your confidence, believe in yourself and enjoy taking to time to do it all".
Q||If you had to be eternally be stuck in one music era/scene, which would it be and why?
"New York's late 80's scene Paradise Garage, there's a big freedom in New York during this period, incredible mixture of art and music, happening, everything was new. There was new electronic house sounds, even DJing was fairly new. There were artist like Larry Levan doing incredible things, causing incredible scenes on the dance floor and anyone I meet who was lucky enough to had been there tell me that it was a really transformative moment".
Q|The UK’s live music line-ups shows just how male-dominated the music industry is. Are you able to shed some light on the types of obstacles that are set before women to face but not men? Have you encountered sexism? What do you think needs to change?
"Basically for me and the way that I've kind of always approached it is that I just get on with it and do what I love and work hard and do my thing but I mean there's definitely and issues with gender and in music industry with DJing. Pretty much the first obstacle that women have to face and men don’t is that annoying assumption that when an unknown female is on the decks people, boys and girls, automatically think. 'Oh female DJ, does she really know what she’s doing'? As a female DJ you are exposed to that kind of doubt straight away, where as with a male DJ's its automatically assumed that they know what they are doing. This can be a real confidence knocker for women and I've noticed when I do DJ workshops a lot of my female students often assume that because they are female they will find DJing harder and progress slower than the boys, which is obviously completely unfounded. It's such a male dominated industry and to survive you have to be confident because there are many other hurdles female DJs have to face. My advice to girls, just starting out is to always show confidence and just do your thing, don't let anybody get to you, come across as though nothing fazes you. Get any job which involves music, clubs the culture, learn from people who are doing it, be inquisitive, be helpful, learn how things are done.and start your own night. I was driving in Ibiza last week and every single billboard on the route out of the airport had male DJs and when the odd one did show a female DJ she was wearing a bikini. Yeah, and nearly all the male DJ's were fully clothed. You and I would probably agree that this sort of thing is very strange no? But in the DJ community it goes mostly unnoticed. If the industry was more balanced with men and women its likely that these billboards would be showing very different imagery of a very different industry. We need to see more female role models in the industry if we expect things to improve in anyway. Its one of the reasons why I teach DJing and music production. Just like I was inspired in my early years, I hope I can inspire young people to go on and fight for equality in the not to distant future."
Q|Do you feel like the technological advances in music have a significant effect on the creativity and quality? Do you remember a time when things were done differently?
"It was so different to how it was ten, twenty years ago with just turntables and analog gear. I learned on turntables and had to beatmatch by ear. When I teach I always tell my students to learn how to beatmatch by ear because its such an invaluable DJ skill and turning vinyl has a warm quality to the sound and the whole record buying culture is very special, so there is something special to be gained by learning in a way that isn’t reliant on fancy technology. Having said that, I also think new technology is brilliant. There are so many things you can do with as CDJs, They don't just make mixing easier with looping and beatmatching they can give you room to be highly creative as well.
Q|What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear it? What would be your dessert island vinyl?
"It has to be Turn me on by Danny Tenaglia - I played it recently at Paradise Bar. It transported me to 1970's New York, to the Paradise Garage and DJ, Larry Levans launches the beginnings of early house music with his electronic take on disco".
Q|People are often speaking about the demise of the London club scene? Having grown up in London and having built a career in its many clubs over the last decade or so do you agree that there has been a significant change? What does this mean for DJ's?
"London has just become a lot more security lead and we have seen a significant number of clubs close down in London but at the same time there have been some new clubs opening, but that fact does not support the more sensational news story 'How can we save London's club scene'?. The truth is, as club after club closes, London continues! London is just evolving as it goes through another transitional period."