New York-based DJ, producer, and remixer Hani has gone under multiple names during his career, including Jack Shaft, Extra Sauce, Miles Black Love, Donni Hotwheel, Disconfect, Knight Keys, and Musk Men. But, the choice of stage name doesn’t obscure the fact that DJ Hani has produced more than 250 remixes, both commercial and underground, over the course of his 20-plus year career.
Born in Kuwait City, Hani started playing piano and drums at age 5, but using his brother’s DJ equipment was essentially a nascent start to a prolific DJing career. While beginning as a bedroom DJ, he took his sounds to a professional level in college in the late 1980s, saving up for production equipment in the process. Early tracks he created at this point were recognized by Carl Craig’s Planet-e and Deep Dish’s Yoshitoshi labels.
Moving to New York to study audio engineering and intern at Bass Hit studios exposed Hani to the top house DJs and producers of the time, including Danny Tenaglia and Roger Sanchez. From here, to create a name for himself, he started making unauthorized remixes, a few of which were noticed by record labels, Pete Tong, and Frankie Knuckles.
While these bootleg takes gave way to authorized remixes for Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson, and many other artists, Hani wanted control over his music, and to do this, he started his own label, Soterios Records, in 2006. Since that point, he has recorded collaborations with Kristine W., Andrea Martin, and other performers and recently put out compilation Best of Soterios Vol. 1.
Talking about his lengthy and varied career, Crossfadr caught up with DJ Hani recently over email.
What inspired you to start DJing?
DJ Hani: Back in 1980, the first DJ I saw played at club in Tunisia. 1982, a friend gave me a cassette recorded from a New York radio station during a late night hot mix show. I was hooked after that.
Your biography says you have done 267 remixes so far. Out of those, which was your favorite (or favorites) to do?
DJ Hani: 1. Alicia Keys “Diary”
2. Delacy “That Look”
3. Justin Timberlake “Cry Me A River” (flashback mix)
4. Ridikulous Kool “Keep It Kool” (Jack Shaft mix)
5. Anggun “Secret of The Sea”
6. Kristine W. “Letting Go” (Jack Shaft mix)
7. Michael Jackson “Earth Song”
8. Sade “Pearls & Headphones”
9. Adele “Set Fire To The Rain” (Jack Shaft Mix)
10. Pink “There You Go”
Who would you like to remix?
DJ Hani: Sia.
Are you working on any new music currently, and when can listeners expect new remixes?
DJ Hani: I am working on a hot song with Andrea Martin due out this summer on Soterios Records.
You started DJing more than 20 years ago. During this time, how has your setup changed?
DJ Hani: I went through the natural progression from vinyl to CD to Ableton Live. I love using Live today with Mixed in Key.
Why did you decide to establish your label, Soterios Records?
DJ Hani: Two words: freedom and copyright ownership. There is nothing like running my own label. Releasing whatever I want and answering to only myself.
How has your label changed since its start in 2006, and where do you see it going in the future?
DJ Hani: The quality of releases is much tighter today. I understand the market better. I see more recognition and brand name awareness building up.
Your biography mentions you started playing piano and drums as a child. Did this musical background help when you became a DJ, and if so, how?
DJ Hani: Not really, aside from having a good ear for what works on the floor.
You had interacted with few well-known house producers early in your career. What did they teach you about DJing or the music business?
DJ Hani: I learned so much from everyone I have worked with. It is hard to put it all down on paper or in one interview.
What advice do you have for up and coming or aspiring DJs?
DJ Hani: Break the rules and do not let anything stop you from achieving your goals.