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Photography Imogene Barron

The queer artists making club culture thrive, according to HAAi

‘I realised recently that so many artists I really love and who make incredible music, happen to also be queer’

By now, many people will have had their first post-lockdown clubbing experience – and hopefully it’s been exactly as dreamed of. Spare a thought, though, for the DJs who’d been away from cue buttons, faders, and speaker stacks for so long that the return to heaving venues was a daunting affair. “My first show back was a test festival called Nation Of Gondwana, just outside Berlin,” says Teneil Throssell, better known as HAAi. “Prior to this I was a really confident DJ who rarely second-guessed what I was doing, mostly because I was on the road and totally immersed in that side of music. Having so much time away from it all really shook that up. I feel back in my stride now, but with a new respect for how easily it can all be pulled away.”

HAAi has every reason to be secure in her abilities; a DJ with a Phonox residency on her CV, owner of the coveted Essential Mix of the Year title, and seemingly endless festival billings. Despite coming from a rock, shoegaze, and psych background, the Australia-born producer and DJ pivoted to a punk techno sound after an epiphanous Berghain trip. The music she produces draws from all kinds of reaches of electronic music, courting punishing tech as well as driving melodies, which has found her collaborating with The Chemical Brothers, Daniel Avery, and Fraser T Smith. Dropping two EPs over lockdown – a slight shift away from 4x4 music as she felt it was “a bit heartbreaking to make dance music then” – she also spent the time honing her debut album.

As a queer woman in electronic music, HAAi is quick to hail the LGBTQ+ roots of club culture and applaud the current crop of producers taking four-to-the-floor into bold new territories. “I realised recently that so many artists I love and who make incredible music, happen to also be queer,” she says of the playlist she’s put together compiling some of these musicians. “Seeing all of them in a playlist together made so much sense. I feel artistically there’s usually a real playfulness and experimentation to music by queer artists.” She cites trailblazing London parties like Adonis and Sylvester, as well as the new Body Movements festival, as “a celebration of who we are but also a reaction and protest to political persecution of our out queerness around the world”.

“Artistically there’s usually a real playfulness and experimentation to music by queer artists” – HAAi

Her choices include LSDXOXO’s “Sick Bitch” (“I love what he represents for our world. His music and parties feel like a queer utopia as well as taking full ownership of the Black, queer origins of dance music”), as well as “Baby” by Eris Drew, who HAAi describes as “one of the best producers and DJs around – her clever use of samples showcases an encyclopaedic knowledge of dance music”. It also features a production of HAAi’s own, in the form of a remix of Romy’s “Lifetime”: “She has a way of capturing emotion and translating it through dance music that I feel is really unique to her.” Elsewhere, she’s spotlighted game changing artists like Sherelle, India Jordan, and Saoirse.

She’s due to go b2b with the latter at Warehouse Project’s Bicep Weekender on December 4. “I’m excited... and a little nervous,” HAAi admits, “but we have four hours and a lot of common ground in the music we love. She’s a close pal so I’m sure we will have many laughs.” The following week (December 10), she’s due to play a set headlined by her collaborators, the Chemical Brothers, with her mentor of sorts (The Blessed Madonna), Overmono, and Special Request also set to spin. As the Manchester party series rolls into the new year, other highlights include Faithless, Jon Hopkins, Loraine James, and more.

Listen to HAAi’s queer dance music playlist below.

HAAi plays Warehouse Project’s Bicep live headlined show on December 4 and The Chemical Brothers headline show on December 10 – find tickets here – and explore the full Warehouse Project 2021 season line-up here