In 2012, Cyril Hahn broke out with a sensational house remix of the hit Destinyâ€™s Child track â€œSay My Name,â€ and has been delivering tasteful R&B inspired remixes and originals to his fans ever since. As he embarks on his 2017 North American tour, I had the chance to talk to him about his influences, production techniques, and evolution of his sound, as well as what we can expect to hear from him in the future.Â Grab tickets to Cyril Hahn’s return to U Street Music Hall on April 15th here.
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Youâ€™re originally from Switzerland, and relocated to Vancouver. What kind of influence(s) does your geographic location have on your music?
Bern, despite being the capital of Switzerland, is a tiny city with a population of a little over 100,000 people. In Vancouver I got to meet more people that shared similar a similar interest in electronic music. Apart from that, relocating didnâ€™t really change my influences that much. I never belonged to any scene or movement here in Vancouver. I think the internet has always been a bigger influence for me than my geographical location.
Are there any other Swiss artists that inspire you, or up-and-coming artists in Vancouver that you are enjoying?
Unfortunately, I am really out of touch with music coming out of Switzerland. I have no idea whatâ€™s going on there these days.
What kind of records did you grow up listening to?
In high school I was mostly into punk, hardcore and post rock. I only started getting interested in electronic music towards the end of my high school years.
What instrument(s) or sound(s) has been resonating with you recently, and why?
My production has been shifting over the last couple of months away from vocal heavy house & pop towards house & techno club tracks. As a result, my recent tracks feature hardly any singing. Vocal melodies are such an easy thing to lean on and once you remove them you really have to figure out different ways to keep a track interesting. Itâ€™s been really been a great way to challenge myself and explore new territories.
Do you have a cornerstone instrument, or something you tend to lean on, in beginning your productions?
These days I usually start with drums. Since I try to be more conscious of how my tracks will sound on a club sound system, I really want to have a strong percussive foundation. Iâ€™ll usually add a bassline after that but it really depends from song to song. Sometimes I start with a weird sample or a chord progression that I like. There is no bullet proof recipe.
One of the things that stands out in your remixes is your production/mixing of vocals, for example the pitched down vocals in the Destinyâ€™s Child and Solange remixes. How did that sound come to be?
In 2012, when I wrote most of the remixes with the pitched down vocals, I was really into chopped and screwed rap. Thatâ€™s pretty much where the inspiration came from.
How is your sound evolving as you progress as an artist?
As I mentioned earlier, my focus these days is to write songs that work well in the club and fit nicely into my DJ sets. Iâ€™ve always preferred DJing over doing a live set but I didnâ€™t pay enough attention to whether my releases would work for my DJ sets. Thereâ€™s always been a big gap between what I want to produce and what I want to play in my DJ sets. The 3 EPs Iâ€™ve released so far are more â€œlistening musicâ€ and donâ€™t work that well in a DJ set. Now, however, what I want to produce and what I want to play out is finally starting to line up and it feels great.
Your recent Earmilk mix featured one of your new original tracks at the very beginning, which struck my ear as a little faster and â€œtechierâ€ than your traditionally R&B inspired tracks. What can your fans expect from your new releases?
The unreleased original track I threw into the Earmilk mix sort of bridges the gap between my old and current production. It still has a lot of melodic elements that are reminiscent of my old stuff but is a bit heavier and features short vocal samples rather than vocal toplines. My next release will be in a similar vein but even more house/techno leaning.
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What is your favorite live performance set-up, and how has your live set evolved over time?
I started producing before playing shows so I had no experience DJing whatsoever. For my first couple of tours I used Ableton and a Livid midi controller. It was sort of a hybrid between a live show and a DJ set. I then switched Traktor but became bored with it pretty fast. My last switch was to CDJs about 1.5 years ago and itâ€™s been my favorite set up so far. It really pushed me to be more spontaneous but also had a huge impact on my production since it makes you pay more attention to what kind of tracks mix well. When you have a set up on Ableton or Traktor that is perfectly synced up you can do really fast mixes but with CDJs (and turntables) you really start to appreciate longer intros/outros that lend themselves well to mixing.
What can we expect from Cyril Hahn at U Street Music Hall on April 15th?
Last time I was at U Street was in 2013, so it will be a very different set for sure. You can expect a lot of house and techno but also some of my remixes/originals. These days my goal is to make people dance regardless of whether they know the songs they hear or not so Iâ€™ll do my best 🙂