One part Persian, one part British, all parts Techno – Leeds based young gun Samir Alikhanizadeh makes full-bodied industrial Techno that’s informed by UK Bass sounds under the guise of Happa. The story goes that following a series of fortunate events which included a boost of initial recognition from the likes of Loefah, Mary Anne Hobbs and Four Tet, things have been popping off for the seventeen year old since his debut track ‘Boss’ surfaced on the internet in 2012. In the space of two years he has released on the likes of Church, Bleep, Domino, R&S, Boomkat Editions and recently collaborated with Manni Dee as Habits Of Hate.
Today Samir’s leads a double-life in striking a balance between coming into adolescence and diving head first into the deep end of the music industry. Currently living at home and studying music technology at sixth-form college he concurrently manages to find the time to take international bookings, and has recently co-founded a new record label, PT/5 Records with the first release coming out this month.
Speaking over the phone to Hyponik’s Conor McTernan, Samir is enthusiastic to talk about working on new material, staying on top of his struggle with Crohn’s disease and making the jump to move away from home in the not too distant future…
You’re studying music at sixth-form college now, how is it going?
I’m in second year at a music college doing a diploma in music tech. I literally just started this Tuesday. I think we will have a main assignment this year where we have to record a four-track EP. We will be taking musicians into the studio, recording a session, mixing it down and producing it. I’ll probably join my stylistic interests with what I’ve been releasing as Happa but I’ll probably switch it up a bit just for fun.
Do you think that your teachers can “get” your sound?
It really varies. Some of them are none the wiser whatsoever but one of my tutors is quite into electronic music and has been going to Sónar for the past six years. It really does vary with age and the younger teachers seem to get it much better. I’m not sure how they would grade my work. Obviously it’s an artistic thing and quite personal in terms of what you think is good or bad. They can’t really grade a track on whether it’s good or bad but instead follow a bridge and live up to certain technical values.
Have you begun experimenting with live music recording and performing?
I’m using live instruments in an experimental way. I can’t really play any instruments but I may record myself plucking one string on a guitar or make random field recordings and then bring them into Ableton on my computer and edit from there.
Mary Anne Hobbs made the comment that it would be wonderful to see you performing a live show on a festival stage someday. Is that a thought you would like to fulfil?
Doing something like that would be incredible. Stepping up my DJ sets to a live setup is something that I would quite like to do. I started working on it about a year ago but I ended up selling the few bits of kit that I was using because I wasn’t very fond of them. I haven’t touched upon that stuff in a while. It’s something that will require quite a lot of time because I would like it to be a mish mash between on the computer and bits of hardware. Obviously there are lots of interesting live set-ups out there at the moment. Look at Karenn’s set-up, Clouds are doing really cool things too. It’s going to be a real learning curve for me.
You’ve set up PT / 5 Records with your friend Al Gill. Where are you getting guidance for the label from?
It’s a 50/50 thing between us two and my managers Dan and Tom. They provide all the guidance because they actually know what they’re doing, whereas Al and myself do more of the A&R, design the artwork and do the simple things really. It’s good to have people like Dan and Tom who’ve had experience working with labels before.
There have been some distribution delays on the Witch release?
I’m still not massively sure what happened. Everyone involved has had troubles with it and it’s all been out of our hands. I don’t want to name names but basically the people we’ve been doing distribution with have been having some technical issues with manufacturing. We have a p&d deal so we can’t exactly go shouting at anyone, as we haven’t paid anything yet! I’m really looking forward to it coming out in the next couple of weeks. Asides from that we have a few ideas and a few people we are interested in. I’ve been sat on a few tracks for quite a while that I really want to do something with so I think I’m going to be putting out the next release myself.
Whose work has been pushing all the right buttons for you lately?
I’m really into the new Swans album, ‘To Be Kind’. I’ve just gotten to know their material over the past year. I think this new album was a really nice balance between their industrial post-rock stuff and their more progressive sounding material. Ben Frost’s album was great and I’ve been listening to Lee Gamble’s album for the past few days. I really do like Aphex Twin’s new record. Out of the albums, which have been hyped up in the past couple of years, (Boards Of Canada, Daft Punk) this is the first that has actually lived up to the hype.
How’s the situation been needing to take a guardian to gigs?
It’s been fine actually. My parents have been brilliant with it. They’ve come to a point where they’re quite happy to let me go to stuff on my own, with friends or a promoter. It’s now just a matter whether the club is ok with me coming on my own. It’s going to be nice to be able to do the odd thing on my own as well.
With Crohns Disease it seems like a constant battle to make sure you don’t lose the run of yourself. What precautions must you take to stay healthy and out of harms way?
It’s not been that bad at all over the past year and since I’ve had surgery it’s been fine. I just need to make sure I get a decent amount of sleep. If I do get slightly ill my Crohns could be sent into relapse. And I’m happy to not drink as hard as a lot of other DJs do! Staying out late is going to be something that will start happening more often soon and I’m looking forward to that.
Would you care to comment on the pressure put on child stars in show business today?
The higher end of show business isn’t something I’m that well-clued up on but I do think that there is too much pressure on people who start out as a child star either in the sense that they’re not allowed to change or else rebel against it. The whole Miley Cyrus thing is the obvious example, but that’s definitely not going to happen to me! Jesus Christ. Younger people do see things in a different way and it’s a very strange environment for someone to be in.
You’ve said there’s going to be more material on the way. What shape or form will this take?
I don’t see there to be a rush for anything. I’d rather just do it in terms of “Oh I’ve been sitting on something for a while”, or “I’ve just made this absolute banger that I have to put out!”. I’m always making music but it’s only when something really great comes along that I will be happy to put it out.
Could we expect a Happa album in the future?
It’s definitely something that’s been on my mind. It’s something I would need to spend a year or more working on. For the next EP I’m going to putting out, I’ve got a couple of ideas. I’m definitely a fan of themes and concept behind music. I really like the process of putting together pieces of art with the packaging of records themselves.
You’ve recently said that your breakthrough track ‘Boss’ will never see a release – why is that?
Well, I don’t actually have it anymore! I don’t even have an MP3, never mind the project files. It got lost almost two years ago now. One of the Church boys asked for it as they lost their own copy and I was like shit I don’t even have it. I don’t think Mary Anne Hobbs has it either so it’s like a lost dub. I’m not sure if it will resurface. I don’t dislike the song, I mean it’s a nice memento that it did do wonders for me, but I don’t really think it represents what I’m doing today…
Happa plays the sold out Awakenings & LWE present: Drumcode Halloween at Tobacco Dock, Wapping E1, Saturday 1st November
Words: Conor McTernan
Photo Credits: Ellis Mitchell