Hanni El Khatib on his politically-charged double album ‘Savage Times’

If there was an album title that summed up the current age we lived in, it’d probably be Hanni El Khatib’s ‘Savage Times’. Throughout a tumultuous 2016, the LA-based artist consistently dropped an array of diverse EPs, which featured songs varying from stomping punk-rock anthems (‘Baby’s OK’), to blues-funk slinkers (‘Peep Show’) and politically-charged experimental ragers (‘Born Brown’).

Now he’s packaged the whole thing, alongside a few new ones, into a full 19-track album, which may just be his most daring and electrifying project yet. Here he explains the reason for drip feeding his fourth record and how time has seen the project evolve.

Why did you decide to release this record bit-by-bit?

“I didn’t actually intend on making a record this year at all. I wanted to abandon that idea completely, while still being able to record and release music somehow. I really just wanted to fuck with my usual process. I felt that if I recorded and released the music as I made it, I’d become less precious of the work and truly be able to act on impulse. Because once the music is out in the world, there’s not much I can do about it but move on to the next idea.”

Did it have an impact on the record, as you’d be working continually on it?

“Absolutely! It really help me get out of my own head and remove all the preconceived notions I may have for what an album ‘should’ be. It was really freeing. Everyday that I worked in the studio and made songs based on my mood at that specific time. Since the album idea was removed I never really worried about if these songs matched sonically or fit in the same genre. I kept pushing myself to experiment and make whatever I felt like making that way. It was all about getting rid of my own musical boundaries.”

You released the song ‘Born Brown’ last year – but it seems even more relevant now. How scary is that?

“Yeah it’s crazy how appropriate that song feels right now. Especially given the political temperature here in America. But in all honesty, I feel like many of us from immigrant families have always dealt with frustration and fear in one way or another. But I think that providing for our families and making a name for ourselves have given us a great sense of pride and unity. It’s great to see people of all races and ethnicities coming together to unify and show support.”

Musically this album seems your most diverse to date – is it challenging boiling down all of those influences into one sound?

“Not really. I listen to so much music and I’m influenced by just about anything that it all blurs in my mind anyways. I’ve got total creative ADD. I think once it comes out of my head and I start playing instruments it’s already been through this filter that suits the music I make. I just think that by removing my typical album process allowed me to fully explore new areas. It’s important to draw from other forms of inspiration that doesn’t necessarily fit with what you set out to make. Meshing all those things together is what gives you a unique perspective.

‘Savage Times’ is out now via Innovative Leisure