Interview: Hanni El Khatib (Workplay 5/3/13)

Hanni El Khatib plays at Workplay tonight with The Black Angels and Wall of Death.

Hanni El Khatib plays at Workplay tonight with The Black Angels and Wall of Death.

I first saw Hanni El Khatib when he played for about ten people, including the bartenders, at Bottletree last May. I was instantly a fan when I heard the rockabilly punk styling of “Dead Wrong,” and the raw and captivating, opening guitar riff of “You Rascal You.” Khatib had a coolness onstage that reminded me of Dallas Winston from the Outsiders, along with a voice soaked in bourbon to accompany his loud, pulsating melodies.

Since then, Khatib has had a good year. He opened for Florence + the Machine, had his songs featured in a string of television commercials, and worked with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys on his latest album Head in the Dirt. “[Working with Auerbach] was really easy and organic. We get along great outside of the studio as friends, so i think that just translated to our working relationship. We both have a similar way of making music and recording. We also both like recording quick and not over-thinking things. I felt like a good fit,” Khatib said. He even designed the logo for Auerbach’s studio. He seems to have no plans to leave Los Angeles-based Innovative Records, however, and has recently become its art director as well as part-owner.

Khatib describes his new record as “rock n’ roll” with themes of “travel, solitude, the desert, rattle snakes, death and love.” His first single, “Family,” is a fuzzy, upbeat, vintage blues track that embodies the Americana culture of the sixties with punk rock flair. “I think this new record is just an evolution of sound and a good reflection of where I’m at mentally and musically in my life,” he said.

When asked about being constantly compared to other artists in music blogs, he said, “I don’t really like having to describe my sound. I sort of feel like it’s just rock n’ roll and that is a genre that can take many shapes and forms. To me, rock n’ roll can be anything: punk, hip hop, or even just an attitude. I think my music just comes from my experiences and inspirations in sound and life, which is extremely varied, so it’s hard for me to pin point.”

A native of Los Angeles, Khatib is half-Palestinian and half-Filipino. He says that living in California has “shaped my personality, which has made its way into my music naturally.”

Khatib is accompanied by Nicky Fleming-Yaryan on drums. The lack of bass guitar gives his sound raw simplicity with undertones of garage-rock.

Hanni El Khatib is playing at Workplay tonight, between Wall of Death and The Black Angels. He says that audiences can expect some noise. “I can assure you that it will be loud,” says Khatib. “I just want people to have fun and forget about their problems for a little bit and enjoy themselves for a moment.”

Tickets for tonight’s show are $18, and available from

About Amber Morgan Ritchie

Amber Morgan Ritchie is a contributing writer for You Hear This.