Straying over genre lines, and writing lyrics on the bus
Charlie Steen’s garden is a surprisingly tranquil place. The only sounds are the creaking of a swing as it sways on a branch of an old tree, and the faint roar of an aeroplane engine as one passes overhead.
The sun is beating down today, and Steen is making the most of it. Pulling his shirt over his head, he laps up a few more bites from his bowl of cereal before reaching to grab his tobacco tin. Next to him, Samir Alikhanizadeh, aka Happa, is also drinking in the peacefulness of his backyard. “You know it’s hot today; I’m wearing sandals,” he sighs before flashing me an almost apologetic grin. “I’ve still got my socks on though – the world isn’t ready to see my feet.”
Happa has long been something of a prodigy on the UK bass and techno scene. Back in 2012, aged just 14, Loefah played a rip of his track ‘Boss’, and the Leeds-born producer seems to have been on an unstoppable upward trajectory ever since. It only took a matter of weeks for Four Tet to track him down for a remix of his track ‘Jupiters’, and to date he’s still the youngest person ever to have played a set at Berlin’s legendary Berghain.
2019 is already marking an evolution in Happa’s career. Just this morning his track ‘Only Light’ was released. We’re here to talk about the single’s b-side ‘Only Darkness’, which happens to feature vocals from the Shame lead-singer. While ‘Light’ is all monolithic synths and euphoric drops, ‘Darkness’ is a brooding, ominous slab of techno punctuated by Sheen’s paranoid, desperate vocals. Taken together, the two somehow manages to feel like an infinite emotional loop – the unabashed highs of track one bleeding into the mournful regret of track two and back again. Forever.
And that brings us to the reason we’re both sat in a garden watching Steen munch through the last of his breakfast. We’re sitting down to talk about how the duo met, worked on the record and why the pair have decided to stray across genre lines.