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Interview: Warren Harris aka Hanna On Staying True To Himself, Working With Theo Parrish, Being A Tennis Coach

Warren Harris lives an interesting life.
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Warren Harris aka Hanna

Warren Harris aka Hanna

Warren Harris is known for his own jazz-influenced melodies and hard punching broken house rhythms, as well as, collaborations with other prolific artists such as Theo Parrish. Involved in Rotating Assembly and Key Of Soul projects, Harris aka Hanna continues exploring the depth of his imagination and challenges his creative output by melding together sounds of his already known repertoire and those to be discovered by the listener on this release.

Hanna's broken house rhythm is preeminent, while dreamy and melodic keys enhance the spiritualistic aspect, maintaining a catchy groove. All tracks explore layering of sounds and find ways of keeping such exploration fresh and different from one track to the next.

With several albums behind his belt and continued stream of releases, Hanna explores further, listen in for new discoveries. 

Mastered by Enrico Mantini | Cover by Jacobo Carmona (Estudio FLOP) Text by Simas Savickas

“I'm more of a musician and into the harmonics…. I'm more of an artist. I'm not into it from the dance perspective. I'm into the chords and real deep stuff."

Hey Warren, what's up? Where are you these days?

What's up? I'm getting old! 51 years old. Let's set the records straight. I am in Chicago! I have not lived in Cleveland for over 15 years. I have been living in Chicago for the last 10 years! I'm sick of the reused description "Cleveland artist." Cleveland sucks! Except for the Cavs.

You've just dropped a new 5 track signature EP Demur on FLUMO Recordings which takes us to a wonderful jazzy electronic journey. Tell us about your time creating in the studio.

I don't remember the time creating Demur. I turn on my equipment maybe one week a year and make some tracks. It's the furniture decoration next to my TV. Demur means to show opposition or to disrupt. It's a pretty looking and sounding word with a grimy definition. I noticed it was used to describe a rape victim's attitude during the tragic crime.

Warren Harris Studio

Is this EP a new exploration of genres between jazz and electronic aligned with your love for “harmonics?” How would you describe your style?

Nothing new for me, I have my style and keep doing it over and over again. I can't help it or change it. I think I make pretty house music, atmospheric house music, emotional house music.

You claimed once you weren't into producing music from a dance perspective in a 2001 interview. What is your ideal tune and what should it convey to listeners?

That's a good tough question. I have a body of work that has been documented, I think about 500 tracks in the past 20 years, maybe more. One tune is shallow to point to and say, "check this one."

I definitely want to convey to listeners "our better angels," uplift and champion what is good and right and beautiful and lovely and exquisite and exclusive and unique.

You previously released music on Theo Parish's label Sound Signature. How did your collaboration with Theo Parish start?

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If I remember correctly, Theo came to a music store where I was working and told me he bought a drum and bass record I did for Apollo Records: "Hanna feat. Gere - Spiritual Gemini." I think that's where we first met and he said he wanted to do some tracks with me. If he says something different, go with his story, that's the part I remember.

In the mid-'80s, while still in high school, you joined a heavy metal band called Tempest. What do you recall from these days?

Pretty cool time in my life. We were 16 years old playing heavy metal clubs in Cleveland. Tim Burris my main man on the drums and Patrick Roundtree on guitar. But my cat Darrell Barnes was my other best friend that was a monster drummer but we didn't do a metal band together. We were serious, paying recording studio time and making our own demo that blew up worldwide back then. Really cool stuff.

After meeting two local DJs, Dan Curtin and Mike Filly, in the mid-'90s, you started experimenting with electronic compositions. Tell us about your early days as a music composer and sampler, which tools did you use?

So Dan came to that same music store that Theo Parrish came into and heard me making some tracks in the store and Dan said I should do techno. Mike Filly was a customer in the same store and I went to his house to listen to some electronic music. I would tell Mike to play a track and then after 5 seconds, I would say, that's enough I got it. That would explain my earlier works that had tracks fading and no long drum intros because I just listened to the music and didn't know about DJ culture and clubs etc. I was using Roland keyboards and MPC-2000 sequencers and DAT machines for mixing down. I never used computers for making music. Always keyboards and real basses and sequencers and sometimes 2 inch reel to reel tape.

“I never used computers for making music. Always keyboards and real basses and sequencers and sometimes 2-inch reel to reel tape.”

Your mom sang in the Cleveland Orchestra chorus. Has this given you ideas for some of your compositions in the past and today?

Well, she bought me bass lessons and I studied privately with one of the bass players of the Cleveland Orchestra. I think he was 5th chair bassist at the time, Harry Barnoff. My mom amazed me because she would buy music without hearing it. She could read music and know how it sounded. I'm still baffled by how she does this. She recently visited me in Chicago at my apartment and I was playing her some chords and she said, “I don't know those jazzy chords.” In my mind, I was like, “What?????!!!!!”

The vocals in “Healing” (Sound Signature) and “Shimmer” (Irma Unlimited) are truly melting us. Can you share with us something unique about these two tracks?

“Healing” is Thomas Whitfield, sampling his tune called "Healing Hands." I think his wife or fiancé sang what I sampled. Thomas came up with the hippest chords in gospel music. He was a trendsetter. I played the music for “Healing” and sampled those vocals. "Shimmer" vocals are SWV but I don't know the song I sampled. It's very uncanny the vocals I sample how they fit with my tracks. That's a long explanation. I don't listen to anything so something has to really catch my attention. I think the secret to my music is the fact that I don't listen to anything. I just hear stuff.

“I think the secret to my music is the fact that I don't listen to anything. I just hear stuff.”

What would you do if you weren't producing music?

Hahahaha! That's really funny. I don't produce music for a living. Hanna is a bum and doesn't pay my rent....and never did. Warren actually pays the rent. I am a tennis coach for a living. Private lessons and high school. I have been writing a tennis book for years and it just came out a couple of weeks ago called “The Tennis Manifesto.” I finished my second book and will release this Christmas time.

Your love for spirituality is strong. How do you rely on your spiritual guides to create music?

I think God makes everything beautiful and pretty and it exits because of him. Some of it comes out through my music, but no credit to me, it comes out in my music? If you can wrap your head around that.

What's coming next for you? Any exciting gigs or new releases you're looking forward to?

I do one or two gigs a year, I'm not in demand, but I'm not for everybody either. I play live bass and synth while DJing from my sampler. I haven't turned my equipment on this year yet, so I don't know about releases yet.

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