Vancouver-via-Switzerland producer Cyril Hahn is good with his hands… on a computer and occasionally with a guitar, but you might be forgiven for thinking in terms of slightly more sexy double-entendres. Three years ago, the 27-year-old posted to Soundcloud a remix of Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body,” pitch-shifting her vocals whisper low so they blended with a misty synth bed befitting his adopted home. He followed that with similarly sensual treatments of Jeremih’s “773” and a more bumpin’ reboot of Destiny’s Child “Say My Name” (incidentally brought to Annie Mac’s attention, she says in her BBC Radio 1 premiere, by the xx‘s Romy Madley-Croft).
In 2012, he was discovered by brothers Ben and Daniel Parmar via another remix and signed to their PMR Records (another pair of siblings, London house heads Disclosure, have also supported him). They also asked him if he had any originals, which at that point he did not. “I was like, ‘Okay, I need to make one!'” he tells SPIN, laughing, from his summer residency in Berlin; which he adds feels so hot his brain is “fried.” “My body of work was super small, but I told them I was feeling confident that I could write an original. That’s how that relationship started. It’s cool that they trusted me in that sense.”
Now, with originals filling his hard drive and spinning in the bedrooms of listeners both here and overseas, Hahn will release his third EP, Begin, on July 24. He’s already shared the sultry, cool “Last” featuring Joel Ford (of New York disco weirdos Ford & Lopatin) and now he’s bestowed upon us “Same.” Two-step percussion anchors gossamer harmonies courtesy of former Yumi Zouma member Kim Pfaum (a.k.a. Madeira), with twinkling arpeggios flitting around in the background. Listen here and then read our Q&A with Hahn, in which he discusses selfies, his distaste for velvet ropes, and working from home.
What’s the music scene like in Vancouver?
For a long time it was very slow and there wasn’t that much going on, but the last three or four years it’s gotten really good. There’s underground house music, like the label 1080p. To be honest I was never really part of the scene — I just put my stuff online. I kind of like being the odd one out! I can go in different directions and people won’t be as critical of me. I never went out to the clubs much, I’ve always been a person to go to concerts and see bands play. I’ve never been into typically clubby DJ music.
In that case, is it weird performing at these clubs?
In this DJ culture, I felt like a tourist visiting. That’s all grown on me since, but at the beginning I was sort of uncomfortable and happy when it was over. It’s weird to me when I play a smaller venue and people are trying to grab me as I play, or ask, “Can I take a selfie?” and you’re like, “What? I’m just trying to play music right now!” I should probably take selfie lessons. I’m not very good at them.
What’s your songwriting process, especially on this EP? Does the title Begin have any significance?
Well, “Grace,” for example, started out as an instrumental. I started following [Los Angeles singer] Kotomi on Soundcloud, and a few hours later she messaged me and said she liked my stuff, and said we can work together. I emailed her some instrumentals, and she picked that one. Then she went for a drive around California, around the coast, all day, recording in her car on her voice recorder. That’s pretty cool. I wish I could write music like that. She pretty much wrote it in a day and sent it back. It was all via email, which is how most of my songs come about when I collaborate with people.
Usually my titles are really simple, but this EP I really felt strongly about. It’s a bit of a departure from the clubby remixes I had done from the beginning. It’s more of a listening experience rather than something you’d want to hear in the club, so I thought it was sort of a new beginning.
Do you work out of a home studio?
I have a studio set up in my living room; in Berlin, it’s just a laptop, one controller, and some headphones. To write a final version of a song, all I have to do is mix it on monitors, because you can do a lot with a laptop these days. I’m actually going to have a studio this fall with a friend, which will be nice — like going to work. When you work at home, there are so many distractions, like “I probably should make another cup of coffee” [laughs]. I’m a little more focused when I go somewhere else where, that’s why I’m there, to make music.