British DJ Hannah Wants returns to Cork next month. Photo: Haris Nukem

Give Cork what it Wants

“I walked into my first club, I saw the DJ and the way that he was controlling the dancefloor and in that very moment I knew I wanted to be a DJ.”

British DJ Hannah Wants has been following her dream with ferocious dedication for over a decade now, rising from a self-taught turntablist to global star.

An acclaimed producer regularly releasing on some of dance music’s most well-respected labels, and with a touring schedule that takes her to the biggest clubs and festivals in the UK, Europe, the Americas and further, Hannah has well and truly cemented her reputation as a major player on the international scene.

Next month, Hannah will make her highly anticipated return to Cyprus Avenue in Cork city where she last played in 2020.

The Cork Independent caught up with Hannah recently to chat about the fascinating, exhausting, and often mysterious world of DJing.

“For me personally the profession has changed a lot because I've been doing this for over a decade professionally now. I definitely got involved with the more rock and roll lifestyle side of things, the hotel afterparties, partying for days in a row, minimal sleep. I'd go to America and do 10 gigs on the bounce - airports every day, minimal sleep. I definitely got caught up in the lifestyle when I was first starting out,” says Hannah.

In 2017, a cancer diagnosis changed everything for Hannah, prompting her to reassess things and to prioritise her health. Now, the cancer-free star says the experience and subsequent change of pace has helped her to focus on her work and her art.

“It was that diagnosis in 2017 that made me look at everything in my life and I try to take a much more healthy approach now. Don't get me wrong, I still love to party. I was insanely stressed because of the pressure I put on myself, just basically wanting to be the best version of myself and over working myself and not having that work/life balance,” says Hannah.

“As you know, you don't work well on hangovers – because I have them minimally now, it means that my productivity has increased 10 fold, my inspiration, my motivation. So, rather than taking a Monday off, now I'm back working Monday morning. It's helped every aspect really.

“I don't think people realise just how tough touring can be on your body. You’re flying so often, airports, delays, waiting around, queuing, because you're gigging in the night and then you're travelling in the day. Don't get me wrong, it's a phenomenal lifestyle and I wouldn't want it any other way but it can be tough on the body.”

Having spent time gigging in the Americas, Hannah will return to Brazil and Mexico later this year before making her Columbian debut. Hannah has also performed extensively in North America and says the vibes in the US and South America are very different from each other.

“South America is one of my favourite continents to play in. In England, if you want an injection of energy you can whack out a vocal classic and everybody will sing it. You don't get that in South America, it's not about the vocals, it's purely about the vibe and the energy, so I feel a lot more free with my DJ set and I can play a wider variety of music with less worry. The US is definitely different compared with South America and the UK, they definitely have different dance moves, that's for sure.”

With an ethos of giving back and a dedication to supporting rising stars of today’s underground, Hannah uses her annual sell-out What Hannah Wants UK and Ireland tours to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming DJs. Selecting talent from around the UK and Ireland via a mix entry competition, Hannah has profiled her winners with supporting DJ slots on the tours.

Offering advice to young DJs, Hannah says it’s all about self-belief and simply being nice to one another, something she says goes a long way in her line of work.

“It might sound kind of cliché but if I could go back and speak to my young self, it would be to believe in myself. I went to university and studied sport even though I wanted to be a DJ and I didn't know I could make a full-time career out of being a DJ and a music producer.

“It's just a case of believing in yourself and having faith in yourself. And aside from that, just don't be a dickhead, just be a nice person. There are many beautiful people in this industry, but equally there are many ego-driven not-so-great people. I generally find it's the nice people that have longevity in this industry.”

Interestingly, Hannah played Premier League and international football for Aston Villa and England up to the age of 23 and say that even though she knows she made the right choice in opting for a career in music, she still dreams about football.

“Women's football when I retired wasn't what it is now, there were less opportunities back then. You know, we weren't getting paid, it just wasn't as high profile as it is now. I was getting in from the clubs at like 6, 7, 8am and then having to just get in the shower and get on the coach and travel around to country to play what was Premier League football at the time. It just wasn't good for my body,” recalls Hannah.