Han Swolfs (1984), better known as Hantrax, is an Antwerp based electronic music composer and producer with a background as a pianist and studio technician. Described as “80’s revival from the future,” his sound reveals influences from EBM, 70’s soft erotica, Robert Schumann and old school hip-hop. To mark the release of his new album Tinker Tape Parade on Friday in Antwerp alongside DJs Kim Peers, Allon Kay (founder of record label Entracte) and others, the versatile and accomplished talent recorded an exclusive mix for us. And, as he says so himself: “I guess the mix could be listened to anywhere, but especially in an empty hot tub.”
Can you describe yourself in a few words? Your sound, your influences, how it started, etc.?
I would describe myself as someone who doesn’t compromise too well, but I’m sincere and value integrity and sometimes a bit foolish :-/, but never on purpose. I started making electronic music at age 13. I used to layer 2 k7 cassettes to record my music. At the same time I was playing cello, but by the time I was 16 I was accepted to the Jazz Studio. There I learned to play piano at a higher level. Nowadays my music is still based on analogue sound, but I also use digital vst’s and piano. I’m not a purist (in any way) I appreciate when people experiment and search for their own musical language, even if it doesn’t always sound nice or ‘right’.
Is music a full-time thing for you at the moment? If not, what are your other occupations?
Music is my full occupation. I record tracks almost everyday or practice piano. Music is really important to me because it’s the only language I truly understand. Even when I was ‘sick’ for 2 years, it was the only thing I kept doing no matter what. I recently found someone who has a really critical ‘ear’ and is always pushing me to go further: Racovita-Cordemans, she is my partner in crime. But I also like drawing, singing, collecting toys and going out for dinner to a good restaurant.
Can you tell us about the exclusive track on the mix? Why did you chose to include this one? If it isn’t one of your own productions, how did you come across the artist?
The exclusive track is Sven Raven’s remix of my single ‘Double-dealing’. I was surprised when I heard it because Sven Rayen is an exceptional tattoo artist, but this is his very first step in music. It was meant to be an experiment, but I really like it. Palermo Records planned a digital release with all remixes of my tracks since Ticker Tape Parade, so I asked a few friends to contribute, such as Jan Gordts (Fluwelen Koord), Uwe Teichert, and A taste of struggle.
Can you describe the mix in a few words? What is its overriding influence, where would it best be enjoyed, what makes it special?
The mix is a small selection of what inspired me growing up and the things that inspire me now. I don’t listen to one genre, I never did, so the mix is probably a bit eclectic (like myself). Even if I don’t like certain tracks, I still respect other people’s work or appreciate it for different reasons (production, composition, atmosphere). I guess the mix could be listened to anywhere, but especially in an empty hot tub.
Although I mostly make electronic tracks, my first love was anarcho punk and new wave. When I was 15 years old I met Joris of Brutal Society, who taught me a lot about punk history. So I guess the Crass song symbolizes that for me. “Luxe poesjes” is a song by Fluwelen Koord, I think they are a new kind of punk band and their live shows are so full of energy. New wave is also important to me. When I was younger I listened a lot to Front 242. I also included Varèse’s “Poeme electronique” (written for the expo 1958), because I used to listen to it with my dad, and he is one of the pioneers of early electronic music, he also inspired Frank Zappa. I included Hiroyuki Fujikake’s Galactic Symphony, once released by Sabena – it’s a record I really cherish. I also added Belgian producer True Zebra and an old kitschy Mecano song.
When and where did you record it? Describe the room, the furniture, the walls, the view from the room, the neighbourhood, the weather at the time, etc…
I recorded the mix at studio Palermo, Sven Rayen’s private tattoo studio and home to Palermo Records. I really love this place, there are lot’s of books, art and a beautiful view of the Schelde river. It is really ‘clean,’ but still cozy. While making the mix, Sven was tattooing to the right of me, and to my left is Rahmetov programming. In between we had coffee breaks out on the terrace and once in a while others musicians, artists and Sven’s customers came in. Many interesting visitors and collaborations happen here. The place is full of energy and I’m pretty sure the view has influenced my album and this mix.
What’s your favourite track on the mix?
My favourite track is Headhunter, because I really appreciate Front 242, their DIY attitude and the video by Anton Corbijn.
What are your top albums of the year so far and why?
My top 4 albums this year are Kasset’s new album ‘U’ and the new Entr’acte record, 200 by Joachim Nordwall, who is also in the mix. Then there is Ravenveer ‘s ‘Wandering in the Italian Wastelands’ that was released on cassette earlier this year. And Fluwelen Koord’s 7” released by Ultra Eczema… does that count as an album?
What do you have coming up in the next few weeks?
I will be rehearsing, rehearsing and rehearsing for my private live show in the beautiful city of Ghent, and of course preparing for the release party of my new album on the 1st of April. I will also record new tracks for a release and work on an acoustic piano version of the album. I will also be helping my girlfriend with her expo-project and playing at Kaffee ‘t Hof in Middelburg. We will also be flyering together.hantrax.com soundcloud.com/hantraxmusic