What happens when electronic music transcends the nightclub? This is what Teneil Throssell, known professionally as HAAi, explores in Baby, We’re Ascending, her recent LP.
“It’s essentially a mixtape style record with many sonic twists and turns,” says the London-based, Australian-born DJ and producer. “I have collaborations on there with a lot of great friends of mine: Jon Hopkins, Alexis Taylor, Kai-Isaiah Jamal, and Obi Franky. It’s kind of danceable but not made for the dancefloor.”
Throssell herself sings on “Bodies of Water,” an ethereal track that soon descends into rhythmic chaos. Jamal, a spoken-word poet and trans activist, appears on the meditative and elegiac “Human Sound.”
“Part of the story behind the album was a bit of a message about being a hyperactive person, having ADHD, and embracing the chaos of those things,” Throssell tells Out Traveler. In an interview with Phoenix Mag, Throssell described Baby, We’re Ascending as expressing the “chaos” of her brain, or like rapidly flipping through TV channels.
Throssell recently finished a U.S. tour with American DJ The Blessed Madonna. “Something that was so pivotal and important in my career was when The Blessed Madonna took me under her wing,” says Throssell. “It made me realize how duty-bound anyone with a platform is to bring up people around them. Especially people from underrepresented backgrounds.”
“Music production and DJing seems to be in a really exciting time right now because there have been some cis, straight men who have been called out for really bad behavior. Through that, space has been created for marginalized artists to come through and really shine.”
“One of the reasons the music is so exciting: If you’ve come from an underrepresented background, you’ve worked four times as hard,” continues Throssell. “So, by the time you get that space, you’re fucking good.”
Throssell describes visiting the legendary Berlin nightclub Berghain as hugely influential in her career. “I didn’t really understand techno music before I went there because I’d never really heard it in the right environment. I’d been to clubs, but I probably went more for the party than the music, to be honest.”
“Being in the main room in Berghain and hearing it in the room it was made for — how much more psychedelic it was than I had ever given it credit for — was really overwhelming and changed how I thought about techno. And then I really understood the lineage between the music I loved and made: shoegaze, and then post-punk, then krautrock, and then techno.”
Throssell believes there are certain sounds that can only arise from a particular place. “I think a really obvious example of that is Bristol,” she says. “You think about trip-hop. The music that came out of there, it couldn’t have come out of anywhere else.”
“Same if you think about Manchester and bands like Oasis. A lot of times, the music they’re writing is about their working-class backgrounds or where they’ve grown up. And then Ibiza and Balearic music is another whole thing. The sun’s always shining there and you’re on an island. Everyone’s making tropical house.
Throssell says, however, that she’s “lived in London too long” to bring much of Australia into her sound. “The music I make now is so reflective of where I am. I’ve lived in the same part of Hackney for 12 years. The most Australian part of my music is that it’s still heavily shoegaze influenced. That’s it, really. Not making surfy tunes yet!”
Throssell is part of the queer collective Garçon Sauvage. “It translates to something like ‘wild boys,’” she explains. “They really embrace me as family and it’s beautiful. They perform drag and I’ve played for their parties many times in Paris, Montpellier, and Lyon. Chantal, who’s kind of the head honcho, is wonderful. What they’ve done for queer and inclusive parties in France has been so cool."
In her home city of London, Throssell champions queer events and spaces such as Body Movements, Adonis, and Sylvester. “The words ‘queer utopia’ have been used for Body Movements,” says Throssell. “It’s a space where everyone feels taken care of and safe.”
“Saoirse, one of the founders of it, is a dear friend of mine. One of the things they didn’t realize was a blind spot until someone brought it up: it wasn’t inclusive for hearing-impaired people. They had people signing at festivals like Portola. I had never seen that before. It made me really think.”
“There’s also another great queer party that happens every second Sunday, which I think has become one of the most popular queer parties in London, called UnFOLD.” The “heavy techno” party runs from “midday to midnight,” says Throssell.
“You walk in, and the booth is in the middle of the room on the ground. You can’t see where the DJ is, and everyone’s from such a cross-section of different backgrounds in London. Everyone’s there dancing together, not just standing and looking at a DJ, and I think that’s so cool.”
“Being openly queer was always a rebellious statement,” says Throssell. “Being able to hold our own space and parties, while not ostracizing people who aren’t queer from these events, is an important thing to recognize. I understand why queer-only, male-only, non-binary-only, or female-only parties exist, but if you can create an environment where everyone feels safe and welcomed, that should be deemed as really progressive.”