Introducing the Australian former psych-rocker turned rapidly ascending DJ.

Australian DJ and producer HAAi, aka Teneil Throssell orange sitting

Photo: Alec Donnell Luna

Australian DJ and producer HAAi, aka Teneil Throssell orange sitting
Photo: Alec Donnell Luna

If you’re a Londoner, there’s a great chance that at some point in the last two years you’ve probably spent a Saturday night (or seven) bones juddering by the DJ booth of Brixton’s Phonox. That being the case, then you’ll be more than familiar with the dexterous talents of ice-haired Australian DJ and producer, HAAi.

Hailed from remote mining town, Karratha, in Western Australia, Teneil Throssell’s two-year Saturday night residency and admired slog in the well-loved south London institute (ending last summer) has meant that she’s swiftly scaled the ranks to become one of the most exciting new selectors in the industry.

Textured, rib-shuddering thumpers, heavy on the percussion and atmospheric looping, have quickly become distinctive of her style, and her eclectic influences are far-flung. In fact the propulsive beat, clanging percussion and angelic vocals in hit track “Be Good” are reminiscent of her days as an Australian psych-rocker in former band, The Dark Bells.

More accolades? She releases her tracks from her own label Coconut Beats; she beat the likes of Four Tet and Avalon Emerson for the prestigious title of the BBC’s Essential Mix of the Year (former winners include Helena Hauff and Caribou); plus, she’s also been announced as the latest DJ to snag a slot in BBC Radio 1’s Residency (previously James Blake and Peggy Gou, to name a sparkling few).

Up – and a vertical ascent up, at that – is her inevitable trajectory.

Ahead of her headline show at Hackney Wick warehouse Mick’s Garage this weekend, we caught up with the DJ and talked gender equality, five-year goals and the best party she’s ever been to…

How did you first get into music?
I taught myself to play guitar when I was 12, after my older sister got one for her birthday and hardly played it. I was a really musical little kid that used to go around singing and would play on the piano whenever I was around one. I ended up teaching myself to play. Then I started to play in bands at school and the rest is history.

You’re from such a remote area of Australia – what prompted the move to London?
I started playing in psychedelia bands after a cringey phase of writing acoustic singer-songwriter stuff. I moved to Sydney to take it more seriously, and my old band The Dark Bells were doing relatively well so we decided to move to London to see how it would go. We did a fair bit of touring but eventually split up. I’d started collecting Turkish records and other world music and just started playing them out whilst I was still licking my wounds.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to be in the production side?
It was before I was really DJing properly actually – in the aftermath of when my band split up. I was feeling really disheartened by the experience. My next door neighbour was a really talented sound designer who could see I was upset about it, and he gave me a Mac that had Logic on it and a load of amazing plugins. He showed me a couple of things and I started playing around with it and making music from there. I was just relying on my gut instinct and began to have more belief in what I was doing. But it was a good two and a half years between me starting out with Logic and releasing my first track “DaDaDa” in 2016. When I listen back to the early stuff you can really tell I was still learning…

What do you think of gender inequality in the industry? Do you think it’s gotten better?
I think we’re going through a good moment where there’s a lot more attention on the issue, but I think the next phase is not just a balance of males to females, but also more female headliners being paid the same as the men. But it’s definitely improving.

How do you feel about being active at a time when there’s so many amazing female DJs – are you friends with any of them? Is there a community?
It’s a really good time to be in the scene. I’ve said hi to Helena Hauff a couple of times but we’ve not had time to chat properly yet. But Marea (The Black Madonna) is a great friend and she’s probably one of the biggest torchbearers for supporting women and diversity in the industry. We became such good friends early on – she could see I was very nervous and vulnerable in the beginning and was very open and honest. I did one of my first back-to-backs of my whole career with her at her residency at XOYO, which was epic. And then later on, we DJ’ed back to back at Sunfall Festival to 5000 people which was a real experience for me. She has been genuinely instrumental in a lot of the things that have happened to me.

Australian DJ and producer HAAi, aka Teneil Throssell applauding
Australian DJ and producer HAAi, aka Teneil Throssell applauding
Photo: Alec Donnell Luna

You’ve got your Coconut Beats imprint – can you tell me how this started?
The Coconut Beats parties started as my night at Ridley Road Market Bar, it was a brand that allowed me to play more of the world record stuff. It’s just amazing that it turned into the party series that it did at Phonox. The label came about as a way for me to just put my own music out there quickly.

What was the turning point for you? When were you like, all the hard work’s beginning to pay off?
It’s hard to say because I have genuinely loved every moment, but I guess the Phonox residency was when I realised people were starting to listen to me seriously.

What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
The most fun parties I’ve been to recently have been some of The Black Madonna’s We Still Believe parties – especially the street party in London last summer, it was such a beautiful day. The Sink The Pink dancers are just amazing too, they really captured the spirit of the entire thing, the free lovin’. But my best night ever in terms of going and seeing a DJ play and being totally lost in the music, was at Andrew Weatherall at a Superstition night at Village Underground. That was probably the first time I really transcended, and I was totally sober too.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far? Like your biggest pinch-yourself moment?
Getting offered the Essential Mix was crazy, I actually thought it was a bit premature at the time. I only had 2 weeks from confirmation to the live date and had to really work hard to get it done in time whilst I was on tour, but I guess some of the best things happen if you don’t overthink it, and it meant I could get back to producing quickly.

What’s next for you? What’s your five-year goal?
If we’re talking longer term, I would like to have released a couple of LPs, and ideally I eventually want to try playing a very few select live shows, and being able to put on an immersive audiovisual experience where people can absolutely lose it!

Your first ever record?
The Funkees – “Dancing Time”

What’s your most precious record and why?
Escape From New York – “Fire In My Heart.” I found it in Perth in a bargain bin, then found out it was worth quite a bit. It was also the record I was playing when I was headhunted for Phonox.

Favourite song to listen to when sad?
Lijadu Sisters – “Come On Home”

Song that will always get you on the dancefloor?
The Black Madonna – “Say My Name”

What’s your summer hit?
Nathan Micay – “The Party We Could Have”

Desert island disc?
Volumes – “Minor Science”

Maybelle Morgan