Learn more about the Virginia buzzmaker.
Since the days of Beethoven or Mozart, music has always been about expression, whether it’s emotions, moods, or beliefs. Many musicians draw from their own feelings and experiences to build sonic worlds that we as listeners lose ourselves in, placing our ears within their bodies.
HANZ is a purveyor of this style of music, pushing the envelope whilst also reaffirming the expressive nature pushed by some of the medium’s best. It helps that he’s a Virginian native in the spirit of Pharrell, Pusha T, and Timbaland, who knows how to mix genres, be experimental, and just to have fun with what he’s doing. Reception has been overwhelmingly positive for the relatively new artist with a ton to say, but more to show.
ELEVATOR had a chance to connect with the Hampton Roads native for an interview discussing the zany video for “Deep End,” indie-rock influences, and much more.
Who is HANZ?
HANZ is an artist who doesn’t hold back. Behind closed doors, I feel that there are many people that face internal conflict but can’t find the right words to express it. Whether it consists of issues with self, society, the heart, or mind, I’m here to help. I have a very introspective style of writing and I feel like my level of vulnerability plays an important element in regards to the context of my music. I know when a song is timeless because I can listen to it years later, and still feel the same way I did when I first heard it. It’s those initial gut feelings that I want to draw out from the listener. It’s relating. It’s what bridges the atmosphere between me as an artist and to those who are listening. All these aspects help define me as an artist.
What’s your creative process when it comes to recording music? You get pretty personal on wax.
It goes from months to years, or a day to a couple days. It all depends. For personal songs, I either have to go through the situation first or live through it second hand. Songs like, “Fall Into Time” took me 2 years to make. It’s a tough process at times because I have to feel the same way I did when I initially got into the song. For the more fun songs, I can make those pretty fast. The lesser the substance, the easier it is for me. But don’t get me wrong, all my songs have importance to them.
How have indie-rock and other genres helped to shape your sound?
I’ve been listening to all genres, so it’s hard for me to put a foot on what kind of sound I exemplify. I feel like the influences are definitely there, but for the listener, it may be difficult to differentiate what is going on sonically. As far as my side, I know which elements I take out from certain genres and make into my own. So it’s not only instrument/sounds that influence me. But also the mental images, melodies, and overall feel that makes the music cohesive in its own nature.
One group that comes to mind when you hear your music is N.E.R.D., also hailing from Virginia with a wide berth of sounds encompassing all genres. How have they influenced you as an artist?
N.E.R.D’s sound definitely has some influence on my music. It’s their effortless style of blending genres that really appeals to me. They are Virginia culture.
The video for “Deep End” is one of the trippiest visuals we’ve seen in a minute. What was the process of creating that?
It took about a year to make the video for “Deep End”. The homie Grant and I would always come back to that video when we had something new to offer to the table. I was going through a really bad break up during that time, and I remember him telling me that things weren’t falling through with the girl he was talking to either. So one day he told me he really listened to everything I was saying in the song, and it just clicked for him. We ended up finishing the video that week. I felt like we both had artistic energy that we had to let go of during those times. I even cut my hair off for that video. I got an egg head, but I knew that scene would set the tone for the song.
What’s the artist experience like in Virginia? How hard is it to bring people together and succeed as a collective?
The music artist experience in Virginia has grown so much. I remember when I was first making music with SLG in 2012 and there were just a handful of music groups and artist coming out of the Hampton Roads area. Nobody was supporting each other at first, it was like crabs in a bucket. Years flew by, now there are so many artists out here supporting each other and trying to make a name for themselves. It’s a good feeling. It’s pretty easy to get a collective going. I’m working with one now. Soy Sauce Records is an independent label that I’m with. We’re a powerhouse with different lanes of creating. WIZARDBUG3000 with graphic design, Merc on photography, Folie on videos, and I engineer for myself and other artists. I’m not the type of person to work with just everyone. It’s more than a music socialist thing. The people I work with are the ones I truly connect with. I find it difficult just to scratch the surface with other artists. Sometimes there is a piece to the puzzle that’s missing. That’s when I call the homies Aaron Jackman or Thomas a.k.a Bang Loud who also does live drumming for Sunny & Gabe (great artist from VA by the way) to step in. They know what I’m looking for. I also produce myself when I feel the time is right. That’s what me and Jalf’s duo, “Hi-5” is for. So working with other artists in Virginia is not hard, you just got to know what you’re looking for.
What will it take for Virginia to see the mainstream spotlight like other notable music states?
It’s going to take Virginia to work as a collective to be like it was in the early 2000s. Now that technology is more accessible, we all have a chance at this no matter what state it is. But it’s also the distinct sounds that draw people into a certain state. Virginia has a lot of diversity and the music that’s coming out of the state compliments that pretty well. I think it’s really just a matter of time until our state gets the recognition it deserves.
What’s next for Hanz?
I have a project that I’m finishing up called, “GO OUTSIDE”. Hopefully, I’ll be able to drop it in the spring. But that’s all the info I’m trying to give out right now. Less talk for me, more doing.