He’s gone from messing around with software to one of the hottest producers around. And no-one is more surprised by Cyril Hahn’s overnight success than he is.
It says a lot about Cyril Hahn’s explosive arrival in clubland that he’s been DJing for less than a year. When the Swiss-born, Vancouver-based producer travelled to Europe for a tour in February, he’d played just five gigs. He remembers his first vividly – because he was terrified. “When I decided to try it, I chose to do the smallest venue possible, the Biltmore in Vancouver,” he remembers. “I invited all my friends. It was basically a hundred people I knew. I needed to do it that way because it’s not something I’m used to. It’s been a steep learning curve.”
That’s something of an understatement. At the beginning of 2012 Hahn didn’t have a single production to his name. Indeed, he hadn’t even thought about making music. By the end of the summer, he was one of the hottest names in dance music thanks to re-edits of ‘Touch My Body’ by Mariah Carey and ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child. He made them as an experiment so he could learn how to use some music software, something he decided to do on a whim.
“I just saw it as a hobby,” he says, still slightly stunned by where it’s led him. “I wasn’t prepared for how quickly things happened.” Annie Mac and Diplo picked up on Hahn’s mix of ‘Say My Name’, a woozy throb of pitched-down vocals and low-res, multi-layered drones that sounds like Burial on MDMA. It got plays on Radio 1 and The XX posted it on their Facebook page. “That’s when the play counter went crazy,” says Hahn. He’s since remixed Jessie Ware, HAIM and Gabrielle Aplin, and finds himself at the leading edge of a trend for super- lush, mid-paced dance grooves with a mainstream pop edge, alongside kindred spirits like Ryan Hemsworth and Karma Kid.
All this before he’s even released any original material. “I don’t think it happens very often that a producer has so many remixes but nothing one hundred per cent original,” laughs Hahn. His debut single, ‘Perfect Form’, featuring vocals from US band Shy Girls, was released in September. Like his remixes, it’s got a 90s r’n’b vibe thanks to Shy Girls frontman Dan Vidmar, a fellow slow jam fan, who croons like Bell Biv Devoe over a thudding kick and crystalline synth stabs. It puts to bed any question that Hahn is a one-trick pony who can only recontextualize old pop records.
In fact, the whole 90s remix thing started as a pragmatic move. Hahn wanted to make a vocal track. “They used to release acapellas on the B-side of singles, so there’s a huge pool of 90s r’n’b vocals out there,” he explains. “It’s not something I listen to seriously; more of a guilty pleasure.”
Hahn only recently gave up his art history degree to focus on music full time. “I find it hard to believe that it’s possible to do this as a job,” he says. “That still seems pretty crazy to me.” He’s still not sure about the whole DJing thing. “I wouldn’t want to be doing that when I’m old,” he says. “What I do is more like a live set that’s planned at home and then performed. I think it speaks to me being a bedroom producer who started out writing songs, never expecting them to be performed live.” Instead, Cyril sees a future producing records for other people. “Who would I like to produce?” he wonders. “That’s like asking me what I’d like for Christmas.” We get the feeling that he’ll have plenty of offers to unwrap.
Cyril Hahn Feat Shy Girls ‘Perfect Form/ Raw Cut’is out now on PMR.