Sam Haas

In The Spotlight shines a light on Little Giant’s artists through a series of Q&A. For our very first ITS, we present you with San Francisco-based DJ & Producer, Sam Haas.

1. Describe yourself as an artist…

Probably the hardest thing for me to do. I have a real blind spot when it comes to describing what I make. I can analyze anybody else’s work to death, but when it comes to mine, it’s just… what I make. I dunno…

2. When did you start making house music?

Initially some time around 1995. I had friends with some equipment and an early version of Cakewalk. We’d mess around all the time, though only one or two things I did with them ever saw the light of day.
For a while I went on hiatus to focus on other things like job and family, but I always had a copy of Reason around to play with. That whole time I always felt like I could have and should have done more with it, though I had convinced myself I needed to get serious and move on. Somewhere in 2011 or 2012 I got over that whole mindset and started to dig back into production, and got more serious than I ever had been before. It’s been a pretty dedicated thing since then.

3. Describe the first gig you ever played.

It was a series of basement parties when I was in high school, so probably ’92ish. My friend and I went in together on a pair of 1200s and a small sound system when we were 16 and as a result we became the default DJs for any house parties thrown by our friends. He was the hip-hop guy and I was house, so together we had the party covered. They were pretty sloppy affairs–as most high-school parties are–but a lot of fun, and really helped me learn the fundamentals of getting a crowd of people to dance over an extended period of time.

Out of that I started playing and eventually throwing underground parties in the area and it kind of grew from there.

4. How would you describe your sound?

All over the place. lol
Seriously though, I guess somewhere between dark, funky, quirky, and dubby house with some techy elements, but a human touch at the same time. Definitely American sounding, but like the kind of American that dresses all European even though he’s not really fooling anyone.
I’ve also been making a bunch of stuff that’s inspired by the new minimal house vibe coming up in Paris, Berlin, and parts of Spain, etc. It’s a deeper, more mature, groove-oriented and stripped back sort of thing that I’m hoping to start releasing under the name Niksah.

5. What influences you? Where do you get your ideas?

Throughout any given day I listen to everything from old soul and R&B, hip-hop, post-punk, classical, musical theater (thanks to my wife), and toddler jams (thanks to my son). It all comes out in some way or another when I make music.
Ideas come from anywhere, and are usually in the moment unless there’s something that so strong in my head that I have to deal with it.

6. What do you like the most about house music?

I don’t know if I can define it. The first time I heard it it just blew my mind and I don’t think I’ve ever really recovered from that first night. I love how it drives me into a hypnotic state, but is able to move through feelings and thoughts. I go out and if I’m in a shitty mood, it’s like therapy. If I’m in a good mood, it just lifts me higher. Not sure I want to analyze it further than that as I don’t want it to lose it’s magic!
7. Who are some of your favorite DJs?
I don’t even know where to start…
For my all time favorites, I have to go with the DJs who I grew up on in my early days in the Mid West–Derrick Carter, Miles Maeda, Diz, Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin, Chez Damier, and stuff like that. All those guys will always have a special place in my heart.
Lately I’m really digging that minimal house vibe that’s been growing for the last few years. Varhat, Djebali, Diego Krause, Jef K, Mr. KS and all those guys have such a interesting and groovy style, I just love it.
I’m also really excited the pod of the guys from the late-90’s/early-00’s who are pushing things forward today. Artists like Pezzner, Doza, Giom, and Brett Johnson are blowing me away right now, just like they were 10-15 years ago.

So I guess it’s pretty clear I’m all over the place. I’ll go out here in SF and hear someone I haven’t heard before and it reorients my thinking for a bit until I can absorb it back into what I do. Just this last weekend that was Baikal for me, for example.

8. Describe your creative process.
It really depends on whatever inspired that particular track. If it’s a specific sample or set of stems, another track, or a mood I’m in–the tracks all kind of form around that.

At some point though, my focus moves to the core groove of the track. I spend most of my time getting everything to fit together. Days–sometimes even weeks–until I’m happy with it. From there I kind of figure out what I want the track to actually do, then build up the elements so it can do it.
Technical process aside, somewhere in there I need to find something about the track that I connect to personally. There needs to be a mood, memory, sample, or technique that I’m working with, otherwise I can’t force myself past a certain point. I have soooooo many track starts on my hard drive that I’ve just abandoned because I lost emotional investment in them.

9. What shows/releases do you have coming up?

After this release on Little Giant, I have a few things coming out on a US label run by some friends of mine called MEME Sounds, then a remix for you guys. After that, I’m still working out what I want to do with the other things I’m working on–I’m really bad at the whole demo/getting-my-stuff-out-there thing.

As I mentioned earlier I’m also developing the alias Niksah for some of my music that’s a tangent from my usual sound. I’ve got a few demos out there for that, but it’s still mostly in the planning and catalogue-building phase.

As far as gigs go, I haven’t really done much since the birth of my son, though things are starting to develop again. I’m working though some ideas to get the Silence In Metropolis party started back up here in San Francisco. Also, I’m doing some planning with some friends for a party series called Land of the Lotus Eaters that’s going to be more tied to my Niksah persona.

Be sure to keep up with Sam on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter and Instagram.