Seamus Haji Interview 2014
As a DJ/producer/label owner/A&R guy, Seamus Haji has worn many hats in the dance music world. He is also one of those rare producers that can make credible underground/progressive releases (like the buzz record “Inception” with Sheldon) and remix big commercial pop songs by artists like Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Girls Aloud, and The Saturdays. It was quite a fun interview especially since I got to ask so many questions I’ve wondered about for many years.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: I’ve always wondered – with a name like Seamus, are you Irish?
Seamus Haji: My mom is Irish and my father is Indian. I was born in the mix!
RS: Someone just told me that you used to do A&R for Strictly Rhythm.
Seamus Haji: Yes, it was back in 2010. I went to work for them for a year after they split from Defected. They asked me to come aboard and sign really good club records which is what I did, but after a year they wanted to move towards a commercial direction, so we were at two different head spaces. I was about signing good underground club music and getting into events and they really just wanted to concentrate on having commercial hits so we decided to part ways. During the time that I was working for them I put Big Love on hold and have now re-launched the label. I also have a label deal with a big company in the UK called New State. They do a lot of Cream and Pacha compilations and so I am really excited about a lot of new music that we have coming up.
RS: You are a producer but also very well known for your remixes. You used to work with Paul Emanuel and then you stopped working with him, what happened?
Seamus Haji: Paul has always been a studio guy and not out on the road DJing like I have always done. When we worked together it was more like me as the DJ and the A&R guy and he was the studio guy. It went really well for a number of years, but it just got to the point that if he wanted to benefit from what we were doing together he needed to be out there DJing as well. For a lot of people the income is in performing and he didn’t want to go that route and was happy doing music behind the scenes and that was it. I started to do more stuff on my own and worked with different engineers.
RS: When you do a remix are your hands on the keyboard doing the production or do you work with an engineer to do it?
Seamus Haji: As far back as the mid ‘90s I have always had an engineer there when I do remixes. You get used to working in the big studios with professional engineers and if you want amazing keyboards you just get a great keyboard player. The whole thing is orchestrated by me, so I know what I want. The people that I work with wouldn’t do that if they were left to their own devices. I like working that way because I am always trying to think big rather than spending 2-3 months trying to put something together myself.
RS: Let’s go back in time a little, I have always wanted to hear how Tweet’s “Boogie 2nite” became the hit version by Booty Luv, what happened there?
Seamus Haji: I will try to make a long story short. DB Boulevard was offered the choice of remixing a track from Tweet’s album; don’t ask me why, they just were. They did the big record that blew up and got signed to the same label in America that Tweet was with. DB Boulevard said that they really liked the track “Boogie 2nite” on her album and that they wanted to remix it so they did. It was never going to come out, it was just a thing that they did. Pete Tong started to play it in the UK and there were some white labels, press and bootlegs floating around. Warner Brothers in the UK came to me and asked me if I wanted to remix the record and told me that they really believed in it. I did the remix and they spoke to the Americans who said that it was just a single and they didn’t want to do a video for it. They pressed 3-4 thousand white label promos which sold really well and that was that. I then had an idea of doing a cover version for myself but I couldn’t since I signed the remix agreement that said I couldn’t cover the record for 3 years. At the time Ministry of Sound got wind that there was a really big underground buzz on the record. They put together the idea of Booty Luv and came to me and we began to remix and produce it. Next thing I know it was #2 on the pop charts in the UK and it was in the top 10 for weeks and weeks. It was just one of those things.
RS: Was the version that was the hit version your remix?
Seamus Haji: Yes, my remix was chosen to be the lead mix. After that we came out with “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” along with some other stuff, it was a good time!
RS: Looking at your discographies there seems to be a disconnect between 1997-2004, what were you doing during that time?
Seamus Haji: I was at Slip n Slide where I did a couple of EPs under Big Bang Theory and in 1999 I got headhunted to do A&R with Simon Dunmore at Defected Records. For 2 years I didn’t make any records because I was doing A&R full time. Around 2002 I did Big Bang Theory – “God’s Child” which was one of my monikers that hit the Top 50 pop charts. From there I left Defected and I started Big Love and since then I have been in the studio constantly. It is hard to have a full time job with a label and also make it into the studio.
RS: One of my favorite remixes that you have done is “Move in the Right Direction” by Gossip. Is there a special story behind that track?
Seamus Haji: I just love Gossip and I think that Beth Ditto has an amazing voice. I remixed “Perfect World” and a couple of her other tracks as well. I just really like what they do. If I remix something that is indie or pop or R&B I usually approach it in a different way. With Gossip I always have a certain idea of where I want to go with it. It always has a slightly tougher, moody vibe to it and it has a contrast. I love them, they are great.
RS: As opposed to Ke$ha’s “Die Young”?
Seamus Haji: Yes, that has more of a poppy approach than something like Usher or Ne-yo. I have a different approach to each style.
RS: Of all of the remixes that you have done what has been the most challenging?
Seamus Haji: I think the hardest was Labrinth ft Emili Sande-“Beneath You’re Beautiful” because it is a very slow ballad. When I put the track over a house beat, I had to slow the track down even more. The ballad has a beat that is doing double the speed under it. The flow of the lyrics was quite unusual and didn’t work very well, so we had to really chop the vocals up. Long story short it wasn’t exactly a full vocal mix and it was very challenging. The strange thing is that it was one of my most popular remixes and Radio 1 played it all the time.
RS: That is the one where you basically just used the chorus and added the drop down to it.
Seamus Haji: Yes exactly and I chopped the vocals up over the track, it was a different approach.
RS: Who would you like to work with artist wise that you have not worked with?
Seamus Haji: I’d love to work with Madonna when she comes up with the right song that is really hooky. I have worked with some amazing people in the past and have had Mariah Carey and Rihanna’s vocals in the studio. There are a lot of other artists that I would like to work with but I’d have to think about it.
RS: Mutya Keisha Siobhan had their big single comeback with “Flatline,” how did it feel to get that project since it was such a monumental comeback?
Seamus Haji: When it was initially sent to me it said MKS and I was confused until I realized it was Mutya Keisha Siobhan. It was quite challenging because of the flow of how they sing and I had to try to make that work over the single groove. It was great to get the project because I had remixed “Easy” for them many years prior when they were Sugababes. It was great to be involved again with their comeback and their brand new single.
RS: Great answer. Talking about going back in time, what do you think of the ‘90s house movement. Is that going to get bigger and bigger over there or is it going to morph into something else?
Seamus Haji: I think it’s getting bigger and bigger because you have the two splits now where you have the full-on EDM thing. I tap into a little bit of the progressive symphony side of things and use it in my productions and remixes. When people think of Seamus Haji they think of something that is going to work for main rooms and also for the radio. My wife went in to a clothing shop the other day and asked the girl what music was playing. She was about 20 years old and “it’s this new thing called house music.” This is what is new to them, EDM is not house music. House music is what is going on with Defective, Jamie Jones, Flashmob, Shadow Child, and the slightly deeper stuff that is going on. I can completely relate to that and that is why we are going towards that direction with Big Love and new artists that we are working with.
RS: Time for a little tech talk. In the studio are you using Logic or Cubase?
Seamus Haji: I use Ableton and Logic. I use Ableton for my radio shows and for my edits when I DJ and have worked on Logic for years. They can both be good for different things.
RS: When you DJ do you use CD, laptop or thumb drive?
Seamus Haji: I use USB. No offense to anyone but I have never wanted to DJ from a laptop. I don’t want to be looking at a laptop in the club. I have been sponsored by Pioneer for years and when I saw the way that you could work with a USB stick I switched to that.
RS: Cool. If people want to follow you what is the best way to do that?
Seamus Haji: My website is seamushaji.co.uk and from there that will take you to all my other social sites.
RS: What would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Seamus Haji: Thanks for all of your support! Keep the faith because I am going to keep on doing what I am doing!
Interview conducted October 2013 during Amsterdam Dance Event.