Born and raised in San Francisco, California by Palestinian and Filipino immigrant parents, Hanni El Khatib is a retro rocker whose musical direction is influenced by garage, rockabilly, doo-wop and classic soul. Khatib grew up heavily involved in San Francisco's skateboard/DIY punk culture and began performing music on the side circa 2010 during his time as creative director at HUF, a fashion label owned by pro skateboarder Keith Hufnagel. Innovative Leisure released his first two singles Dead Wrong and Build. Destroy. Rebuild in 2010. The singles fared well, garnering press attention from the Guardian and NPR. Khatib's debut LP Will the Guns Come Out was released in late 2011 on Innovative Leisure, and is being supported by his first ever European/US tour along with drummer Nicky Fleming-Yaryan.
Put on Hanni El Khatib's debut album Will The Guns Come Out, and you've got the perfect soundtrack for your next greaser-style gang fight. The San Francisco native wears his musical inspirations, straight from the roots of American rock, proudly on his (most likely cuffed over a pack of smokes) sleeve. Long before computers allowed almost anyone to make halfway-decent music, musicians had to do everything themselves. El Khatib applies this DIY mentality to his approach to music—some songs were recorded in just one take (“Wait Wait Wait”), while others (“Build. Destroy. Rebuild.”) have lyrics that were created spontaneously during the recording session. The latter, in particular, establishes El Khatib's preference for avoiding polished pop perfection. It's disheveled and destructive (“build build build DESTROY!” he exclaims with a bluesy squawk), like he might've picked up an ancient guitar from the back of a thrift shop and just started playing his heart out. On “Come Alive,” all of the lead guitars are played out of a tiny homemade amp that was built in a cigarette box. His vocals are bluesy and raspy, as if he smoked every single cigarette in that same pack before turning it into the amp. “Dead Wrong” is told from the perspective of a misunderstood homeless man in San Francisco: “You know I'm a person too, even though you might not think it's true,” El Khatib sings. And though it has hints of an early 50s melody, lyrics like “you might think we're all f*cked up,” would've probably gotten him kicked out of every soda shop in town. Besides his own original songs, El Khatib has included some well-interpreted covers on the album. Compared to Louis Armstrong's jazzy, upbeat version of “You Rascal You” from the 30s, El Khatib's interpretation is dark and bluesy—playing off the grimness of the lyrics: “You done messed with my wife, and I'm gonna take your life. I'll be glad when you dead, you rascal, you!” He also does a completely stripped-down version of Elvis' “Heartbreak Hotel,” and a garage rockin' rendition of Funkadelic's “I Got A Thing.” Although El Khatib is strongest when he's in garage rock mode, he also demonstrates a dynamic, and more vulnerable, range with acoustic songs like “Wait Wait Wait” and “Garbage City.” On his website, El Khatib states that “these songs were written for anyone who's ever been shot or hit by a train,” and he lists his influences as “knife fights and train wrecks”—but catastrophes or not, his music is a refreshing addition to any music collection.