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Dundee star Hannah Laing on DJing sober, raving with her gran and sell-out Caird Hall shows

The dentist-turned DJ has well and truly arrived, with two explosive hometown shows and new music already on the way for 2024 on her own 'Doof' label.

DJ Hannah Laing with her gran on the decks. Image: Doof.
DJ Hannah Laing with her gran on the decks. Image: Doof.

Growing up in Dundee, Hannah Laing’s visits to the Caird Hall consisted of graduations, a Staying Alive road safety course, and one gig – The View, of course.

Now, the Dundee DJ admits that “baby Hannah would be absolutely screaming” if she knew that at the age of 29, she’d play two back-to-back sold-out gigs in her hometown’s most iconic venue.

“I didn’t feel like I was in Dundee, it was mental,” smiles Hannah, still on cloud nine after her double bill, which launched her 14-night Welcome To The Doof tour.

“I knew it was going to be good, because a Dundee crowd’s always good, but it honestly blew my expectations.”

The gigs were Hannah’s first opportunity to see the visual show that she had been working on for five months with designer Amy Kilner, who has worked with legends of the scene including Fatboy Slim.

Hannah Laing debuted a brand new visual show at the Caird Hall earlier this month. Image: Michael C Hunter.

“A lot of people know me for my ponytail so Amy made this 3D model of my head with my ponytail,” explains Hannah.

“That gig was the first time I saw the stage design and the visuals together. I was very nervous, because I’m a perfectionist, but it really was perfect!”

Connecting with young fans at Caird Hall

Before her Caird Hall shows, Hannah was under the impression she was making music mainly for ravers in clubs. But when she announced the city square events, she was inundated with requests to allow entry for ages 14 and up.

“I had a lot of messages from teachers, parents and the kids themselves asking why these shows weren’t 14+ and it was then that I realised I had a lot of young fans,” she explains.

“I think it’s that the vocals in my music are catchy so the kids love it.”

Hannah Laing met young fans ahead of the Dundee show. Image: Michael C Hunter.

So that she could connect with her younger fans without compromising the intensity of the shows themselves, Hannah spent two hours doing a meet-and-greet with under-18s before each gig.

“Doing a meet and greet before a show is always a risk,” she admits.

“Standing for two hours and getting photos could be draining. But I wanted to do it anyway, I wanted to give something to them. And actually, it had the opposite effect – I was really buzzing after!

Hannah with a Dundee fan. Image: Michael C Hunter.

“The kids were so cute, one of them had made me a bracelet with my name on it. Some of them had homemade ‘Doof’ T-shirts that they’d drawn up, and they were just so happy to see me.”

What is a ‘Doof?’

As well as the title of her tour, ‘Doof’ is the name of Hannah’s own record label, which the hitmaker is launching this week, following in the wake of fellow Dundee musician Be Charlotte.

“When I’ve tried to release music on labels, it didn’t really fit anywhere, and I was really struggling to get it signed,” she explains.

“Everyone would ask what kind of music I play and in Scotland, we say ‘doof’ for like banging music. ‘Doof, doof’, the sound of the beat. But also, in Australia, ‘doof’ means ‘party’.

“So when I was wanting to launch my own label, I thought there’s no better fitting name than Doof!”

Hannah Laing’s Doof tour, Caird Hall. Image: Michael C Hunter.

Indeed, the ‘Doof’ is a phenomenon that’s gone beyond Hannah’s music.

As well as people buying T-shirts sporting the Doof logo, more than 30 folk – that Hannah knows about – have pledged allegiance to the Doof with tattoos.

“There must be 30-40 people now that have got Doof tattoos – and that’s without launching the label! So it’s good to see the name’s really sticking with people,” she jokes.

A woman of her own word, Hannah joined the ranks of the Doof with her own tattoo, inked by a superfan on the back of her arm, so it can be seen when she’s DJing.

“I thought: ‘Well if everybody’s getting them, I’m going to need to get one!'” she laughs.

Killing it on the dancefloor since childhood

For Hannah, launching a label is the way to ensure she can “release what I want, when I want” and build a platform from which up and coming musicians can get their start.

“It took me such a long time to come up, so it’s good to give other people that platform.”

It’s well known by those in the know that Hannah ditched a promising dentistry career in favour of pursuing the Doof – where, coincidentally, View frontman Kyle Falconer was one of her regular patients.

Hannah on her final day at the dental practice she formerly worked in. Image: Supplied.

After falling in love with trance through her parents’ record collection, she spent her late teens and 20s working her way up through the DJing world, going from guest stints in Ibiza to playing at Creamfields last year, and working with industry heroes including Pete Tong and Judge Jules.

“It’s crazy because they’re these DJs who were my mum’s inspirations when she was young, and now I’ve worked with them,” says Hannah.

Her remix of Sophie Ellis Bextor’s 2001 hit Murder On The Dancefloor caught the attention of major players in the scene, and rocketed her to success in 2021, with an extra boost now as major motion picture Saltburn has seen the song re-enter the charts.

‘Baby Hanzo’ DJing at age 19 back in 2014.
Hannah has kept wristbands from every show she’s played, as well as her first set of decks, to remind her how far she’s come. Image: Supplied.

“The label that I released my Murder On The Dancefloor remix on reached out and said they’d seen a massive spike in my streams since the film came out,” reveals Hannah. “Though I still haven’t met Sophie. That’s on the bucket list.”

Raving with granny was gig highlight

And if the 29-year-old hitmaker had any lingering doubts about betting on herself, they were banished when she saw her grandparents raving as she stood behind the decks in Dundee.

“Both my grans were there both nights at the Caird,” Hannah reveals. “My granda was there, aunties and uncles, mum and dad, everybody. They were absolutely loving it.

“My gran’s in her 60s. She was crying and all that, so was my mum – wee cuties.”

Hannah and her gran having a dance. Image: Supplied.

Indeed, touring is a family affair for Hannah, who last year employed her 23-year-old cousin (and “best pal”) Beth as her tour manager.

“It’s really good having someone on tour that you fully trust, that’s family,” says Hannah. “As soon as Beth was old enough to come to raves, she was coming to my shows anyway, so it just made sense.

“And even though she’s younger than me, she’s dead sensible in terms of partying. She does a lot of the shows sober.”

Hannah the sober DJ… sometimes

Finding that balance between work and play has been one of the bigger challenges that Hannah has faced during her first proper year of touring, and she admits it’s still a line she’s learning how to tread.

“It’s something I’m struggling with,” she says candidly, admitting that although she’s “not steaming when I DJ”, she usually has three or four drinks to “take the edge off”.

Hannah with her cousin and tour manager Beth. Image: Supplied.

“Last year was my first proper year of touring and I was partying so much,” she explains.

“I’ve been a DJ for a long time and drinking was always just a part of it. But that was when I was doing one show at the weekend, and they were all in Scotland.

“It’s really difficult when you’re travelling all the time – I think I underestimated how difficult it would be. So towards the end of last year, I started doing a lot more gigs not drinking at all.”

Instead of sleeping or drinking before a gig, Hannah now makes it a habit to hit the gym whenever she checks into a hotel on tour, to get her energy levels rising naturally.

And although “when everybody around you is completely steaming and having a party, and you’re completely sober, it does feel a bit weird”, Hannah insists it’s “always worth it the next day when you’re fresh and you’ve got another show”.

Gigs are ‘escape’ during tough times

Nerves are still a huge battle for Hannah, and she admits the transition from support act to headliner came with a pressure she hadn’t anticipated.

“When I was supporting the other big acts, people were buying the tickets to see them. So when that flipped and people were buying the tickets to see me, I really felt the pressure more and that made me more nervous,” she says.

“I don’t know if that’ll ever fully go away.”

Hannah is known for her distinctive ponytail. Image: Michael C Hunter. Date; 03/02/2024

Part of the reason for her perfectionism and pre-show jitters is that Hannah knows people are often splurging on a rare night out during the cost of living crisis when they come to see her shows.

“It still blows my mind that I can put shows on sale and they sell out, because people are struggling just now. It’s nuts, but folk want that escape, don’t they?

“But then I’m like: ‘Oh no, these guys are spending their money on me, I really need to make sure they think it’s worthwhile’.”

Spreading her wings in the studio

But after chilling out during January on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to the Bahamas, which she says was “like something out of a film”, Hannah has been right back to the studio, working on new music ahead of the Doof label launch.

And it’s clear she’s revelling in the resources that her hard-earned success have made available to her.

“Before I had management, I would always work with samples,” she explains.

“It’s really hard to get good original vocals – well, it was. It’s not now. I’d just try to find either samples or vocals online, and then build the track around the vocal. But now I’ve been able to get into the studio with amazing, really well-established vocalists.

The Caird Hall crowds had their hands up for Hannah Laing. Image: Michael C Hunter.

“I just get a beat going, they will literally just sing over the top of it. It was so mad for me to experience that for the first time because not only are they amazing singers, but they’re literally writing these lyrics off the cuff, off a few beats you’ve got going. It’s amazing.”

At her Caird Hall gig, Hannah tested out four new tracks, including one with Camelphat vocalist Jem Cooke, which she said got a “great response”.

“When my management said we could get into the studio together, I was over the moon, because she’s so talented,” Hannah gushes.

“She’s sound as well, we had a right laugh in the studio.”

Hannah Laing putting down roots in Dundee

Outside of trance, Hannah’s favourite music is – somewhat surprisingly – solidly in the realms of indie rock.

“I love the Kooks!” she exclaims. “The Arctic Monkeys too. And The View, obviously – they’re total Dundee legends and I still listen to them.”

And despite her skyrocketing success and packed touring schedule, Hannah is staying true to her Dundee roots.

She reveals she’s just bought a house in the city, and “can’t imagine” moving elsewhere.

Dundee DJ Hannah Laing is only just getting started. Image: Supplied.

“I don’t think I would actually move from Dundee because when you’re touring all the time, you just want to get back to your friends and family,” she says.

“I think living somewhere else, it would just be weird coming home to nobody.”

Tickets for Hannah Laing’s Welcome To The Doof UK tour are still on sale from major vendors. Her hotly-anticipated new EP, Triple F, will be released on March 8 2024 on her Doof label.