I sat across from Hanan and his beautiful fiancé, Molly, in a quaint sushi parlor in Cliffside Park, NJ. Hanan and I had exchanged emails and phone calls numerous times in the months prior, but had never met face-to-face.
After completing a stiff nine-hour drive over highways littered with furious 18-wheeled monsters, my editor and I were in desperate need of raw food and good conversation. We entered the restaurant with a familiar quickness and began saying our hellos.
after a few brief formalities…
…the four of us settled into casual chatter. I had been following Hanan’s work over the last year or so after he began using a medley of Mojotone Pickups in his Old Moon Strats. Hanan was introduced to the company by a mutual friend in the NYC recording scene. Since then, we have had the distinct pleasure of watching him sport our gear in a number of different venues with some of music’s biggest names.
Presently, Hanan is the standing guitarist for the Alicia Keys band. Like any hardworking musician, his membership in one HUGE performing act does not hinder his ability to play alongside other artists such as J.T. Taylor, Rita Ora, Carole King, Ellie Goulding, David Byrne…the list goes on for longer than I have “remaining characters” in this article.
In addition to his contributions as a performing artist…
…Hanan is a highly sought-after session player, recording engineer, mix master and producer.
“You guys ready for some sushi?”
He asked, with both hands on his stomach. While Hanan is handling the order for round one, let’s take a look at some more pictures…
“Well let’s go ahead and get started. You gonna write any of this down?” asked Hanan
I raised my hand slowly, index finger poised, and double-tapped the side of my head. We both shot a smile across the table and leaned in to spare our speaking voices.
Hanan was born in israel
After moving to New Jersey, he realized that he was officially, “the new kid.” Given the free time that many new kids find on their hands, he realized his passion and aptitude for music. He began to familiarize himself with guitar, keys, drums and whatever else he crossed paths with. By age 14, Hanan was landing session work in professional studios and even had the opportunity to work with world-renowned songwriter and producer, Preston Glass. One day, during a session with Glass, he heard a familiar sound bleeding in from the next room. It was the legendary George Benson. Being the astute young man he was, Hanan decided to introduce himself…he and Benson hit it off. Soon after, the two gentlemen discovered that they were practically neighbors in New Jersey. They started hanging out more regularly, jamming, and building what turned into a solid friendship.
Benson and Glass later wrote recommendations for the then 19-year-old Hanan as he applied for enrollment at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. While on his way to become the youngest graduate in his class, Hanan had also hoisted his status in the NYC studio community. Apart from freelancing in just about every major recording studio in the city, he had also earned himself a position as staff first engineer at Unique Recording Studios.
“Alright guys, what are we getting for round two?”
…he asked. Again, with both hands on his stomach. Round one had found me quite content…
“I trust you man,” I answered.
After agreeing on several more pounds of assorted sea critters, we put another order in and continued talking.
Just before meeting us for dinner, Hanan had been in a mixing session. He told me that after walking into the studio he was given a song that his client had recorded along with “a friend of his” in the early 90s. He began unmuting the tracks one by one to reveal a lush and stunning string arrangement. Once he got a feel for the basic mix of the accompaniment, he brought up the vocal track. Once again, Hanan heard a familiar sound. He instantly recognized the voice as songwriter Marc Cohn. While Cohn is best known for his song, “Walking In Memphis,” he also has a rather extensive catalog. Ranging from the early 90s to present day, Cohn has released 7 full length studio albums and won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1991…and coincidentally enough, Cohn happened to be one of Hanan’s all time favorite song writers.
hanan was elated
Who wouldn’t be? Working on a previously unreleased track featuring a songwriter that has literally changed your life? Get outta here!
everyone at the table was slowing down…
…round two had gotten the best of us. Hanan had to fly out to the west coast early in the morning to do a session with esteemed producer and recording engineer, Eddie Kramer. Eddie. Kramer. This was obviously another flattering and humbling opportunity for Hanan. Eventually, we all stood up, shook hands and went our separate ways.
among other things, here is what I took away from this encounter…
Hanan has a very unique role within the industry. Whenever we are all at band practice spending hours each night trying to perfect our songs, we dare to dream that one day we could be ROCKSTARS. If we just keep plugging away a little longer, get done with this new album, get all the local indie magazines to review us and buy a VAN…it’s going to happen for us. It’s easy to get caught up in that mentality. I like to call it the ten-year fog…although for many of us this will far exceed ten years. However, none of this is to say that a career in music is by any means unrealistic. I believe that we can look to people like Hanan to show us a different way to get what we want out of our musical lives. Hanan has nurtured one of the coolest possible careers in the industry. Think about it, he was able to work all day and night in studios, attend a world-class music conservatory, land session work, produce albums, write and record his original music, and play on stage with countless professional acts. I’m certain that I am only aware of a fraction of the great work Hanan has done…because he stays as busy as he can. I think we are looking at someone who occupies a role within the industry that many of us don’t even realize exists. There are other distinctions out there aside from just ROCKSTAR. Hanan carries just about every possible distinction with him wherever he goes and he still has the cool head to take the time to meet with someone like me.
Hanan has been kind enough to record pickup demos for all of the Mojotone Pickups he uses. He rocks his matching Mojotone Tweed Deluxe amps on just about every stage he sees. He talks about Mojotone gear to people he works with in studios and at gigs, and he promotes us to his friends in the industry on a regular basis. He is able to accomplish a staggering amount of work each and every day with competence and flexibility, and is still at a point where he can be humbled and grateful to companies like us.
So let’s raise a glass and knock one back for Hanan Rubinstein, a top-tier tone hero.