Studio Sessions: Aly & Fila

I had the honor of spending a few hours going deep with one of the biggest legends in trance: Fadi, a.k.a Fila, from Aly & Fila. This Egyptian producer has spent the better part of a decade inspiring the the world of electronic music, with both his uplifting productions and emotional live shows, culminating in the 400th episode of Future Sound of Egypt taking place at the Pyramids of Giza next week.

This has been our most extensive and technical studio session yet, so don’t hesitate to use the show notes as a reference to production topics discussed throughout. Even Fadi was impressed by the depth of the interview, closing the discussion with thanks for digging deeper than most interviews you’ll see featured on other electronic music sites. So without further ado, a look into the history and mind of Fadi from Aly & Fila:

Show notes and timestamps:

0:01 What would you tell your 18-year-old self if you could go back in time?

I drew inspiration from a DJ Mag Top 100 poster (0:21)

1:16 Did you start out as a DJ or a producer?

More of a DJ at the beginning for fun (1:22)

1:45 What kind of hardware did you start using?

Groovebox (1:48)

Started DJing at 14 (1:59)

First synthesizer at 17 (2:02)

Started producing at 17 (2:08)

2:12: Were you using computers?

No YouTube to help (2:42)

Always reading the full manual (2:50)

3:08 How did you create sequences?

The Groovebox had a 16-channel sequencer (3:17)

3:25 Did you start with a template for making your music?

Starting with a bassline and melody (3:40)

4:00 Did you produce the sounds themselves?

The Groovebox had good sounds already (4:08)

4:35 When did you start using computers?

Started with Cubase and FL, then Logic (4:45)

Got back to Cubase in 2013 (5:12)

5:26 What are your favorite plugins and VSTs?

Sylenth, Vanguard, and mainly Virus TI (5:32)

5:57 What’s your current studio setup?

We have three studios, two each and one to work together (6:02)

6:21 What’s the creative process like working in a duo?

We do separate tracks by ourselves sometimes (6:28)

6:43 Do you mix and master your own tracks?

Everything is done by us (6:45)

6:49 Did you teach yourself how to mix and master?

Yes, by ear (6:52)

Took sound engineering courses in university (7:00)

Mixing and mastering techniques (7:30)

7:40 Describe your effect channels in the mixing process

Adding sound can fix the mix of the track (8:23)

8:53 What mixing advice would you give to new producers?

Using your ears (8:57)

Eric Prydz (9:03)

I’m a big fan of Eric Prydz (8:12)

Use his track as a reference (9:17)

Give tracks a break from listening (9:36)

9:57 Where do you find inspiration?

Being in a good (or bad) mood (10:02)

New synthesizers and VSTs (10:14)

10:27 Do you have any music theory background?

10:36 How long have you been playing the piano?

Playing since 19 (10:43)

Music theory allows more control (11:14)

11:24 Is music theory necessary?

Plenty of good producers go without it (11:30)

I love playing piano (12:11)

12:28 Have you always been producing trance?

I did soundtracks for ads (12:35)

Techno and deep house for fun (12:48)

12:58 Which producers inspire you the most right now?

Eric Prydz (13:06)

He’s underrated (13:40)

Opus has an incredible melody (13:55)

14:00 How do you write your melodies?

I start a track with the chords (14:15)

I start playing the same thing I played last time (14:25)

15:04 Which tracks are you most proud of?

Proud of every track (15:19)

I’ve never released anything I’m not proud of (15:23)

15:47 Tell us about producing “We Control the Sunlight”

16:33 How do you work with a vocalist?

We work online most of the time (16:36)

They’ll send us an acapella (16:50)

We send them the instrumental (17:40)

17:46 Do you add many audio effects to a vocal?

It depends on the voice itself (17:54)

Even commercially successful artists can be out of tune (18:25)

19:10 And you can tell pitch instantly?

I had training in school (19:18)

19:40 Do the keys determine the mood of your tracks?

The keys vary (20:00)

I can tell you are into music; you’re asking precise questions (20:24)

The keys can make a huge difference (20:53)

21:02 What is your favorite set you’ve ever played?

Our show at the pyramids should be our favorite (21:12)

21:20 What’s the setup of the pyramids show going to look like?

It’ll be a temple (21:25)

21:48 How do you coordinate the visuals for a big show?

We have a VJ (21:58)

Our virtual jockey works live with us (22:09)

A lot of DJs already have their time marked (22:15)

But at the end of the day, that makes the DJs repetitive (22:27)

I prefer having the VJ live and being creative (22:37)

22:48 So your VJ should know all of your tracks well?

23:05 Do you prefer festival or club sets?

I prefer club sets (23:10)

I learn more from playing club sets (23:40)

I get better every year (23:50)

You can’t build a journey during a festival set (24:03)

24:14 What’s your favorite festival to play at?

This year I was blown away by Tomorrowland (24:19)

Tomorrowworld’s incredible too (24:22)

The crowd at Tomorrowworld is crazier (24:40)

Last year I was blown away by Tomorrowworld too (24:50)

I was also surprised by EDC Vegas this year (25:00)

I played the closing set (25:20)

25:31 What’s your favorite club to play at?

Cream Amnesia in Ibiza (25:35)

It’s such a legendary club (25:50)

The first time I played there it was out of this world (25:54)

It’s perfect for trance (26:05)

The quality of the crowd and sound is amazing (26:11)

It has that old-school feel (26:17)

26:28 What five steps does a new producer need to take to make an impact?

1. It doesn’t matter where you’re from (26:43)

You can get there with the proper people behind you if you have the talent (27:00)

2. Believe in yourself and work hard (27:07)

Never follow the trends (27:11)

3. Be humble, respect your fans (27:31)

4. You need to be adept on social media (28:04)

If we had it back in Egypt, it would have been way easier (28:26)

We have someone taking care of it (28:48)

It’s important to use that time for family and the studio (29:10)

29:30 What technical developments should a new producer make?

I used to read music magazines like FutureMusic (29:43)

Tutorials (29:47)

Try to do collars with other artists (29:52)

I’ve learned a lot from watching other producers (30:15)

Face-to-face collaboration is better (30:45)

Step 5: DJing comes with time; the more you DJ the more you understand (31:14)

31:30 Are you familiar with the 10,000 Hour Rule?

No, but I’m happy with where I am now (32:09)

32:30 What was your breakthrough year?

2006 (32:35)

That was the year I realized I could be a professional DJ (32:37)

32:42 What was that realization like for you?

Every DJ was playing our music (32:47)

33:13 Was the next big step after that getting signed?

Yes, getting signed with management (33:20)

33:38 How did your day-to-day life change in 2006?

I was spending every day in the studio (33:50)

It took me 7 years to graduate university (33:56)

I was only getting A’s in music (34:09)

London School of Sound was after university (34:21)

In Egypt I was at the American University in Cairo (34:23)

I was studying political science and music (34:25)

34:30 When did you know you wanted to start studying music?

I knew when I entered university at 19 (34:30)

34:44 Did you go to university with the intention of becoming a producer?

It was always in my mind, but not really (34:52)

I took political science to relax my parents (35:01)

Doubts from parents (35:08)

But they were very supportive (35:12 )

35:27 Did you have a backup plan?

It was either becoming a producer or nothing (35:35)

Having no backup might have helped (35:42)

This is my dream, I’m going to make it happen (35:51)

My friends thought I was wasting my life (36:00)

36:13 What period in your life did you work the hardest?

We’ve always been working our hardest (36:26)

We’re not going to sit back and relax (36:50)

I do the radio show, A&R, I do all the technical stuff (36:55)

Anything artistic has to be done by us (37:08)

At the end of the day, I want to know I made that track (37:24)

37:41 Where in the world were you when you were 22?

37:46 What was an average day like for you?

University in the morning, meal with the family, then studio (37:51)

It was always my daily thing; I didn’t even go out (38:11)

38:26 Did you have a home studio?

I rented a room (38:34)

In Egypt, you normally stay with your parents until you get married (38:45)

38:58 What kind of studio equipment did you use?

Phonic studio monitors (39:04)

39:11 How often do you produce on headphones vs. monitors?

Headphones are impossible for me (39:15)

I like to make it loud (39:46)

I want to know how it sounds in a club (39:54)

That’s why Aly doesn’t come in my studio a lot these days (40:00)

40:09 How did you compensate with loudness at first?

I try not to lose dynamics (40:32)

41:11 What do you mean by dynamics?

When you compress too much you lose the dynamic of the sound (41:15)

You lose frequencies (41:31)

This is the first time I’ve done an interview in such detail (41:50)


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