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Rabiee Ahmad [Interview]

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As a professional artist for well over a decade, Pakistani musician Rabiee Ahmad began his journey in 2010 as a vocalist, song-writer and guitarist in metal and rock bands, before eventually adding electronic music to his creative repertoire. A well-known figure in his homeland, Rabiee founded Comet Records in 2023 with a focus on progressive house, as well as giving local Pakistani artists a place to call home, alongside other internationally recognized talents. Whether working in solo capacity or alongside fellow countryman and frequent creative partner Auseeb, Rabiee has released a string of superlative releases across the last calendar, perhaps none more notable than ‘Propaganda’, a track which not only launched his Comet imprint, but still sits atop his Beatport Best Sellers. This week finds Rabiee returning to his Comet imprint with the much anticipated 'Profanity', alongside a remix from Redspace.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Rabiee to learn more about the release of his 'Profanity' EP, his background, his Comet Records imprint, DJing and much more. Enjoy.

Hi Rabiee, thanks for talking to us today. How has your start to the year been so far and please tell us something interesting about your day today?

It’s a pleasure for me to give this interview to Release Promo. The start of 2024 has been really amazing. I have outreached my musical goals for this year. Today it’s a natural green, cloudy and wonderful day with some pleasant cool breezes.

Looking back on 2023 what gigs of yours have stood out and why?

Back in 2023, one of the best gigs that I played was Blackcode, the headliner DJ for that show was Paul Hamilton. There are some other gigs like The Continuum Fest. The experience was quite amazing.

What’s a piece of music (not your own) from 2023 that had the biggest impact on you, and what makes it outstanding for you?

Ruben Karapetyan - Live in the Moment (Original Mix) had a great impact on me because of the tight Low-end Mix, soulful vocals and beautiful arps.

Talk to us a bit about your musical history, you were part of rock and metal bands before discovering electronic music is that right? Tell us about that and how you made the transition into electronic music.

I still am a part of an Urdu Rock band “Manzar” as a Vocalist/Rhythm Guitarist. I have been producing electronic music along with a lot of other genres for the last 14 years and I used to produce Trance EDM at that time. I discovered Progressive House Back in 2019 and due to the groovy bass and percussions, I got addicted to it.

The electronic music and party scene has been rapidly growing in Pakistan these last few years, what would you attribute that to?

The greatest attribution I think was founding the First and Only EDM Record Label of Pakistan “Comet Records” along with Auseeb. This way it became really easy for all the rising producers of our country to showcase their production and have a direct and easy contact with us.

The other attribution is that when I started producing Deep Progressive House, I got to know that there was no producer out there in my country who were producing that genre. That was the moment I decided to contact all the existing DJs of Pakistan and started teaching them EDM music production. Few of them have already released tracks by now.

Who were some of the local Pakistani artists and DJs you looked up to early on? And why were you inspired by them?

At that time, I was unable to find any local producers who were exactly producing the Peak-time Deep Progressive House and that was the reason why it was pretty hard for me to gather all the pieces of puzzle that were required to produce such a genre. But yes, when it comes to the DJing, Auseeb and Hassan Tariq Khan were my honorary teachers.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in Pakistan, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

Pakistani EDM scene is not usually the club based music scene. We have really scenic terrains and venues where most of these EDM festivals and gigs happen. That includes, beautiful Mountains, Forests, Riversides and Planes.

Some really big gigs are Harvest, Blackcode, Comet Records, and Sprectre.

Some really amazing DJs are Auseeb, Hassan Tariq Khan, UNK, Samie Ur Rehman, HAZEY, 90Psi, Osama Satti and Faisal Baig.

You have a new EP out on your Comet Records imprint this week ‘Profanity’, tell us about the release and what sort of vibe you were going for on these tracks.

So the vibe that I tried to set is a vibe of tight groove of multiple layers of bass. A kick that has a punchy low-end and a nice and natural high end too. Percussions that are recorded from the scratch on the real instruments. Melodies that are are appearing from the background giving a wide and hypnotic feel. And the synths that come as a lick and then go away.

Let our readers inside your studio for a moment, what is your current setup and what studio tools are featured heavily in your recent productions and more specifically on ‘Profanity’ EP.

I have a home based recording studio “Rabiee’s Den”. I have custom builds Monitors with Ribbon Tweeters. I have a Focusrite Interface, one audio mixer, Compressor, Limiter, Pre-amps, Tube amps, and a Rode NT1-A Studio Condenser Mic.
For Profanity, I used Ableton Live 12 as my DAW. For bass, I used the stock Wavetable. For Synths, I use Auturia Collection. I also used Dune, Kontakt, Omnisphere and Nexus.

I also used Shaperbox for Multiband Ducking, FabFilter Pro-Q3 for EQing.

There is also an excellent remix from Redspace on the title track. Why do you think he was a good fit to re-interpret ‘Profanity’?

I wanted someone who can make a tight chugging sub bass if the remix is being produced. I have been listening to Redspace for a while now and I felt that punch in his Low-end mix. He is undoubtedly the best fit for this track.

Staying briefly on the subject of remixes, when you are offered a remix, what do you look for in a particular project which makes you want to do it?

Well there is no general rule of thumb for that because it varies from track to track. Sometimes it’s a percussion, sometimes it’s a bass groove, sometimes it’s an arp. Sometimes all, sometimes none.

Being that Comet Records is your imprint, how do you decide which of your tracks to release there as opposed to shopping them to other labels, for example your recent release on Ruben Karapetyan's RKP.

I start producing a track with a mission, for Profanity, it was decided in my brain already before producing that this one belongs to Comet Records. When I was about to produce tracks form RKP, it was already decided in my brain that this will go to RKP. When I plan before production, I always produce in the right direction.

How much do you get DJ in your country and more specifically Islamabad where you live?

Once a month or once in two months, I am usually more focused on the production side and I try to produce completely new music for each gig and that requires a gap in between two gigs.

Please tell us your approach to DJing, and how do you go about programming a set.

Since I play real instruments other than DJing, so my music theory is pretty strong and that makes me a Key Oriented DJ. I make sure that I choose a journey from a certain key based on a few things. Other than that, I make sure that the energy in the whole set increases.

How has DJing to crowds influenced your view of music as a producer?

It has a big impact. Sometimes you think that you have not produced a good tune, you test it out in a crowd and the response of crowd tells you something otherwise. And becomes a learning curve.

Where do you source the majority of music for your gigs? Is it primarily from producer friends or promo mailouts at this point?

Apart for my own tracks, its mostly from my own label, rarely from friends.

How much prep do you put into the sets you play, or are they spontaneous for the most part? And how does feeling the crowd's energy affect your selections?

I usually do my homework well. I always know where I am playing, what sort of crowd I am playing for, what type of a weather it is and what time of year it is. So keeping all of that in mind, I wisely select my tracks and play the whole set twice at my studio before playing that sequence of tracks live. Rarely, but still sometimes, I have to change a track or bpm by sensing the feelings of crowd.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

Auseeb 9:00-11:00pm
Ruben Karapetyan 11:00-1:00am
Kamilo Sanclemente 1:00-3:00am
DJ Ruby 3:00-5:00am
Gorkiz 5:00-7:00am

Current top five tracks in your sets?

Fernando Olaya - Land Of Confusion (Gorkiz Remix) [Transensations]
Gorkiz & Mind Echoes - Without Your Noose (Ruben Karapetyan Remix)
Bondarev, Aman Anand - WARPP (DJ Ruby Remix) [WARPP]
Venao - Cerebral (Auseeb Remix) [COMET Records]
Gorkiz, TEELCO - Dreaming of Arp (Original Mix) [For Senses Records]

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life? (Something not music related.)

Well I am an Electrical Engineer and a Businessman already. From the artistic side, I would have been an abstract artist and painter.

What’s something we do not know about you?

That I am going to release some commercial rock music too.

If you are not DJing, in the studio or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Maybe in my bedroom while I am doing some scientific research or in my work garage as I like crafting things from wood and electronics.

What are some of your favorite TV series? Both all time and recently, what have you been enjoying lately?

Game of Thrones all time favourite. Loki is the recent favourite one.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Reading books, watching movies, spending time with the family and friends.

What does 2024 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

2024 Has a very special place in my heart. I have outreached my goals for this year. I planned of producing 25 tracks this year (approx. 2 tracks per month) and just in the first 4 months, I have made 27 tracks. So I am more than satisfied with this year and what it has brought to me.

'Profanity' is available now via Comet Records: https://tinyurl.com/yfhv7muj

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