Audeze interviews music producer Asad Khan

Asad Khan is a Pakistani-born Canadian music producer from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. The music he makes is a marriage of sounds between his roots and his love for bass music punch.

 

"I have a new confidence in my mixes once I've run everything through the MX4 headphones!" - Asad Khan
Here's our talk with Asad:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I am really proud of the 'Butterflies' Remix I did for LA based composer and violinist Raaginder. Just over a year ago I was listening to the original song in Morocco and I thought it'd be amazing to work with this artist one day. We connected at a festival a few months later and I did a remix for his track Butterflies which saw great traction on Spotify, particularly in Turkey, which is a place I really want to perform in. The song also lead to further work with Raaginder and we have an EP together set to release soon.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

My background is DJ'ing, which is my first love, but I started making my own music a few years ago to pursue my dream of being a DJ on the festival circuit and to express my unique musical palette through my own writing. Nowadays I am writing, composing and now finally starting to mix and master my own music. So I'd say it's pretty comprehensive at the moment, I am writing the initial idea, doing the sound design and arrangement, and now finally learning to polishing up the mix all the way to the end.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I grew up listening to Pakistani classical music because of my mom, and fell in love with break-beat and house music while attending my first few music festivals in British Columbia. I draw inspiration from my travels and nature a lot, every time I travel I record sounds from a new part of the world and try to incorporate them into my music. My upcoming album 'Escape' was mostly written/composed during my trip to Argentina last year. In terms of soundscapes I love lush strings, cinematic swells and emotional melodies.

My mom is a music fanatic, so I grew up listening to the greats of Pakistani music around her, a lot of legends like the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Through osmosis and my time around my mother listening to this music I developed my initial taste. About 10 years ago I started DJ'ing at private events and clubs, which steered me more towards dance music. I actually went to the University of British Columbia to become an Electrical Engineer which was going to be my full-time gig, or so I thought. But once I started performing at events I realized that my true passion and love is for music and for curating special moments for people on the dance-floor. Since then both my taste and my skills in production have progressed, I now do music full-time and co-own a record label called Snakes x Ladders - a Surrey-based record label and cultural channel that seeks to empower local youth by helping them create global impact with their music.

Can you name any factors you feel majorly influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

Yeah - definitely. A lot of amazing moments and role models. Growing up in Pakistan, it was my mother, artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Vital Signs. After moving to Canada I first heard CloZee and TroyBoi's music at a music festival which were huge moments for me. I was not familiar with these artists but they left me wondering, CloZee in particular, that there has to be a way for me to create music that borrows from my Pakistani heritage but also champions the big electronic/bass sound that I really enjoyed. That moment also left me with a really important realization that while I absolutely loved DJ'ing, it wasn't allowing me to express my own musicality and ideas, and for that I'd have to learn how to write music. From there I met a huge influence and now my manager Tarun Nayar, from the Vancouver based band 'Delhi 2 Dublin'. Tarun's band was one of the few bands of South Asian heritage that were getting slots on mainstream festivals and I reached out to him to help me with achieving my goals. We hit it off really well and he has been instrumental in guiding me in my journey so far.

Last but definitely not least, a huge influence for me is the amazing Indian composer AR Rahman. His music growing up was always on repeat and I've now had a chance to do two official remixes for him which still feels surreal.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

I think finding a space for my music has always been a tough one for me. My music doesn't have a lot of English vocals, and I live in Canada, so it has been hard to find distribution and support from playlisters etc. I don't know if I'd approach it differently because slowly but surely, the music I am creating has started to find its way to listeners around the world and that has been really encouraging - it has motivated me to stick to my gut, and produce an honest and true expression of my music and to believe in the process. It takes time for good things to happen and the frustration of this situation has actually taught me that.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I recently started using Spiff and Soothe - and I'm in love. It makes the eq process so much easier and faster. The east-west play library has been a huge help for the kind of music I write as well, it has a lot of high quality samples of instruments from all over the world.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

I feel like I am still figuring it out for myself, but here's what I have learned so far: there is no overnight success, it is a marathon and to be happy and successful you do have to love the process and put in honest work. This doesn't have to be an obsessive and unhealthy amount of work that doesn't leave you time to find balance for other things in your life, it just has to be consistent, concentrated, and focused work as often as you can. The results take time but they definitely happen if you stick to it.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

I very recently switched over to headphones for multiple reasons: one is that despite having a treated room I find it easier to mix in headphones. Secondly it is also much more silent when I am writing, which I really appreciate. I can't be the only one who is driven crazy by the sound of my computer's fan when I'm trying to record a melody etc! And lastly, so I can travel and write music easily with the confidence of knowing that I'm hearing the sound for what it is. This is crucial for writing on the road as well as for creating edits and changes last minute before a show.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

I have a new confidence in my mixes once I've run everything through the MX4 headphones! As soon as I started working more in my headphones I was hearing details that I wasn't able to pick up on my studio monitors. I'm currently working on some high profile remixes and a new EP, these headphones have been used to create pretty much all the music that I'm planning on releasing in 2022!