I've worked with legendary mix engineer Young Guru (man behind the sound of Jay-Z) and have been trained at SAE, CRE8 Music Academy (by Grammy-Nominated Doug Fenske), and Harvard University's School of ElectroAcoustic Composition (HUSEAC, by Head Engineer Seth Torres). I've mixed for acts from Boston to LA and own ALL the awesome UA/Waves plugins!
MIXING: I mix in Pro Tools using my UA interface and plugins, as well as my Waves Gold Bundle + the whole suite of SoundToyz plugins. I don't use any stock plug-ins and disagree with folks who say these compare. They don't. UA is at the top of the game and I'm at the top of my game in terms of utilizing these plugins!
I don't have a ton of credits but I've been trained by the best and I mix my own music, so reference "Ali Imad" on Apple Music, Spotify, etc. and see if you like my mixes. That's all me. My lack of credits is due to me focusing on my own stuff. The biggest name I've mixed for is an original radio station recording of Ingrid Michaelson's hit, "The Way I Am", which remains unreleased.
COMPING/TUNING: I own/use AutoTune and Melodyn and have a mastery over these tools. Again, I've been trained by the best!
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Interview with Ali Imad
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Mixing songs. I love mixing -- and mastering is cool. I don't enjoy recording others or composing.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Noah "40" Shebib (Drake's producer) inspires me. A less known producer, "AP" -- is another big inspiration. I'm inspired by Young Guru and Mixed by Ali, not just 'cause we share names.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I have a full home-studio set up with studio monitors, Sony Professional headphones, and lots of different headphones to test audio with. I believe a mix is done when it sounds awesome through an iPhone. It doesn't take much to make something sound great through flattering speakers and people are almost never consuming it that way.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I sit in my bed with an "over-bed" table and mix non-stop for hours/days.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Vocals, vocals, vocals. I can tell you what all good engineers say, "clarity, stereo imaging, width, depth" bla bla -- and I *do* prioritize that stuff. But I like vocals to sit on top and everything else to serve the vocal performance. If you don't like that, I may not be your guy (or tell me not to do that). For example, I love Prince, but I love the mixing style of MJ's records a lot more. I don't like how Prince's vocals were given the same volume/treatment as the instrumentation. On the other hand, I LOVE how Drake or Jay-Z sit high above the instrumentation but the instrumentation still plays an awesome role.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Vocals. Same as what I said in the "what do you bring?" question.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, indie pop, positive/conscious music, etc.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: BELIEVE that an amazing artist and their beautiful vocal-instrument are going to bless your instrumental because and that will help not over-produce and communicate to the artist that the pockets you left in there were wise and intentional.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Noah "40" Shebib because of his cinematic approach and respect for the vocalist.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I guess I'll answer this as an artist because I talked enough about the engineering side: New-Wave SoulTrap sound with a Bob Marley message. Love-centered; non-preachy, non-political. Just positive yet also hip and street. Imagine if Common had a Post-Malone sound.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I have 4 degrees including a doctorate from Harvard and MBA from Emory U, but have been doing music all along. I now do music and acting full-time -- but I've been doing music at-least part time for 13 years.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Assuming I had a power outlet and internet I would only need my laptop with protools and my interface. Probably my 88-key Yamaha too. I don't buy the outboard gear hype. I did until UA came and made their plugins sound the same. People hate to admit it but it's true. If you're a traditionalist I'm not your guy.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Read or at least browse this whole Q&A. Take my biases/style/strengths seriously and you should be able to tell whether I'm your guy. If you like what you see you'll love what you hear.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: I would probably mix first and then give them questions like these: do you want more/less reverb? Delay? Autotune? Panning? Etc. Etc.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: You need outboard gear and need to mix in a professional studio to have a professional sound. I could easily have access to both and choose not to because it's an inconvenience and waste of my time/money. Again, a lot of people disagree with this. This is a polarizing debate in our world.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Plugins, autotune, melodyne, compression, eq -- customers are increasingly speaking the language. They get it. I tell them what they need to know and usually the answer is "yes I can."
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Being my own boss; being creative, controlling my own schedule.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: Within reason, I'll keep mixing til you're happy. I won't mind feedback and tune-up requests as long as they aren't totally vague. I'll work with you (and happy to chat by phone) to help you vocalize what you want/need.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: In terms of ROI its obviously digital. In terms of quality it's a preference but I still say digital. I addressed this elsewhere and I don't want to belabor the point but bottom line, UA plugins have caught up to Analog and Analog traditionalists don't want to face it. Because then they'd have to face that my Macbook matches the potential of their million dollar studio and that hurts.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Edgar Hernandez referred me to SoundBetter and he's outstanding. Wealth of experience, knows this game in and out and he's a giant in the Audio Engineering space.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Releasing my own music on all platforms. Every week through March 2019 you'll see a new release from me (Ali Imad).
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: My upcoming rap song "Return to Love," which I wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered. It's a freestyle of epic proportions. I'm proud of all my recent releases but this will demonstrate I can rap as good as any in the game right now! The mix is also insane. I really took extra time with the small things in that mix -- I wanted the mix and the lyrics to be in conversation. Pans, volume automation, etc.