Aamir Yaqub

Engineer | Producer | Writer

Aamir Yaqub on SoundBetter

I'm a GRAMMY® Award-winning Engineer, Producer and Writer specialising in Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul and Pop music.

I've worked extensively at Metropolis Studios where I collaborated with a number of respected GRAMMY® Award-winning artists, producers and engineers. During my tenure there I worked with high profile acts including Rihanna, David Guetta, Ne-Yo, Sia, Will.I.Am and Leona Lewis, as well as with major labels and corporations.

I am freelance and available for hire in a number of capacities, please enquire with your requirements.

Send me a note through the contact button above.

Interview with Aamir Yaqub

  1. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  2. A: I have various places I work out of- the simplest being my laptop! I have a home studio setup in a treated room, with a more powerful workstation, a stack of plugins and an audio interface, as well as a control surface, a bunch of instruments (keyboards, drum machine and guitars) and microphones. Working at project studios usually gives me more access to more microphones and a dedicated live room- usually, as well as a console and some outboard gear. When I work at the big facilities, I pretty much have access to whatever I desire! Vintage microphones, outboard gear and, of course, the all important large format console!

  3. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  4. A: I'm inspired by the big classics- The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince. Contemporaries like Kanye, Timbaland, Pharrell, Mark Ronson. I have a huge respect for amazing engineers, again, both classic ones like Bruce Swedien, Jimmy Douglass, Glyn Johns- but also contemporaries like Manny Marroquin, Jaycen Joshua, Tom Elmhurst, Dave Pensado, Tony Maserati and Serban Ghenea. The list is as endless as there is great music!!!

  5. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  6. A: I think it would remiss of me not to mention that my favourite project to date was working with Roc Nation on Rihanna's 'Unapologetic' Album. I met so many extremely talented producers and writers and working so closely with Roc Nation and Rihanna as an Engineer was just an incredible experience, where I learnt so much and made some great friends- I got to work with people I respect largely who have produced and written some of my favourite records. I'm proud that I was part of such a huge commercial project, but also that I worked my ass off and proved to myself that I actually live, breathe and eat this lifestyle (I did 20 hour days back to back for weeks on end!). It doesn't get much bigger than working at that level and I was proud I rose to the challenge and smashed it out the park!

  7. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  8. A: I'm currently mixing an EP for and acoustic singer/songwriter and working on a record for an electronic soul duo- both super dope projects and inspiring in their own ways. I'm also doing some engineering work cutting vocals mainly for BMG- as well as working closely with one of their writers on production of a bigger project. It's all go, go, go!

  9. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  10. A: My main man Julian Wharton is coming through with some incredible mixes and I'm super proud to have him as part of my team.

  11. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  12. A: I'm gonna cheat and say both. Having come up in a largely analog world, there's nothing sweeter than printing drums to a tape machine and hearing that analog vibe add some voodoo, but digital is too darn convenient! and digital emulation of analog is getting SCARILY good now!

  13. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  14. A: To rock it till the wheels fall off! i.e. to see the project through until their vision is delivered.

  15. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  16. A: That I get to do what people dream of doing. Everyday. And I get paid for it. It's incredible and I never take it for granted.

  17. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  18. A: 'How long will it take?' is the most common question and my answer is a timeline i.e. '2 weeks,' 'Plus however long it takes to get it right.' Because there are many people involved in the chain of making a record- it can take 2 weeks to get a given project 95% of the way and another 2 on the just the last 5%! It's important to be patient enough to know that in advance!

  19. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  20. A: That it's easy now that I have some status. It's not- in fact, it may even be harder! Working with huge artists is a gift and a curse, because they're not always going to use you on their projects, so you have to be really proactive and open to opportunities. Yes, I still get asked to do huge projects, but if I sat around waiting for the phone to ring on those, I'd only be working a slight amount every year! It's about finding and working with people who believe in you, but also, you believe in them and their art!

  21. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  22. A: Usually about influences- who influences them musically and otherwise. And what it is specifically about those influences that they want to come through in the music. Sometimes people are heavily influenced by a movie or other art forms, that's great- but I really try and narrow down and hone in on how that has made them feel and how to translate into their records.

  23. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  24. A: To never be afraid to ask questions! I'm so easy to speak to and a reasonable guy, so asking me to turn something up or down in a mix, or how did I get that sound, or anything at all is really not an issue! I'm all about getting to know one another and having a great relationship, so I'll ask questions too! It really helps the music to be better!

  25. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  26. A: My laptop (with Logic and Pro Tools!), audio interface, EV RE-20 microphone, drum machine and MIDI Keyboard! Should do the job!

  27. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  28. A: I started out late picking up music- I sang when I was 15, learned keys around that time and then caught a bug for production. From college through to university I studied Music Technology/Production up to Masters level and then I came out into the wide world and didn't do anything music related for 2 years- I had and office job to earn money. With my savings, I managed to float myself for 9 months as an intern in Metropolis Studios, after which I was an assistant engineer. I then worked there solidly for a few years and after getting a GRAMMY, I decided to go freelance. In total it's an overnight success story that took only 15 years!

  29. Q: How would you describe your style?

  30. A: I'd say it's fluid, like water and can adapt to whatever situation I am put in. Stylistically, my preference has always been to be bold and loud- but I appreciate the nuances and subtleties of certain records and so therefore I always like to just adapt to whatever a certain situation requires. I like depth for art, but bolshiness for fun- this usually translates to the music I am involved in!

  31. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  32. A: Stevie Wonder, just because he's a huge part of the reason I started wanting to have anything to with music in the first place. His records have always inspired me, as well as his artistic vision and aesthetic. He's the most important person in my musical life!

  33. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  34. A: Trust your ears! Music production has become about screens over the years, which is cool and helpful in some cases, but also hindering in others. Sometimes I deprive myself of the visual aspect when working on things by turning the screen off when I'm EQ'ing something or whatever because it forces me to listen and do what's right for that sound at that time. If I had the visuals in front of me, I might think I've done too much, or I've not done enough because the screen is telling me so. It's much better and valuable to trust your ears!

  35. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  36. A: I tend to work on 'Urban' music (even though I hate that term!) so that's music that is a derivative of Soul, RnB, Hip Hop, Rap. Most of my work has been on the more commercial (pop) side of things, but independent artists/projects allow me a little more creative freedom. Outside of that, I'm currently mixing a record for a singer/songwriter, which is a wonderful experience, as I grew up listening to all genres of music and I really respect well rounded professionals who think outside of genre limitations.

  37. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  38. A: Understanding. I think that music and creation of records is built around understanding one another and the music itself. A song will have a message- hence understanding that message will allow you to enhance it in the way it need to be enhanced. An artist will have a vision, so understanding that vision will allow you to see it through for them. Sounds also tell you something, from a low 808 to a high string part- it's about understanding what they're saying to you. Music is a language after all and all the elements of a record need to speaking the same language and understanding one another to create a glorious noise together.

  39. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  40. A: I'd like to hope I bring the best OUT of a song, as opposed to bring anything to it. For me, I'm like a tool that just helps the song come alive through the speakers and paint the picture the creators wanted- using my creativity and skill, knowledge and experience.

  41. Q: What's your typical work process?

  42. A: Typically speaking, my different roles require different approaches, but I usually kick off by understanding my clients vision as best as I can in order to move forward. This might mean meeting for a coffee or chat over Skype, depending on where we both are. From that point forward, it's so much easier to map out schedules and timelines based on requirements- i.e. if someone needs something mixed in a specific facility, it allows me and my team to work out how long we need that facility, what gear we need and also simple things like what the vibe of the record is going to be. Similarly, if recording/producing for someone requires certain things, I can look into who is best to deliver that killer drum performance or arrange the live strings for the record. In short- my approach is calculated and methodical but obviously leaves plenty of room for creativity!

  43. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  44. A: It's a 3 way split of Production, Engineering and Mixing. I tend to do all 3 equally, sometimes even within one project!

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