Amir Hussain: Trance is not a casual thing. It’s a lifestyle. Every person who loves trance music, makes it their life. [Interviewing artists]
This will be a long read. But a very good one. Amir Hussain is one of the most genuine people from the trance industry I met till now and he had a lot to say about it.
He made my day, when he recognized me at Luminosity and told me he likes my writing and work with Trancers.ro. I never in a million years I would have dreamed an artist I listen to and appreciate would come to me and tell me he knows me by my project.
I am grateful he accepted my invitation and for telling me all the stories: of who was he, how he started out, who is he now, challenge he came across, projects he is working on, people he appreciates and support and other tips and trick of the industry. Sit back and relax while reading this interview. And I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Who is Amir Hussain. When do you actually started music?
Amir Hussain used to be a student, a school student, from Bahrain, which is where I am from, a small country in the Middle East. I went to school there. And I wasn’t very good at school. I was playing games all the time. I used to play World of Warcraft back in the day, and this was my life back then. I would go to school, come back from school at 2 pm, 3 pm, and just play WoW, from the minute I was back, to the minute I had to sleep. Basically, through playing these games, I would watch on Youtube, compilations of people who make videos of the game and sometimes they would put trance music in the background. And I would listen to it. And I’d think: This is really nice! What is this music? And then, I would see the track names, I would look them out, I would listen to them and then I see other similar things. And at the time, I didn’t know it was called trance. For me, it was all, what they called Techno. Where I am from, this is just techno music. See, is this house music? No. It is techno. Trance? No. This is techno. As long as it goes like ntz ntz ntz ntz, it is techno. I didn’t know any better. I used to be one of those people. You know?
I remember when I first found out it is Trance music, and I remember the very first time I googled trance music. And I remember coming across that radio station, which was DI fm. And that is how I started listening to a lot of dance music, not just trance. But then, I figured out actually: trance was the one I listened to, the most. And basically, narrowed it down to listening only trance music. It was just trance. So, that is how I got to find out about Armin, Markus Schulz, you know, all the big names. And that is when my life started to change: from someone who was obsessed with gaming, to someone who was obsessed with trance music.
My intention was never really to produce music. My intention was to DJ. I thought: there is a lot of great music out there, what am I going to offer? There is a lot of good music anyway. This is amazing. And what’s a guy in Bahrain, gonna do anyway? So basically, my first interest was DJing. And through DJing, I realised, you can’t actually do too much with Djing. I had moved to Uk and I started to go the events here, and meeting all these other producers. Some of them happened to be engineers as well, like sound engineers and with the little knowledge I already had about production, I had the opportunity to sit-down and work with these engineers and learn from them. This contributed to my knowledge about production to this day. For me, it was always about DJing. But because DJing, you can’t actually go too far with DJing if you do not release music, or produce music, that is how Amir Hussain started out.
Through working, and sitting with other producers, and learning from them, that is how I started releasing music and that is how I started to slowly improve my skills, not only in music production, but also in a lot of things. In social media, and knowing how to network, my social skills with people, etc, etc.
So, who is Amir in the day by day life? Beside producing music and Marketing and Public Relations graduate?
From a day to day life, I am still the same guy who got into this music. The 18, 19 years old kid from Bahrain, in his bedroom who got into trance music and thought it was the most amazing thing ever. I am still the same person. I do not view myself as different and to any fan or any person in the scene, because we share the same thing. In common. Our life is trance music. We both love trance music and it is our lifestyle. Trance is not a casual thing. Every person who loves trance music, is their life. I never met anyone who is casual about trance music. I don’t even know if that is a thing.
But me, in my daily life, I am a massive football fan. If you follow me on Instagram, you will also notice that I am a massive foodie. I like to eat, I like to cook. I like to try new restaurants, – probably not the best thing to weight gain. I like to travel. This is a nice perk of this job. That it gives you the opportunity to travel, to go to places that you’ve never been before.
I am just an outgoing chilled out guy, who enjoys making people laugh, make people happy and for me, if that is what trance does, with my sets or any music that I am releasing, that people listen with my name on it, then I am happy for that. Because, for me it is like sharing what makes me happy. And for them to be happy about it, it is like a 2 way thing. So for me, that is who I really am day to day. That is a nice summary of who I am as a person.
Do you ever regret taking the decision to move to another country?
No. In fact, my family actually told me: Amir you should go.
I do not know. Some people are too afraid to move away from their own country and they might not be able to live abroad. They may think they won’t be able to handle it. They might leave and they might see that this is too much, but for me, I already grew up into a westernised kind of life back in my home country. I used to speak English the same way I speak it today, fluently, I used to enjoy a lot of things from western culture, so moving here for me, was not a culture shock. It never was and it still isn’t. I visit my family at least once a year. Sometimes I miss it, but then I go back and I realise why I left in the first place. Some people see it a a brave big decision, it is, sure, but it was certainly not a struggle.
Do you wish to have moved somewhere else? In another country?
Well, tough one really. I had the chance to play in Australia, back in 2015 and I immediately fell in love with the place. I haven’t visited Canada yet, but I have family there. And Canada seems so interesting. All I hear about Canada is good things. So Canada, seems another interesting option that I probably may have or could’ve moved to. I’ve been to the US, twice as a tourist, twice to play as a DJ, also interesting country. So intriguing that is so different. Like I’ve been to 4 different states and each one is different from the other, or completely different from the other.
But, would I have preferred moving to another country than in the UK? I would say NO. Because 2 of my loves at the time, which I still have today, football and trance music are very massive in the uk. Europe has a massive trance scene, so I would not say I would’ve preferred to go to another country. I am happy with the decision I have come to the Uk. And since I am here, 90% of my friends are from here. Unfortunately, not in contact with many people back home. That’s what happens when you move away from home for so long.
What should be your biggest musical accomplishment when you look back till now?
Hmmmm. I’d say, for me quite a few. The first one that comes up in my head now, would be: I never in a million years imagined to go and visit Australia. Because it is too far. And it is too expensive to get there. A plane ticket to Australia is too expensive. But for me, to have someone to pay me to play there, and pay for my plane ticket to get there… I played a 3 cities tour. I played Sidney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
And the funny thing is, when I played Melbourne, the Melbourne gig wasn’t very crowded. Sidney gig was crowded. Melbourne gig, it wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t very crowded. The people that were there (around 50-60 people), really enjoyed my set and they told to one of the bigger promoters in Melbourne, that I was here and that they enjoyed my set. And the bigger promoter booked me to play the following weekend. This was not scheduled, this was no in the plan. For me this is a big accomplishment. It is a nice accomplishment. Not only that I impressed people enough to get a bigger promoter to book me while I was there, but that was one of my favourite gigs full stop. I think there were easily 500-600 people. It was packed. And I played the closing set and that was absolutely incredible.
Also, a massive accomplishment was to play Future Sound of Egypt 450 in October 2016, in Manchester at Victoria Warehouse. That was such a great gig. That was immense. I played back to back with Liam Wilson, really really great guy, underrated producer, a great DJ. That was a good one also.
Another accomplishment, I would say. It is probably an accomplishment that many DJs would say that they have. And that is coming across to the artists you looked up to you were listening as a fan and then them knowing who you are. For me that is an accomplishment. That is a great accomplishment. I was at the Amsterdam Dance Event in October 2017, and I had the chance to meet Armin. And to chat with him. And that was really lovely. Because he knew who I was. And he was telling me to keep up with the music and that he likes playing my music on the radio show. That was really nice to hear.
Even Markus Schulz, who doesn’t have a history of playing 138, 140 bpm. I met him at Luminosity last year and I told him: Hey, I am Amir. And he was like: Yeah. I know who you are. I listen to this faster stuff sometimes. I do appreciate that as well. And we were chatting and one year later I’ve just released a remix for him for Markus Schulz ft. Ethan Thompson – Love Me Like You Never Did. For me that is an accomplishment. Because he was my first idol in the trance scene. Markus Schulz was my first ever, like GOD. And for me, to remix him, to get asked to remix for him that was a huge accomplishment. And for him to know who I was even more.
Which single track that you’ve produced had the biggest impact on your career?
The track that had the biggest impact on my career wasn’t an original track. It was a remix. It was a bootleg remix actually: Mat Zo – Lucky Strike. That remix was huge. It had a lot of support. People came up to me and told me how much they loved it more than any other track. And it really propelled me. 2015 was a great year for me. I played some really nice gigs in 2015 on the basis of Lucky Strike. That much it did well for me.
But as an original track, I would say it is a tie between Time Lapse on WAO138 and To the Lost on In Trance We Trust. Those had great impact for my career and also happen to be my 2 favourite originals. Third one is a track called Tylos, but those 2 are the greatest from me till now.
To the lost, came right after Lucky strike and that did also well. So it was like BOOM impact. And then Boom impact right after. So it was such a great start of the year for me in 2015. Many DJs played those tracks. It was great. And I need to hit those heights again. I need to something as good as that again. But it is not easy. No one is a constant hit making machine. It is impossible.
How do you actually produce your music? Do your tracks tell a story? What is the inspiration behind your tracks?
Some people say that inspiration comes from having a glass of wine, smoking a joint, going out and enjoying the sunset, walking in the park.. It’s none of these things for me. None.
For me, inspiration comes from listening to other tracks from now and in the past. And you’d think: Aye, that is a nice idea. Let me see if I can make something similar, but twist it to my own original idea. And that is my main source of inspiration. Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night I have an idea, and I record it on my phone, like I whistle it, or I’m like tu tu ru tu dumm, like an absolute idiot, and then I test it out.
What is funny for me, (I know I was mentioning food earlier), the idea to remix Lucky Strike it is a really funny story. Here it is how Amir Hussain got the idea to remix Lucky strike. Here it is how Amir Hussain got the idea to remix the track that did the biggest for him.
One day, I was having lunch. I was having lunch at KFC. I finished my meal and was walking out and then it just hit me out of nowhere: Mat Zo – Lucky Strike. Hey, that is a great track. That is a really good track. The melody is so good. Has anyone have remixed it? And I’ve went and I looked. And no one remixed it. And I thought to myself: You know what? This could do with a remix. Cuz’ that melody is huge. Maybe do an alternative version, with the main melody as the main section with a nice big lead and it worked. I do not know what it was. What was the inspiration. Was it fried chicken, or was it just me walking outside of the restaurant? I do not know. So, sometimes it is just random.
Sometimes, the tracks do tell a story. I can’t say every time a track has a story, because my life is not that interesting. I do not have that many stories. To the lost for example, was actually dedicated to my grandfather, who passed away, not long before that track. I had to dedicate something for him somehow. This track was going into a direction that I knew it was going to be one of my best ones.
Some tracks have stories. Some don’t.
What do you think makes a perfect track?
In trance, I would say a perfect track boils down to a very very important thing: a damn catchy good melody. Trance is all about the melody. And the emotions that the melody has. So if a track is so well produced, but it has no melody, then I can guarantee you it will be overlooked compared to a track that is not so well produced, but has an amazing melody. So that is the most important thing in a trance track I think: a good melody and obviously drive, a good drive, good base. And for me, I am a big sucker vocals, not like sung vocals, but like non spoken vocals. Like the vocal effects to hear in tracks. Like the aaa, uuu, all that kind of stuff.
I always have them in my productions and my main sections. Or even in the built up and in the breakdown, I love female vocals in my tracks.
So I would say those are the things that really make a trance track great. If people can feel the emotion, behind a good lovely catchy melody and associate with it, then with trance you’re onto a winner with that.
Have you ever experienced the creator’s block? And if yes, how did you snap out of it?
Yes. Many times. By continuing. And continuing and continuing and continuing. Until you snap out of it. Simple as that. I’ve had quite a few creative blocks across my career. That is actually a good question.
I remember the first time in 2013 (i think) or 2014, I did a bootleg of an Armin van Buuren track: Armin van Buuren – Rush Hour. I did a remix of that and Armin played that so many times. That track had a lot of good support. And it put my name on the map. But after that, for like maybe 4 or 5 months, I didn’t have anything as strong as Rush Hour. And it started getting to me. Like “mmm.. Ohh, have I peaked?” / “Can I ever be as good as that?”.
So that is the thing. And I continued. I continued until one day I decided “You know what? , Let me have fun with a track. I just wanna have fun with this track. I don’t want it to be uplifty, to be techy, I just wanted it to be Amir Hussain music. And that track was called Catharsis. It was signed to Monster Tunes. Basically, that track, when I finished it, I was in new Zealand. I was in New Zealand to see a friend. And I remember at 4 am 5 am in the morning my phone kept buzzing. It kept buzzing. It kept buzzing. I said: Ohh God! What is happening here? I hope everything is ok. And I wake up and I see that Armin played the track. And I was like : Oohh. Ok that is great. ok. I guess this is good. Maybe I am out of creative block now. Things have started to come back to normal. So that is why I always have a fond memory of that track. Because that was the first track that got me out of my first creative block in my music career.
But the key is to just not give up. Don’t give up! Some people get success quickly, some people get success over a lot period of time. Whether you get success or you don’t. You might never get success, sure. But you will never get to know if you give up. The point is to never give up. And to try and keep improving and to resist. And keep going and going and going. And that’s how you get out of it.
Do you ever get the “help me being a better producer” / “give me feedback on my track” requests
Yeah. A lot. I actually do not mind. But sometimes, I do not always have the time. And if I do have the time, I always give constructive criticism. Like if I like something, I will say why I like it. If I do not like it, I’ll say why I don’t like it. And I would say how I think it can improve, and I will say like: look, this is not there yet. Or this is nearly there.
And I think all producers do. All DJs do. Even I do it sometimes. I always have specific people I ask. I do not ask random people. I ask specific people. I have specific people I ask. It is for example, like an engineer, like a studio engineer I’ve worked with, or if it is one of my producer friends or something. I do not ask anyone for feedback. Because some people are not in a position to give feedback. You know? So that’s the thing.
What is the simplest advice you’d give to someone fresh in the industry?
You have to be patient. Patience is going to pay off. Be patient. And keep at it. And you need to develop 2 things to succeed in this industry: no. 1 patience. no. 2 thick skin. And what I mean: you need to be mentally tough. Because you are going to get a lot of the time you can be overlooked, ignored, criticised, even bashed. Some people literally bash you. You know? Some people say : ohh.. this is rubbish. Ohh this is crap. Ohh this is bla bla bla bla bla. You have to learn to accept that. And just take it and move on. And be patient and learn from it. So that is my best advice for anyone new.
Any new projects coming up?
Yes. Quite a few for next year. I have a new tech trance original coming out which I’ve signed with Grotesque, and it is coming on a very big compilation, can’t reveal which yet.
I also have collaborations: one of the collaborations I’ve got coming up is with one of the new comers who is a favourite of mine, this guy called Leroy Moreno. He is from USA, he’s done a track with Paul Van Dyk on his album last year, sorry this year, and I really loved this guy’s melodies and vocal chops. So I heard this guy’s music and I thought wow I have never heard of this guy before, and he impressed me with one or two tracks. I got in touch with him and I said to him how much I like his music and proposed to work on a track together. And we finished it. Last year in December.
Also, I got a remix of a Christina Sotto track. I love her vocals. She used to do vocals with Tritonal back in the day. Those are 3 I can tell you about now. The rest is too early to tell.
Have you ever thought of releasing an album?
Yes I have. But, not in the near future. Not yet. Because, I still want to establish myself and my sound and my brand, at a higher level before I release an artist album. I do not want to release an artist album for the sake of releasing an artist album. I want to release an album at the right time for the right reasons.
So what is your favourite label? Trance label? And why? Off all time?
And why? Ok. Of all time? That’s easy. Coldharbour Recordings. Coldharbour has a special place in my heart. Some of the most amazing music that I’ve come across was on Coldharbour recordings. Remains to be my favorite label of trance music.
I am also a huge fan of Electronic Elements. It is not going anymore, it stopped I think around 2012. Electronic Elements was gold. They had some of the most amazing progressive trance from back in the early 2000s and mis 2000s.
Recently, I’ve really enjoyed a lot of stuff coming out on Digital Society, WAO138, Future Sound of Egypt.
Any upcomers we should watch out?
Yes. I already mentioned Leroy Moreno, but 2 others I really recommend who I think are underrated and I think they are going to have incredible careers:
1. Sam Laxton – huge hige fan fan of Sam Laxton, both as a person and as a producer. The guys is younger than me and he is smarter, and more talented, and better looking than me when I was his age.
2 Another one is my Spanish hermano a guy called Mike Sanders. Mike Sanders is a really talented guy. Underrated, awesome productions. Really hope he develops more for him next year.
Who else? Niko. I do like Niko/ Nikolauss. He does some great stuff. He sent me 2 of his latest tracks the other days and I said: I am gonna play these as soon as I can. These are really great tracks. So shout out to Nikolauss, as well.
What do you think about the trance community in general?
The trance community, you mean, the trance community like the scene I operate in which is like the DJ’s and producers, and the promoters or are you talking about the fans?
Let’s talk about the fans first.
Ok. The fans. This is going from a DJ/ producers perspective. You have different kind of fans really. You have fans they really know their stuff. Some fans are so educated. And those are the fans every producer and DJ loves and wants. Those are the educated people that you know that you’re not gonna have to keep making the biggest amount of effort in terms of PR for, because they are already on the dot. But you also have other fans, who are biased. They are biased because they follow the name rather than the music. Because they follow the name even if the name can sometimes be average, they will still religiously follow the name. For what ever reason.
But the trance community is great. Honestly, my personal facebook it’s reached maximum capacity and 75 % of it are people that I not actually physically met. But they are my friends, more than people who I actually met. So, that tells you something.
For me that’s the trance community. That’s what it does. Trance music, it makes people friends even tough you haven’t met yet, and it is wonderful. I prefer to see them as friends, and of course.. the fact that they are fans.. is something I also appreciate.
In terms of DJs, well, the name of the game is respect. You give respect, you earn respect. I am close with some DJs, some other I am not. Some other I don’t really know them very well, or like our personalities clash but it doesn’t mean I do not respect them. You have to respect everyone. Because no one gets where they do just like that. Anyone who thinks that a producer can get lucky, or like say buy his way into success, or what ever, .. sorry for my language.. but that’s bullshit. For you to get somewhere, you’re doing something right. And that’s what many people fail to see. Just because you don’t see, it doesn’t mean that is not true. I have a respect and a relationship with as many names as possible, and I try to support as many of them as possible.
If you could change your place for one day with another artist, not necessarily trance artist, with whom would you change places?
I don’t know. Maybe, I would switch with Markus Schulz. For a day. Just so I can see his music library and see all the tracks I may have not come across from his library and I can go and listen to them. He has quite a nice lifestyle with the DJing.. so I’d like to switch with him for a day.
Can you tell the top 10 trance tracks of all times?
I am gonna tell you a top ten, but please don’t take this as a top ten in order. This is not in order.
No. 1 is number one. But the rest is not in order.
My favourite trance track of all time. The one that changed my life completely, completely, completely is Sean Tyas – Lift. This, for me is the greatest trance track of all times. It is fucking amazing. The melody, the acid, the breakdown, the lead. The melody itself the kind of melody where .. as anyone who remixes it they can’t make it sound too different to the original. Because the melody was meant for the synth lead that the original has.
- SeanTyas – Lift
- Simon Patterson – Us
- Armin van Buuren – Rush Hour
- Mat Zo – Lucky Strike
- Jochen Miller – Lost Connection
- Thomas Bronzwaer – Close Horizon (Giuseppe Ottaviani remix)
- Garry Heaney – Citation
- Jon O’Bir feat. Fisher – Found A Way (Joint Operations Centre Remix)
- Alex Monakhov – Roundabout (amazing progressive tune on Coldharbour)
- Markus Schossow under his Progresia alias – a track called Shelter.
Those are my top ten trance tracks of all time. I say this now, but maybe next year I might have a different opinion.
Everyone has a hidden talent. What’s yours?
I am a good goalkeeper. When I used to play football, I always played goalkeeper. Not because I was picked last. I actually was one of the first people to be picked on the team because I was that good of a goalkeeper. So yeah.l I guess that’s my hidden talent.
Do you still play?
No.. not much anymore now. I just watch it. I don’t play it anymore
I don’t know. I don’t have time. It’s more fun to watch. Easier to watch as well.
Do you have a message for our readers?
Of course. Thank you very much first of all. Thank you very much taking the time to read to this interview, to listen to the music that I am putting out, or the sets that I am mixing. Thank you very much for interacting with me on social media. Thank you very much for supporting me and the scene and the music. Thank you very much for help and support to get me where I am now. And I wish you guys all the best. May you be as happy as you can be this year and may I continuously be lucky enough to get your support over the remained of my career.
Photo credits: Martin Grant Photography, Steven Cunniffe Photography, Photo by Pedro.