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My Two Cents: An Interview with Ahdy Khairat

Hello, everyone! My name is Nicholas van der Waard. I have my MA in English Studies: the Gothic, and run a blog centered on Gothic horror, Nick's Movie Insights. However, if you follow Ahdy Khairat's channel on YouTube, you probably know me as "the two cents guy." With this post, I wanted to interview Ahdy himself and talk to him about his work. But first, a bit of history...


Preface

March 25th, 2018. It was a dark Manchester night. I was wearing a Cthul-aid t-shirt and standing in the kitchen of my student-provided flat. Holding my phone in my hand, I was making myself some dinner (rice, eggs and soy sauce—a student diet if ever there was) after a seminar earlier in the evening. I had on my headphones and was listening to some nightly music—some subscribed content on YouTube when Ahdy Khairat's latest remaster, "Call of Ktulu," popped up.

This caught my eye; I had several of Ahdy's remasters on my iPod, and enjoyed his work. However, I also knew he had been inactive for a few years at this point. Not only was this latest remaster new. It featured a slick-looking animation that looped during the video. 

I loved the video, and listened to it repeatedly. However, shortly after that, Ahdy released several more videos in quick succession—three in less than two days. Not only did each have nifty visuals; they also linked to Ahdy's Patreon. It seemed he was back, and with a vengeance. I was delighted to something awesome to listen to while burning the midnight oil. At the school library, as the magpies hopped by outside the window next to me, I jammed to Sodom's Agent Orange, the OST to Axiom Verge, and Ahdy Khairat.


On April 13th, Ahdy released his sixth video: an updated remix/remaster for "Blackened." As of today with 1.6 million views, I still consider it one of his best videos. It was so impressive that I decided to give my "two cents" for his next video, which debuted on April 22nd: "Metallica - The Unforgiven - (Remixed and Remastered)." Of course, I was in grad school at the time, and not always available to comment on every video he did, but I wanted to give my support by doing something I love: listening to and writing about heavy metal.

Interview

Nick: Hi, Ahdy. First, I just want to say, I love your content! I have come across remastered content on YouTube, before. However, in terms of remixing metal, you're in a league of your own. 

Ahdy: First of all, I'm honored! I'm a fan myself of your two cents. It's comments like yours that inspire me to do what I do everyday.


Nick: Can you tell me a little about yourself, who you are and where you're from? 

Ahdy: Well I use my real name on my channel: Ahdy Khairat, I am Egyptian, living in Denmark. I consider myself a lover of the art of music and what it has to offer. I have a knack for classical music, graphic design, human behavior and historical, astronomical, and overall scientific documentaries. I am pretty laid back, but I can turn into an uptight perfectionist when it comes to the beautiful art of music.


Nick: What's the difference between remixing and remastering, and what do you need to do either?

Ahdy: Remixing is using individual stems of recordings, meaning after recording individual instruments separately, I add every track (which is the recording of every instrument) into a DAW session (digital audio workstation—basically the producer version of a new file). Remastering is taking the remix you made and polishing it—meaning that after I edit every single track, I send it into a what is called a "master track," where the song is finalized by adding EQ, compression, etc.


Nick: How long have you been remastering/remixing? Is it a hobby for you, or a profession? Your work certainly sounds professional—better than the bands' output, themselves!

Ahdy: So back in 2006, I used to record for local bands back in Egypt to the point that I was self-sustainable all throughout college! Up until 2010, I made a living off of producing and recording for local artists. After that, I had to leave Egypt for some time, and as of right now I’m trying to get back into the game. Although I have to admit, most of the videos I upload are products of my love for production. After all, I see a lot of potential in all of the instruments in the song. I want them to be individually audible.


Nick: Your channel is largely known for Metallica songs. What made you choose to remix/remaster that band in particular?

Ahdy: That's a good question! After Cliff Burton's tragic death, Metallica hired Jason as their new bassist. The bass tracks that Jason had recorded were inaudible, so I felt like the production lacked low end—like it was really dry. I personally felt like that was unfair to Jason—why record bass lines if you won't use them? I heard that their excuse was that they were mourning their former bassist's death, which I believe came at the expense of Jason's talent. What I did was emphasize the bass so his bass lines would be audible. I might have even exaggerated the bass volume (just a tad, though) as a "fuck you" to those who shunned Jason.


Nick: There was a several-year break between your earlier work, and the work you're doing now. Why the hiatus? What made you decide to return and keep making awesome music sound even better?

Ahdy: When I initially uploaded all these songs, I got some pretty awesome feedback. That motivated me to work on myself so I could meet everyone's expectations. I also felt like I had to better educate myself so I could honor these awesome artists and enhance everyone's musical experience.


Nick: You often feature looping video footage in your uploads. Most recently, your "Master of Puppets" video also featured an intro animation, as well. It's pretty slick! Does the person who produced that handle all of your video work?

Ahdy: I usually do my own graphic art. But for this particular song, I decided to use xtianvideo's animation video because I believed it was really well done, too.


Nick: You tend to release in bursts—often, several songs at a time, over a period of several days. Do you generally work on a couple of songs at a time?

Ahdy: Not necessarily. They're usually songs I worked on a while back. Then the whiff of inspiration hits me. That's when I decide to go on a production binge.


Nick: Do you have any favorite music producers or sound engineers?

Ahdy: Yeah! Jason Suecof, Steven Willson, Jens Bogren, Brendan O’Brien, Greg Fidelman, Scott Burns and Flemming Rassmusen are on the top of my list, right now.


Nick: Production-wise, what are some of your favorite albums, and why?

Ahdy: Black Water Park, Deliverance and Damnation by Opeth; Nightmares Made Flesh by Bloodbath; rEVOLVEr by the Haunted; Fear Inoculum by Tool. Pretty much anything from the producers I mentioned above.


Nick: What are some of your least-favorite, and why?

Ahdy: The latest Opeth albums haven't been doing it for me. I feel like they're too compressed. Like there’s sound coming out of a cardboard box. It lacks the dynamics and—dare I say it—aesthetics!

Death Magnetic was just horrible, production-wise; the Metallica guys don't seem to be listening to their fans and critiques and are too stubborn with what they think a "good-sounding album" is. Replacing Bob Rock, in my opinion, was also a huge mistake. In a parallel universe where I might get a chance to produce Metallica albums, I'd make sure to keep Lars Ulrich out of the control room. ...And Justice for All also lacks a shitload of things; I really don't know where to start. I can't help but think: "How does one go from the incredibly produced behemoth that is Master of Puppets to an album that sounds slightly worse than a demo?"

Those were just some albums; the list goes on...


Nick: Your production technique tends to add further "space" to the instruments, supplying clarity and power to each individually so they play better as a group (the "sound sandwich"). How did you cultivate this style? Is there anyone you can cite as having inspired you to produce your remixes/remasters the way that you do?

Ahdy: You don't release the Colonel's recipe. ;)

I'll tell you one secret, though: I don't follow the generic "rules of production." I explored and got creative. Let's just say I took the risk of sounding different. My main inspiration is classical music because you can basically hear every instrument vividly. In modern production, you'd hear a pancake mix of six instruments, max; in classical music, there are hundreds of instruments being played simultaneously and you can identify every single one of them.


Nick: Do you remixed/remaster music other than metal?

Ahdy: Yes I do. I'm waiting for the label to give me the license so I could diversify my uploads so stay tuned. :)


Nick: Do you have a favorite software you like to use?

Ahdy: ProTools.


Nick: Do you ever do audio production, yourself? If so, have you ever worked in analogue? The reason I ask is because your musical approach seems to predate much of the over-compression and loudness of the digital era.

Ahdy: Yes, I have done audio production myself, and yes I have worked in analog as well. You're totally right! As I mentioned before, I tend to have a little bit of an "old school" approach where, in the war between dynamics vs volume, the dynamics must prevail.


Nick: Do you have a band, yourself; or, do you ever record for other bands?

Ahdy: Yes! I've been part of Nader Sadek's death metal project, production-wise. He put together a death metal supergroup with members from Morbid Angel, Death, Nile, Opeth, Katatonia, Cryptopsy, Necrophagist, Obscura, Mayhem, Beyond Creation, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura and many more. I've had the honor of working with him and members from those bands that I've become friends with. I'll be releasing some of our songs on my channel soon, so stay tuned! It's gonna be big, trust me!


Nick: Have you ever wondered why Metallica hazed Jason Newsted and Robert Trujillo, on their respective debut albums?

Ahdy: I think it's because they were the "new guys" and it was more like they were part of Metallica and not "in" Metallica.



Nick: If you could ask Metallica one question, what would it be?

Ahdy: What the fuck were you thinking when you collaborated with Lou Reed?


Nick: Do you play any musical instruments other than guitar? You're pretty good at that, too. How long have you been playing?

Ahdy: I'm a huge fan of the bass and oud, and currently practicing the drums. I've been playing the guitar for exactly twenty years now!


Nick: How long do these songs generally take to remix/remaster?

Ahdy: It takes me about six hours on average per song.


Nick: What is the hardest part about doing what you do? Is a particular instrument that is harder to remix/remaster properly or does it all depend on the stems?

Ahdy: It's mostly dependent on the stems and recording quality such as mic placement, etc. The hardest part is making every single instrument audible.


Nick: Do you plan to do Metallica's entire catalog? Are there other bands in the works to the same degree (Slayer, for example)?

Ahdy: No I don't plan on doing Metallica's entire catalog. I'd love to work on other bands as well but that's all dependent on the licenses I can get my hands on. I love Metallica but to be completely honest, they're not really my favorite band.



Nick: Have you heard music recorded in the present that you'd want to remaster?

Ahdy: None that I can think of except In Cauda Venenum.


Nick: Over the years, some of your videos have disappeared from your page. Do you have trouble with copyright complaints, or are you simply taking down older work?

Ahdy: I've been taking them down because I'm honestly not satisfied with their outcome. I plan on redoing them in the future—just when you least expect it. :)


Nick: Recently you remixed/remastered "Master of Puppets." What makes you want to revisit older songs you've remastered before?

Ahdy: Not to rain on Flemming Rasmussen's parade, but I wanted to make it sound as if it were recorded today. I mean the guy recorded it back in '86! All I did was to add more of a modern twist to it. Also, I honestly wasn't a fan of my old remix, so I thought, "Why the hell not?"


Nick: In your videos, the term "binaural" comes up, sometimes. What is this, exactly?

Ahdy: Binaural is the surrounding of sound. The point of it is for you to feel like the band is performing right in front of you, [with you] in the middle of the crowd as the band performs.


Nick: Have you ever been contacted by Metallica, Slayer or other bands regarding your remixing/remastering of their work? If not, how you do you think they feel about it?

Ahdy: I don't think they'd contact me to be honest, but I'm sure Jason Newsted is a secret fan. ;)

However, if they do contact me, I'll be brutally honest and I'd have certain basic rules that cannot be broken regardless of how important the person/band is. If they don't agree with these rules then I don't think I'd be able to proceed with the production and it would be better if they found someone else who would be much more obedient/doesn't have a say.


Nick: Is your content available anywhere besides YouTube?

Ahdy: I have exclusive content on Patreon, but Patrons need to send me a message on the platform first so I can send them the links. :)


Nick: Lastly, apart from Patreon, is there anywhere else people support your work or hire your services?

Ahdy: Yes! They can drop me an email on ahdypsn@gmail.com to mix/master their songs. I also give mixing/mastering lessons. People can also hire me on Fiverr, but I personally prefer email.

Sneak Peek: Upcoming Work by Ahdy



***
So ends the interview. If you like Ahdy's work, make sure to leave a like; or share and subscribe to his work!

For some of my other posts, check out "Alien: Ore" Q & A ProjectThe Autopsy of Jane Doe (review), Dragon Ball Super: Broly (essay), Mandy (review). Is Garfield Gothic? (essay).

Like my blog? Follow me on Twitter or support me on Patreon and Ko-fi!

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