Saqib is a DJ and producer based in Brooklyn, NYC. He is affiliated with BLOND:ISH’s Abracadabra, Holmar’s Acid Tourism, and NYC’s ebb + flow. Named one of 1001 Tracklist’s top 100 producers of 2021, Saqib is a dance-floor instigator with a unique musical background and singular ear for music, and producers and dancers alike will tell you that you can easily pick out a Saqib DJ set and a Saqib track from the rest. The original resident of NYC’s Member’s Only, he got his start playing records week in and week out in 2013, and has since shared the decks with Lee Burridge, Audiofly, Behrouz, Dixon, BLOND:ISH, Bedouin, Francesca Lombardo, and more. Over time, Saqib made his mark on NYC dance floors, playing for CityFox, Bespoke Musik, ZERO, House of Yes, Output, Cielo, Knockdown Center, and so many more.
EG caught up with Saqib to learn more about the drop of his new ‘Love Life’ EP on Abracadabra, his origins, workflow in the studio, and more.
EG: Hello Saqib! It’s a treat to have you here with us today. How have you been? Where are you right now?
Saqib: Hi there! I am currently in my studio in Brooklyn, New York, which is my home base. I have been doing really well. The world is returning back to some sort of normalcy, which is really fantastic. I am working hard in the studio, making new music and playing parties again. Jamburglars, my project with Bryant Jensen, just threw a party in Brooklyn that was awesome. Love is in the air. I really can’t complain!
EG: Thank you so much for being a part of our EG Podcast series. What’s on this mix? How do craft a mix? Do you tell stories?
Saqib: This is a mix with some new jams that I have been feeling lately and playing out a lot. It closes with my Abracadabra ‘Love Life’ EP. I have been moving towards a more energetic upbeat sound in my DJ sets as well as my productions. Kind of moving away from deeper sounds and into more rowdy ones. And this mix reflects that.
I put together mixes based on mood and vibe. I want the mix to have a trajectory. I want it to be coherent and make musical sense and take you to different places in a way that you can’t exactly tell where one track ended and the next track started because they go together. And it makes you dance. And it ends somewhere far from where it started.
EG: Congratulations on the release of your latest EP, ‘Love Life’! What has the initial reception been like?
Saqib: It has been pretty fantastic! Aside from the support of BLOND:ISH, the EP has been getting a lot of love from DJs, dancefloors, and radio alike. Guy Gerber, Audiofly, Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Superflu, Holmar, Goldcap, Nicolas Massayeff, M.A.N.D.Y, Birds of Mind, Ibiza Sonica, Bespoke Musik Radio, Suprematic, and so many more. It’s awesome!
EG: ‘Love Life’ sounds like quite a personal title. What was the inspiration behind this new album? How does one imprint a sense of a ‘Love Life’ through music that usually has no spoken or sung words?
Saqib: It has three meanings behind it. ‘Love Life’ is about the driving force behind all this music and everything in my life, which is love. These tracks are all driven by an engine of love. Although over the course of the EP, they change in terms of their sound and character, and even genre, the common theme running through them is love. It also relates to my show ‘Love Jams’ on Abracadabra’s Twitch channel, which I was doing weekly when I was writing the tracks. Finally, it’s dedicated to the love of my life, Nina Katashvili.
I think that it’s definitely possible to hear the love in the music even when it’s just beats or sounds in time. it’s a frequency, am I right? An energetic vibration that you send out. If you put it in your beats it will come out of the speakers on the floor. I believe it.
“‘Love Life’ is about the driving force behind all this music and everything in my life, which is love”
EG: What can fans of Saqib find on ‘Love Life’ throughout its four tracks?
Saqib: ‘Crow’ is a track with vocals from one of my best friends since childhood, Biiro. It’s actually a new version of a song he made when we were in high school called ‘Crow’, which was an acoustic track. I asked him to sing the vocals again and send them to me and this new version was born. It definitely has this dark, metal grooving type of feel that takes me back to those days.
‘Kick It Like This’ is the first track Bryant Jensen and I made with our friend and incredible vocalist Cern (www.instagram.com/cernesto). He came over to my studio one night with a duffle bag full of notebooks, which were full of lyrics to songs he wrote over the years. He did the entire track in a single take. Insane.
‘Cupcake Is Bakin’’ is a very unique track that I made with Bryant Jensen, and Cern on vocals. We made the bassline and the percussions on new years day 2021 at like 10 in the morning and Cern immediately dropped all those verses that make up the track in a few takes. Absolutely mad how precise and intricate his words are after hearing this loop for less than an hour. Cern is a true visionary. Later we finished the rest of the production at my studio in Brooklyn.
And ‘She Was A Love Burglar’ is a track that is quite simply, about love. It actually features my own vocals. It has a warm smooth daytime type of feel and it is the closer of the EP.
EG: And, of course, ‘Love Life’ is out via Abracadabra. Why did you decide to go with that particular label for this release?
Saqib: I was trying to put out an EP with Abracadabra for a while now. In the past few years, I must have sent more than 30 or 40 tracks to Viv, but they didn’t quite make the cut. These particular tracks I had been working on since the start of the pandemic. I would play them from time to time on my weekly twitch stream on Abracadabra in various states of progress. Viv heard them all at different times and asked me about them, and here we are.
The last track on the EP, ‘She Was A Love Burglar’, is one that I specifically wrote with Abracadabra in mind. I usually don’t write tracks for specific labels, but in this case, I did, for the first time ever.
I usually don’t write music for specific labels unless it is a remix. I focus on writing the music in my head and making it as good as I can. And then if it’s good enough, it will come out on the right label.
EG: How did you first get into electronic music? Was there a record or show that pushed you down the rabbit hole?
Saqib: One of my childhood bandmates and best friends, Talal, is the one who introduced me to electronic music. I got my start in music back in Pakistan, playing guitar in heavy metal bands, and Talal played in many of those bands with me as a drummer and guitarist. As we grew older, I stayed in metal and he went into electronic music. In 2009, I went to visit him in Toronto. He was playing as part of the duo Talal & Zoi with Carlo Lio at this loft in Toronto and it was an after-hours. I was fucking BLOWN AWAY. Absolutely no words. So amazing! It made my body move in ways I never knew. That was the moment. After that, I went back to the States and quit all of the metal bands I was playing in. I got into electronic music and never looked back. 11 years ago!
EG: What does your studio look like at the moment? Can you give us some insight into your workflow?
Saqib: My main studio is in Brooklyn in my apartment and that is where these tracks were made. It was initially a walk-in closet. I took out all my clothes and moved my studio in and put up some soundproofing and bass traps in the corners. It sounds pretty good in there, at least to me. It’s really important to me to be close to my studio where I can work whenever I feel like it. I am one to work at weird times and I don’t like having to go to another place to make music. It’s just extra steps and time lost, you know?
My workflow is mainly in Ableton Live. My studio is really simple. I think the most expensive and important part of my studio is my imagination. If you can think of a sound, you can figure out how to make it, you know what I mean? I use guitar, vocoder, synthesizer, drum machines, and a lot of other live instruments and percussions throughout my tracks. I also love creative sampling and I do it frequently; warping, looping, splicing and other ways of using samples is something I picked up over the last few years. And you can hear it all over this EP.
My second studio is my old 2015 MacBook Pro with a portable Bluetooth JBL speaker that I use to make music when I’m away from Brooklyn. I like making music like that because music is in my imagination and it is not in the devices around me in the studio. I think I make my best music like that.
“I focus on writing the music in my head and making it as good as I can. And then if it’s good enough, it will come out on the right label”
EG: What’s next for Saqib in the next few months? What new milestones are you looking to celebrate?
Saqib: Really looking forward to the summer! I am going to be working in music direction and resident DJ for Scenery, a new venue in NYC by Ornate Project. It’s a beautiful rooftop in LIC and we have some incredible artists lined up. Aside from that, I know I am going to be playing some parties in Seattle, Miami, Toronto, and Chicago, and looking forward to others on the horizon. I have quite a few new productions that are going to see the light of day very soon on Abracadabra as well as other labels. I’m also part of a duo called Jamburglars, with Bryant Jensen. We DJ, we make music and we throw parties. I am looking forward to seeing it grow over time with some more events this year.
I really want to play in some new cities in North America. Denver, Austin, D.C., Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Boston, Vancouver, and Montreal! These are some places I want to get down in.
EG: Thank you for your time, Saqib! We wish you all the best for the future!
Saqib: Thank you for the support! Love you!!!
Saqib’s new ‘Love Life’ EP is out now via Abracadabra. Purchase your copy here.