Aly & Fila

Egyptian trance duo Aly & Fila has been thriving since their first release, “Eyes Of Horus,” in 2003. Among accomplishments, their name is recognizable from Armin van Buuren’s A State of Trance (ASOT), their placements in DJ Mag’s annual Top 100 DJs poll, and the Future Sound of Egypt (FSOE) radio show. Our friend Alex Birch chatted with Fadi before his set at Prime Boston, opening up an opportunity to hear about their start, what it’s like to play a new venue’s opening night, a performer’s opinion on Tomorrowland vs. TomorrowWorld, and more.

Describe your sound in three words.
Melodic, banging, uplifting.

Going back to the beginning of your music journey, is there one track or artist you can say got you into trance?
It was actually Paul van Dyk. Yeah, he was a great inspiration for us and one of our main idols. Obviously not the only idol, but to be honest, he’s the reason why we got into this music and to EDM in general. There are a lot of great tracks we got into at the beginning, but I think seeing Paul van Dyk DJ’ing for the very first time was the time where I said, “Okay, I want to do this. I want to be doing this kind of music, I want to produce it, I want to DJ, I want to do everything.”

Photo of Fadi by Maxi Roccheri

Who gave you your first chance playing out?
Armin van Buuren, 100 percent, definitely. He requested us for A State of Trance 300 (which was a long time ago), and since then he was having us every year. He’s one of the people who really pushed us from the beginning.

Speaking of Armin and ASOT, you just mixed the ASOT 650 CD as well.
Yes that’s true!

When did you realize DJ’ing would be your career?
I would say when we got the request for doing A State of Trance 300 because it was like, “Wow, it’s getting serious now!” It was the very first big event and the lineup was done through fan voting for who they wanted to see, and I remember Armin said to us, “You were the most voted that the people want to see.” And for me, it was like, “Wow, that’s amazing!” Then afterwards, after ASOT 300, we got our first management company requesting to manage us because before we didn’t have a booking agency, nothing, we were just doing it on our own. Then I felt, “Okay, there’s something happening if there’s a company who wants to manage us.” It was good!

After your show in Boston, you’re headlining the grand opening night of .:Therapy in Providence, RI. Have you played a venue’s opening night at any point in your career?
Yeah, I’ve done it a couple of times before.

What did you enjoy about that or what was different about playing an opening night?
It’s always like a very fresh club. It’s the first time you use the sound system and the lighting system; everything is completely fresh, you are the first one. Sometimes it’s very good, sometimes they test the club so they can see when they have a problem. For example, it’s a new sound system and they first test it on you so sometimes there are problems! But the vibe is always really good because it’s a new place and people are coming to see a new club instead of the club they’ve been to every week, so for them it’s something fresh.

As an artist, what effects have you felt from the American EDM boom?
To be honest, I really like the EDM boom here in America. There are two sides of the story: some people like it, and some people think it’s going in a wrong direction, which I disagree with because in the end, we need this boom so people can know the different genres. I think this boom will help everyone, all of the EDM producers or DJs.

Even for you guys, with uplifting trance, it’s generally not considered a big part of the American EDM scene.
No, but it’s actually doing really well. What I have seen, especially recently, it’s doing really really good so I think people are choosing what they want to listen to. They are not listening all to the same big room or commercial stuff, which I’m not against – everywhere there is always commercial music for people who don’t really care about the music, who just want to have fun and have some easy music to listen to. It’s normal, it’s human nature.

How do you decide which tracks to remix?
It depends. The most important part is when I find a track that is missing something and I want to add to it. This is when I feel like I want to remix a track. I don’t want to remix a track where I won’t bring something new to it. If it’s already perfect for me to play it, that’s it, I don’t touch it. But sometimes, when it’s a different style to what we’re doing, it works to bring our style of trance to it. For example, when we remix a Gareth Emery track or an Armin van Buuren track, it’s different with what we bring to the table so it makes sense to remix it.

Disregarding what the previous DJ is playing before you go on, how do you decide which track to open a set with and why?
Actually, I don’t have one track to open with because I always go to the club like a half hour before and listen to the DJ playing, and see how the vibe is and how the people are responding to the music, and then decide. So I’m not a DJ who has  the same opening track, I always like to take it from there. I’ll see the DJ playing before me, what they’re playing, and then decide.

In an interview with Mixjunkies, you said 2012 had been your best year so far. Did 2013 top that?
Absolutely. I feel like every year gets better and better, like as you go, every year improves upon the last one.

Also in that interview, you talked about your more experimental tracks and mentioned ideas like an experimental album. Given the positive reactions to Above & Beyond trying a new route with their acoustic album, have you put any more thought into this?
Yeah, we’re actually working on our third artist album now. We’re planning to release it this year and  we have a lot of stuff done in the studio that we never released, which is totally different than what we normally release. We’re not sure yet if we’re going to release it or if one day we’ll do an experimental package that we give away for free for the people. We don’t know yet what our plans are with it.

2013 was another big year for both yourselves and the FSOE brand. How do you build on that success in 2014?
We have our artist album coming out this year and we will be doing some big celebrations this year as well.

So that includes the Future Sound of Egypt 350 celebrations and the FSOE vs. Subculture weekender in June…
Yes! We are looking forward to both of those. FSOE 350 will be a bigger and better show and we will also be coming to more cities than we did with 300 so we hope to be able to reach more fans and bring the show to a larger audience. The weekender with Subculture will be really special as well; that will be a great time for sure. As for other things, we also have a Quiet Storm remix album on the way and also one project that we can’t talk about just yet.

Do you have your eye on any up-and-coming producers?
I’m a big fan of what Ian Standerwick has done. Also, what Bjorn Akesson is doing right now is different and new. Mohamed Ragab is doing really good stuff at the moment, and Neptune Project. There are a lot of great new acts and I think this year will be a year for them to shine. I will push them as much as I can!

Since you were at both, what are some similarities and differences between Tomorrowland and TomorrowWorld?
I prefer TomorrowWorld, honestly. Not because I’m in the states right now, but I’ve said it in many interviews that I think the difference between America and Europe is that [America] is more fresh now and more open-minded. Normally I wouldn’t see that in Europe. I’ll see some fans in America who can’t wait to see Hardwell and Aly & Fila, which is very strange, and I like how they like different genres. If you go to Europe, more people stay in one tent, they see one style of music, and that’s it. I think that’s the difference between Europe and America. I think Europe was like that before, it was more open-minded to different styles and genres.

What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen a fan do at one of your shows?
I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff! The best one I’ve seen was a couple getting engaged; the guy proposed to the girl. It’s crazy and it’s nice at the same time. He asked us to play a track of ours and he proposed to her.

What is a typical crowd like at one of your shows in Egypt?
The crowds at our Egypt shows are amazing. They’re very devoted, very knowledgeable, and really there for the music.

You obviously do a lot of traveling, so what advice do you have for a traveling artist?
Drinks lots of water, that helps a lot. Definitely sleep when you can, but don’t take anything like sleeping pills, that could really mess you up.

* FYI: for anybody unaware why Fadi tours by himself – his answer from an interview with edmtor
“Around 4 Years ago Aly suffered a severe ear defect while playing. We had to go to the Doctor’s office and they advised him to not be exposed to loud music or he will have to face losing complete hearing in his ear. We decided from then on, Aly makes music with me at a very low level in the studio so it doesn’t damage his ear, and I represent the brand on tour when DJing.”