Name: Imanbek Maratuly Zeikenov aka Imanbek
Occupation: Producer
Nationality: Kazakhstani
Current release: Imanbek's new single "Ordinary Life", a collaboration with rapper Wiz Khalifa, electronic producer KDDK and Swedish singer-songwriter KIDDO, is out now.
Gear recommendations: I think it’s rather mainstream but Magic by BabyAudio is a particular highlight for me. I like its subtle through sends, it can make just about any sound juicier.
And Sound Goodiser from FL team. It was so cool when I started and it still works. Very simple but it really works.

If you enjoyed this interview with Imanbek and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit him on Instagram.

What was your first studio like?

I think the best way to answer this question is “there was none”.

Really, I started up with very little - it was just a personal computer that wasn’t even capable of processing instrumentals and a cappellas simultaneously. And a pair of old speakers - that’s it.

How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

When my efforts brought first fruits I felt some need for extra gear and I bought midi keys at first, then an audio interface and monitor speakers. That was a great improvement for me.

The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?

I’m used to production tools that existed at the stage when I was starting. I know DAWs are constantly getting updated but for some reason I stick to the things I know and love. So I just picked up a number of gear back then and still use all of it.

A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?

When I’m drafting at home minimal kit is always sufficient and convenient. I’ve got everything I need underneath my hands and don’t spend much time trying to figure out how to match cables or something.

But at later stages, we move to pro studio and let professional engineers do their work.

Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.

Oh, for me it’s very simple. I just start with a project and if, for instance, after 2 hours of work I still think it is worth continuing with it, I just save it.

And might forget about it.

But once in a while I check them through my sketches and if something catches my attention, I'll resume my work. Until it’s done.

Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?

Before I start a production, I’ve got nothing in my head as an idea. The whole process starts as inspiration flows when I’m sitting at my laptop.

I might be surprised sometimes by unexpected results that some filters or oscillator pitches might bring and then use them. But I’ve never used AI-based composition tools or something like that. In my opinion, they deprive me of my connection with the thing I want to produce.

How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?

I might use a sample, I might create from scratch. For me it’s not that important that every single element is created by me. What matters most to me is that all elements reflect my feelings.

I might bump into a sample for instance and say ‘Yes, I really feel this way, I love it. Let me just distort it a bit’

Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

I was shocked when I launched my DAW for the first time. I had no idea how electronic music worked and I only had my guitar. So, it was a step towards the unknown for me.

To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative provess. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?

At the moment I don’t feel this way. I tried several AI-based tools by they seemed to boring for me. But I think it has a great potential in future.