Demarkus Lewis Interview
For more than a decade Demarkus Lewis has been relentless in his craft, releases on labels including Slip n Slide, Panhadle, Large, Viva, Lost My Dog and more have given the mainly jackin' house DJ and Producer a platform to express himself whilst a hectic international DJ schedule has kept him in touch with the crowds. His own label, Grin Music, founded in 2005 has matured too over the years - beginning as a deep house label before morphing into a blend of house and techno.
Well before the dive into production you could find me out on the dance at the many underground events & raves here in Dallas,Tx. Many don’t know that Dallas had a massive underground scene back in the early 90’s. Promoters would go overseas and various cities in the states such as Chicago, New York, Detroit and the west coast to find the hottest Dj’s to bring to Dallas. This is why it’s very hard to single out a particular sound for Dallas. They just brought them all here and threw everything in the pot , stirred it up and dished it out to the party people. By this time tho I was already opening up for some of these acts at the events so after a few years production just seemed like natural progression.
Ah man … Around 1993 I found deep house with the likes of Marc Kinchen, Larry Heard and a lot of the guys that released on Strictly Rhythm (NYC). Things progressed from there when I discovered that Chicago Disco house vibe as well as that New Jerset vibe Kerri Chandler and Jovonn brought to the table. My main influences were Kerri Chandler, Jovonn, Glenn Underground aka C.V.O., Boo Williams, Masters At Work, Mr. G (UK), Chez Damier, Ron Trent and every Prescription Records release as well as Chicago’s Guidance Records. This is seriously just naming a few.
Over the years I’ve been labeled mostly as a Jackin’ House Producer which is ok with me but I like to think I’m a ‘All House’ kind of guy. I mean I’ve always liked pretty much every genre of House and Techno depending on my mood at any given time. These days my vibe tends to lean more on the Deep vibe I first grew up on. You could say I’ve come full circle and returned to my roots. All the genres can have an element of Deep even if its Techno. As long as it’s got soul I consider it Deep.
I’m definitely A Producer at heart and to me that includes the term DJ as I go about DJing the same as I do with the creation of original material. When I play I like to create a mood and vibe by merging different elements together to create something new.
It really depends. I mean I’ve played some really cool parties in a wide range of countries. There is really no one place that holds a brighter light than the others. To me it's always been based on the room and vibe of the crowd. I’m not the type who needs 2000 people standing around to have a great set. Some of my most memorable moments have been in rooms with 200 people or less. I’m straight underground which means I would prefer playing and vibing out with 150 - 200 people vibing out than an arena of 10000 people standing around pumping their fists in the air with no knowledge of history in the music.
Usually the process starts by researching what vibe the room would most likely react to via recent Dj’s that have played as well as what vibe the promoter really gets down with. After that it's the crate collection where I go through tunes in my arsenal as well as any promos and new releases available. Then I sleep.
Kerri Chandler once told me “You can’t lie to the music and to never second guess as long as it feels right ”. I use these words as a foundation to anything I do rather it be production or performing in a live setting.
Absolutely! To even go deeper into it it starts with me first being a dancer. If I’m not dancing in my chair or behind the decks it's not my truth. Now with that said some days I’m not 100% whether it be the wrong set up at the party or some other random sequence of events but 97% of the time I play what I want -when I want - how I want! There was a long time (In the early days) where I wouldn’t play my own productions due to lack of confidence. I mean I always felt there was something else I could play that was a better fit for what I wanted to say. These days I am more than confident in my craft and often play more than 40% original material.
Yes and no. I have a formula I use to produce but that's only for technical and workflow attributes. I never know what I’m going to write I just start with the basic idea and see where it goes from there. In the words of Bruce Lee I just like it to ‘flow like water’. Or if you prefer a quote from Ray Charles ‘I just let it do what it do baby!’
Everything I use is internal besides my Ableton Push 2 controller and Mic. I use Ableton Live with an extreme arsenal of Vst instruments, Plug ins and over 1tb of sample options. Although I have many toys I do have my goto tools that i use in most of all my productions. With that said I must add that as the track morphs into what it will be I pull out different things to give it whichever vibe the art piece needs to solidify the feeling it merits.
Great question. I have so many to choose from its kind of a hard thing to really grasp. I mean with over 1500 tracks out there it's a bit taskfull. I can say the ones that I really feel came across great were my release on Madhouse, The very first release to spark up the now legendary Guesthouse Music, Martha Wash - Catch The Light on my own label Grin Music as well as the recently released Raw Dawgin also on my label Grin Music. I also really like the support I gained from my earlier production for Crown Royal E.P. for Brique Rouge and I can Do What U Do on Flat N Round. I love each and everything I release wholeheartedly tho.
Each tune expresses a special moment from my soul even my Drum & Bass releases under the guise Dizzle. Yes I said Drum & Bass.
Most my collabs were distance collabs meaning we weren’t in the same room when the record was created but for the once that were the feeling was pure magic. My work with Boo Williams will always stand out as some very special moments. The collaboration I did with Wally Callerio and Gene Farris also was a fun time as well. Being able to write with some of the guys I grew listening to is surely a blessing. I have stories but there are some things words just can’t describe.
I started Grin Music Group to be able to release my own music when I wanted to. Starting out I felt that I needed my own outlet to release things by not having to rely on others efforts.
It’s still very much the same model as when I started although it has grown from just one label to about 6 different sister labels: Grin Music (Deep/Soulful), Grin Trax (Disco/Jackin), Grin Tech (Techhouse), N-Cue (Techno/Tech House), Grin & Bass( Drum & Bass) and Parafazed (House/Garage).
Releasing what I want when I want hands down is the best feeling.
Promotion is ever changing. The game changes almost annually as new trends develop. Before we had things like Winter Music Conference aka WMC where we used to physically hand out promos in person. To me those were the glory days as both a label owner and DJ. I mean there was nothing like being able to attend WMC with two record bags. One of the bags was filled with personal promos from the label via CD (as Grin was never a vinyl imprint) and one empty record box only to come home with 2 filled to the brim record bags full of white label promos. At first it was all vinyl then a few years later it was All Cds and now you pretty much get all the promos via mp3 downloads before you even make the journey. The digital world has changed everything so much its almost like a different animal altogether.
Seeing as I release mostly my own tunes I am 100% the A&R. I do send out test promos to my close mates to get their input on some of the releases but that hardly grants a sway of whether or not I release it as everyone has their own personal tastes.
Oh man … I’d say I always know I’ll enjoy releases from No Fuss Records, Pogo House Records, Salted Music, Atjazz Music, Guesthouse Music, Sub Urban, Large Music, Puro Music, iRecords and Space Disco Records to name a few. It’s no surprise that I am also an artist on almost all of the labels I enjoy.
Well Mondays are admin day in which I do the boring stuff like promo send outs, Dj Charts, Artwork Design, accounting and various desk jockey tasks. Studio work the rest of the week rather it be original or remix work and Promo screenings on Fridays to prepare for the weekend. I usually spend on average 12 hours a day in the studio Tuesday thru Sunday.
Learning keeps me going. I’ve been in this for 20 years now and honestly don’t see any sign of slowing because I’m always thirsty for knowledge. The day I feel I’ve learned it all or enough is the day I retire. I strongly believe that this hunger I have to always progress is my biggest driving force.
Yes I do. Come to the understanding that this is Art… Nothing more nothing less. Yes we all need to eat but you should not have to sell your soul (So to Speak) to release good music. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. I mean it is healthy to learn new techniques from your peers but try not to gauge your own success off what others are doing because at the end of the day this is your expression and your art. Study the history of what you are doing. Learn music the rules of music theory so you can bend and break them accordingly. Never let a poor response dictate the future of your art. We as artists thrive on the acceptance of others that's rule #1 for any artist but let the criticism fuel you not deplete your driving force. And first and foremost in the words of Boo Williams “Stay House”!
Well since the current atmosphere looks a bit questionable for Live performances I guess I’ll be focusing even more energy in the studio with new releases for my labels as well as others. I’m currently in talks with a few Sample Pack firms to release my first Sample Loops pack for my fans.
Where can people follow you?