Househeads know the name. In the last 15 years what other producer remained as consistent and simultaneously prolific as Demarkus Lewis? As a DJ he has that special ability to make you feel supremely HAPPY on his dancefloor. So it’s fitting that all four of his record labels are named Grin (Music, Tech, & Bass, Traxx). It’s the euphoric feeling from the music and the environment it creates that attracted him to house in the first place and it continues to radiate throughout his work today.
Many Facets of Demarkus, his second LP on Guesthouse Music in the last 5 years is exactly what the title suggests and what most of us already know when it comes to his music: there’s not a subgenre of house (or beyond) he can’t do well.
Are you the most easy going person in house music?
I don’t think I can hold that title as I’ve met some pretty amazing people throughout my journey. I think that is one of the main reasons why I fell in love with this culture.
You’ve been in music for nearly 25 years, 15 as a producer, and you continue to crank out release after release. Where does your work ethic come from?
Well the truth is I’ve been in music for 40 years. Music has always been a really big part of my life. I know it may sound silly but I eat, breath and poop music. There is nothing on this planet that’s better than creation. I can also admit that I am a wee bit addicted to the whole process.
Wow ok, forty years! What music were you involved with prior to house and what were some of the things that made you fall in love with the culture? How did you get started with your career as a producer?
I, like many inner city youth, was attracted to gangsta rap and hip hop. As a matter of fact when I first started to learn how to DJ, I spun rap. Around this time I was hanging out with some pretty dodgy characters. Most of them were gang bangers (Crips to be specific) but I was never fully involved. I was pretty much the one talking them out of doing silly things. I’ve always liked to socialize and party so around this time the parties I attended usually ended with a shooting or crazy brawl around midnight, every time.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] “Instead of wondering if I would get punched in the face walking in I was greeted with a hug and a smile. I was sold!” [/quote]
So one day a kid from school took me to a place in Dallas called The Aqua Lounge. To this day I can still remember the feeling I had walking in and hearing underground electronic music the way it was meant to be heard. I mean it was like I found were I belonged, which was around open minded, fun loving individuals. Instead of wondering if I would get punched in the face walking in I was greeted with a hug and a smile. I was sold!
It was around the same time I met my best mate James Oliver who taught me more about electronic music. He pretty much taught me everything in the beginning with both Djing and Producing. We used to make lil tunes on a Korg 01/W Pro keyboard workstation in our studio (which was really just a long closet space). Man I used to stay up all night writing on that thing.
You understand more than most what the shelf life of a record is today. Do you experience any conflict with how much music you put out versus a philosophy of less is more?
The shelf life for ALL music these days is extremely short. If you don’t make the top 50 on the charts then you can pretty much call it a day and give it out for free download. This is very sad but very true in today’s market. To me, I’m just an artist. I write beats. If I were a painter would they say “that guy paints too much”? Now if you painted the same scenery every time I could see that becoming too redundant but not if it’s different every time.
I also believe that quantity isn’t the problem, piracy is the real issue here. People need to be reminded that we are selling artistic tools. We sell music to DJs, and there are a LOT of DJs! Why not release as much as you want? Someone is gonna like it. I also do music full time because this is my career.
And yet, all of this may never have been had you missed your own personal deadline to release a record by the age of 25. What factors drove you to make this kind of personal ultimatum?
The most important factor was the birth of my first born child. Many things come into focus when you have your first child, especially when you live an alternative lifestyle, for lack of better words. I have nothing but love for those who helped break me into this journey.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received over the years?
“Beat ’em like they owe you money” – Boo Williams
What do you think you’d be doing now if you had not met your deadline?
I can’t honestly tell you. I always wanted to be a Ninja though… that would’ve been cool.
Fitting as I’ve always considered you very Bruce Lee-like with how you adapt to the different styles of house like water. So now that you’re here what does a typical Demarkus day look like?
It really depends on the day. If you would have asked me this last year I would have told you I wake up at 9am to be at the studio by 10am then I’d work until at least 1am. These days have become a lot busier. I was just recently blessed with another daughter… Yep, you heard me. ANOTHER haha. So from 9 am to about 4 pm you can find me holding it down at Club Casa with diaper in hand. I usually hit the studio around 5 and get in at least 6-8 hours.
What keeps you inspired?
Learning new things keep me inspired. Also refreshing my sample catalog gives that feeling of “new vinyl” I used to get back in the day. Tools. I can’t forget about all the great music being put out lately. There has been resurgence of quality house music and it just seems the true vibe has come full circle.
Who are some of the artists and labels you feel are embodying that true vibe right now?
Man … It really depends on the sound. For like that Jackin’ Sound I have to go with my guys Angelo Ferrari, Demuir, J Paul Getto, DJ Mes, Doc Link, Scrubfish, Petrus/Tommy Largo, Doin’ Work, Joey Chicago, Alex Herrera, 294 and Cruise Music. Honestly this is just the tip of the Iceberg for Jackin.
As for Deep/Tech I’d say cats like Gene Farris, Green Velvet, Detroit Swindle, Everyone over at MadHouse, Lost My Dog, Soul City Recordings, Jeff Craven and his Large Music camp, Robosonic, Local Talk … too many to name. These have become my go to guys and there are so many others out there, whether it be the raw or well-polished producers.
The most interesting track on your new album for me is “I’m No Legend”. What’s the story behind this one?
Oh nice… I would have figured it to be the Drum & Bass tune. There is one word that the younger generation likes to use for us older cats: “Legend.” Man, I can’t tell you how many times I had guys refer to me as that. I know they are just trying to be respectful but come on, guys, not everyone over 35 in the producer world is a legend. Louie Vega, Kerri Chandler, David Morales and Derrick Carter – those are legends. So like I say in the tune … I’m no Legend, I’m just House!
Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you want to?
Yeah I’d like to record a full live album at some point. I think that is my next goal.
I’ve learned so much and I believe that the things I have learned will give me the knowledge and confidence to start recording more live musicians/vocalists. Oh and did I mention I wanted to be a ninja?
How badly do you miss the dreadlocks?
Haha. I thought I would miss them more but I was really ready to cut them off when I did. They represented a different chapter of my life. It was time to retire the dreads just like when it was time to retire the Kikwear 36″ bottom raver pants.