Danny J Lewis

Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?

My name is Danny J Lewis (aka Enzyme Black) and I'm a music producer and educator with releases spanning across labels such as Defected, Strictly Rhythm, 4th Floor, MAW and many more.

What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?

I didn't study at college. I taught myself, but I also learnt stuff by hanging out with other producers such as Daz I Kue (one of the founding members of Bugz in the Attic). When I started out making music, I didn't know the technical aspects very well at all, and I have no idea how I managed to blag my way through some of those earlier releases. I used to read Sound on Sound and it was like reading a foreign language, but I was entranced by the pictures and lusted after the gear — which was very expensive and well out of my reach. It was only really when I got into teaching at Point Blank in Hoxton that I started to learn things properly. My learning accelerated almost exponentially when I was teaching at Point Blank. If you are looking for a short cut to learning the skills you need to make quality music I'd definitely recommend that place, it's one of the best in the world.

What hardware are you using?

Hardly any, I sold all my gear over the years because I couldn't justify owning it. As your life changes so do your priorities and I just couldn't afford to keep some of that stuff when it wasn't being used all the time. The advances in technology mean that I can do everything on my laptop that I could back in the day using thousands of pounds worth of gear. So what I've got is just the bare essentials, but they go a long way for me.

For recording voice, percussion, and instruments, I have a Blue Yeti USB mic which works really well for me. It's just plug in and go, and switches between a broad range of patterns including stereo.

I have the Native Instruments Maschine which I use for beats, although not all the time. It's a lovely piece of hardware and the standalone software is great. I tend to make beats on their own first in standalone and then bring them through into the DAW for composition. It's got a great collection of library kits and is a really good inspirational starting point. Banging pads with flashing lights is a nice way to get the rhythm section down. I'd like to do a complete track in there one day and will try to do so — would be a good challenge.

I have a pair of Genelec 8030 monitors but can't use them at the moment because I don't have an audio interface! I love the sound of them and in fact I really miss them. It's mad but the last few releases I've put out have all been made on DJ headphones and then played out on a home stereo for checking. The rest of my gear just includes a tiny MIDI Keyboard: the Akai LPK25 for sofa based input (although I use the QWERTY keyboard a lot for musical input on Ableton), and an old evolution MIDI keyboard that is full size and gathering lots of dust. Oh, I almost forgot, I have a Moog Minitaur! I haven't even used it yet because I don't have a mixer or audio interface. It was a leaving gift from Point Blank. The fact I haven't used it in a production is criminal really but I'm such an in-the-box producer that it's a bit alien to me at the moment. I need to change this.

What software are you using?

Right, this is where it gets a little schizophrenic. I use Cubase, Logic or Ableton depending on my mood and circumstances around me. I started off with Cubase on the Atari in the 90s you see, so I'm incredibly fond of the software. The current iteration is extremely powerful and the audio editing is second to none but the thing that really annoys me is having to have a dongle plugged in! I'm a 'make music on the sofa when I get the chance to' kind of guy so I want minimum of fuss when I'm doing it. I taught Logic and Ableton at Point Blank so also call on these when the mood suits me. The way I see it is that each is like an instrument with its own personality. If I want to make music quickly, I'll usually turn to Ableton as it's such a speedy environment for getting music down. It has plenty of things that help you get to the end result. Logic asks more of you, really you need to be a talented musician or programmer to get the best of Logic. I'd advise beginners just to dive into Ableton — it's much easier to get off the ground quickly. Logic is however very much an 'industry standard' app in studios and is the best all rounder for mixing in my mind. I use a small selection of third party instruments in my tracks including Massive, Sylenth, Korg M1, PolySix, MS20, Arturia Minimoog. I also have a couple of third party effects I like to use including the Nomad Magnetic plugin for tape saturation flavour.

What would be your dream setup?

Dream setup would be a studio of hardware all sync'd up and with instant recall on an analog desk. I'd like the balance between the old school sound and the modern convenience of recalling every parameter immediately. The complete moog range would have to be in there and a stack of amazing outboard including Manley Massive Passive, Pultec, 1176s etc.. a big room stacked full of flashing lights and tons of hardware basically!

Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?

Almost every time it's with the beats. I get a rhythmic foundation down and then see where it takes me. The musical elements could start off with a sample or from my playing. I'm not the world's best keyboard player and have no idea about the notes I'm playing — it's all by ear — but I often manage to make something that sounds right with a bit of practice and editing.

Where do you shop for and discover music?

I listen to some unreleased stuff on SoundCloud and tend to buy stuff from Traxsource usually. That's only if I'm DJ'ing though. I can't justify the cost unless I'm spinning it. The rest of the time, I listen to music on Spotify where I'm a paying subscriber. My day job is in the digital side of the music business so I'm always looking ahead and feel the days of music 'ownership' are numbered. 'All you can eat' streaming subscription services for music and other entertainment will be the norm in the future. You will only need to 'buy' stuff if you are a DJ and need the files to put on your USB Key or Laptop.

Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?

Diggs Duke, Tall Black Guy are standouts.

What's brewing in your studio?

Nothing really right now, I've just put out three 4-track EPs in the space of 2 months, so I'm taking a well earned rest! I'm a family man so my music always has to slot in around them, I can't be stuck in the music all the time. I do have a couple of ideas on the go and will start ramping up the amount of production over the next couple of weeks.

Any production tips & tricks you'd like to share?

Work with others, collaborate, learn as much as you can and learn more. There are no real rules in production, just guidelines. Feel free to break the rules if you like the sound of things. Learn especially the sound of compression and how YOU like to compress, check out the sound of different compressors and how each impacts the sound. Also learn EQ properly and the 'shape' of certain EQ curves. Learn which ones you prefer. I'm a big fan of the Pultec type of EQ. Love the way you can shape sound using that. It feels more musical.

Where can we find you on the web?

SoundCloud / Facebook / Twitter /