Thursday 14 May 2009

Tutor Interview - Danny J. Lewis

This is the first in the new series of tutor interviews coming up on the Point Blank Blog. We are proud to boast tutors with some serious credentials in the music industry and we are sure you are all keen to hear about how they realised their ambitions, reaching the top of the music production tree.

Kindly taking some time out to kick us off is Danny J. Lewis:

How long have you been working at Point Blank?

7 Years

What classes do you teach?

At the college in London I teach Sound Design and Production Skills whilst online I teach Sound Design, Ableton Mnml and Logic Mnml and Logic Deep/Soulful House

Can you tell us about how you got started in the music industry and the path that lead you to Point Blank?

After harrassing people on the club scene with my demo tapes I released my first record in 1993 and was lucky enough to be put into various studios in London by a management company to work on club tracks. I had a whole bunch of releases and remixes out with credible underground house labels and then in about 2000 I was offered an exciting job to work for a digital music company. It was whilst I was there that I met Rob who set up Pointblank and when I felt like putting something back into the business I contacted Rob with a view to teaching and passing the knowledge on.

What production project in the past has given you the most satisfaction?

It was a project that I did with legendary Studio 54 DJ Kenny Carpenter and Daz I Kue (famously now in the Bugz in the Attic collective). The track was released on Kenny Dope and Louie Vega's 'Masters at Work Recordings'. The release was out under the name 'The Ladbroke Grooverz - Seasons of Time'. I had only been producing for a couple of years and here I was with a serious heavyweight American DJ, it was intimidating but somehow I cast that aside and it all worked out fine. It was the start of a great new working relationship with Daz too.

Who is the most talented/ inspiring producer you have worked alongside?

Definately Daz I Kue, this guy taught me a lot for sure. I had spent years in many studios with engineers who didn't want to pass the knowledge on but Daz was different, always willing to share and help me develop. In some respects i'd say he fulfilled the 'mentor' role for me. We ended up working as a team and producing/remixing under the name 'Dafunkstarz'

Can you tell us a little more about your label Enzyme Black how you came about setting it up?

It's a highly personal pet project for the purely Deep/Soulful music I want to make. The releases are exclusively my productions under a selection of pseudonyms, purely to keep the admin side manageable! It's for underground releases that I put out indulgently for myself... the fact that other people like them is a bonus.

Is it hard to be profitable as a label in an age when much of the new generation of music consumers do not consider it immoral to download their music from unauthorised torrent sites and blogs?

Well, I think for some niche genres (EBR's genre Deep/Soulful is quite niche) the people who buy the music still actually respect it. This means they are more likely to purchase the tracks than steal them. I had an interesting scenario once though, one of my students at the college in London told me he had illegally downloaded my entire back catalogue and was DJing with it - in fact earning money for his DJ gigs. I told him how I felt without being heavy handed. Regarding profitability - you are more likely to be make some money when you keep things in house so I do all the press and promotional text and also most of the graphic/web design (with the exception of the label logo and the West District Allstars release artwork) I also do all of the mixing and Mastering - saving a considerable amount of money per release. I would suggest though that if you are in it for the cash you're probably not in the right place - the commercial stuff is where the money's at. Releasing underground music these days is usually a way of getting more DJ gigs - and that's where the big money is.

What are your top 3 most memorable DJ sets?

When I was in Spiritual South I played solo at a festival in the Netherlands in front of 5000 people on stage - i felt like a superstar and it was a proper ego trip. I've played in Italy a few times, one of my favourite places in the world, and Nabilah in Naples was pretty special. Here the club was right on the sea front and previously Giles Peterson and Kevin Yost had been on the top billing.. not bad acts to follow. On a more earthy level I would say my all time favourite gig was at 'Days Like This' in Birmingham a couple of years ago - one of the best Deep/Soulful house nights in the world without a doubt. The 200 strong crowd were hanging onto every track and knew all the words.. seriously.. it was insane - the perfect club to play at for the musical purist.

Do you still DJ much these days?

Not as much as I used to as I'm a dad now and i've been settling down to some family life. Don't write me off yet though - i plan on doing a new Ableton fuelled live thing in the future.

What benefits do you think people get from coming to a place like Point Blank?

The benefit of experience, credible experience from people who truly understand the genre that they are representing. When I started out it was impossible to learn as most people (with the exception of Daz I Kue) were 'closed' - unwilling to share knowledge. These days it's crazy, so much FREE information out there but it's sifting through the rubbish that is the hard thing. There are so many free tutorials on youtube and similar that just don't deliver the credible goods.. As far as i'm concerned it's better to get the real deal.. and also of course the benefit of coming to pointblank is the personal feedback - even online.

If you could give just 1 tip to an aspiring producer what would it be? (apart from "come to Point Blank" of course!)

Watch, Read, Listen, Learn, Practice and repeat the process until you die!

Thanks Danny, fascinating stuff.

For a taster of the personalised feedback you can expect to receive from Danny himself on the online courses check out the following video:

Minimal Tech Course Feedback

See you next time.

Friday 1 May 2009

Work Experience at Point Blank

This week we have had the pleasure of 14 Year old Noa Krikler's company here at Point Blank Towers. Swapping the classrooms of Highgate Wood School for the studios she came to do some work experience and get a feel for life in the working world of the music industry. Whilst here we tried to give her a taste of all the different departments that keep Point Blank running smoothly and this is her blog of her experience:

I had a really fun day on Monday. After being introduced to everyone and shown around, I went to sit in a Sound Engineering class where we looked at all the types of microphones and the situations when they would be used. I then went into the recording studio and sang through each microphone so the students could hear the differences. This was really useful as, since I am interested in singing, it gave me some experience and knowledge in the topic.

Then, after lunch, I went to a vocals class. Here we practised a song a few times before passing a microphone round and took a chorus or verse each. This was really good because it gave the teacher a chance to give us direct improvements we can make on our singing. This helped a lot and also I wasn’t shy or embarrassed about singing because the teacher was really inclusive and gave us a lot of compliments.


On Tuesday I saw a different side of Point Blank. In the morning I was asked to look at a couple of introductions to the courses on the Point Blank website and see if there was anything I wanted to change on it. I felt really important when my views were taken into account. Then after lunch, I shadowed a college assistant who looked after the leads and helped the students out when they needed. This was really fun because I learned cool skills like how to coil leads properly, a couple of tricks with the computer and also some knowledge on the music industry in general which I found really interesting.

Wednesday was a lot of fun. At first I helped out in the office, photocopying and doing some paperwork (which I actually really enjoyed!). I'd never done any paper work or anything before so it was cool to give it a go. Afterwards, I went to a class of web design students aimed at making a new website for the Hackney Youth site. Here I learned about all the steps to making my own website and all the ideas I could include. I found it really useful because I know that in the future I might want to create a website for my music and the class has given me some basic skills to put towards that. It's just a shame we didn't have longer!

I learnt so much today! I started off in a Music Production course where we looked at structures of songs and the top ten songs in the chart this week. After, we looked at different types of bass lines, their effects and examples of them in songs. I didn't realise there was so many! I googled the tutor of the Music Production class,a guy called Jos Jorgenson, and found out that he wrote the theme music for the X Factor and America's Got Talent! He knows all about the professional side of song writing and how to use all the equipment – and there's a lot of equipment in Point Blank! I'’s much better than the school stuff and there's so much of it. After lunch, I learnt about the marketing side of Point Blank and what they do to spread the word about Point Blank. I brainstormed a few ideas on different ways to market the business and they were really interested in a young person's view and opinion. I can't believe it's my last day tomorrow!

I really enjoyed today. I worked with Nick, the online marketing executive, who showed me the different social networking sites Point Blank uses for promotion like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Youtube etc. Social networking is important because it provides a way to reach out to new audiences who might not have heard of Point Blank and creates a community for current and past Point Blank students to network with each other.

This week has given me a real insight into the different types of jobs and opportunities the music industry has to offer as well as what it is like working full-time in an office. The courses Point Blank run not only teach the students technical skills and theory, but they also prepare them for finding their ideal jobs. Thanks to everyone there and hopefully I’ll be back one day soon.