Keepin' it Real with Demarkus Lewis
The name Demarkus Lewis has been synonymous with top quality underground house music for two decades and his output continues to go from strength to strength. With over 100 releases and remixes on labels such as Nervous Records, King Street and his own label Grin Music, Demarkus is just as respected behind the turntables as he is at the mixing desk.
We invited Demarkus to perform his exlusive mix alongside guest resident John ‘Julius’ Knight for our Traxsource Live! #25 and he kindly took the time to answer a few questions on what makes him tick behind the turntables.
Hi Demarkus. Do you approach a recorded set differently to playing live? Do you plan the set or just go with the flow?
To me a recorded set allows a DJ to think before they speak. I have had plenty of live sets where I listen back and think to myself ‘Man, I should have played this or dropped that’. Having the chance to try out mixes before you drop them can and should be treated as an advantage when doing recorded sets. With that said, recorded mixes and live performance mixes are very different for me. When I prepare for I gig I never fully plan out my sets, as I never know what the vibe of the room is going to be like. I play every style of House (as long as its real) and I’ve had gigs where I thought I’d be playing harder but come to find out the crowd respond better to the deeper side of things. I tend to bring plenty of weapons of all genres so no matter what I feel in a room I can take it there. So you can see how having a pre-programmed set somewhat hinders my story telling. No matter whether its recorded for broadcast or live, I always like to travel and tell a story.
What kind of equipment do you use in these technologically advanced times?
For DJing, I prefer Pioneer 2000s with a Pioneer mixer (750 or higher). I don’t know, there’s something about what Pioneer has done that gives the DJ experience just enough analog feel to make the job as fun as it was on Technic 1200s.
Are there any gigs that really stand out as special moments in your career?
I remember playing Chicago for the first time back in the early 2000s. It was for the 3 Degrees camp at Zentra Nightclub. I was hanging out with Boo Willams and as we walked up to the front door he said something to me I will NEVER forget! He says, ‘You ready?! We’ll let you know if you on some bull***t! You better be ready cause this is Chiii-caaagoooo’. Thats how he said it, all drawn out like that! ha ha! Needless to say my mind state went from being focused to nervous as hell in 2.2 seconds. So we walk in and chilling in one of the side booths was an all-star line up; by this I mean Glenn Underground, Terry Hunter, Lego, Tim Harper , Sadar Bahar and man, I don’t know who all else! When I was done playing I slowly walked over to their table, geared up and ready to hear them tell me to take my butt back to Dallas. Instead Glenn looks up at me with a little grin and said ‘Alright, Alright you did the damn thang!’ Ahhh, that was priceless. Oh and this one time in St. Petersburg in Russia I had someone throw their bra up on the mixer. That was pretty sick! Ha ha!
Are there any DJs that have blown you away over the years?
DJ Diz from Chicago and Karizma are my two top jocks of all time! These guys have a way of controlling a vibe like its nobody’s business! If you get a chance to see either of these two gents by all means sort it out, especially if you are a true house head!
Any mishaps behind the turntables? We’ve all been there!
Yeah, well in my 20 some odd years of playing beats I have surely had my fair share. One time in particular comes to mind at a gig I had at The End up in San Fran. If you were there at that show I apologise! Ha ha! Thats really all I can say about that. It’s all my friend Kayleigh’s fault!
With all the new technology now available, how do you think DJing will change in the future?
Well I think that it’s going more towards the live performance aspect. Now ‘Stems’ are being sold as if they were full songs. I believe DJs will begin remixing more during their live performances now more than ever. If you are not familiar with the term ‘Stem’, it refers to one single audio recorded file which could be an instrument or part of a song i.e. the bass line, drums or vocals. With this being the new thing, I think DJs who use Traktor or Ableton will be able to totally dissect and use different parts of songs to add into the mix. This will bring a whole new edge to the DJ realm. The days of mixing one song into another will soon be a thing of the past. So if you love to rock crowds you will have to be prepared to follow the technology wave and grow as it does. Case in point?! How many headlining DJ’s play only vinyl these days? I rest my case.