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Steven Lee - The Remix Is Coming Home

Sunday, 20 April 2014 in Q&A

Hi Steven. You are part of the team behind The Art Of The Remix with Vincent Di Pasquale who has worked with everyone from Timbaland to Madonna and also your partner in the dynamic Lee-Cabrera with Albert Cabrera. This interactive insight is remarkable, can you explain to the DMC community what the seven hours is all about...
"The Art of the Remix is like literally sitting right next to us in the studio as we prepare, start & finish an actual project. Once finished, if the user has followed along, they will have the exact replica that of ours making the entire experience something they then can apply to their own remixes and studio projects. It's all about showing the users the fastest and most efficient way to work in their studio so that they can constantly 'Stay in the creative work flow' rather then being slave to their software.....this is the ultimate goal..."

I was speaking to my friend Paul Harris from Dirty Vegas the other day and he was giving it the big thumbs up and I understand that Jimmy Douglas who has produced and engineered for Jay Z, Missy Elliot and Justin Timberlake is also giving it props. So who came up with the idea of The Art of Remix - and also, did you not want to keep some of your secrets to yourself instead of showing it the masses, or was it a case of 'the more people making exciting music the better'?
"The Art of the Remix came about as an idea that I had for quite some time now and then after a long boat ride in Miami where I shared the idea with VIncent. I would be on flights coming and going on tour and would be playing around with Logic and bobbing my head to beats while sitting next to people that would start to ask questions about what I do - and why I am in Moscow or Tokyo or wherever and I would start sharing all things us DJ's &  Producers do. After a few minutes, they would all just be blown away by it all. They would so interested and want to know as much as possible and it dawned on me that there really wasn't a proper venue or place where a music enthusiast that loves music or is incredibly interested in making music but doesn't have the means or place to do it. After seeing such interest and seeing where technology is going and how fast its doing it, we just had to come up with a simple but effective  concept of bringing people INTO THE STUDIO with us and showing them how to make music. From there it was non stop for Vincent and myself. In regards to the secrets, those are always yours to keep. You can teach a concept all day long but it takes then the user to take that concept and use it to their original remix or production. It is still the producers job to stay in the creative mode and achieve all they want with their studio and not be a slave to their software and sitting frustrated with ideas in their heads but cannot get them onto a CDR to hear them."

What do you think are the most important tips/guiding lights The Art of Remix gives to the person watching?
"The most important tips are definitely that ANYONE can achieve this. Again, not everyone will be AS creative as the next, but giving an inside track to how to perform and produce the best music in their studio AND with their own productions takes a hell of a lot of pressure and allows the producer to stay creative, which is the key goal with The Art of the Remix and Fader Pro. Not everyone will learn to produce or sequence like Vincent Di Pasquale or some of the greats that make this stuff look easy. But if they have a creative desire to make music, they will definitely have the ability after taking the course."

Was it a musical household you were born into, what musicians were blaring out of your speakers back then?
"Born in Portland, Oregon and then left eight years ago to NYC for University and to chase my musical dreams. I grew up listening to my mom sing Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nics all my life. My mom is a musician and an unbelievably talented singer and has been leading the worship in church back home for 15 years She was definitely my catalyst with music, it was just born in the family. Her and my Aunt grew up singing in bands and recording so I was always engulfed in music from the start. Growing up, I loved to dance, breakdance, any dance really. I was breaking as a Grade Schooler which taught me rhythm and brought me to the clubs where I got to see Danny Tengalia any weekend, or Junior Vasquez, Morillo, Sanchez and all the crew. From there it was a marketing position with the famous Strictly Rhythm that was so inspiring that it was then a full time commitment to my music."

How important to your career do you think the 2004 smash 'Shake It' was - an immense tune that is still looked at as one dance music's finest ever that even was awarded honors at the World Music Award, was licensed in 15 territories and appeared on over 50 compilations - man, that piano hook!
'Shake It' was a blessing all the way and it seems it will never go away as it's coming on strong again with #1 Beatport with the 5 year anniversary remixes. For me, it was the first original production that Albert and I did together. We had done the Lil Mo Yin Yang "Reach" remake that got hammered real good and started our relationship with Pete Tong on Radio 1, but 'Shake It' took what I had going on at Strictly and as a DJ to the stars - and it all happened quite quickly. The touring, the press, the notoriety, the remixes, the money... it all came and with the help of Mark Finkelstein and he managing me, it just put it all together perfectly."

Your DJing has taken you all over the world - China, Australia, Russia, Spain. What are the best gigs you have done outside of the States?
"Yeah DJing is a performance in itself. As much as the studio is a necessity these days to tour, DJing for me is the outlet and the actual moment where I really get to show what I can do to a floor and with my music. I have learnt from watching some of the best and now had enough time under my belt to really mature as an artist today, which feels great. I appreciate each gig and being able to travel the world to show it off a bit. It's the most common question I get ask, where is the best and it's impossible to answer. The Space Terrace Ibiza, Pacha in  Sao Paolp, Pacha in Portuga, OZ and all of the festivals, Answer in Seoul. Being in Ibiza and playing with the best of course is soo good and soo inspiring. This year I am a resident with the Salvacion Ibiza brand which will keep me in Ibiza all summer and touring throughout Europe as well. I am actually in the hotel lobby here in Marbella and just landed from Seville where I will play Glam.... should be great!"

And what countries have the craziest clubbers?
"The UK gets pretty crazy, but you guys have been doing that stuff for years so the title has to goto the Spanish or Asia. It really depends on a ton of things and which venue and promoter you are working for and I love what Asia is doing at the moment."

You have remixed some stunning artists - Layo & Bushwacka, Basement Jaxx, Masters At Work, Roger Sanchez, Jaydee to name but a few - what are your favourite three remixes you have done over the years?
"Wow which favourite remixes? I loved the Layo & Bushwaka remix of 'Shining Through', it was appreciated from both Layo & Bushwaka so much because they had tried to get a proper remix of it for years and they couldn't get it. We didn't know that at the time but wow did they really appreciate it - as did Pete, Howells, and the crew. I loved the record anyway, so 'The Big Love' remix last summer really went off and I did that with Trent Cantrelle. It got a little hairy with the deal and it never had a chance to come out, but I didn't hear a room NOT playing it - no matter where I was. My Roger Sanchez remix this past year I had fun with as well. The vocal was a bit commercial and I was trying to toughen it up so I did some of my own vocals on it with a whisper to give it a bit more edge which came out really good."

Tell us about the one / off relationship with Strictly Rhythm...
"I worked at Strictly as a start to my career and it was inspiring every day I walked in the office. I used to beg for promos before my hiring at the job and to walk in those doors with so much history in there was an honour and still is an honour to have been part of that team and its success. Mark Finkelstein is a father to me and I love him dearly. Before we closed he was the head boss and it was of course a different relationship, but after we closed the door he approached me to manage me and it was amazing to accept. That label will be around forever and there is nothing better then the music they have provided to us all."

What is the best album ever made?
Michael Jackson "Thriller" -  enough said."

How would you describe your DJing style?
"My DJ style according to my people is a Morillo style, as they all call me Baby Morillo. Erick has definitely been a big inspiration to me and what he does to a floor and the drama and emotion he brings has really been a strong inspiration for me and my style as well. I bring as much energy and emotion to the floor as possible and do the best I can to create havoc and creativity. I feed off the people and it's the best blind date I've ever been on as you have all these people sitting there waiting and wanting and when you give it to 'em and bring that emotion out it's quite a connection - always refreshing each and every gig. I love the darkness and deepness of Danny Tenaglia and these days am finally getting a chance to play longer sets where I can layer things and be patient as opposed to just beating the place up from start to finish. I have been ready and waiting for this and it's great to now have the capacity and dancefloor to do it in."

So you are back in the studio now - what's the next project coming up?
"Well we took a bit of studio time off as we had to get this project finished all Fall, Winter and Spring as I knew I was heading to Ibiza for the summer to tour and promote the company, so there wasn't a tonne of time to get in the studio. Did some great work with Gaby Dershin in NYC with releases of 'Exit Row' on CR2, 'Me, You & Space' feat Sam Obernik for Azuli and several more for Pacha Recordings including a remake of the Asia 'Heat of the Moment' which they will be working this summer. Just done a new 'Shake It' 2009 remix to go with the package and the anniversary for CR2 and re-recording the vocal and it looks like all the mayhem is going to start with that record all over again. After the summer I'll be back in the studio full time and really excited about that as well."

What one artist in the world would you really like to record with?
"Have a tonne of respect for a lot of artists in this business, but working with Timbaland where we could do his nasty drums for the urban tip and my electronic head would be a treat! Seems like what he's doing at the moment is super inspired."

Last year saw an abundance of singles from you that signed to different labels, 'Exit Row' signed to CR2, 'Bulk Head' snapped up by Whoop and Pacha took 'Heat of The Moment' for instance, why do you think it is important to spread things around, or was it a case of who had the biggest offer?
"Yeah I am doing exactly what I didn't have a chance to do as Lee Cabrera as we signed everything to either CR2 to MOS which we loved and was happy to work with - both great labels and both did us well. But I didn't have a chance to work with other labels that I loved and respected, only with remixes. Now I have had the chance to work with Pacha, Azuli, *69 and many others. There is a tonne of great labels out there."

DJing or Producing/Remixing - if you had to choose only one as a career which one would it be?
"WOW- tough question as when I am a bit tired of one, I do the other. But if I had to it would be DJing, but I would have to produce 10 more 'Shake It's for me to have that opportunity. I love to perform and I love the interaction with the crowd and twisting a crowd up in knots, though I would have to say touring but that after this summer, I am sure that answer would be different as I'll be ready to lock down in the room again. Technically, I am better at DJing then producing but my real creative comes out in the studio."

And finally, who do you think has been / is - the best producer, DJ and remixer in the world we've seen.
The best out there? Wow! You're killing me. Danny Tenaglia - there you go! His Depeche Mode, his Elements, his Kings of Tomorrow, his Music is the Answer and on and on. the sounds in his productions and the warmth contrasted with DIRTY and FILTH is synonymous of what he does on the floor. This man will make you want to throw all your music away and start over after an eight hour session with him, a great person and true inspiration to me and one that gave me my first shot with playing with him in NYC and the infamous VINYL."

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