Interview With Lenny Dee - DJ, Producer And Head Of Industrial Strength Rec
We managed to rip out some precious minutes out of this hardcore producer's tight schedule. This man's really busy. Just read on, you will see that his energy is simply contagious. Meet one of Industrial Strength Records' propelling forces - Lenny Dee!
You’ve been on the scene since the 80’s. You started by mixing vinyl, then you released tracks on it, now you produce loops. What happened in the meantime? What were the milestones?
Back in the day I was making all the EPs with Frankie Bones. Some of the first records with loops and samples in the mid 80's some eps like Drum Drops, Bones Breaks were just a few. I moved on to working with Aurther Baker as his production assistant. I was making and doing all loops for his productions, as well as doing session work in NYC & London. I would bring a bag of records or beats that I would make on the Akai samplers or from tape loops across to the studios and lay the bits. I worked with the such classic artists like N-Joy, Brooklyn Funk Essentials, The KLF and even Al Jarreau & The Tramps. I mixed and produced over 400 releases. I was the crazy studio cat back in these days, I started at quite an early age at Northcott & Nile Rodgers Skyline studios in NYC. I started my Industrial Strength Label in 1991. We pioneered a lot of industrial hardcore, techno, experimental traxx, we even have had lots of huge Artist's earlier on in their careers, such as Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Daft Punk to name a few. I also made a sample CD back in the early 90's with EMagix for Music Maker Software. Which I loved making. It seemed this idea that had been growing in my head for all those years, was finally going to happen. So when I met Alex Borel. It was like destiny, our new venture with Alex is great. His sounds blow me away. We have the same goals, making totally authentic sounds for each style we take on with great quality. Perfect!
As a New York native you have witnessed the evolution of one of the world’s hottest spots. How did the NYC’s electronic music scene evolve?
Well back then it didn't happen in the clubs. I had to go the the UK to really see what my music did to people. Frankie Bones and I rocked the NYC underground back then for sure. But it was an uphill struggle. We really pushed the electronic music hands down more then any one else in NYC. We made at least two records a month and when we DJed out in the clubs, we were playing our records mixed with lots of Euro imports and things people knew from the radio. It was a great time for music creation in the USA with guys like Joey Beltrum, Frankie Bones, Moby, Jeff Mills, Derrick May, man... the list goes on. For me it started with a a real passion to make something else other than commercial music. And when I heard the sounds of Aurther Baker and John Robie for whom I had the pleasure to work, it was game over. My life was never the same.
What future do you see for Hardcore music? Faster, harder, better? Or maybe rather something different?
There will always be hard music.. Whether electronic or live bands. Hey, even pop music uses elements of old hardcore rave records! I think I see more fusion of styles into hardcore. We release Hardcore Tekno, a cross of Industrial grinding beats, Power Noise, Metal, sometimes the tempos are not as fast as you think. People think "hardcore" and get scared it's too fast. But with that said we also venture into the sound we created back in the 90's speedcore. We crossed this style with thrash/punk/black metal, with such ISR bands like Moshpit and our newest band Dirty Fingers Licked, which is like Slipknot on acid. So loads of new ideas coming across as well as old ones that are just getting accepted now. We are also making the first true Hardcore Tekno Sound pack which will represent the sound of ISR we started in 1991. I am excited about this release.
Which background - the producer or the DJ - is more important to you in terms of what you do today?
No question, both. I cannot do one without the other. I am not a musician. I got into production by listening to records and DJing. I went to school for engineering and I did a lot of the work in the early days on all the productions. I think in a lot of ways by being a DJ/producer you get to see what people like first-hand. To play your own works or new tracks to a crazy crowd - man! It is a mega rush. I love it !
By reading your bio I learned that you are quite a busy man – producing, remixing, DJing and running a label. Your music can be found on many labels and even in games. Is all that a lot of work or is it a breeze?
It is a non stop work flow, I am so busy, it is crazy. But I love it. I meet lots of people, fans, producers and see the world which helps me do all the things I do. I have a strong partner Jules who owns the business with me and we take everything on with a true passion for our music. I have been slowing down a bit to take on the new sound design part of ISR now. We will venture into making VSTs, sample packs, and electronic DJ products in the near future. I have done the label part for so long that this new work is very exciting to me. So I will take it as far as I can with the same love and respect as I do with Industrial Strength Records.
How do you manage all these different aspects of your work (or maybe you don’t treat it as work at all)?
Hehe... It is fun. But for sure it's work. If anyone looks like they are living the dream without putting in the work they are not telling you the truth. Music and this lifestyle have been a part of my life since I was 17 years old. I got my first residnet DJ job in Brooklyn playing at RollADisco and I never had another non-music job since. I worked for a record distributor soon after that, then I made my first record in 1985, the label in 1991. It has been a progression which seems to keep growing. This job is great if you like new things, and I certainly do. I expanded into each part of the music business I liked and I went for it. Not for money, but for the thrill that each thing brought. In this business it is OK to have a few hats on. The music business is a roller coster of ups and downs. I saw early on what the guys before me were doing & did, so I made the choice to explore everything I can to be the best I can no matter were I wind up.
With a proper education in Recording Engineering you are probably very particular about the hardware and software you use. So… what do you use in your studio when producing loops?
I use lots of things. Sometimes my voice or a bang from something, even feedback recorded by mistake can be fun to use. For EFX I use Eventide 3500, Eventide Eclipse, I sometimes have access to the my friends Neve 1073's, mic line preamps or Focusrite channel strips which add the phat analog back into the digital sound. Cubase 5, I think it is very transparent & easy to use. I like it over any other DAW. I use this with 2 UAD cards, with all the plug ins & loaded up TC Electronics X8 on a Mac 8-core G5. Of course loads of software synths, SSL Wave's, Native Instruments Komplete, Micro Tonic... Man, I have so many. Plus my old trusty 909. I still have a few keyboards like the Jupiter 6 (my baby) and the Juno Alpha. I use more software nowadays. I find the Apogee Rossetta 800 a great tool to capture all the analog sounds and convert to digital into Cubase... But my speakers and my Dangerous Monitor ST are probably the most important as you need to have a good room and good speakers to make the right judgments in the creation of sounds and or mixing.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Young new producers. I get lots of music form unknown people. I fish around the net to see what's cooking. This has led me to really pushing to make sample packs via our little company. I think "Wow, if i can fill a void in people's personal productions and give them the tools to create even better & more authentic music, or to help feed an unheard style of music in the future", man, this can progress music to the next level. I have given so much to electronic music as a label, DJ, producer & A&R. I think it is time to take things to another point by going directly to the creators. I feel good about this and I am committed to making great sounds with Alex, Jules & our great new team of sound designers.
Lenny - big thanks for your time!