Name: Melvin “Chaos” Lewis
Occupation: Music Producer/DJ
If we start at the very beginning, what got you hooked on music in the first place?
My parents were avid music consumers. My dad with his love for jazz and my mother playing soul, jazz rock. I was five years old being told to throw on a Blood Sweat & Tears album, also various jazz fusion vibes like Weather Report.
How come you ended up producing?
Growing up in West Philly only a few blocks from DJ Jazzy Jeff and living in a city that birthed the best DJs was the ultimate inspiration. While playing parties as a DJ Turntablism pushed me closer yearning to create my own music and beats.
Having worked for years out of Philly’s classic The Studio (now MilkBoy) in different constellations, you’ve since a few years relocated to the New Jersey area and set up your own operation. Has the move changed anything on a creative level?
I had the best times during those years working at “The Studio” so many hit records made not just from my camp, but I’ve watched so many wonderful musicians, singers and songwriters become stars. It took some time getting adjusted to my new environment. Finding musicians, writers and artists was really easy. I was lucky that my area is sort of like a little Nashville. I’ve been working with some really creative singers, producers and writers here in South New Jersey. Kev Rodgers is an awesome artist and producer here in Collingswood, NJ, and we’ve made some stuff. Him and I along with Omarr Rambert also co-produced Jaden Smith’s “Icon.”
You received a Grammy nomination for The Roots’ “Things Fall Apart” album. That’s a proper classic record on so many levels. Looking back, what was it like contributing to it and working on it? Did you have the feeling already back then that it was a classic in the making?
Greatest time of my life working on that album for real. Being able to create and witness awesome geniuses tinkering to flawlessly lay tracks was a hell of an experience. As far as the Grammy… Honestly, haha! Hell NO! Not that it wasn’t a great album, but I was so young, all I wanted to do was hear it on the radio and buy more equipment from our production advance. I can say the song “You Got Me” gave me big song chills back then and recognizing that feeling now with an experienced ear is golden.
Having been active in the industry now for 20+ years (working with acts like The Black Eyes Peas, Lady Gaga, Jaden and Willow Smith and many more), you’ve had a first row seat at seeing the hip-hop scene develop – music and production-wise. How would you compare the scene now to when you started out?
I wish we could bring back more diversity in hip-hop/rap. Back then, you knew something was from LA, ATL, New York, MIA, ya know? Sometimes I feel like I’m listing to a 12 hour song. I know there are artists out there, but this genre box thing annoys me.
Walk us through a regular day in the life of Melvin “Chaos” Lewis, on the job creating!
I wake up at 6:30 am every morning then start a mild work out. Grab a bite to eat then head to my work space. I start with sketches that I’ve previously worked on or start fresh ideas by tinkering with sounds from my tape machines, vinyl, VHS videos or whatever has me interested at the time. Once things start to make sense groove-wise, I expand with musicians and so on. I try to make a fun young, fresh environment for myself to keep motivated.
For you, how does normally a beat or track come to life? Do you create blindly or do you have an idea of what you’re looking to accomplish before you get started? Walk us through your typical creative process!
I’ll throw stuff at the fan till something sticks! Haha… The majority of the time I don’t have a clue what I want to do and it works for me, because sometimes we tend to overthink. But if there’s a project, I go in with pre-thoughts and ideas from the night before.
In this process, where does Toontrack come into play? Which products do you regularly use?
I love Toontrack’s EZdrummer or Superior Drummer, they keep me stimulated. EZbass Is crazy as well! I’ll use EZdrummer or Superior Drummer to start a groove with tons of MIDI ideas…and then the ‘Tap2Find’ and ‘Show Similar Grooves’ features are fire! I’ll take guitar ideas and use EZdrummer’s ‘Bandmate’ to give groove options to start my songs.
What’s next on your agenda professionally?
I’m developing my own artist and that keeps me super creative. There are some things in the works for possibly Jaden Smith and other artist as well. I have a love for vintage everything, so to suppress my addiction I’ve created a Youtube page displaying lo-fi beats and film/VHS style videos to my music. It’s called MasterBeatshun TV on YouTube and all streaming platforms.