Coffee Break Club: Ken Lewis

Coffee Break Club: Ken Lewis

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Ken Lewis is a Grammy Award winning producer/mixer from New York and he has worked with artists such as: Kanye West, Jay ZJ. Cole, Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, Ariana Grande, Drake, Fun., Eminem, 50 Cent, 2 Chainz, Mariah Carey, John Legend, Lenny Kravitz, Rick Ross, Lana Del Ray and many more. He also runs his online mixing school Audio Schools Online.
We spoke about how he got into Music Production, what you’ll need to do in order to survive in the Audio production game, why it’s crucial to build credits before getting all the hi-end gear, why sleep is important, where to spend your money if you’re just starting up and much more.
1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
I got a Tascam Porta 2 8 track cassette recorder when i was 16 and that’s all she wrote. I have shoe boxes full of recordings from my basement growing up. I’ve been playing guitar since i was 10, so recording, songwriting, and production were the natural evolutions for me.

2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?

It’s silly.  Both have their greats. Both have their bad. I mix analog on an SSL AWS 900+ and i absolutely love it. I do not enjoy mixing in the box at all, but i do use the hell out of my plugins, as well as my console and outboard gear.  Its a true hybrid setup and there are strengths from each that the other cannot do, or cannot do well. I pull together the best of both worlds. 


3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?

It already has in so many ways. 


4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?

Everybody’s a producer now. That’s the blessing and curse of technology. Its damn near impossible to survive in this business, so anyone who is doing it is already in the top 1% of everyone trying. To those not there yet, if you want to get there, be prepared to out work everybody else. Set goals then actually work toward them. Don’t expect anyone to help you. Your frustrations are certainly shared by countless others. 
For myself, me and my production partner, Brent K, continue to find our way onto great records as producers.  In the last few years its been Future, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, X Ambassadors, OneRepublic, Ella Henderson, Krewella, J Cole, K Michelle, Eminem, and many others, but it is a constant struggle.


5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?

The IK Multimedia iLoud Micro’s with the 3 inch speakers.  Incredibly detailed and accurate, clear as a bell with nice bass.  shockingly good. The new Plugin Alliance Black Box HG2 is probably my current favorite new plugin..  I’m also using the new UAD Marshall amps a ton, and the Slate Virtual Mix Rack is a new staple in my setup. 


6. Let’s say we could get the brightest of the brightest and smartest of the smartest to come up with a piece of gear (software/hardware) and it could eliminate one annoying thing, what would it be (could be audio or anything, physically impossible or possible)?

Well, that’s super easy. You could just tell Waves to stop pushing “analog” noise thru all their plugins. just awful to have it as a default.  🙂   Otherwise, i think the plethora of available plugins is already extraordinary. I have a great idea for a simple but useful plugin that i haven’t seen done yet, but i can’t share that!!


7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?

People hire me for my credits. They keep hiring me because of the quality of work i deliver. That is how i get and keep clients. If you think you can just buy some gear and start your own commercial studio and be successful, you have a VERY tough road ahead. Go work for someone else for a while as an intern or assistant, learn what you don’t know, learn how to run a studio before trying to open your own, get some credits, then go find clients.


8. If you could go back in time to remix/master/record one album, what would it be? (Can be your own production or someone elses production)

It would be the Wu Tang Clan “Once Upon A Time in Shaolin” album – the secret double album that pharma douche Martin Shkreli bought at auction for millions. There is only one copy in existence in the world and he will probably never release it. I’d love to hear that album again. I would mix it exactly the same but i’d probably spend much longer on the mixes just so I could soak in the music before it goes away again for good. Would that i could. Great album that nobody will get to hear, but that’s art for you. How many incredible works of art are in someone’s vault or in their private collection, never to be seen by public eyes. 


9. How do you stay healthy during recording process? Exercises? Diets? Things to avoid? Things to remember?

Lots of water. 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Don’t over eat, it inflames your arteries. Sugar makes you tired. Drink coffee only when you need it. Stretch occasionally. 
I used to think it was a badge of honour to do insane session hours, and I’ve done many many insane stretches with no sleep. then i nearly died at 37 years old and needed open heart surgery to save my life. Sleep deprivation was literally my only risk factor. All of those badge of honor sessions in my 20’s and 30’s nearly killed me. Now i keep in mind that i can get 8 hours of sleep and still work a 16 hour day if i need to, and you are much more focused and creative when you have slept well.


10. What’s the 1 item that a new producers shouldn’t be cheap with?

A great vocal mic. Mine is the Sony C800g and it has literally never lost in a blind shootout when i put it against 1 or 2 other top mics and make the producer / artist blindly pick their favourite. Its paid for itself dozens of times over and has kept the quality of my productions sonically top notch.

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