Interview with Music & Television Producer Lewis Marklin Mash About This & That
Lewis Marklin Mash is a music and television producer who started rapping at the age of ten in Los Angeles, California, then went on to become the host of two national TV shows and an Emmy Nominated TV producer with The Gallery Group.
When did you know that you wanted to be in the entertainment industry?
I pretty much always knew. I can’t give you an exact date, but I was pretty young. I was just a crazy kid who loved to put on a show. My dad started recording me into a microphone, reel-to-reel recorder as soon as I could talk. Then he would play it back so I could hear myself. I think that was probably when music was birthing in me.
So when did you choose rap music and why?
Let’s see. I started memorizing America’s weekly top 40 when I was about 6 years old. At that point rap music had not reached me, so pop and rock were my main music’s of choice – Michael Jackson, Motown, Tears for fears, The Cure, Eagles, all that stuff. Then around the 4th grade KDAY AM came to LA and Run DMC and The Beastie Boys hit the airwaves on KIIS FM – Pop stations. People started break dancing to Whoodini – Shabadoo lived two blocks away from me – He starred in Breakin’ and was a huge celebrity in our neighborhood so the influence was strong. I just immediately levitated to rap music because I couldn’t break dance and I did not have a voice to sing. Rappers were cool and the genre has always been wide open to creative license. I mean, there are rules but very few in comparison to other music types. You can mix any style together and if it sounds crazy sick then everyone’s down with it.
So who were your favorite rappers and influencers?
When I first started there was Grandmaster Flash, RUN DMC, LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim and of course Doug-e Fresh & Slick Rick. Being from LA though we were all about Ice-T and when NWA came out we went out of our minds. DJ Quick, The DOC, Above the Law, then Snoop Dog and Tupac. Biggy and Puff Daddy, Eminem, Nas, B.o.B. More recently I am digging the female rappers though.
List your 5 favorite female MC’s
Hmmm. OK… #5 The Real Roxanne #4 EVE #3 MC Lyte #2 Iggy Azalea #1 Nikki Minaj
Looking around your pad I see lots of autographed pictures of music artists and actresses and they all seem to all be female. Care to elaborate?
I just love my ladies and these are some of my favorites. Women have always played a big part in who I am and the successes in my career. I consider myself a soul with very tumultuous storms and dark waters running through it. I have been tormented by many demos and hard times throughout my life and women have been there at key times to sooth my pains and calm my spirit. I love women. I spent a lot of time around my mother and two older sisters as a kid and that probably has a lot to do with it.
Who are some of your favorite female artists right now?
There are quite a few but I cannot start any conversation without the Queen of pop, Madonna, who was my first love of music and whom I have looked to, to fashion many of my philosophies on artist development. She is the marathon champion of all female artists. She just keeps reinventing herself over and over. She is always relevant no matter how old she gets or what decade you’re talking about. She never ages. But right now my top five are Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Fergie, Lily Allen, Katy Perry with Gwen Stefani, Beyonce’, Demi Levato, Selena Gomez, Jessie J, Becky G coming in right behind them.
Yes! Lily Allen is probably the most underrated and overlooked artist in the world! She is an absolutely amazing artist. I love English artists and she is 100% London at it’s best. She’s got attitude and melody with that gorgeous British accent. She’s got style and she’s so sexy and yummy. I look to her for many of the projects that I am working on today. She’s not just a stylish coat rack with catchy songs either, she really has a lot to say and she’s very smart. I enjoy her entire albums and honestly I can’t say that about a lot of artists.
OK, so when you talk about working on new projects and developing artists, what are some of your philosophies and strategies that go into selecting an artist or project and how do you go about developing a project?
Each project is unique so I approach every project different. The kind of artist or project determines the genre and the road map that I will most likely take. Also, whether it is a personal project or a project for hire, whether I am working solo, with a small group, a large group, a small label or a large label.
How do you find the talent? How talented does an artist have to be?
For me, I just find the talent wherever I can find it or whoever might be presented to me. We develop artists and projects so we are far less concerned with raw talent are much more concerned with 2 things: 1) that the artist has drive and is willing to work hard – has their feet on the ground and the head out of the clouds. Then 2) that the artist is willing to listen and take direction. Those are the two most important things that our company looks for. I am not a religious man but I do know that even the bible says that “love covers a multitude of sins,” and this is a philosophy that we believe in. We fall in love with artists and projects and basically love them to health as long as they want it and are willing to listen. If an artist has tons of talent but they think that they know everything and can do it all themselves, then honestly there is not much that we can do for them but if the artist has less talent and is willing to listen we can fix their mechanics, make them sing in key or write them songs within their key and ability. We have a very talented team who has been around and we do not believe that someone’s limitations can stand in our way. An artist who takes direction is a major labels wet dream just as much. No one likes a pain in the ass whether it’s a kid who won’t take out the trash or a self-entitled pre-madonna.
I hear ya. Going back to the last question, how do you approach a new artist or project?
Well, I can’t tell you all of my secrets but I will say that the first thing we do is look at the artist’s pictures to determine what their style ranges will be. Then we listen to the music to get a sense of their style and voice range as well as genre. We look at the history patterns of the industry in regards to their style and genre. We look for probabilities. We get a realistic sense for where this artist is at and where we can take them within 5 years. Then we brainstorm what we call “X-Factoring.” Those are our own sets of creative formulas that we hold in our locked safe like it’s the Colonel’s secret fired chicken recipe. The recipe that separates the Gallery Group from any other agency in the industry; The formula’s that take a long shot horse to the winner’s circle at the Kentucky derby. We have deep dark secrets and we’re not telling! We don’t go out combing the scene or reading the trades looking for America’s next big talent in a coffee shop or nightclub. We deal in long shots because that’s where the money is at, the investments are low and the return yields are great! I have worked with many of the top young talents who never made it in the industry over the years and honestly I have to say that talent just is not enough to make it. There are so many talented kids coming up year after year and the talent is so stiff, it takes a perfect blend of key elements to ensure that an artist gets the best shot at the title but even that does not guarantee that this fickle industry won’t sign you then chew you up and spit you out.
Who is the biggest music artist or group that you have worked with?
Have you ever had a big fish get away?
I was living, going to school and producing in Santa Barbara, where Katy is also from and her friends introduced me to her music right after she had been dropped from her first label. She was a Christian artist at the time and I just did not want anything to do with religious music so I passed.
Bet you wanted to kick yourself for that one huh?
Yeah, sorta. In all honesty I was still young and I do not know that I was ready to produce an artist of that magnitude to that kind of success yet. I might have been a speed bump in her career at that point. Even with 18 years in music I was still a pup, learning my trade.
Do you currently have any artists that you are working with or watching?
There are several that we are keeping tabs on and one in particular that we have been working with out of Simi Valley: Laci Kay that we expect to see very big things from. She’s 17 and has already been acting and recording since she was 8 years old. She’s got the look, the style, the work ethic, talent and star quality to do the thing. Lot’s of other people are feeling the same way so we are just part of an invisible team; she’s sort of a free agent moving towards the label’s front doorstep with a nice little bow on her head, ready for production.
My little cousin wants to be a star but between you and me he’s two cupcakes from blowing up on the couch. Is there hope for a kid like that in your producing model?
I am going to surprise you by not saying yes, but rather ABSOLUTELY!
Are you serious?
100% serious. As long as the kid shows up to play, we will coach him. Like any good drill sergeant we will put that kid through basic training and when he graduates he’ll be ready for battle. Shoot, he’ll be a Navy Seal! I have often brag that I can turn anyone into a star and I am crazy enough to believe that! I’ll either make them a star or damn near die trying. I will stop at nothing and I’m not afraid to try anything.
You have your second book coming out, “Sober IS…Sexy!” and you claim to be Straight Edge, what is that?
Yes! I am Straight Edge and the book is basically about my Straight Edge lifestyle that I credit for getting me back from a gnarly 20 year battle with addiction that nearly killed me. I would not be doing what I am doing today if I was not 100% sober. I do not drink alcohol. I do not do any non-prescribed drugs. I do not smoke cigarettes. I do not eat red meat. I am currently quitting caffeine. I just do not want any substance in my body that alters my natural state, blocks my ability to think clearly or jeopardizes my relationships or hard work. The book underlines my discoveries about some of the richest, most powerful and sexy people on the planet who either never touched drugs or alcohol or gave them up because they were driving a wedge between them and their goals. I live by this code and do not tell anyone else to do it unless they really want to, because, well, it’s pretty hardcore!
Sounds hardcore! Sounds positive though. I wish we could talk more but we’ll have to save more for later because I get the feeling that there is much more. Thanks for taking a minute to chat.
Thank you! It has been fun.