DJ Mark Lewis has been a pioneer and visionary in the dance music scene for 25 years. His leadership in both spinning music and producing tracks has propelled the house music industry. Born in the UK, DJ Mark moved to Los Angeles in 1986; after waiting tables, he received the opportunity to moonlight a clubs in Los Angeles. “It all really snowballed from there,” Lewis said.
DJ Mark got his start as a DJ in Los Angeles in 1988. “My friends in the UK were DJs and we used to go out clubbing a lot,” Lewis said. He dabbled in music as a kid, playing music at his sister’s birthday parties when he was 9 and 10. “I spun track on one turntable,” he said. After arriving in Los Angeles in 1988, He was given opportunities to guest DJ at clubs around the city. His first gig was spinning tracks at The Glenbar in Marina Del Rey, when he filled in for the resident DJ. He was quickly hired full time to replace the resident DJ. Soon, other club promoters found DJ Mark spinning at other clubs, and asked him to play at theirs – promoters from West Go West night at Millie O’Mallies in Santa Monica and Tramps club soon offered him jobs spinning on nights . “Between West Go West, Batcave, and Tramps, I had five gigs a week,” Lewis said.
As underground electronic music started to become more mainstream, record labels began coming out with music from Chicago, Detroit, New York, Belgium, Holland, and the UK. It spread to the west coast, where electronic music started showing u pin warehouse parties and large-scale downtown clubs.
“Steve and Joey Levy [from Moonshine Records] asked me if I wanted to start playing these underground clubs in the early 90s,” Lewis said “and I said ‘Yeah, absolutely.” Lewis then changed from playing at a mixture of clubs every night to playing more definitive electronic music.
“I’m really fortunate and lucky,” Lewis said about his journey as a DJ. “I had lots of opportunities given to me that propelled my career, and cemented that I can do this as a profession and no longer wait tables.”
In the 1990s, Lewis joined a record pool – a system in which all the major record labels created dance promo CDs, and once a month, members of the pool would receive the CDs and give feedback to the labels. Lewis was encouraged to join one by Moonpop, whom he considers both a mentor and an influence in his career. A year and a half after joining the pool, Lewis was offered a job in the pool. “A job like that had a lot of cache attached to it as a DJ,” Lewis said.
Lewis, later on, got the opportunity to take a position as a Billboard reporter. One of 60 in the United States, Lewis sent in charts that were used to compile the Top 50 Dance chart in Billboard Magazine. “It was a way to give feedback directly to the record labels,” said Lewis. This also gave him the opportunity to do early mixes with artists like Eurasia and Shakakan, as well as keep him on the forefront of dance music in the early 90s.
In the mid 90s, Lewis was a club promoter – brining DJs from the UK to play in the US. He worked with iconic DJs like Derek May, Frankie Knuckles, and Dave Morales. This opportunity propelled Lewis to the forefront of UK dance music, and truly distinguished him as a pioneer in the DJ movement.
While a pioneer of dance DJ music, Lewis is influenced by many of his peers in the industry, like Paul Oakenfold, Tony Humphries, and Carl Cox, as well as producers and label directors like Leslie Doyle. “They seared me in a direction to keep an open ear and to always be inspired by other DJs,” Lewis said.
Lewis’s style can best be described as “uplifting, sexy, and forward thinking.” “I keep an open mind and try not to get pigeonholed as just a “trance” or “house” or “techno” DJ,” Lewis said. His music is very cutting edge: its melodic with strong harmonies based around serious songs. It’s progressive and very upfront with a wide mix of music. “It’s all about taking people on a journey of sexy grooves,” Lewis said.
Currently, DJ Mark Lewis is working on publishing and becoming a manager; while he is playing less, he still is keeping his finger of the pulse and trends of dance music, and working with the new wave of DJs and songwriters. “It enables me to be able to be in a position where I can take my own catalog and new talent into the licensing of film and tv and video games and multimedia content,” Lewis said. “Intellectual property is moving forward with the digital age.”
DJ Mark Lewis is also co-producer of Prescriptive Music’s Aqua Sunday events at the JW Marriott at LA Live. Lewis said that while it’s not a huge event like running a club, his work with Allen Klevens and Chemistry promotional group pulls together “amazing talent” to create fun events that have potential to expand.
“DJing is always my first passion,” Lewis said. “Always evolving, as an artist, is what you aspire to be, so new doors can open and so you can keep being inspired,” he said. As a musician, Lewis is interested in the psychology and science of dance music, and the powerful role it plays in bringing people around the world together. “It’s the essence of what the DJ does and creates the energy of the dance floor: it’s the escape and release of everyday life, and bringing people together to share the love,” Lewis said.
After 25 years in the dance music industry, DJ Mark Lewis is still a pioneer and at the forefront of the music scene, whether spinning tracks at a club, or producing music in a studio.