Ryan Lewis: “I’ve Never Looked at Myself as a Beat Maker”
Started from the Bottom:
“I started playing in bands. Since I got my first guitar when I was ten. Did the whole band thing into kind of my early teens. And even back then I took it way more serious than rest of the band. I ended up getting kicked out of one band for taking it too seriously. And it was the beginning of realizing the whole world of entertainment. It was just fascinating to me. And in middle school I made a band’s website, make t-shirts, kind of different variables that helped push the doors. And then I moved to Seattle when I was in my sophomore year. I went to Roosevelt High School, which was a pretty dramatic culture shock. Like a lot of teenagers I was into a specific kind of music and everything else kind of sucked. When I moved my interest and taste opened up. I started listening to a whole bunch of different shit.
“I was into metal. Drastically different than my taste today. For a while I was very into technical music. I was very into electric guitars, amps, and different type of textures. I was also very into computers. Into web design, photography and music production. So music production started at the same time. And I pirated a bunch of software and like anybody else I started fucking around. That’s how I discovering producing, which is so different than being in a band. Like hip-hop is one of the only genres other than maybe electronic music, you’re creating music, and producing music, and mixing all at the same time. As opposed to a band, writing the whole album and going into the studio. As much as I like to write music, I like to kind of craft music, and mold sounds. I was getting into photoshops for the first time. Going from shooting on film to shooting digitally.
“I graduated a year early from high school. It was right around the time I realized I had to tell people that I was serious about the beats I was making. [Laughs.] Whether they suck or not. And I met Ben [Macklemore] right around then. He came through my parents’ house, and I think I had a sample that he liked more so than the beat that I had. And I showed him a whole bunch of photography and it was the beginning of our friendship. It was a totally different time in life than when we started working on like The VS. EP. It was before he has gone to rehab. It was ’06 or early ’07. For the next two or three years, started doing a lot of photography for him and we would do show posters together. He had put out The Language of My World, and that whole three year period was him figuring out what his next project was going to be, and figuring out if he could keep going. He’s been rapping at this point for seven or eight years, and it was kind of that, ‘Do I need to get a different job? Or do I keep pursuing this?’ It wasn’t until 2009, actually in 2008, we thought we were going to do a mixtape. I had this idea of flipping pretty recent samples. Like post-2000 samples of indie rock group, and kind of have a theme to it. And then that turned into working together for nine months, and making The VS. EP. And realizing that neither of us were wired to crank out a shitty mixtape. [Laughs.]”