You go to School... And Lisa Lashes is your teacher !!!
Learning again at the Lisa Lashes School of music
I love dance music, so much so that I learnt how to DJ as soon as I could afford a set of decks. As a wide eyed teenager in Sankeys, I loved being on the dancefloor. I stood there looking up at the DJ, in thew booth and in control, selecting and playing the music and I thought.... I want to do that. So I learnt. It took a while, from just getting the decks and mixer, which like most people in the nineties was a set of belt drive soundlabs, so sensitive that if you touched the platter with anything more than a feather, it took them about 3 hours to get back to speed. If you could mix on these you could mix on anything. Once I got my decks and a few tunes I then had to learn how to beat match and how to mix. I didn't really have a clue about the actual details. I asked anyone I could about what to do, how it actually worked. I got comments like "It's a four four beat innit", "just count in sixteens" etc etc, but what the hell does that mean, it doesn't actually help. So to cut a long story short, I used to be nearly in tears with frustration. My missus at the time recalls records being thrown in anger across the front room, when I messed up. Again. Basically all I needed to learn was a bit of help, some useful advice, a point in the tight direction. I could provide the dedication, passion and practice. I managed to get it. I've managed to progress on and play at some great places and I love it.
I now want to learn how to produce, so it's back to being in the dark again, looking at options for DAWs, midi keyboards synths, drum machines etc. That's just the equipment and before you even start a tune, but there was light at the end of the tunnel this time.
There's a fair few options now for learning about music production, through a number of different courses, but these courses cost a lot, it's not even so much the financial cost, it's the fact that If I pay for something I want to throw myself into it and time is something I'm short of. I was looking at the options and deciding which to go for, when I saw a few friends on facebook had liked/shared a page, it was this page, for the Lisa Lashes School of Music, they were launching soon in Manchester and applications were open for students. I visited their website to see what was going down. The course is listed as "Learn everything you need to become a music professional in this brand new state of the art course in a real operating nightclub". I read more and watched the promo video.
This has been updated... with a cheeky cameo from me at 1min 50 explaining why II thought this was the course for me.
I read more, it sounded great, but I had a couple of reservations, such as would it be hard house central. Now in the late 90's early noughties I was bang into my hard house, dancing to DJ's like Eddie Halliwell, Lisa Lashes herself and more, I was on the dancefloor regularly at Goodgreef. But these days I am a bit more chilled (older) with my preferences now. I'll still go for it, but music over 130bpm for 2 days a week, could be a bit much for me. I read through the course details and was also concerned, that with learning how to DJ being a key part of the course, I would be spending hours learning how to turn a CDJ on and what a fader does. Now, I don't mind going back to basics, but woulds this course be more geared towards the total novice. What really got my interest was the music production aspect to the course. I applied anyway and popped some details about my experience on the application. To my total joy, I was accepted and got a place. This would mean being on the course on Mondays and Tuesdays for 12 weeks and so I had to check in with home life that this was something we could do. Life is busy, but my missus god bless her, was adamant that this was something I "HAD" to do. She's good like that, supports me and pushes me to do things. So that's it.... I was going back to school.
For those of you that don't know Lisa Lashes, it's kind of hard to put down in words her "look" and I think a photo collage would best describe her.
Lisa Lashes - looks through the years.
Basically the woman has a very striking look and she's not what you expect from a school teacher, but then I guess this was never going to be like normal school. But the look is just a part of it, she's bloody lovely too and what she has created with this school is amazing and deserving of huge respect and credit.... Although I would have loved to have seen the looks on peoples faces when she rocked up to her recent meeting at the House of Lords... I bet they didn't know what the hell had hit them ;o)
So it was time for the first day, the course was outlined and my initial fears where already being taken care of. We were split into groups of DJ experience almost immediately, this was great as it would allow each group to focus on exactly what they needed. I was happy. Day one began with watching the awesome What we started documentary, catch it here on Netflix. It's a great watch and really got everyone more excited to get started, I am a massive geek and could watch dance music documentaries on constant loop if I could. I love learning about this scene, how it started, how its all got to where it is now and so this was a joyous way to spend a Monday morning. The afternoon was a documentary of a different kind, one of the tutors is Rob Tissera and the afternoon was given over to him. Rob was talking us through his personal history in the music industry, wow !!! I knew the guy had been around for a while, but to hear first hand from him about everything from running from the authorities, putting on raves with power taken from a lamppost wire, through to getting calls to sign his music from Pete Tong, to making music for Hollywood movies was nothing short of inspirational. Music documentaries are usually focussed on the scene as a whole, with the usual names and faces, but to hear about it all from someone who was there, who was doing it, was amazing. Rob didn't hold back, it was warts and all. It was refreshing to hear about the bad shit as well as the glamorous side and I think that for him to stand up in front of a bunch of students and tell it like it was and is, was a great introduction to the course. Check Rob Tissera on facebook here.
Then it was down to business. The days were split into sessions, essentially a day would be spent in 3 ways. A group session on a key aspect of the industry. A small music production lesson with a tutor in small groups, then a DJ session where you are basically on the decks, with a tutor listening, watching over and advising you where necessary. For the beginners this consisted of in depth lessons on beat matching, mixing and using effects etc.
So, for me the meat on the bone was the music production. We were assigned to a tutor, my group was to be taught by Ben Keen, dependant on your preference Ben is either one half of Tuff London, producing tech house monsters on Toolroom and with legends liker Todd Terry, or Ben is BK, what can only be described as a hard house legend. In the heyday of hard house, it seemed like BK tracks were just everywhere, in the years between 95 and 05 he produced over 100 twelve inch singles. They were all monsters and blew up on the scene. So basically it seems like the guy knows what he is doing.... Then you get to sit in the studio with him and see him work. Holy shit, the guys a genius. Watching how he creates a track is literally mind blowing. Over the course of 12 weeks, I did, with my group create 2 tracks. We went for a tech house vibe and a techno track. it was great to see both tracks come together and everyone on the course, from total beginners through to those already producing and with tracks signed found the production sessions amazing.
The group sessions on the music industry were interesting and varied, these covered everything from writing a CV for the music industry, through to putting on events, setting up your social media for the industry and so much more. These were all extremely informative and even if you knew the topics, you could take something new from them. The majority of these sessions were run by Finn. One half of Murphy's Law and also promoter of the mega Full House night in Leicester. Finn was great to both listen to, but also to talk to. We had a similar interest in music and so it was good to chat with him about the deeper side of things and share our thoughts on artists, DJ's and the like. He's a top laugh too, which always helps.
During the course there were lots of special appearances, guest tutor spots if you like. These special guest tutors included; Anne Savage, another of the hard house glamour girls. It's a rare person that can make Health & Safety attractive, but Anne managed it. She is now a H & S professional and also a Supporter for Plug em, which is a campaign to encourage, DJ's and producers to wear earplugs to protect their ears. Listen to Anne kids.... She knows what she's talking about. Read all about it on her twitter.
When I was told one day that we had a masterclass from Joey Riot I wasn't sure what to expect. With a name like Riot, I guess you can't help but have preconceptions. I hadn't heard of him, but then I found out that he's a big name in the hardcore world (the hardcore heads on the course were seriously buzzing about his very presence). I wasn't sure what to expect as hardcore really isn't my bag. The guy was great, interesting, informative and knowledgable on all areas of the music industry. I really enjoyed his classes on creating mashups and his general chat on how serious hard work and passion can get you places..... He's a good guy, who's good at what he does and he put's his all into it. That's why they chant "Joey, Joey... Joey fucking riot". To get the full effect of this you should fist pump and say it in a strong Glaswegian accent. Joeys great on the socials, so check his facebook page here.
Other notable masterclasses included MC Whizzkid, again MC ing is not on my list of favourite things when either DJ ing or just dancing in a club, but he also told us about forming lyrics and how they could enhance a song. I enjoyed. I even wrote a rap. Might go all gangsta going forward.
There were classes on other aspects too, including a particularly interesting one on mindfulness which taught some great breathing exercises and great ways to focus the mind. This was really useful for any pre gig nerves.
Part way through the course you have a DJ assessment, where a tutor listens to you mix and assesses you, somehow i managed to proper mess this up, I'm talking about a mix that sounded like a 3 legged horse, falling down the stairs in stilettos. so much for me being experienced. I was well fucked off. But Rob was cool and told me to stop stressing and go again. Got it right next time. I was assessed again at the end and my feedback from Stevie was that I was one of the smoothest mixers he has ever heard... I don't know about that *blushes.... But I'll take that kind of feedback.
The course was brilliantly well run, well organised and so enjoyable that the 12 weeks flew by, much was learnt, much fun was had and it was time for a few goodbye beers.
Even with all of the great tutors, top notch equipment and more, the single best thing about the course was not learning to produce music or even being able to spend a Monday afternoon blasting out music, although that is pretty cool. It is the people. If you imagine throwing a cross section of 50+ people together in a room, you are going to get a right mix. A mix of all kinds, backgrounds, likes, dislikes and just very different kinds of people. Some of these would be people that in everyday life I simply would not have spoken to. Yet on this course you are all together, brought there for one reason, that reason is music and a shared love of it. Every single person on that course, from the students through to the tutors had a love of dance music, music with repetitive beats. From downtempo R and B through to hard as nails fast as shit hardcore they all loved it and that brings people together in a beautiful way. I loved hearing their stories, their struggles, their successes and also them playing music they loved. It refreshed me, it fanned my flames for music and it inspired me to finally do this. To start this clothing label that I've been banging on about for what seems like forever, I've even bored myself talking about it. Well here it is thanks to this course.
I'll also be cracking on with music production too and I'm already getting more into the DJing with a renewed vigour and gigs coming up.
Overall this course is simply amazing. It's a real opportunity and it was free. The course is fully funded and so all I can say is if you are thinking about learning about the music industry, like Nike say..... Just do it. That's really all that I can say, well apart from.... Thank you, a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to Lisa, Deborah, Rob, Ben, Finn, Sonny, Steve, Richie, Frank and the rest of team that made this a truly wonderful experience. You guys proper rock.
There's many more courses that are going on in the future so keep your eyes on the facebook page if you think this is could be your kind of vibe.