Name: Lewis Delhomme aka Lewis OfMan
Occupation: Producer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Current release: Lewis OfMan's debut album Sonic Poems is out now visa Profil de Face.
Gear recommendations: Get yourself a little Casio synth, always good to have stuff like this at home, always plugged & ready to be played. I found some wild basslines in some inspired moments believe me!
I know it's famous but we never know, go grab the vintage reverb Valhalla, it's just the best. I never believed in specific, too detailed reverb. A good reverb just has to be heard, it’s a tie not a sock … or maybe a flashy sock.
If you enjoyed this interview with Lewis OfMan and would like to explore his work in more depth, visit his profiles on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
The attic of my parents' apartment in Paris. Really nice, so nice ... I miss it every day. It had beautiful light, it was cosy, I felt the the safety of my parents.
Obviously you have to leave at one point, young bird!
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
The evolution was really just me learning stuff with what life gave me.
I started «producing» with an ipad, chilling with garageband, and I was happy! Then a computer … got myself Ableton Live because this kid in my school was doing techno with it and showed it to me. He also showed me what EQs, compressors, multi bands were used for. Software instruments were fine for me at first, but at some point I understood that if I found a sound interface I could record the sound of my electronic keyboard! I had a Technics Kn1000 that a friend of my mother had given me and an old Yamaha CS2X I found during a trip in NYC. So I started messing about with them, it was so nice.
Afterwards this other dude showed me a website were you could find old used synths, hop! Got myself a DX7, cheap, (obviously that was before these instagrams synth sellers that made everything so expensive). It was in a low-key bad shape, but fascinating! And totally beyond comprehension. By trying to understand it and using everything in the wrong way I kind of found my own sound I guess.
I also noticed that music studios had special speakers, not hi-fi speakers (which I had), bam! Let's grab some classic Yamaha HS5. I still work with them, and I hate their squeaky sound with love. Later on, as my music life was growing, I moved to Barcelona to start my album. I had some money so I bought some Rolls Royce synths - a Moog Model D, and an Arp Odyssey – and that changed everything! These 2 gems are precious to me. A third one followed a year after, the Moog Source. These 3 are my monophonic killers.
Meanwhile in the polyphonic game, my old Technics KN1000 died after a show in New York. I was unconsolable ... but the tour had to go on and I found an emergency solution that has now become a really precious item, the Yamaha MX49. It's ugly but oh so charming. I also got myself a Mellotron (this cello, this obeo, this sax ...) but I have to say the CS2X is really my vibe these days, it's so 90s! Some presets are called «MDMA», «Rave», «Moon-weed» really fun. I also have this baby bass, quite handy, and a very elegant blue sparkle Danelectro guitar. I call it my «Barry White showcase» guitar.
To finish this long story, last month I found an old Ensoniq Eps 16 in NYC, with the owner’s dozens of floppy disks. It's a revolution, the «boost» option, the sampling process, the built-in effects … you slow down and take the time. It's insane
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
I only work with analog synths, I never use VST plug ins. Not to be against our times but I just hate the idea of having an instrument on a screen. I want to touch my instrument, to plug it in, see it grow old with me.
The only digital thing I would use are effects. In this case the digital wealth is controlled by related feelings. If the combinaton of Binson echo + drive + crystalizer +chorus + etc doesn’t sound good - it simply doesn’t.
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
What I hate the most is a place that breaks spontaneity.
Recently I was in a big studio with 3 engineers / assistants and man ... imagine that you are inspired by what you are listening to, you have an idea but the synth is not plugged in (for what reason? I don’t know). You wait for 5 minutes, then it's finally plugged but not loud enough - or too loud - the vibe is just gone.
I’d rather go into someone's tiny, nasty, wet basement studio and throw some good wild stuff than work in these huge rooms that makes you feel like shit because big artists made a «masterpiece» there. And I hate to feel the judgement of the people working in studios … I really hate it.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
I have to admit I love these synths with tiny screens and all these numbers on them. The Moog Model D is nothing like that. It’s cool but the mystery is too archaic. Whereas a screen gives hope of control, of the future, there are mathematics there, and mathematics are the universe. You almost have the feeling an ancient civilisation is hiding behind the DX7 algorithm that goes like: 101001 or maybe 111011?
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
I love to use old technology to do new things, especially these days with my new Ensoniq Eps16. I call it «going to the future with the past», because you arrive with a 2022 mindset on a 90s instrument with such a specific 90s process. I love that.
Making mistakes or trying to handle things with technology always made me creative. Take my song "Attitude" or my song "Flash" that were made when I was struggling to craft a specific sound and by doing it you go somewhere else.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
Yes I have so many projects among my Ableton files which are just a loop I made after a good coffee, feeling fresh! I jam on it but then realize it doesn’t interest me that much … so I name the project with the first thing that comes to my mind like «COOL DOWN LENNY» or «crado» «big fog» «bad air» and then it stays on my hard drive like a little notepad.
Sometime I show these loops to some artist I produce, sometimes it works. And there are other times where I come back to them but it still doesn’t work. So then I think they may come in handy at a certain point. It's like a temporary cemetery: these songs are dead until they eventually live.
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
The surprise is the mistake. If I know too much what I am doing it will be conventional (I prefer the term random). But if I'm making too many mistake it's more like a useless training music loop. So I would say it is good to keep the balance between your skills and the joy of chance. It's good to work on how to stumble upon and how to capture the originally unwanted.
Analog synths are just the best for that, or weird arpeggios you find in cheap digital keyboards. These things are alive, they are answering to you, so there is space for the unknown. Also, absurd contrasts are the best for fighting against conventional ideas.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
Most of the time I come the studio with a blank brain, and if I am in a good mood, I will start jamming with what I have and I see where it takes me.
Once I recorded something, the idea start to pop up, like my song «fuck you» on my album.
While I was doing it I was thinking «let's say fuck you at the end of each bar» hop! Once you have this road, the construction of the song is easy, you have a subject and an emotion to describe. So it its more about the thought than the making of the song. If I would have found the fuck you riff on a bad day maybe I would not have found the idea of saying fuck you.
The equipment is low-key secondary, except for the synth, it rarely triggers things, especially the software and stuff. For «fuck you» I recorded my voice saying these words and then thought «let's put some distortion on it»
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
It is not important because I want it - but because I have really specific ideas. Most of time, when I am not there to explain the concept, it is a mess. Not necessarily at the beginning of the idea, because it is what life is giving you ... I was so happy when Tim Goldsworthy showed me these drums loops he had that inspired so many of my riffs! But once I have my idea I often have to be involved in everything.
I understood now that nobody really understands what you have in mind. I will take the most clichéd example, but when you ask an engineer to put «more reverb» on the music, not everyone has the same vision of what reverb is. So it is better to be in the room so that the vision can be shared by everyone.
For the mixing of my album, Bruno Ellingham literally took my Ableton sessions and started his work from there, and I thought it was a wonderful way of seeing the mixing process. Instead of re-doing something else, he started with my balance and pushed it further with his skills
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
This Ensoniq sampler really made me realize how much pain in the ass it was to make electronic music at the time. To capture all these samples, making them in the same tempo(ish), getting your sampled snare & kicks to knock, save everything in this floppy disk - I mean, wow. Look at us riding in Splice, converting some youtube videos, having 900 projects on the hard drive … luxury times!
So yes, getting back to these old ways just calms you down. You take the time, you accept the mistakes because this sample is either too rushy or too late, and as a result, you get this bizarre but cool rhythm. And it's fascinating, all these textures are just insane
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative provess. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I think the only interesting way would be that the AI detects that this jam you're not recording is cool as hell and that it launched the recording without you noticing, so the innocence, the purity is safe. This would be interesting, just like an assistant that doesn’t exist.
Otherwise these AI «songs» or anything like that are more gadget than anything and will stay in our memory like these things you see on Pinterest.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
I don’t think about it, just like I don't think about NFTs.
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
The recording process could be worked on. There is always a sense of pressure when your record, and to record everything is not so handy. A balance could be found, and because I don’t imagine anything that could be made for this quest I guess the result would have to be something new.