Vancouver Attracts The Best From Around The World: Meet Producer Dylan Ellis.
Dylan and I have chatted over social media for nearly two years now and I have to say we were very excited when we heard the final decision, that he and his wife Amy would indeed make the move to Vancouver from Dubai. Dylan is exactly the kind of cool cat we love; big heart and uber positive and forward thinking mind, not to mention his talents at the console! We’re super excited to see him in action in the Vancouver music community; read on and then hop over to his social media sites and welcome him to Canada kids!
So Dylan, thanks for finding some time to chat! Ok, obvious first question: What is your musical background? We don’t hear much musically about SA, and I think honestly if you asked anybody, we are probably only familiar with the 2012 film ‘Searching for Sugar Man’!
Well, I grew up in South Africa, where one of the most incredible things a person could experience is a crowd joining together in song. As a kid I was really moved by the fans in the grandstands singing songs of hope, one song in particular “Shosholoza” – an Ndebele song would get everyone up. I use to love singing it and dancing in the grandstands. That was the first time I really understood the power of music and It has consumed me ever since. My Father is a boxing promoter, and everyone in the family helped out on tournament day, so I also spent a lot of time around people with tremendous passion.
I wrote my first song at the age of 8, and by 13, I was playing in bands, gigging and recording. By 16 I went off to the National School of The Arts (in South Africa) to study contemporary music, there after to the Campus of Performing Arts to study Harmony and Composition.
Very cool, I love that! So, how did you get into recording from there?
Recording was a natural part of just being in a band. You always needed to capture your ideas or make demos. I was given a faulty 4 track tape recorder – only two of the inputs worked, but two was enough back then. It really made me listen to music and recordings in a new way, I was always trying to get better sounds, it forced me to be creative in new ways and that was really exciting. Eventually I got a pentium 1 computer and a bedroom studio was born. I started recording some friends who also played in local bands and it simply grew from there. They would recommend me to their friends and it slowly became a viable business where we built and ran several recording studios in Johannesburg, South Africa and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. My wife really was a huge part in helping me take it to new heights. She really pushed me to be better with each step.
Nice. It’s always interesting to hear about the obstacles we overcome, I think it really gives us our different strengths. I’m interested to know why you guys chose to come to Canada, and Vancouver in particular?
Canada has been a dream of ours for many years, and for many different reasons from quality of life to profession.
A lot of my favourite Producers and Engineers are Canadian; Bob Ezrin, GGGarth Richardson, David Bottrill, Randy Staub, Bob Rock, Eric Ratz, Mike Fraser, Brian Moncarz – the list is long. There is a legacy of music excellence here and I hope to learn from it and contribute to it. Music in Canada in general is exciting and pulsing with talent.
We chose BC ultimately for its beauty, the milder winters and because it has solid Game Development and Film industries, both have need for music. I have also previously had opportunities in the United States, it is nice to be close enough to Seattle, LA and Boulder.
I have met many music people from different places in the world, but never any from UAE or SA, what are some of the differences you see here in music and the music biz (good/bad/ugly), compared with other places in the world you have worked?
Music in schools / youth music programs – Even though there are challenges with funding, it is incredible that there are music in school programs, youth music programs, community based music programs – there are a lot of people in Canada that truly care about youth music education. Where there are shortcomings, you don’t have to look far to find an organization or charity working to make a difference. It is awesome. Support those trying to make a positive difference.
The music industry as a whole isn’t what it use to be, but there is still a lot of infrastructure here. Most of the places I have lived, have all been developing music industries. The fact that there are grants and that the Government is funding music is mind-blowing to me. The Ontario government put $45Mil into developing music this year. Its also great to see the scale of things like the Junos and Canadian Music Week in comparison to anything I have seen in most of Africa and the Middle East. Not to take away anything from how far the music industries in these countries have come and how talented the music makers are respectfully, I am simply referring to established infrastructure and marketplace. For example, there are still countries with no royalty collection services.
We are fortunate here indeed! Well, having said that, what do you look forward to the most about living and working in Canada and BC in particular?
There is a lot to look forward to. Mostly I am excited about working in a new talent pool and hopefully working with some of the people I respect. I am also looking forward to exploring more. So far it has been an amazing adventure.
What do you bring to the table that’s different than what other producers offer? (insert sales pitch here lol)
I bring me to the table. My ears. My techniques and years of learning the hard way. There was no easy route through this journey around the world. It was all done with hard work.
In Johannesburg I learnt a lot about business, people and make shifting – I didn’t always have the perfect scenario or budget so I had to learn to harness creativity. I made mistakes and I managed to learn from them and grow something with passion and hard work. In Dubai, I had a very bumpy start but I learnt how to work outside my comfort zone and that led me to adventure and the ability to travel and work with people from all over the world, sometimes even producing with the help of a translator.
I had developed my skill set and great relationships with some awesome teams and people. As a result, I got to write music and do projects for some of the biggest brands in the world like Coca-Cola and GAP. I had built a great little studio in the back of Ramsay Phillips Custom Guitars and I contributed to a weekly radio show with Paul Kelly and Dr James Piecowye on Dubai Eye 103.8 doing a Live in studio band recording, where multiple bands would plug and play and I had to make sure they all sounded fairly decent in a very short amount of time – 3 bands, 3 setups, 3 songs in 3 hours. I developed a lot of techniques to get the job done, and in doing so I changed the way I approached recording as a whole. I have developed a way of live tracking with overdubs and layers that streamlines the entire process of making a record. I have seen a lot of people record live in studio, but none in this specific way. I did an album for the highly talented bass player and band leader, Rami Lakkis where the recording, editing and mixing for 9 tracks was done in 48hours total of my time, spread over 4 days. I am really pleased I could be a part of his record, and that we got to do it in a way that really shows the life in the music and musicians.
And where are you at now that you’re settling in, and what will you be focussing on in the near future?
In Vancouver I am primarily working from a great little space on East Hastings called the DeVille Recording Company. We are constantly working on it to make it super efficient for a band. I want them to be able to walk in, rock out and go home with something to be proud of.
At the end of the day, I have a sound, vibe and process that isn’t for everyone,so I encourage people to listen to my work and hear what I can do for them, come and meet me and if you like the sound and vibe, we can make some music.
Check it out here: http://www.dylan-ellis.com
And now for something completely different, what is the most difficult thing you have ever learned?
To always take the high road, and to remove yourself from negative thinkers and situations.
And lastly to leave off, show us what you’ve got: what can you teach us in 50 words or less?
Haha – The best way to put a duvet cover on a duvet – take a clean sheet – make it inside out – Line up the top corners of the duvet and sheet – reach inside the opening – grab the corners from inside – pull the duvet through it – “hey presto” its done.
Haha you rock Dylan, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. We’re so happy to have you here, I can’t wait to hear what happens next!
Photos Courtesy of Amy Ellis