Dave Lee's lifelong obsession with dance music began with collecting disco, soul and funk records in the late 1970s. In 1986, he got his first job in the industry, working at the short-lived store Smithers & Leigh. He moved over to Rough Trade, who were then setting up a dance division, Demix, and were looking for someone to run it. Within a short period of time, Demix was handling hits for Bomb the Bass, MARRS and Beatmasters.
Less than a year later, Lee, in partnership with Rough Trade, set up his own label, Republic Records, which became known both for the acclaimed series of compilation albums, The Garage Sound Of Deepest New York, as well Lee's own early forays into studio production. By the end of 1987, Lee began working in a Clacton-on-Sea studio with former schoolfriend Mike Cheal and another Smithers & Leigh employee, DJ Mark Ryder. The trio were responsible for the first release on Republic, under the name M-D-Emm: "Get Busy (It's Partytime!)".
Two further M-D-Emm singles were released on Republic. Though Mike and Dave recorded acid house favourites 1666 and Get Acidic together without Mark. The same partnership using other aliases, notably Masters Of The Universe, Mystique, Kikkit and The Shy Boys.
In 1989, Dave Lee Mike Cheal and Mark Ryder broke through the underground with a club hit under the assumed name Raven Maize, which made judicious use of disco samples, something Lee has returned to repeatedly over the course of his career. "Together Forever", which was based on the Exodus song of the same name, was released on cool New York label Quark, with a press release that claimed Maize was an ex-convict in a Disneyland steel pan band. The ruse worked and played a significant part in helping establish Lee as a credible producer (the trick PR sheet is also something he has used subsequently to great effect).
In 1990, Lee's most enduring pseudonym made its debut, when he released Joey Negro's first single via New York indie House music label Nu Groove, with his new name an homage to Pal Joey and J. Walter Negro. After the singles success Lee went totally solo allowing him the total freedom to explore his own musical direction  When the single, "Do It, Believe It", came out in the UK, it was also the debut release on his own self-financed label, Z Records