DJ Phantasy shares excerpt from his book Three Generations Deep
Photography: Chelone Wolf
DJ Phantasy has been celebrating 30 years of DJing this week with the release of his autobiography Three Generations Deep.
Co-written with Drum&BassArena editor and D&BTV presenter Dave Jenkins, the book takes us through his life so far. The early rave highs, the turn-of-the-century lows, his constant battle to ensure he kept the promise he made to himself in the earliest days of the rave phenomenon: to devote everything he could to this life-changing music and culture.
It’s not always been easy. In fact there were times when many DJs in his position might have sacked it all in. But by adapting, finding new roles in the game, promoting his own events and creating opportunities for himself and many of his peers, he’s remained a relevant, active and prominent individual in drum & bass and, both as a solo artist, an artist manager and as the driving force behind SaSaSaS.
Not just a tale of Phantasy’s life but the story of UK rave and drum & bass culture and a reminder of how challenging this industry can be, Three Generations Deep offers a unique perspective on the last 30 years of our scene. It’s available on hardback, paperback and Kindle on DJ Phantasy or Amazon and we’ve got an exclusive excerpt in which Phantasy shares love for our raving cousins down under and the importance of the MCs role and artform. Enjoy…
Chapter 23: MCs And Me (excerpt)
“Everyone make some noise if you’re having a good time!”
Bruv! Who THE FUCK said that?!? Jeez it was squeaky. Too squeaky. Any MC with those type of frequencies should be marched out of the building by the Old Bill and banned from touching mic for the rest of their lives. It was the type of squeak that made the pretty sleepy crowd suddenly look up and pay attention.
This was back in 1992 and I’m on my first Australian tour with Carl Cox. I’ve touched on it earlier, those earlier Australian tours were just another level. It didn’t matter how crazy things were during that heady first peak of rave, tours amplified that feeling tenfold. Just mad weeks that are blurs of sunshine, beats and banter. You’re in a bubble and nothing can touch you. Especially in those days when mobiles couldn’t make international calls and long distance calls cost a month’s rent. There was no internet and the equivalent of social media were the record shops and cutting houses, so tours on the other side of the world – especially as far away as Australia – made you realise how far the music has spread and how far you’d gone personally.
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve played in Australia and New Zealand these days. I’ve been out there twice during the year I’ve been writing this book. I love that corner of the world. I love the people and how passionate they are about their scene; because they’re so far away from the UK or Europe, they’re not spoilt for choice with line-ups like we are. So whenever you’re touring out there, the Aussies and New Zealanders are some of the most hospitable and loveliest people you’ll meet or DJ with. And when they go in, they fucking go in bruv! There are very few crowds as wild as Australians. It’s up there with the UK and Belgium. But when they’re not quite in the mood? Jesus it’s hard work. And that’s the vibe I was facing on this fateful night.
So I decide to liven the crowd up a bit myself. Now DJs having a bit of a chat on mic these days is pretty much standard, or certainly much more acceptable. It’s nice to pick up the mic and say thanks when a crowd has been up for it and gone wild for your set. It gives it a personal touch and creates more of a connection with the people who’ve taken time out of their busy lives to hear you play. But back then this wasn’t even a consideration; the only DJs who got on the mic were the cheesy old disc jockeys. “This one goes out to all you lovers out there…”
But there was no love making when I did the unthinkable and picked up the mic, convinced that the distinct lack of crowd energy was strictly down to a lack of MC. Now this is where things got weird. I said into the mic, in my deepest voice possible, which is actually really fucking deep…
“Everyone make some noise if you’re having a good time.”
… I don’t know if it was the sound engineer having a laugh, a rogue chipmunk who should have been minding his own fucking business, a helium contaminated mic or some weird Australian voltage thing in the cables. But the sound that came out of them speakers? Mate. It was awful. The words were the same but was that really me? You’re having a laugh. I saw people look around, broken out of their slightly hazy trance, shocked at the frequencies they’d been subject to. I ducked down and busied myself in my record box and let the tune roll out for a while.
Just in case that was actually me, though, I decided that night to take a precaution and stay away from the mic at all shows. I’ve tried every aspect of trade in this game from flyering to management. I’m very proud that I’ve made everything I’ve tried a success, some a lot more than I ever thought I would and some took a lot longer than I ever thought they would but hey, I love a challenge. MCing, though? I had to be reasonable here. It was never going to go on my CV. But what you will find on my CV, if I ever had to write one, and I really hope I don’t at this stage of my life, it’s this… “DJ Phantasy: the most ardent, unfailing, unapologetic champion of MCs in our scene. Ever.”
To put it simply, I fucking love MCs. In our style of music and culture they play just as much of a role in any dance as the DJ. In fact, as Filthy Dirty Rich and I proved with our carnival special, and MC Convention went on to absolutely smash, MCs can take the lead role in this game as the frontmen. Move to more recent years and what Harry Shotta and I achieved with the Guinness World Record, UK MCs are up there – bar for bar – with the world’s biggest rappers. But let’s not rush this part of the story. MCs play a massive role in my life and, just like how I believe they can take a lead role in the genre, in the last 20 years they’ve taken lead roles in my own career.
Now I know about half of you won’t agree with what I’ve just said about MCs. Even among DJs I’ve had guys ask me ‘Why are you working with them lot?’ But the way I’ve always looked at it is this; the MC is the link between me and the crowd. I love that link. Someone to guide people. Someone to translate things and give it all a focus. I know it’s all a matter of opinion, but I do feel they’ve never had a fair crack of the whip and have been judged way too harshly. There’s a style out there for every crowd and every DJ; MC culture is an incredibly diverse artform and without it drum & bass and jungle wouldn’t have anywhere near as much as energy or character or spirit as it does.