I dont think i need to introduce Ellis Dee to you do I? You already know that he is the epitome of the word RAVE? That the EDM DJ’s of today wouldnt be doing what they are doing now if it wasnt for the hardwork and perseverance of this guy?
Back in 1991, when I was 17, I passed my driving test and owned an old VW Beetle (lowered within a inch of its life!) and I would look forward to the weekends, and my time off from working at Tesco’s, to go off with my mates to the big raves, staying up all night, and enduring that painful drive home the next day. But who cared about the day after, it was about the night that was now… and the music that was being played. And there was none greater than Ellis Dee, trust me! From watching him at the raves as a ponytailed punter to listening to his mixtapes or recordings of his shows on SunriseFM that use to filter down south to us in the New Forest, the buzz was always there! So it was a great honour when I first met him in a rave in London when we were playing at the same night, back in 2003, 12 years later! And now, 16 years after that meeting, I am still buzzing. Buzzing that he entrusted me to handle his incredible back catalogue. I have to pinch myself!
But enough about me and my man-crush!!! Lets talk about the legend that is Ellis Dee. He first started DJing around 1980 on the REMA soundsystem in his neighbourhood of Hackney, London, playing Soul, Funk and Rare Groove. It was at this time his love of music blossomed but it didnt bloom until 1988, The Summer Of Love. The Summer Of Aciieeedddd!!! And that is where the name was born, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, also known as Acid, also known as LSD, also known as Ellis Dee!
He quickly made a name for himself, his rolling style of mixing and bouncy vibes, getting him booked up and down the country, a figurehead of the emerging mega rave scene that made many people rich! But it wasnt till a chance meeting, that he moved from being a DJ to being an accomplished producer. In 1990, Ellis Dee’s mate bought a flat from MK13 AKA Richie T and his pal told him about Richie and that he had a studio. Intrigued Ellis went over and heard what he was doing, working alongside a chap called Rennie Pilgrim. Though he felt the music needed to be a bit more cutting edge and suggested to capture the essence of now, they get hold of a sampler and start caning the breakbeats. Luckily Rennie had a mate, Nick Newton, who had a sampler, so they got him over and things clicked into place. A 4 piece supergroup was born, the Rhythm Section.
By 1992 Ellis Dee was a resident of Bethnal Green and had a small studio set up where he made the tracks ‘Do You Want Me/Rock To The Max’ on an Ensoniq EPS 16+. When the tracks were finished he needed to mix them down, so a trip down south to Hammersmith was required to the residence of Rennie Pilgrim, where the tracks were finished off. Straight away they knew these would be huge tracks on the rave scene and quickly Ellis Dee set up his own label, Ellis Dee Project, and released the 12″ to the world via the distributor, Mo’s Music Machine. Can I say the rest is history? Probably not as history is still being made with the re-release of this classic 12″, plus the subsequent 3 releases by Ellis Dee Project, Parts 2, 3 and 4. So history isnt quite done and dusted, not by a long shot!
With living such a hectic life over the years as a world class DJ, the master tapes have long been lost to this release. So a mint copy of the record was sourced and was put into the capable mastering hands of Glen at Audio Science, the engineer for Crystal Method, and frequent composer of music for many a blockbuster Hollywood film. A careful session of recording, restoring and remastering was undertaken over the course of 2 weeks (maybe 3 weeks, as Glen would testify, as I was always fussing over it and bugging him!) Then I tracked down an old friend of mine (and yours too if you collect Jungle and D&B from the 90’s) who I hadnt spoken to for 15 years! The legend that is Simon from The Exchange. The name you see rotating around and around on your deck, etched into the run out groove of nearly every classic tune of that era. The guy, who alongside Rob Playford, embarked on a mission to see how far they could push the limits of vinyl, in the process costing The Exchange tens of thousands of pounds in parts that were unable to withtake the pressures that were forced upon them! This is when I first met Simon, back in 1995, when he cut my debut release with Aquasky on Moving Shadow.
Simon still has all the same gear that was at The Exchange and is still using it today and this record was cut on that very same gear, a classic Neumann VMS80 cutting lathe! We wanted to go full authentic, even though its cost more. The idea was to try and recapture that moment, that vibe, the soul of the scene that we all fell for… And we are very impressed with what Simon alongside Glen at Audio Science achieved. Very impressed indeed.
So, thats the intro (or should I say a chapter and verse!) written and an intro to the history of Ellis Dee. Join me again next month for Part 2 of this history lesson (we move onto Ellis Dee’s meteoric rise as a DJ) and Part 2 of the Ellis Dee Project.
Brent Newitt – Vinyl Fanatiks – Bringing The Experience Back To Music.