Vinyl Fanatiks started as a one-off release idea. I wanted to re-release Dave Wallace’s Mad Dog EP as we were being contacted about it by fans of the release eager to get their hands on a copy. We have always been very good with our masters, having two different boxes in two different locations, one containing original DAT’s and the other backup versions, so after a few years of messages I decided to take the plunge and go back to what I do best, releasing records. From that moment on, things just evolved organically, I wasn’t chasing for releases, I was being offered them by friends who wanted their music to come out again and who was I to say no!
But once it became obvious to me that I was indeed running a proper bona fide label once again, I started to orchestrate a plan going forward, and one of the first tasks was to find artists whose music connected with me. Fozbee & Cooz were the first artists for me to track down. The ‘Chamber Of Dreams’ 12” release was the first track I heard of them, given to me back in the day by a mate of mine, Dave ‘Putter’ Pakes, who introduced me to the group. I then tracked down their ‘Psychology’ EP, a double-sided EP written alongside another group called Dimension. That is when I heard ‘Free Your Mind’ for the first time and I was hooked. There was something about that tune that really connected to me – the musicality, the emotion, the vibe. Once we started to make our switch from D&B into breaks around 1999, there wasn’t much in the way of breaks that I liked to play out, so I mixed up my sets with lots of old school tunes, and ‘Free Your Mind’ was one track I played in nearly every early set around 1999-2001. I was also fortunate enough to find 3 unplayed copies of this EP for £1 each in the downstairs of an old record shop in Bath, which I’d called into on my way home from a gig in Plymouth in 2000. Coincidently Putter was also with me that day as he had come to the gig with me the night before. Around 2002 I sold one on eBay as I didn’t need four copies of the release. I put a low reserve of £3 on it to entice people in… but it didn’t work as only one person bid and it was sold for £3. Even back then I knew this EP was worth far more than that and I nearly cancelled the sale but decided not to as it would have been bad eBay etiquette.
We, as Aquasky, also sampled ‘Free Your Mind’ on a remix we did of a tune we did with the rapper Blu Rum 13. It was a freebie available solely on Trackitdown in around 2009. I always felt that the opening riff would sound good in a hip hop tune and I still stand by that. Check it out for yourselves:
So, when I finally tracked down Fozbee, all of the above blurted out… he must have thought I was some kind of deranged loon, as he had long left the music scene some 20 years before and was now enjoying life as a black cab driver. Here was a random bloke from Bournemouth calling him up, raving about how much his music meant to him. I think deep down he liked that though and who wouldn’t? As I know, music is a very personal thing; you put a lot of yourself into any track you make and they are like your babies, you send them off into the world but still care massively for them and want them to do well and be loved.
Anyway, enough of me and my random recollection – let us find out more about Fozbee & Cooz. Mark Fozbee learnt to play the organ at 12 years of age and his brother Andy aka Cooz got into music via DJing; he loved listening to the pirate radio stations beaming out of London in the mid 80’s, stations like Solar, Horizon and LBR. “I bought these terrible belt driven decks first but I was really excited about it and I thought to myself ‘I can mix with these’” Mark interjects “Terribly!” – The two of them are always ripping each other, as every sibling does – Andy continues “The belts kept dropping off them and they had no pitch control, so mixing was quite a broad claim to make! I then got a bank loan in 1987 for £500 and bought two Technics 1210’s. They were actually £265 each brand new back then!” So with Andy practicing in his bedroom, it wasn’t long before Mark, the younger of the two brothers, started to get inspired by what he was hearing and started getting into DJing and dance music. Mark reveals a secret “He doesn’t know this till today, but back then, when he went out, I use to sneak into his room and practice on his decks using his records”. There is a brief silence, which I can only imagine is due to Andy having an expression of anger on his face… Mark quickly adds, perhaps to defuse the situation “I was lucky you see, as I had a cool brother”. Much to Mark’s amusement, Andy tells me that he use to DJ on a pirate radio called Girls FM – “They couldn’t get enough girl DJ’s so they started to advertise for more, so I joined the station!” Andy explains, with Mark quickly interjecting through his laughter “They couldn’t get enough girls so they had to settle for him!”
Mark Fozbee’s Studio – Borehamwood, 1993.
Andy was into everything back then, hip hop, electro, funk and soul. He then discovered dance music which inspired him to put more time into his DJing. “I always loved Mantronix ever since I first heard Andy play it in his bedroom back then, that stuff was amazing” Mark tells me, highlighting how those formative years living at home together would create a lifelong passion for music and specific artists. Back in the late 80’s Andy use to work for a company called FWO Bauch that supplied top notch studio equipment to big posh studios around London “Mike Oldfield use to come into the shop to purchase his Nueman microphones” Andy adds. It was a respected and reputable company that was formed back to the early 1960’s. There was also a guy there who worked with Andy that was a DJ on BBC Bristol, and it was this guy who inspired Andy to first purchase his decks with that bank loan.
In the early 90’s Andy started to DJ on some local pirates, Medina, Jive and Playback, the latter transmitting out of Watford. “That’s where I met Chalke Lom, as he had a show before me. Chalke was best mates with Bukem, so through Chalke I got to know Bukem back then, as he was also Watford based. I think I first met Bukem at Soul Sense record shop in Luton. By this time Mark had built his studio and we released a few records, under the name Dik Fozbee and we had also done the ‘Chamber of Dreams’ EP and the ‘Psychology’ EP. Bukem was a huge fan of the ‘Free Your Mind’ tune and was always playing it, so we had a mutual appreciation of each other. One day he came over to our house, well our parents’ house, where Mark had the studio and we started to make a tune together. When we tried to organise another session, one of the conditions of Bukem returning was that he had to smoke weed in the studio. Well, it was our Mum and Dad’s house, so that wasn’t going to happen, which meant we never did get to finish that tune with Bukem as he never came back again!”
In 1988 Mark also made a visit to the bank and got himself a loan, a rather sizeable loan, £3500, which back then was a serious chunk of change. “I wanted to build myself a studio that was based around the sampler” he tells me. He purchased an Akai 950, a Roland D5, a Yamaha XD100 an Alesis HR16 Drum Machine and an Amiga 500 workhorse running Music X Sequencer a sequencer program for the Amiga that cost a whopping £200.00! Mark continues “I bought it all from a shop called Rose Morris in Denmark Street, Soho. I spent all my money and when the guy cashed it all up, he asked what I was going to put it all through. I had totally forgot to budget in for a mixing desk and I only had £100 left, so I ended up buying the cheapest mixing desk they had, which had no EQ at all!”
The first project that Mark created with Andy was Dik Fozbee titled the ’Subtrax Edition One’ in 1990, which came out on their own label Vital Movement. Andy sold his decks to fund the pressing of the EP and 500 units were made, which they sold directly to Gary at Soul Sense in Luton. The EP was mixed down on a Revox 1/4 tape machine in his bedroom.
Gary managed to sell all the EPs in 2 weeks and paid the guys. This cash injection was reinvested into the brother’s partnership to buy an 18 track mixing desk, with channel EQ!
For me, ‘Free Your Mind’ is the track that cements their legacy in the UK rave scene and the tune that converted me into a fan back in the 90’s, so I wanted to find out more about this track and how it came to be. Mark begins to unravel the story for me “We had all this gear at our parents’ house but Andy didn’t know how to use it, so I told him ‘You have to learn this equipment’ and to be fair to him, he put the hours in. I would be downstairs watching the TV and I could hear him upstairs, trying out ideas and getting on with it. He had created this great bassline using a sound that I had made in the D5. I then worked on a beat for the tune but I just couldn’t get anything else to work with the bassline. It was a right nightmare. So i made up the piano line, which is in a different key to the bassline, which meant neither part could play together in the tune. But it just worked and made the tune unique”.
Mark Fozbee kissing a rabbit! – June 6th 1993.
The next part of that tune’s story involves the record shop Soul Sense again. One day there were two guys in the shop trying to flog their Roland 909. Their names were Paul and Mark – they worked under the name of Dimension, and had already released an EP called ‘Flatline’ with the help of Gary. Mark bought their 909 off them for £300 and a friendship formed. By this time, 1991, Mark & Andy had three tracks ready to go; ‘Free Your Mind’, ‘Chamber Of Dreams (Remix)’ and ‘Life’. Paul and Mark also had three tracks ready to go themselves; ‘Phenomena’, ‘4 Thousand Years’ and ‘The Machine Dream’. They decided to work together and release an EP featuring all six tracks as a way of saving money, something neither of the groups had much of at that time. The project was titled ‘The Psychology EP’ and it came out on Another Planet Records, which was the label name that was used for Dimensions ‘Flatline’ EP that came out earlier that year. So the label became a joint venture for them both, with Mark (Dimension) designing the label and the EP’s logos.
All the tracks were mastered at the Fozbee & Cooz studio, with Mark Fozbee also engineering ‘Phenomena’ and ‘4 Thousand Years’ for Dimension, which took him a couple of days to do. Mark continues the story – “Paul found some rank old pressing plant in Park Royal to do the record at and when the records came back, they all skipped. We had pressed 1000 of them, so our idea of saving money had backfired on us. We phoned up to complain but the pressing plant brushed us off and wouldn’t do anything about it. This is when our dad stepped in and went down there and kicked off at the plant. He made them repress the EP and stayed there until they had pressed 1000 more records, which he then got them to check to make sure this lot didn’t skip. He also forced them to destroy all the faulty copies in a skip. When he was satisfied, our Dad came back with the new records”. Now this is where a little bit of nerd information comes into play for all your collectors out there. The original 1000 copies had a light blue label and the second pressing had a darker blue label. The guys had retained a box of the original EP’s which they were handing out to record shops and DJs just to get a buzz going, so it is believed there are 25 copies of the light blue labelled copy out there. If you have that, then you have a super rare issue of the record, albeit one that skips!
Fozbee & Cooz – Borehamwood, Hertfordshire – 1991.
“We used a distribution company up Wembley; I can’t remember what it was called, near Wembley Stadium. It’s quite difficult to remember these things, as it was 30 years ago” Andy shares with me, with Mark chipping in, laughing “I remember we had heard of people being ripped off by distribution companies, so after the incident with the pressing plant, we didn’t want to have more problems and we hatched a plan. Myself and Paul would go and meet the distribution company and take with us our DAT machine and record the whole meeting. We thought we were being really professional in doing that. We turned up at the meeting and were there ages trying to set up the DAT machine and the microphones. The guy was getting really annoyed. Anyway, we couldn’t get it to work, but we pretended to the guy that it was, so we just had the meeting, pretending it was all being recorded, being all business like and professional. It was a right amateur job, a proper shambles”. The two of them are cracking up over this, even after all these years; the memory still brings great flashbacks and humour.
Bukem was a huge fan of the ‘Free Your Mind’ and gave it a lot of support. “He thought we had sold 10,000 copies of that EP for some reason!” Mark adds. “We were a bit naive back in those days” Andy tells me, continuing “Bukem really did love that track and went out of his way to try and make something big happen. He took me into London to have a meeting with Virgin Records, which was based at Portobello Road. We had to meet some A&R guy, but when we arrived, the bloke wasn’t there. So we went to the pub and had a few beers, leaving a message at Virgin as to where we were. Eventually the guy turned up at the pub and he wanted the DAT from me to take away with him. Well of course, I had heard so many stories of people being ripped off back then that I decided not to hand him the DAT and from that point onwards the conversation went downhill. I never met with Virgin again after that day! Bukem really wanted something to happen with ‘Free Your Mind’ and he went out of his way to try and help us. I probably did the wrong thing in retrospect, but back then, what should I have done? It was a different world in those days”. “How come Mark didn’t join you for that meeting?” I ask, with Mark swiftly replying “You were on the sausage roll (the dole/unemployed) weren’t ya bro!” More laughter erupts!
After the release of that EP and the failed Virgin meeting, the Fozbee & Cooz partnership fizzled out. Andy got himself a girlfriend and settled down whilst Mark carried on fiddling in the studio, being inspired now by the rave scene that was sweeping the nation. Before then, his main influence was Detroit techno, but as he started going to more raves he heard breakbeats slipping into the scene and this changed the direction of his productions. He started working on the ‘Magic & Mystery’ EP, with Andy coming back to the family home now and again, sticking his head in and giving feedback on the music that Mark was making. He also helped with supplying samples as Andy still had all his records which were a great resource, especially when sampling beats. Mark had decided to remix ‘Free Your Mind’ for the new EP and to retain the Fozbee & Cooz name, as well as release it on Another Planet – “The remix of ‘Free Your Mind’ was done to help sell the new EP as was the decision of using the artist name and label again. I used whatever I could to increase the chances of that EP being a success!” Mark explains. 500 copies were pressed and were funded totally by Mark this time. It was cut and pressed by JTS and this time distributed by Mo’s Music Machine. Sadly, it was the last release in that era that Fozbee & Cooz did. Mark carried on recording, releasing the amazing The Matchstick Man 12” in 1993 (the name taken from the matchstick men logo used by Fozbee & Cooz). He then went off grid for a few years before returning in 1997 with his Big Drum Recordz, releasing speed garage tracks under the names Double Vision, D&G, Fozbee and Bigdrum.
When I first spoke with Mark in early 2019 after I had the idea to create Vinyl Fanatiks, he and his brother hadn’t spoken for a while as family life and work had taken over. But after a good long chat (and Mark does love to chat!) Mark said he would call Andy and see if he had any masters for the ‘Psychology EP’. Unfortunately he didn’t but Andy did still have a couple of boxes of the EP that had been in storage, un-played, which we could use to master from. Dapz, the Vinyl Fanatiks resto guy, got busy with the files, sent them back to me, I went loco with my OCD and a few months later we managed to recreate an incredible set of remasters. The only hurdle we now had was to locate Dimension, which meant the project would be put on hold for a whole year, as we searched the internet, trying to find any trace of either of them. Mark remembered that one of them had moved to Birmingham around 92, which was the only lead that we had. So I contacted my network based in the Luton area, asking Chalky, Tony Justice, Steve from Cosmo & Dibs as well as David Udris who used to work in Soul Sense back then. But to no avail, Paul and Mark Dimension were untraceable, with only their music left as a calling card. Eventually we had to give up which was a very hard call to make. I think I was starting to annoy Mark by the constant hold-ups and excuses of ‘I just have one more person to try’ or ‘give me another month’. So a new EP had to be created, the ‘Free Your Mind’ EP.
Fozbee & Brent Aquasky – Bournemouth 2019.
From working this project, the Brothers are now back together and on social media getting the props they both rightly deserve. On top of that, Mark has hooked up again with his old mate Jack Smooth to write a tune. But the story of their history together will have to wait for the next Fozbee & Cooz release due later this year. In the meantime, if anyone knows the whereabouts of Paul and Mark from Dimension, please let me know. My OCD won’t rest until they are found!!!