“We met in Toronto in 1992” Lynnford tells me as he explains the origins of Liquid Aliens “I was over there as part of Rufige Kru, pretending to play the keyboards while Goldie was on stage dancing. It was a bit embarrassing pretending to play, but it was our first live show, and you have to start somewhere!”
“When we arrived in Canada, I remember this old lady coming up to us and asking if we would help carry her bag” Steve aka Phantasy continues “But you know, it’s not the sort of thing you do, carry someone’s bags through an airport, so we said no as we didn’t know what was in it. We were on a high para alert already as none of us had Visa’s. We were told to say that we were on holiday. We had no idea you needed a Visa! I didn’t know Lynnford when we went out there, I only knew Goldie, as he was such a big character in the scene. But it was always customary back then to hit the local record shops and me and Lynnford went record shopping to buy stuff to sample. I would also grab mixtapes; I always got anything by DJ Rectangle. There was this one store in Toronto that sold loads of tapes and that is how people found out about us, from the tapes being sent over from the UK. Mixtapes were a good thing for our scene, it’s how the music got around”. It turns out that that record shopping trip was also a productive experience in regards to this release, as Lynnford explains “I picked up some of those beats and breaks albums that were common back then, I can’t remember which one it was, some random album, but we ended up using them all on the Liquid Aliens tunes we produced upon on our return to the UK”.
It seems like this short Canada trip was quite an experience that helped bond Steve and Lynnford’s friendship. They both, 28 years later, speak so fondly of it and share their stories with such clarity, you would think it was only the other year they were there, as Steve expands upon “I thought I knew what weed was till I went to Canada. I was just so stoned the whole time, which anyone who has seen the video on Youtube of us all out there would agree with! It was the first gig that any of us had done abroad and I had actually gone out there for free, I wasn’t being paid. I had waived my fee and asked for my MC, MC Reality, to come out instead of being paid. I wanted them to have the full experience. It was about making people aware of the amazing music we had coming out of the UK at this time. We were ambassadors”.
Lynnford adds his memories of the trip “Canada was a short and very interesting experience. Fun was had in many forms. The rave itself was an illegal rave, the promoters had kicked down the iron doors to get into the warehouse, it was all a bit shady and it set the tone for the whole trip. Before we went out there, the promoter had asked Goldie for some visuals to play while we performed. Goldie had already made a video for ‘Terminator’ where he is in a bath, with blood capsules in his mouth. This was the perfect visuals to go along with the show so he brought it out on a VHS cassette. But when we got there, the promoter only had a Betamax player! Afterwards, the promoter came back to the hotel with us and said that he wouldn’t be paying us the full amount as the visuals were part of the deal. Goldie was livid and strong words were said. Goldie stormed out of the hotel room we were in, which was actually Steve’s room, and went next door to our room. You could hear things getting smashed up in there, he was not happy. The promoter by this point was shitting himself in the room with us. We were just chilling, playing Sega. I told him he wouldn’t be leaving the room until he paid us what he had agreed to pay us, so he paid up and went next door and gave the full amount to Goldie. It was that experience that myself and Steve shared together that bonded us. We agreed that when we got back to London, we would make something together as I was really impressed with his DJ set there. He was up on stage cutting it up and the only other person at that time to be doing that was DJ Hype”
Canadian newspaper article about the rave where Phantasy and Steve played; Their first ever gigs abroad – 1992.
(As an aside, Steve once told me that it was DJ Hype that taught him how to scratch as Steve had seen him perform and really wanted to learn how it was done. So Hype gave him a few lessons and a few months later he was shocked to see Steve scratching at a rave and came up to him and said “You can’t be doing that here, you haven’t had enough practise!”)
Lynnford started DJing in 1988. He loved his hip hop, early house, disco and boogie funk. His first shows were at the Camber Sands free parties in Rye, East Sussex. And when he wasn’t DJing himself, he would be out raving most of the time, it was just his way of life back then, the same as many teenagers in the late 80’s. It was a rite of passage. He was playing out under the name DJ Freebase, the name itself came from an old Bronx hip hop mixtape that he had which had an MC on it called MC Freebase “I liked it, so I stole it” he jokes. As the years progressed and the hardcore scene kicked in, Lynnford become a bit of a don behind the turntables and it was at this point in his life that he hooked up with Goldie, but purely by chance “I use to hang out with Toby, DJ Storms partner. He told me that his girlfriend and her mate had some decks and were getting into DJing and would I come over and have a mix so they can watch how you do it, which I agreed to and would go over regularly. I remember when I first went there and they still had those rubber slipmats on the decks that come with Technics. The first thing we did was get rid of those and fashion some temporary slipmats using the plastic inners that records use to come in back then”. I had to laugh when I heard this as this was something we use to do back in the 80’s down my part of the world. You use to put a record onto the plastic inner sleeve, draw around the edge of it, then cut through the sleeve, creating two round plastic discs which you then poked a hole through the middle of. This was an ideal home fix and they were awesome to learn to scratch with as it dramatically reduced the friction between the deck and the record. Anyway, back over to you Lynnford – “As you know, Storms friend was Kemistry, who was seeing Goldie. One day Goldie asked me what I wanted to do with my life other than DJing and I said I would love to make tunes. So he kindly invited me to join him for a session down at the Mayfair Recording Studio’s where Howie B was engineering for him. He got to know Howie via Nellee Hooper”. (Just to add here, if you know your UK hip hop history, Nellee was part of The Wild Bunch in Bristol, which later became Massive Attack. Goldie was one of the country’s best graffiti writers in the 1980’s and he and 3D from The Wild Bunch/Massive Attack became mates. 3D was one of the first people in the country to start writing and was a very talented artist. They formed a friendship through their love of graffiti and they both can be seen together in the amazing Bombin’ documentary from 1987) “I remember the door in that studio being so thick and air tight that when it open or closed you could hear the suck of air, I’ll never forget that! Anyway, I don’t think Goldie was getting what he wanted from those sessions. I am not even sure if the music was ever released. So he decided to form Rufige and we took the scene to the next level sonically” Lynnford explains with a laugh.
Rufige Kru (Lynnford & Goldie) – 1992.
So, to get this story back on track I ask Steve what it was like working with Lynnford “I always remember that Lynnford had a very different way of doing things. He thought really deeply about things. I think this must have been a bit of Goldie that rubbed off onto him. He was so easy to work with, we just had a laugh. I mean, you got to have a laugh with the people that you work with haven’t you? We just had fun which is how that chopper sound got into ‘Are Your Sure I’ll Be OK?’ We were just experimenting and we did that and it just sounded mad. A lot of people went on to sample it. We were the first to use a helicopter sample in a tune back then. This was at the end of 1992, maybe the start of 1993”.Lynnford adds his memories of Steve “Steve was always in the studio back then. He was always at it. So one day I joined him and we went to Ron Well’s studio at 14b HillingdonHill in Uxbridge, where Steve had been working with Ron for a good while now. The day I went round there it was Alex Reece who was going to be the engineer and I was shocked to see the set up. There was no computer, which is how I was working. There was just a sequencer and a keyboard. I didn’t know what was going on. I’ll always remember this day so clearly, we wrote ‘No Problem At All’ that day, but the thing that sticks with me the most is that Carl Cox was in another room recording his Dance Nation radio show. Carl was in a right panic as the DAT tape that he had recorded his show onto had become stuck in the player and he just couldn’t get it out. It was only a few hours before he was due on air and he didn’t know what to do. So I calmed him down and meticulously stripped down the DAT player, removing the front door and managing to prise out the tape safely for him”.
Now, we are going to take a commercial break here for a bit as there was a lot of confusion between Lynnford and Steve as to where the tunes were recorded and which tune was done first. But the Carl Cox story was the bit of information that we needed to unlock this part of the story. So I approached the legend that is Ron Wells to ask him if he had any memory of these events “Carl Cox was regularly over at mine doing his show as there were three decks set up there in Alex Hazzard’s bedroom. Alex had moved in with me Lorraine and brought his gear with him. From memory this was around the end of our time at 14b, before we moved into Orchard Waye, which was a 10 minute walk up the road. So they would have made that tune at 14b, as that was where Carl use to come over to do his show”
Lynnford continues with his memory of that first day “I had no clue how to do anything in the studio, I had never used a sequencer before. It was all new to me. I had just come from writing ‘Terminator’ with the guys and was worried when I went in that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the high standards. I was also extremely stoned, which was part of the way it was back then, especially when working with Steve!!!!” Steve chips in “I wasn’t into passing a spliff back then, I use to roll one and never shared it. I always thought ‘Roll one yourself’ and I would pass them my weed to make their own. I got this trick from Mikey B from Top Buzz!” Lynnford adds “It was a very hazy time. You know that!”
“So I am in this totally new environment, with a load of equipment I don’t know how to use and Alex is there doing his thing. We had this sound we wanted to add and had no idea how to use it in the tune. Alex suggested we use something called ‘step write’ which I had no clue about. I don’t know what this bit of kit was called”.
It is here where we take out second commercial break from the interview and I jump onto a mini side interview with Ron again who helps fill the gaps and also enforces where the tunes were made “We had the Roland MC300 Sequencer at 14b, which is the bit of kit Lynnford is referring to. It was an awesome bit of kit that features ‘step write’. But… as it didn’t have any kind of arrangement view it confused a lot of people who were used to using a computer. The change over to a computer came shortly after the studio moved out of Orchard Waye (above Vinyl Distribution) to West Drayton, next to Marvin Beaver’s studio, when I moved over to Cubase on the Atari after Scott Free lent me his computer to see if I liked it.” This added info from Ron also helps reinforce which tracks were written in what order and where, so thanks Ron, you old legend you, for putting the pieces together! Anyway, sorry Lynnford mate, you were saying…
“Alex puts this sound through the feature and we are blown away. It’s amazing. I mean, humans just don’t write riffs in that way, you can tell it’s from another dimension. It sounded so good”(To interject, if you don’t know what riff we are referring to, check ‘No Problem At All’ at 1.44mins for that ethereal vibe) “It was so amazing, you could take like an old Egyptian record and whack a sample through it and you have something unique and personal with that bit of kit. Today it’s just too easy and the music is lazy to do. There is too much stuff. But back then, it was ideas like this that stood you out from the rest. We then had a small break before we went back into the studio together for the second time. Steve was always busy, always gigging. So when we got back together the Sound Entity Studio had vacated 14b and was now above Vinyl Distribution’s new place in Uxbridge. I can’t remember who engineered this session, it may have been Ron or Alex, but it just took one session and we had completed the ‘Are You Sure We Will Be OK?’ We worked well together, me and Steve. We both had great ideas”.
The actual Roland MPC300 Sequencer used on the Liquid Aliens tracks – Photo courtesy of Ron Wells.
I was gagging to ask one question to the guys, I always have one thing that I personally need to know when I do these questions and this time I really wanted to find out the origin of the name, as it’s such a cool name, unlike anything else around at that time. “I have absolutely no idea at all” Steve tells me“It’s a rave mystery. I expect we were just stoned and messing around”. Ok, so perhaps I won’t find out then, maybe it’s just lost to the heady days of the rave generation? ‘Lynnford, where did the name come from?’ “I can help with this. I agree, we were stoned, that’s a given! So we were trying to come up with a name and Steve was like ‘Well, you have done the Terminator, so how about this time we do Alien? (as in the film) I wasn’t too keen on it to be honest but we used it anyway. The music was done by this point so we just thought ‘Fuck it’ and put it out”.
Lynnford digresses further “Kemistry and Storm both loved the release and I gave them a promo of it for their sets. But it wasn’t long after this that I was asked to be the bar manager at The Blue Note in Hoxton and my music output slowed down. I always made sure I was working downstairs on a Sunday night. That’s around the time that I met you”. Just an aside but by 1994 I was recording for Dr. Bob Jones, the Kiss FM DJ, who ran a label called Black On Black. This was a time when Hoxton was still proper East End, before gentrification and the hipsters. Bob had his office on Hoxton Square which just so happened to be next to what would become The Blue Note. Bob had an assistant called Sav Remzi who also worked there (he later set up Nuphonic Records with Dave Hill and after that, set up his own label Tirk) and myself and Sav got on well. When The Blue Note opened by Eddie Pillar (who was also part of the scene Bob was involved in) he asked Sav to join him as the manager of the club. Sav very kindly offered my girlfriend at that time a job behind the bar, so I would be up at the club all the time. This is how myself and Lynnford knew each other but I have to confess I had no idea till I started this repress that he was part of Rufige Kru. He never said anything to me back then, so it was a nice surprise when our paths crossed again, 25 years later.
So here we are, the first two represses on Liquid Wax, this time on 12” vinyl. There is plenty more to come from the label as Phantasy was a very prolific artist, including unreleased gems recently found on DAT. There are also a few tunes done by Lynnford around this time that were never released which we are planning to put out next year via Vinyl Fanatiks.
But until then, make sure you support the cause and share the love.
Before pledging please check the clips on Soundcloud to catch the vibe: