The Reece Project – another one of DJ Phantasy’s many aliases. And he had a good few of them, that’s for sure! “I was always making music and putting them out under different aliases…. I don’t actually know why I was doing that to be honest. Looking back now I should have just kept them all DJ Phantasy. After all, most of them have got my name somewhere on them”
For those who don’t know about this release I’ll explain why it was called that. Phantasy mostly worked with Ron Wells AKA Jack Smooth during the start of the 90’s. Ron was the godfather of the scene. He had his hand in so many projects and involved in so many tracks, that it’s impossible to know how many, even for Ron himself! As his workload increased he needed to find a new engineer to come and work for him, taking on projects that were brought to his Sound Entity studio. So he sourced a junior, someone new to the game, someone he could school and get up to speed. This apprentice shadowed him, learnt the ropes and when Ron felt he was comfortable within the Sound Entity environment, he decided the time had come for this engineer to earn his crust and start engineering by himself. Ron choose Phantasy as the maiden voyage as he knew Phantasy was a relaxed guy, who wouldn’t give him too much of a hard time. The engineer in question was Alex Reece, who would go on to become a recording artist in his own right, loaded up with a mass of knowledge learnt from the don of the desk, Jack Smooth. Are you starting to see where the name came from now?
“I had worked with so many other people by this point and Alex had been my engineer for a while that I thought I would ask him if he wanted to make some tracks with me. He was heavily into his techno and I thought we could make something interesting and different” Phantasy explains. “So it was fun to make tracks with Alex instead of having him engineer for me. It was no different to work with Alex as a producer to when I worked with him as an engineer aside from I would ask what he thought of my ideas instead of just telling him record this or chop that, it was a very relaxed affair! We went in and we vibed. You can hear Alex’s influence in ‘Spirit Come Down’ – that heavy kick drum. That was the techno influence. By this point in 1993 I had moved away from the jungle techno sound and was more about the breakbeats”.
“So how did it work with you two? How did you find the writing process together?” I ask.
“Well Alex was a pretty quiet person; he was also new to engineering and production. If you listen to those tracks and then what he released after on his own, you can tell these tunes were heavily influenced by me. I brought the big bag of records to sample to the studio that day. I always like to share ideas with people I’m in the studio with. But to be honest I don’t care if he did more or I did more, we went in together to make a tune and we came up with two monsters. I don’t get caught up on ‘I done this and you done that’; we just gelled together and created a vibe of that time. The riff was so sick, i remember that sound when we found it, it was like ‘Yeaaaahhhhh that is siiiickkckkcckckck!!!’ Like I say, I’m pretty sure he influenced the 4×4 kick as I was already deep in the breakbeat vibe but, those days were hazy man. It was a long time ago!” Phantasy recalls.
Wanting to know more about this partnership and how it panned out, I had more questions on the topic. I mean, it’s an interesting topic really. DJ Phantasy, Alex Reece and Jack Smooth!!! It’s like when Fruitkwan, Prince Paul, RZA and Poetic came together and formed Gravediggaz. This was like a rave version of that partnership, which also happened coincidently in 1992/1993, albeit on other sides of the Atlantic.
“Was this the first release by Alex Reece then and how come Ron let you have Alex’s first release rather than put it on his label?” I enquire.
“Looking back, I think it may well have been his first release because he had just been learning the ropes with Jack Smooth so yeah, it probably was. He was a very quiet and shy person who smoked a lot of cigarettes, so I knew if I ever ran out, he had me covered! Ron was cool about stuff, he didn’t have his claws into people, he wasn’t protective. Ron just helped people and sadly some people just took his kindness and ran with it and never looked back. Me on the other hand have always loved and respected what Ron has done not just for me but for this scene in the early days. He’s an absolute legend and more people from back then need to come and acknowledge what he done for them at the start of their journey. But to answer your question, Ron never got involved in my label stuff and I never got involved in his, we just vibed together at his studio. The studio was like a social hub, a place where creatives could go to link up and get creative. It’s where I met people like Martin “Mayhem’ Ikin, Aphrodite, Wax Doctor, Alex Hazzard plus many more.”
DJ Phantasy with the original record, 28 years after it was released
I pick Phantasy’s brains further – “So, what gear was used on this release?” Many of the fans of this music enjoy the techy side of things, how releases came to be. Plus it helps producers of today to get a better understanding on how things happened 30 years ago and what equipment to source to emulate the original rave sound. “Ah man, the only gear I can think of that was probably used was Thia weed!!! Haha, sorry but I definitely can’t remember details like that!” Phantasy jokes. So to get a little tech info I thought I would bring into this interview the original badbwoy, Jack Smooth, to see if he can shed some light on this side of things. I put a call into Portugal where Ron lives now to get the lowdown on things.
“I remember this session. I wasn’t around for it, I went out for the day, but I remember coming back very clearly. They played me the tune and I was devastated! They had found a stab sound that I had created. A sound I had spent a whole night creating in the Korg 01W using the wave shaping feature. I said to them ‘I spent all fucking night making that sound. I can’t let you release this tune. Not till my tune using it had come out. Otherwise people will think I fucking copied you!’. The sound was created for my Fast Floor release ‘Plight Of The Innovators’ So I said to them ‘You either have to change that stab or credit me for it and release it after my release’. Steve was more than happy to credit me, it wasn’t a problem at all for him, so that’s what he did on the label. I wouldn’t usually make a big deal like that. But that stab sound, that was my sonic identity and what I would become known for. So I was a bit protective of it” Ron recalls.
“How long did Alex stay with you Ron?” I probe.
“He was with me for a couple of years. He came in to assist me, take some of the weight off my shoulders. I taught him everything I knew and looked out for him. But at some point in 93 his dad gave him five grand to set him up in his own studio. And within a week he said he was leaving. I told him he had to work his notice, until I could find another engineer to bring in, otherwise I would have been left in the shit. So he stayed a few more weeks till I found Justin Drake and Scott White, who both joined me. I also produced some tracks with Scott that we released under the name Scott-Free as well as writing together on our collabs White Lightning and Whitestorm in 1994” Ron recollects.
I wanted to pick Phantasy’s brains a bit more “Why didn’t you ever make another Reece Project?”
Phantasy responds “That’s a funny story bro. You see back then I use to put my number on my records. And one day I get this call out of the blue from someone saying they were the Reese Project and why was I releasing as them? I just hadn’t thought at the time that there was this other US group called Reese Project with an S that released poppy kinda stuff. To be honest, I could have argued that mine was a different spelling. But I didn’t bother. I explained to them that the guy I was working with was called Alex Reece and that it was a project I was doing with him. I can’t remember if it was the band or their manager who called me. But I agreed we wouldn’t press any more of that record, so that’s why there are so few around, think it was just 1000. We never made another Reece Project after that!”
The connections continue with this project as the EP name is S.H.A.R.P. When chatting to Ron, he said I should find out what it meant. I then remembered that Phantasy’s name is Steve Hannon and the A R is Alex Reece. I went for Productions, Ron said Project. I asked Steve and Ron was right – it stands for Steve Hannon Alex Reece Project. The label states Volume One, but we now know why there was never a volume two.
And that’s the history of this release. A very unique release for this era of music and one that’s highly sought after and cherished by fans and purists alike. Jungle Techno in its highest form created in the studio where the genre was born. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that! Kick back and enjoy the sound of the underground.