Photography: Chelone Wolf
30 years without any kind of break or hiatus is a respectful tenure in any game. But in the competitive, fast-paced and often ruthless world of electronic music and rave culture? It’s a mad thing.
Don’t take our word for it. Take Steve Hannon’s. Or DJ Phantasy as he’s best known. Over the last five years he’s been best known for collaborating with Macky Gee and taking SaSaSaS to levels no other DJ/MC drum & bass group have been, but the 25 years before he’s taken on almost every other role in the industry imaginable to stay involved, relevant and active and the scene that changed his life during the acid house phenomenon in 1988.
Sometimes this ambition and determination has led him to unique places such as setting a world record with Harry Shotta, crediting Geri Halliwell with a vocal on one of his earliest records and touring with Carl Cox during the first big peak of rave. On other occasions, his ambition and determination have barely kept him afloat.
All these highs and lows have now been documented in his book Three Generations Deep. Out today, September 30, it marks exactly 30 years since he performed at a rave called Fantasy, an event that changed his life so much he named himself after it… And has spent the last three decades neck deep in hustle athletics. Featuring the likes of Grooverider, DJ Hype, Nicky Blackmarket and of course his SaSaSaS brothers Skiba, Shotta, Shabba and Macky, Three Generations Deep not only tells Steve’s turbulent story but also tells the story of UK rave culture and provides inspiration on how to stay in the scene for 30 years. And counting.
Three Generations Deep was co-written by our editor Dave Jenkins and we’ve got an exclusive excerpt right here. It takes us back to a pivotal point in DJ Phantasy’s career where – suffering scene politics fatigue and teetering close to burn out – he’s made peace with not being in the studio any more and may never release a record again… Until he finds inspiration from the most unlikely source. A source that’s synonymous with UKF. It’s available on hardback, paperback and Kindle direct from DJ Phantasy or Amazon, here’s a taste of what it includes…
Chapter 26: The Studio Beckons… Again (excerpt)
I was already on a mission to remove as much negativity in my work as possible. I thought it was possible by having my own agency – and only working with artists who I loved and wanted to support. But that, the events, the bookings… Just everything had taken over. Even by icing out certain individuals, things were still a constant plate-spinning contest with about 30 odd plates both physically and politically. Before my business partner Michael came on board I was grinding 24/7 and it came close to swamping me. I wasn’t even feeling the DJing as much. I’m not sure if my heart was in it at all. As for the studio? Are you mental? That felt like a very dim and distant memory from my past.
“I don’t think I’ll ever go back in the studio again bruv,”
“Stop chatting shit, course you will.”
That was pretty much how a conversation I remember having with Micky Finn once went. I’d genuinely lost all passion for it. I’d had a bubble with UK Apache a few years before and I’d jumped on a few tracks with Nicky Blackmarket and Skiba around that time too, but to be honest? I couldn’t have given a flying shit about the studio. Like many other artists who’d come through in my era, I’d got lost in the digital switchover. I was a hardware man. Being hands-on gave you a sense of control. Like you’re playing an instrument instead of programming one.
Production, like the sound of a lot of drum & bass itself, had become too technical. And for me that meant some of the soul had gone. Or, to be more honest, I knew that if I wanted to make music with soul that was up there with the best productions of the genre, then I’d have to totally re-learn the process, the software and everything. At the time there was a strong part of me that couldn’t be bothered trying to learn, I’m ashamed to say. And you can feel that in some of the tunes I released in the late 2000s. Even while looking back over my music to pick for the old school album that comes with this book, there aren’t many tunes from that era I even want to select. How can I expect someone to be into what I’m making if I’m not even into it myself?
Bottom line, bruv: I’d forgotten how much fun it was in the studio. Because that’s the thing about production, as any producer will tell you: it’s all about those moments when you catch a vibe. Especially if you’re collaborating with someone. When you share that moment and things click into place and the groove is getting there? Man, it’s a great feeling! It was one I was glad I’d experienced on many occasions but didn’t think I’d get to do again. I honestly thought I was done as a producer and had kinda made my peace with that.
Then one day I hear this tune. It just hits me straight in the face. Goosebumps all over the place. What is this? It’s sick! I know it’s a dubstep track but who the fuck is it by? Turns out it’s ‘I Can’t Stop’ by Flux Pavilion. It’s on Circus Records, co-owned by an old mate of mine Simon Swan, a man previously known as Swan-E. A seriously sick jungle DJ back in the day, I’ve always respected how he’s done his business. Unlike some of us who partied up their takings, or lost them making bad moves pressing records, he’d invested wisely and was backing one of the most influential labels in dubstep. I’m on the phone to him straight away.
“Simon. This tune! Wow, the melody, fuck! That’s something I can really hum along to for days.”
“There’s plenty more where that came from. I’ll send you some.”
Bang. It was like a switch and I was inspired again. And as much as I love drum & bass, I have to say it was dubstep that really pressed my buttons again. It was an interesting movement to watch unfold over the years before. Booking acts and promoting and all the rest of it meant I was exposed to a lot of it and it was like watching jungle explode but on double time and steroids. You could see it was inspiring a lot of drum & bass guys. Chase & Status, Drumsound & Bassline Smith, DJ Fresh who went on to score the first drum & bass number one a year or two after, and myself… Of course I had no ambitions of a chart hit or anything, I just knew I should try and get back into the studio, relearn the craft and see what I can come up with. After four years of studio silence, I’d rediscovered a creative itch I needed to scratch. So I called up a man I knew I could get on a vibe with; Mayhem. Or Martin Ikin as he is now known. Not content with creating a reputation in drum & bass, he’d gone on to earn big stripes in the house world under his real life name.
“I need to get into the studio bro. I need to try get my mojo back. Not drum & bass, but anything. No specific genre.”
“Come on over mate.”
We arrange a day and when I get there, bruv, I’m like a rabbit in the headlights. It hadn’t been that long since I’d been in the studio but I’d been using all my old gear and hadn’t kept up to date with software and I knew I had a lot to learn. Martin’s a proper old friend of mine, though. I know he knows where I’m coming from and what I need to know and need to do. I chat with him and explain what has happened, I play him Flux’s tune and he says ‘why don’t we make something like this?’ And that was that; I was back on a buzz and we’re getting a beat together, he’s explaining the VSTs and plugins and we’re getting on the bassline and it’s vibes. It’s exactly what I needed…