AUSTIN // PHUTURE ASSASSINS INTERVIEW
I first met Austin Reynolds in about 1995 after sending a demo tape to a London based hardcore label called Tech-Step Recordings. They liked the tracks but said they needed a little work so they were going to take me to a studio in Essex to finish them off. I had no idea that they were going to take me to see a guy who i already regarded as one of the pioneers of hardcore music. I was blown away when they mentioned the name "Austin" in the car on the way round there. I said "we are going to Austin Reynolds studio?". He said "Yeah why?". WOW...
I mean this guy was a legend to me. Not only had he engineered / produced a large part of the early Suburban Base catalogue, who were alongside Moving Shadow, my favourite label back then. But i was to find out over the years that followed that he was also designated button presser on a load of classic hardcore tracks that you probably didn't even realise was his work... Ok to name a few of my faves: DSKF - New Science EP, Serotonin - Dramatical Style and Mad Ragga Jon - Original Badboy... All had Austin at the controls, sprinkling his magic upon them! So now with insurgence of so much great music giving a nod to the golden age of hardcore and jungle, Austin returns into the fold with one of his most well known pseudonyms; Phuture Assassins, and the brilliant "Babylon Newspaper EP"
After hearing "Can't Kill The rhythm King" I decided it was time that me and me ol' mate Austin had a little chat...
Hows it going dude... Shall we start at the beginning? What is your earliest musical memory?
I'm good VJ... I think aged 3 or 4 my Gran used to babysit me and would play the piano, I remember climbing up onto the piano stool and sitting next to her, watching her hands roll across the keyboard. I would attempt to jam and add some extra bass notes.. They were clangers !
When you were growing up, what music was being played in your house?
Other than the music on the telly and radio, Cat Stevens, Melanie, Stevie Wonder. I took over as household DJ in 1980 playing Madness and The Specials
As well as producing dance music, you also play some musical instruments? Which instruments do you play and when did you first start dabbling with music?
I was brought up in a house with a piano. I don’t remember where I learnt it from but I started playing simple boogie woogie 12 bar stuff aged 7 or 8. I Picked up the guitar as a teenager and did bands and gigs while at school. You can blame Alan Suger for my recording career... one day an ad for the Amstrad Studio 100 appeared on the telly, it was a four track studio and record player combined that came with headphones, a tape of drum beats and four microphones. Myself and friends started recording as a ska band, badly named The Janitors. It happened to include Kevin Beber (D-Zone/Toxic) on drum machine. Surprisingly I was offered a record deal off the back of the tapes, but couldn’t commit to a touring schedule while I was busy failing my A levels. These were my first dabbling’s.
What inspired you to start producing dance music?
1989 ! After failing my A levels, I failed a diploma in Advanced Music Production and Digital Audio that was run in the Bon Marche building in Brixton. But I learnt the arts of the Akai, the Atari and the mixing desk and started describing myself as a sound engineer, not sure if I actually was.
Who do you see as your major influences in music and why?
Jerry Dammers - King Tubby - Motown - Studio 1 - Nick Drake - Ginger Baker. From the rave scene.. ‘The Scientist’ (The original keyboard wiz in the studio at Kicking Records, he also engineered SB001) The Rebel MC. Longsy D. Shut up and Dance. Rob Playford and The Meat Beat Manifesto. No explanations required.
It must have been really exciting to get signed to Suburban Base at such an early age, how did that feel? And how did it come about?
I was never signed to Suburban Base. I heard that two friends from school Dave and Reesh had a record out, and that their track ‘This is the B Side’ was doing well at the wrong speed! It was a slow track pressed at 33rpm and played out at 45rpm. I asked them about it and they directed me to Boogie Times record shop in Romford where they would listen to your tape. I went in with an early version of Shot like Dis and soon found myself accepting the position of in-house engineer for the as yet unrealised SB Records. Early releases Shot Like Dis, Please Don’t Stand In My Way and I Get High were recorded in my bedroom at my family home. One session was attended by SB founder Dan Donnelly, myself, both of M&M and my mum on the hoover. My equipment was then moved into Dan’s Mum’s garage where I began recording with DJs and other musicians for the label at what is known as Sub Base Studio’s. Some aspects of it were amazing, especially getting to work with the likes of DJ Hype, Mickey Finn and Krome and Time. On my first session with Krome & Time ‘Fireball’ they told me they had sampled a choir sound off I Get High, so my imposter syndrome wore off very quickly.
Phuture Assassins has had a few different line-ups since it first started in 1990 with “I like Techno” which is not credited to you but a guy called Dave Jay. What happened here? Were you involved with that release? And could you please tell us about how the line-up evolved over the years?
Reesh and Dave Jay (formally Dave B) Were the original Assassins. They recorded the ‘I Like Techno’ EP for Boogie Times Records in 1990 which included ‘This Is The B Side’ and was engineered by Aston Harvey (Blapps Posse/ Freestylers). They also recorded a 2nd EP with Aston called ’Time Unlimited’ which was never put out by Boogie Times. Sometime later when SB were looking for an artist name for the Shot Like Dis release, Phuture Assassins was suggested and nobody voiced any objections. Dave Jay and I were in the same group of friends from school and he would often just turn up for studio sessions. Dave plays keys on the original version of Rydim Come Forward and also recorded with me at SB studio’s for SB offshoot label Fruit Tree under the name Dave Jay Project. While I’m here, he also recorded the Wet Nose mix of E17 House of Love with me and was vocalist and co member of my band Soul Hooligan in the late 1990’s. Shot like Dis the second Phuture Assassins release was just me. The original version of Future Sound was just me assisted by Danny Breaks who dropped a second sliding break into the mix. Krome and Time came on board afterwards and co-produced Freedom Sound and a remix of Rydim Come Forward for that EP. Roots n Future was a collab between myself and Krome and Time and was recorded in another bedroom in Brentwood known as Chase Rd Studio’s in 1993 and within a week or two of The Slammer sessions which produced the last full release I did for SB. The last PA recording for SB Roots n Future (Refections in Dub) was just me. All Following Phuture Assassins releases are just me. Firstly in the mid 00’s Unbreak My Hardcore, Alone, Ganja Madness and Forever for Warehouse Wax Records and myself again in 2021 for Knight Force Recordings. That’s fairly comprehensive. I hope it’s cleared up any confusion.
Your first release as Phuture Assassins on Suburban Base was Shot Like Dis (Subbase 003). Then Subbase 004 saw you release the massive anthem “I Get High” under your own name, Austin. Why did you find it necessary to have an alias so early in your career?
I didn’t. The Alias’ were the work of SB, they chose the artist name for each release. It could have been a Phuture Assassins record but it was put out as Austin. I think the general idea was to keep public focus on the label as a whole rather than any specific artist and also to appear to have more artists on the label than actually existed in the early days, that’s all good by me. Same thing happened with Kromozone, Timebase and Krome and Time. All the same act, three different names.
Blame had to remove the Seal vocal from the track “Music Takes You” for copyright reasons but you sampled Seal on “I get High” around the same time and totally got away with it. How did you pull that off?
SB attempted to clear the sample and went to ZTT but only got as far as the receptionist. I believe they were told it would be ok as long as the record wasn’t a hit. The record label worked together with the distributors to stagger the sales. I Get High went in and out of the bottom end of the top 75 maybe three or four times during the autumn of 91 without touching the top 40 - That’s how ya do it !
I always really liked the Austin EP… that never saw a full release. Why was this?
Still a mystery.
The early years of Suburban Base saw you engineering / producing (and probably co-writing) a big chunk of the music that was released. How was that…?? Please tell us the highs and lows of working with Suburban Base in those times.
Umm.. This is a big ol’ interview VJ. I fear the answer is too long. I’ll pass for now..
Am I correct in saying that you engineered the massive “Far Out” anthem by Sonz of a loop da loop era? Rumour even has it that it was you that played that iconic piano riff. Is this true and what are your memories associated with this tune??
Danny Breaks was one of the talents to come from behind the counter at Boogie Times. - and created a whirl wind in the studio over the two day session. In my opinion Break’s Dropping Science label was responsible for some of the best early DnB. The tracks of his that were recorded with me at SB studios were the product of his own musical imaginations, After putting together some unusually healthy beats and scratching Mr Breaks suggested a piano riff akin to’ Your Love’ and offered me the keyboard. I took a chord structure that I used to play on the guitar and put it to the rhythm of the Prodigy piano anthem. As the mix went down to DAT I remember being quite amazed at how good it all sounded, almost having to pinch myself. For a week or so I think Far Out was the best sounding hardcore record out there. Its success was down to everyone.. Danny Breaks, the record label, the DJ’s and the ravers. I’m grateful to have played a part in it.
Some people say you are the unsung hero of hardcore and that you are one of the innovators of this sound, whats your thoughts on this?
To be honest there were so many talented people in the rave scene in those days and so much we copied off them or owe to them. It’s easy to say ‘Yeh I did the first this or that, but it’s a bit narcissistic. No one really invented anything. It was all the people, clubs, records labels and technology, it was collaborative.
Were you going out raving much in them days? What party stands out the most in your mind and why?
err..It all started in a field. Raindance Jenkins Lane 1991. I made I Get High the day after. Then there was Crazy Club at the Astoria every weekend. Then 12 Dalston Lane sometimes twice a week.. You're on the stairs to nowhere, it’s 3am, you inform your friend that you still have £7.50 and half a bottle of water..
You also did quite a few Live PAs in the Sub Base days right. How was that? Which one stands out most and why???
Sonz PA’s were hilarious, having Far Out in your arsenal made life very easy. The piano and the scratching was pretty much live on the record, so Breaks would scratch the intro, I would bash out the chords on the piano and the whole place would literally go mental. MC Special A would hype the crowd and demand a hands in the air count.. then the shout would go out.. who wants some more bass in their face!? One PA that stands out was my first one, an appearance as Phuture Assassins at the Eclipse in Coventry. I remember the unforgettable and overpowering smell of Vicks Vapour Rub, topless dudes on platforms covered in the stuff, smoke and lasers. Taking half a pill for the first time and coming up on stage while miming the keyboards.
You also produced loads of Happy Hardcore in the years that followed. What’re your reflections on this now?
I made a Trip Hop album in the mid 90’s as Fear of an Infinite Loop, that never saw a release and I got stuck in the recording contract for 5 years. I couldn’t really do any music of my own so I supplemented my income by saying yes to everyone who wanted a day in the studio. When the mood hits I love a bit of happy, some of my favourite productions are happy. JDS Higher Love. Billy Bunter’s Bang the Future. DJ NRG Hardcore Fever and Vinyl Junkie’s Tearing My Love Apart. Love these tracks. I’m very proud to have worked with all those people.
So fast forward 25 years and we are now in 2021… The last couple of years been tough with all the lockdowns and that. How has this impacted you musically?
Lock down’s are perfect for a part time recluse. Just before the C19 I moved out of London. It’s an attempt to drop out economically with the intension of playing Sitar and never watching YouTube again. - It’s only been partially successful.
As this interview is for Vinyl Junkie UK I am going to ask a vinyl related question! Do you collect vinyl yourself? I did hear through the grapevine that you are partial to a bit of Ska… Particularly Two-Tone records?? Tell us about that!
For the first time in 20 years the record collection is growing again. Back in the 20th century you would go to all the shops and every record fair but you’d never find that one mythical record you were after. Today you just type it in and it’s there... it’s a game changer ! Judging from the question, I guess you already know about the complete set of 2-tone singles I call ‘my precious’
What is your most treasured piece of vinyl? And what record is top of your wants list?
Records are like tracks, the latest one is always the best. I’m currently treasuring Bond and Brown Two Heads Are Better Than One, The Imperials ‘Days Like These’ 7 and the Abyssinians Declaration of Rights. 7 I’ve spent too much money on vinyl recently so the want list has been scrapped or depleted more like.
Over the years, you have produced many different genres of music from Happy Hardcore to Trance-Core. Drum & Bass to Breaks and even a bit of Trip Hop as well many others… But now everything has come full circle and you are back writing 92 style hardcore again. How did that happen??
I’ve made music professionally most of my adult life. So a part of me has to be a mercenary. If you offer me enough to make Bagpipe House with you tomorrow.. I’m there. When it comes to electronic music genre’s Old School is my first love.
You have recently released an EP on Knite Force called Babylon Newspaper. How did that come about and how did it feel to be producing this style of music again?
I was once forced to engineer a track called Sesame’s Treet by Smart E’s, 30 years later one of them called me up and forced me to give him a new Phuture Assassins EP so gave it him. It’s like riding a bike, although the screen on my S3000 is well faded and my eyesight is not what it used to be.
What else is in the pipelines for you production wise. Any cool projects forthcoming? Any more vinyl releases?
I Recently did a Phuture Assassins remix of Jonny L Hurt You So, that I’m really pleased with. More Phuture Assassins soon..
Top 3 underground bangers from the 90’s? (No anthems allowed)
Not sure if these are rare enough for you but Midi Rain ‘Eyes’ Bizarre Inc Mix, still gives me tingles, The Rebel MC ‘I Can’t Get No Sleep’ (the 2nd verse!) and another original vocal track- Bug Khan and the Plastic Jam’s Beware The Bassline
Any final words??
Thank you Austin, for granting Vinyl Junkie UK your first EVER interview. Blessed x
As well as the Babylon Newspaper EP, be sure to check this one out as well...
PHUTURE ASSASSINS - BACK TO THE PHUTURE EP - OUT NOW
The Future Sound Remixes.