Phil Reynolds & James Lawson
Few brands in the dance community have built as lofty a legacy as Fevah. For the last 15 years it’s come to signify the ultimate in hard house and trance, with massive regular events in the UK, and more recently in Japan and the U.S. It’s attracted some of the world’s biggest DJs spinning the latest anthems to appreciative crowds who want to soak up the atmosphere. The empire includes such flagship nights as Match Made in Heaven, Fahrenhite and Fevah at the Astoria, and the brand grew to such a level that a record label was founded in 2001, followed by an online radio network. The brainchild of New Zealander Eamonn Fevah and some of his fellow DJs evolved through support, word of mouth and most importantly through quality music, and now the expansion continues as the very first Fevah party in Melbourne is set to take place on Friday August 17 at Room680.
The hectic night will feature a who’s who of hard house and trance, along with rising new stars in the scene. Headlined by James Lawson and Phil Reynolds, the event will also feature Eamonn Fevah, Riksta, Skol, Danny Gilligan, Craig Jon, Paul Robertson, Steve Nichols and local supports. Fans can surely expect a party on steroids, and who knows what else, as they enter. “It won’t just be heavy for the sake of heavy, there will be a proper vibe to get everyone going,” explains Lawson. “It’ll be like the good old days. There’s a lot of love for Fevah in Australia. I think a lot of people are gonna be going along for that old Fevah vibe they remember from London and they’re gonna get it.”
Headliners James Lawson and Phil Reynolds have a long history together as part of the Fevah legacy, and as recording artists, and were both beyond excited as we caught up with them. “We all know each other,” Lawson enthuses in his energetic tone. “We used to bump into each other all the time at the clubs so it’s like a reunion.” Initially meeting as slightly pluckier young lads, 2012 finds Lawson and Reynolds in somewhat different places in life. One thing that hasn’t changed though is their commitment to getting the party going. “I know Phil [Reynolds] very well,” Lawson says with a sign of recognition and admiration. “We were actually talking a while ago and couldn’t believe how long it’s been since Fevah started. It’s gonna be such an amazing night. We’re looking forward to building on that relationship and that rapport.”
The enormity of the night, to Lawson, is amplified by the fact that many of the DJs and potentially a portion of the attendees were part of the original Fevah parties in London. For Reynolds the 15th anniversary is like coming full circle and ushering in the start of a new legacy. “I was there from the start so it’s quite crazy to see how it’s evolved over this time, from smaller crowds to the large numbers it’s attracting now.”
While Reynolds cut his teeth at the early Fevah parties, Lawson was starting to pick up his DJ game in the North of England when he was at uni, as he explains. “I came down to London and got familiar with the party scene down here. I came across Fevah and Fahrenheit and started going to parties and meeting guys and it built up from there.” In fact Reynolds fondly remembers their first chance encounter at a club, when he was approached by a young and determined Lawson. “This guy approached me at one of the parties and said we should work together in the studio. I thought ‘who is this guy?’ and then he approached me again. Eventually I found out who he was and then we went to the studio.”
Lawson recalls their initial meeting with equal reverence as he transports himself back in time. “Phil was playing a load of my tracks so I thought I’d go up to him just before he started playing. I said to him, ‘you know on that CD who some of the tracks are by?’ and he gave me a bit of a funny look [at first]. I handed him another CD with some of my tracks on it and he whacked it in and added some into his mix.” After around six months they began working together in the studio, and the rest is dance music history.
As a relative newcomer with a basic bedroom studio set-up Lawson relished the chance to make use of Reynolds’ studio space and recording experience. “Phil was running Impact Records and at the time I wasn’t running my own label. I was working for other labels making records for them.” Just as their studio productions continued to flourish the duo became integral parts of the Fevah franchise, performing at their signature nights in the UK.
Ready to begin the next chapter in the Fevah story both Lawson and Reynolds see similarities between the UK and Aussie scenes. “Well it’s just as intense,” Lawson says with a chuckle. “Both the Brits and the Aussies are always up for anything.” For Reynolds he sees the atmosphere of Fevah as universal. “No matter where you go as long as the atmosphere and tunes are good the energy will always be high. Even if you’re only playing to 50 people those could be 50 of the wildest people.”
A favourite on Australian shores, Lawson has made the trip numerous times and made some interesting observations. “One of the funniest things I noticed travelling around Australia is that you’ve got the Melbourne Shuffle, we all know that. Then you get to Adelaide and people dance differently. Once you’ve been on tour in Australia you can kind of tell which city someone is from by the way they are dancing.”
The Fevah invasion of Melbourne could not be happening at a more appropriate time as the local dance community continues to evolve and expand. “It’s great to come back on the crest of that wave as it’s growing. It goes up and down, there’s the people that are always constant and then there’s other people whose interest goes up and down.” Reynolds is equally pumped to be part of that Burn City growth. “I’m excited about the night and really glad to hear how the scene has evolved."
As performers and people Lawson and Reynolds have taken slightly different paths in recent years. Both, however, have taken on nurturing roles in their own way. Lawson is heading into Fevah’s debut in Melbourne with a renewed sense of energy, as he has been less active on the club scene than his counterpart, focusing more on his label. Meanwhile the ever-active Reynolds will be touching down in Oz with his fiancé and daughter by his side. “Phil has been playing the clubs a lot more than I have [recently],” Lawson admits. “The reason being is that part of what I have gotten into is helping young talented people and kids, coaching them and letting them learn from some of the mistakes I made.”
The A&R and label co-boss of Edison Factor Records says he is developing a set of “coaching tools” which can be used by both the young and established artists he works with. “There’s times when people get lost in the studio, it’s like a box and they feel they can’t get out of it. So I go to these people and use these coaching techniques and get them back to producing the music they can.”
Reynolds, on the other hand, is juggling the roles of DJ, label head and family man. The transition has been difficult at times but has been handled with the dedication he has become known for by his fans and peers. “When you’ve got a young daughter and fiancé at home it’s kind of hard to justify being in the studio working on tracks at odd hours of the night,” Reynolds affirms with assured confidence. “It’s been a hard balance but it’s one you have to get used to. You can’t be doing the same thing forever.” His former protégé-turned-teacher, Lawson, sounds inspired by Phil’s continued work ethic. “He still plays relentlessly as he always has.”
Time flies by in the dance world. The fact that Lawson and Reynolds have not played on the same bill in almost four years didn’t dawn on them until talk of the Fevah party line-up began. “I didn’t realise it had been that long,” the astonished Lawson exclaims. “So yeah it’s a very special moment actually that we’re back in the same DJ booth.” While maybe a little less boisterous, Reynolds shares the surprised sentiment. “I can understand why James would say that it will feel like the old days. It has been a while. I didn’t think about it.” With their reunion the icing on the cake there are clearly many reasons to celebrate Fevah coming to Melbourne.
BY ANDREW HAZARD HICKEY
Phil Reynolds [UK] & James Lawson [UK] play alongside SKOL [UK], Riksta [NZ] and more at Fevah Melbourne, Fevah's 15th Birthday on Friday August 17 at Room680.