Sasasas are, for all intents and purposes, the first drum and bass supergroup. Comprised of four (that’s right, four) world-renowned MCs: Skibadee, Shabba D, Harry Shotta and Stormin, and two producers: DJ Phantasy and Macky Gee, this jump up juggernaut is all about high-energy performances with huge vibes. Since forming in 2015, Sasasas have crashed their way through England and much of Europe, surprising drum and bass and EDM crowds with their unique shows and MC-heavy lineup. The other side to this highly successful band of “bruvs” is, of course, the music production. Your EDM sat down with Phantasy and Macky Gee to talk about this unique project, their work behind the scenes on the production which is so key to the group’s shows, and how they view Sasasas within the current electronic music scene.
Hi Guys! Thanks so much for talking to us today. At this point, Sasasas is a pretty strongly acknowledged phenomenon, but for anyone who hasn’t heard of this supergroup yet, can you explain a little about the project and how you guys came up with the idea?
Phantasy: Basically, the beautiful thing about Sasasas is it’s all happened naturally. You’ve got me, Skibba and Shabba who’ve worked together for many years and then I started working with Shotta and Stormin, and then I met Macky through Grooverider. He spoke so highly of him; you know if someone like Grooverider is telling me this guy is good…
So how did the two of you end up meeting then?
Phantasy: so I was going to a show in Belgium, I never knew all the DJs on the train and no one was pointing out who was whom to me and there was like eight DJs there and I knew one of them was Macky, but I didn’t know which one.
Macky: I was just sat reading a magazine, wasn’t I?
Phantasy: (laughs) yeah so I finally just went “all right, which one of you is Macky?” And then he put his hand up and I guess we just clicked from then. So anyway, I was just doing a lot of shows with Skibbs and we just started thinking of how we could make something special. Since there’s so many shows in the UK, you’re always looking for another angle. So I had this idea ages ago to do a night based on the four MCs and that didn’t happen, but it was always in my head so I finally talked to Skibba and he was on board, and then I just thought of Macky as one of the DJs, and he was really into it right away.
It’s a really cool concept. I don’t think it’s been done before in this way.
Phantasy: That’s the thing; we have the six of us and each of us is known as an artist in our own right, but then when we come together it creates something completely different. It’s organic, it’s not forced, and it’s a great balance. You’ve got me, Skibba and Shabba who have the history, I mean going back to 1995, and then you’ve got Macky, Shotta and Stormin who have the kids and kind of the younger part of the scene, so if you think about it we’re covering a wide range of styles and audiences. Macky validates me amongst the youngsters, and I validate him amongst the people who’ve been around a lot longer.
You mean the grumpy junglists like me? (both laugh)
Phantasy: Yeah. It works for everyone but the best thing about it is that we’re all good mates. There’s no egos. It’s just grown organically like that and I just think it creates the best vibes. It was just six mates got together really with just vibes and enjoying working with each other. And it’s just gained momentum from there.
It definitely seems like you’re having a great time when the six of you perform.
Phantasy: Yeah I mean when you see photos or video of us, you see we’re all smiling and you can tell we’re just having a laugh and enjoying it. People work hard all week to come out and listen to music, and the last thing most of them want to see is some moody DJ…
Macky: (laughs) Really we are always smiling up there and just vibing, you know?
Well you definitely have the vibes down. No grumpy junglists for you (all laugh). So in terms of how you put the stage show together, how does it work? Do you have set playlists or are you just totally free form, riffing off each other up there?
Macky: It’s a bit of both, isn’t it? Me and Phantasy will sit there and we’ll plan our tunes so that we have times where it’s really high energy, then we’ll tone it down a bit. It’s a lot of strategy in how we plan it, actually, but we also learn from each show. So as we’re doing it, we’re always paying attention and figuring out what we want to play at the next show to tweak the vibe, and then the MCs really just work with us in real time and with what we’re doing.
Phantasy: As an act, I think we adapt to our audience. For example we went to do Hospitality the other week…
Macky: Yeah, that’s a lot of jungle, isn’t it?
Phantasy: Yeah, so we played a set that was completely different than what we did, say, at Rampage that’s in that video. I think that’s part of being professional; reading your crowd and knowing your audience. We’re just excited to play music to thousands of people, so why wouldn’t we want to make them happy? Some of it we plan and some of it we just vibe off the crowd. If you look on the Rampage the video, there’s a point where everyone has their lights up (on their cell phones), and he (points at Macky) – Macky did that and he never told me what he was doing! I mean, give me a warning (Macky laughs) and he just looked at me and said “give me a drop,” and I was like “ok..” and he’s there waving his arm but I can’t see what he’s doing…and next thing you know I see all these lights being held up from the crowd! If you watch on the video, at one point Stormin turns back to us and he went “we’ve done it boys!” And that was so cool, such a vibe, and now we do it almost every show and everyone goes mental when we drop “Strobe”. That first time was not planned at all, it was organic.
Macky: But it also works the other way around though, doesn’t it? He does that to me all the time as well where I’m not paying attention and I’m in my own little world or turned around and hes like “get a drop” because he wants to do something as well. (both laugh)
So in the shows do you mostly play your own tracks?
Phantasy: A large chunk of it, yeah, is Macky tracks or Macky and Phantasy tracks. Obviously we’ll play other people’s stuff, but a lot of it is production that we’ve made.
Do you plan to release the tracks on an album or EP?
Phantasy: Yeah we’re working towards that, but we’re still testing stuff out. Right now it’s quite frustrating because we’ll test tunes out and then people will rip the tunes off sets and put them up on YouTube. I guess that’s just the music culture that we’re in nowadays, but I mean let us get the quality copies first.
Well that makes sense as well because you play so many shows, you don’t have as much time, I’d imagine, to get things polished like you’d like. How much time to you actually get to dedicate to production?
Macky: Well we’re always in the studio, even if it’s something where we’re playing tracks in sets, the next week we’ll be in the studio on something new so it’s quite fast-paced, and it’s actually necessary. We tend to be in the studio as much as we can because if we’re playing every weekend, there’s only so many times you can play a track in every set, so we need to be bringing new material and product as fast as we can.
Phantasy: Yeah Macky gets cross with me quite often, because I’m terrible about this (Macky starts laughing) – you know what I’m going to say, Macky – we’ll finish a tune…
Macky: No, correction: we don’t finish a tune. (both laugh)
Phantasy: Yeah, all right, we don’t finish a tune but then I’ll go and play it before Macky thinks it’s finished (both laugh again), but then I look at him and say “look!” and the crowd are going absolutely mental and he’s looking at me going “but it ain’t even finished,” but I’m testing it, bruv! I think it’s good to get that kind of natural reaction both from the crowd and from him, because it sounds completely different onstage. So Macky will turn to me and go “fucking hell, that sounds better than I thought,” or whatever. But that is why it’s also frustrating, especially for him, when people rip the sets because half the tracks aren’t even done yet.
Macky: Yeah people will even call me up and ask about a track they’re calling “Tiger” because someone has named it that on YouTube. There’s not even a tiger sound in there or anything! They’ve just made the name up.
I guess that’s the hazard of testing tracks live before they’re done.
Phantasy: Yeah that’s the thing because we’re listening to it, like our track “Transition II”, when we test it, we’re noticing like “ok the bass needs to be louder or sort the subs…”
Macky: Sometimes you get comfortable to a certain sound and it’s actually a wrong sound, you know, mixdown-wise, but when you go out to the club and you’re playing a hundred tunes in a set, there’s a balance of tracks in a set and if one sticks out, then you know you have to go back and…in that way it is a good way of testing a track, so I’ll agree with Phantasy on that, but when they’re not finished they’re not finished! (points accusingly at Phantasy)
Phantasy: (laughing) I say the let the ravers decide whether the track is ready or not! (both laugh again)
It sounds like this is going to be an arguing point for many years to come! Again, that’s a really unique way of producing in terms of how you finish the tracks. What are some of your other processes when working on tracks together? What do you like the most?
Macky: Well, I really like doing collabs, because Phantasy can push the boundaries with me a little bit as we were just saying. Sometimes as a producer you can get a bit comfortable in your own habits, and when me and Phantasy work on tracks we get each other out of our comfort zone. I do get exasperated, but I think it’s good to push my boundaries. We like to have the energy in our tracks, with a gritty sound but we like to balance it with commercial as well – I mean not selling out, because that’s the last thing we want to do – but just something a bit more easy on the ears if that makes sense, just to break up the sets.
Phantasy: Something I really like about Macky’s production is that he’s really tuned in to the whole EDM vibe and scene. He’s turned me on to so much that I wouldn’t have normally got into. We’ve done “Transition I”, which is grime fused with drum and bass and then “Transition II” which is drum and bass fused with bassline (house), or we have “Ramped Up”, which is a really EDM intro with a drum and bass drop so what we do is we try to fuse all the different styles and not rule anything out. We draw from influences all over.
Do you each have different parts of each track you like working on, or is it total collab back to front?
Phantasy: I am the master of the high hats! (both laugh) No, seriously I mean, if you listen to my tracks, I’m very fussy about the sort of in between beats, you know, snares and high hats. I think if you listened to my sets and Macky’s sets separately, you’d hear I have a lot of highs and snares and he usually would have more of those epic basslines, you know? But we do have a running joke on me and the high hats.
Macky: Quite often it is about time, and about not getting too caught up in it. We try to make a plan, but if we get stuck we try to take a break and not be too intense.
Anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
Phantasy: I just want to say thank you to everyone for supporting us. Sometimes artists can forget that it’s really the supporters who come out every show that allow us to do what we love, and we just want to make sure we’re there entertaining. It’s a two-way street. We appreciate everyone’s love and support and I hope that comes across.
Phantasy and Macky are clearly very passionate about the Sasasas project, and their unique form of production and testing tracks is something many DJs wouldn’t think of. It’s an entirely new way of putting together music and a drum and bass show, and these two are clearly the bedrock of something unique and special. Sasasas has so much coming up in terms of new material, shows and other goodies that it was almost impossible to list it here, but fans can check their Facebook page for updates and new uploads of performance videos, links to free downloads and a USB producer pack. Your EDM would like to thank Phantasy and Macky Gee once again for a great look into the lives and process of one of the most dynamic drum and bass acts on the scene today.