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Charlie Fantazia Interview 2008

So you are Charlie, part of the legendary Fantazia Crew. How didyou become part of the Fantazia family?
I'm a lifer, lol. James my brother founded the company in 1991, he was 20 at the time and I was 18. As things quickly grew it was all hands needed and I was involved doing various things at each of the events and behind the scenes. I was made redundant from my day job in 1992 and started working on Fantazia full time. Its funny, there was a big recession then to. By 1994 I became general manager.

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So how has your involvement changed over the years?
In the early days I used to deal with all the record shops around the country and worked at the events. It was awesome back then. The buzz was huge and the events were out of this world. There was nothing like standing on the stage overlooking 30,000 people all dancing as one. As the record company side of the business grew and the regulation turned against big one off parties the job changed a lot, but I cant say it got more fun.

Fantazia's humble beginnings began in 1991, can you tell us a little about how it started?
James, Chris Perception (founder of Perception, Vision, Mythology, Devotion & Godskitchen) & Gideon Dawson (later Obession) were into the free party scene and saw the potential to come together to put on a regular event in our home town of Cheltenham. These were called Trance, they quickly became one of the bigger nights in the SW selling out week after week. The partners split up and each founded companies that put on some of the biggest and best know raves in the UK. Funny for so much to come out of such a small town. The first Fantazia was held in 1991 at the Eclipse. The company's rise was meteoric, no other company has put on some many big parties in such a short time before or since, and I doubt anyone would ever be mad enough to try it again either!

Fantazia was a huge part of the rave explosion in 1991-1994, having been at both Summertime and Donnington and witnessing two of the most talked about events ever, what went in to these events behind the scenes to make them so special?
There was a massive amount of work involved, especially since they were all held in quick succession. Some of the most crucial work was the licensing. Fantazia was a step ahead of the councils in using the regulations to defeat unreasonable rejections of applications. We regularly had to employ very expensive barristers and experts in noise, traffic etc to win our licenses. Most other rave companies were not prepared for the cost and expense nor wanted to be involved in such a judicial process. By 1993 though the councils had talked to each other and raised their game to close many of the loopholes that we exploited. Commonly they raised the initial application fee for this style of event from hundreds of pounds to many thousands. The end result was a massive increase in the risks and costs meaning most parties were destined to be uneconomic.

Which was your favourite Fantazia and why?
Its difficult to say which one was my favourite as they all have highlights. I would probably say the best night I had at any of them was at the first one at the Eclipse in 91, but then that's probably because it was the only one where I was not working, lol. Though the atmosphere was amazing, really intimate. People were sharing things around and beautiful girls were giving me neck massages even though I was a stranger. New Year 91 was amazing, it was so big in comparison and the music was some of the best I had ever heard, the MC's were in full force and after the party we listened to the tapes from the night for months afterward. Finally and only because I have to limit to a few, must be Summertime, amazing atmosphere and music and so many people try to get in. The weather was amazing and Robbie Dee flying from the huge stage was unforgettable. It was featured on the ITN News at 10 you know.

There was a gap between events from the Millennium NYE event to until 2006. It is said that was down to property developing, and the easy money involved?
We actually started getting involved in property from round 98. The "Superclubs" were at their height, but I personally felt the whole dance scene had lost its sole. It was all about what you were wearing and looking cool, more than the original ethos of having a great time and meeting new friends. As the height was reached we could only see that it would be down hill from there.

The DJs were ripping to much out of the scene by charging huge amounts for any gig leaving little in putting on events, especially the big one offs that Fantazia is known for. The final straw was the major record labels buying up many of the minor labels who we licensed records from for our compilations. They would then only allow us to us them once they had already put them on many of their own albums and were effectively old. We weren't interested in putting out albums that compromised our choices of tunes, Fantazia has always been about doing quality, value for money things. Property was easier work and more profitable

However by 2003 I was bored of property and started up the Fantazia website, initially just as a bit of fun. I had seen how many tribute sites there were on the internet dedicated to the raves scene and in particular Fantazia. I had boxes of the original flyer, pictures and information and the original DAT and Video tapes and thought people would love to see this stuff all in one place. At the same time I wanted to learn how to build websites. I think we have come a long way since then. The website is a real labour of love. I spend more hours a week then I care to think about working on it and talking to people. My wife thinks I am mad, but I love it and have met some great old and new ravers on our forum many I have become friends with.

You were in involved in the set up of the Rave Scene in Inspector Morse Episode "Cherubim and Seraphim" how did ITV approach you? Did you treat it as a real party?
Lol, cant remember how it came about, but I can tell you that the director was amazed by our extras great acting ability. They didn't realise they were all just treating it as a real rave with all that entails ;)

Any other crazy things The Fantazia crew got involved in back in the day?
There was loads but I think we shall leave some of that for our autobiographies.

Since you started putting events on in 2006 they have mainly been played out in Scotland, why was this destination chosen?
The venue at Braehead is really amazing, Perfect size, big enough to enable us to do an amazing show and have huge lineup or DJ's and lots of PA's but not so big you can't see anything. Plus with the stadium seating all around you get to view the party which you just never could at an old style warehouse gigs like at Westpoint. If people can get there and haven't yet been do make the effort, these are the best parties in the UK.

I'm sure many of the originals ravers now in their 30's would plan to re-visit one of the original venues such as Bournemouth or Donnington, are there any plans to go back to any of them?
No sorry. Perhaps they should be left as amazing memories. Why revisit something? It would never live up to it no matter what you did. The production we currently do in Scotland is awesome. It is so much higher, safety is better etc etc. People however expect all this now, people didn't then, one strobe light was almost enough.

You have brought out many Albums and pieces over the years, any plans for anything in the near future, and can anyone still get hold of Fantazia sets through the ages?
We do have some plans, but we prefer not to talk about things until we have them confirmed. You can still get all the Fantazia albums from our Shop on our website.

Why have you chosen the Q club as a venue to return this legend to the Midlands?
It's a really special venue that is very different than the usual nightclub type of thing and fitting for a big Fantazia. It also has lots of different rooms which we are pleased to be sharing with many of our promoter friends. This gives the Fantazia Crew (you) an amazing array of choice of music on the night.

Top Buzz's set from Fantazia 91-92 goes down as one of the top 3 all time sets, what's is your favourite Fantazia set, and who are you looking forward to seeing on NYE?
It is Top Buzz New Year, followed by The Big Bang Carl Cox and Ratpack from either Summertime, One Step Beyond or New Year 92. Producers set from Universe Mind Body & Soul is fairly good to if I had to mention a non Fantazia one J

What was your favourite motto from back in the day, that you still use?
Come and join the future

Where can people find out more about the Fantazia movement?
The website contains lots of footage, music, reviews, flyers all from Fantazia events. On top of that we have the largest collection of information on the rest of the rave scene. This includes our rave flyer library that has scans of fronts of flyers as well as the backs, which is unusual. We also sell a great range of clubwear, and old mix tapes and CDs.

One of the best parts of the site is our forum for people to discuss rave stuff from the past and present. The atmosphere is really friendly and unlike many forums we do not tolerate bullying of any sort. We also have forum meets at our events which is a great place to meet like minded ravers and even me, as I always like to go along and shake hands and talk to people. It's a real mixture as well of young and old, people who are newly into the hardcore/rave scene and those that were their the first time around.

Any messages for the Birmingham party people ahead of what looks a banger of an NYE?
If you haven't experienced that extra special Fantazia atmosphere before don't miss out on this opportunity, it will be an amazing night unlike anything you have been to before. If you are an old Fantazia head, put on your dancing shoes for at least one last time it will be a real trip down memory lane.

We are sure people will also go to town on their outfits. We have a Heroes theme at this event and people come to a Fantazia not trying to look cool but to have fun and he had masses at our September gig in all sorts of outfits which look amazing and real kick start the party atmosphere on a night. There will be prizes for the best ones and I am sure all the girls will look very sexy, I look forward to being a judge!

Ric Woodall The Night Times


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