Updated: Jan 19
Progressive Icon.. Musical Pioneer..
As the Facebook PHC group goes into its fourteenth year in 2022 and the blog approaches 30,000 hits we wanted to try and do something special, when we reached out to this particular person I’ll be honest I didn’t expect to get a response. That was not because of who he is but because historically he seemed to have very little to do with the media of the time, I suspect now that he was bizarrely overlooked by certain publications and this led to there being very few interviews and even less real information on his career. As I’ve written before, in many people’s opinion this guy was a progressive pioneer and frankly I don’t think anyone can argue with that. His career has seen numerous genre defining productions, remixes and a critically acclaimed album ‘The Birth of Shiva Shanti’ the latter of which went on to be performed live at the Ministry of Sound in 1993, a very special one-off appearance. For a while in the development of UK house this guy defined the sound with his own take on things, a unique combination of drums, percussion and eastern influences. As one reveller at Full Circle described it.. listening to one of his tracks was ‘akin to having a battalion of bats getting down in ones barnet’..
Progressive House Classics welcomes Fabio Paras
Afternoon Fabi firstly can I just say on behalf of the whole of the PHC team thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
It’s an absolute pleasure, thanks you guys taking the time out to hear me waffle on about nothing really that important. Very much appreciated, it’s been a long time.
Please go easy on me, I’m sure our memories of things have taken a hit over the years but I’ll do my best. Right go on then and cheers.
So diving straight in, your name is Fabio Borzacco. Where did the Fabio Paras moniker come from?
Wish I could tell ya matey, fuck knows. All I remember is we were at an afters party tripping off our hinges, I walked in as DJ Fabio and left as Fabi Paras... it was something to do with a drum n bass DJ. Had to be done though as I was getting booked at hardcore raves (which was a bloody nightmare). One of them I had to pick 33 rpm vinyl, switch it to 45 rpm and + 8 it and I still got shit thrown at me!!. Could be worse I suppose, my first DJ name was DJ Fab and when ecstasy came to town I was called DJ Two Tab Fab.
Were you a clubber in the eighties in the run up to the Balearic / Acid House scene starting in the UK, if so, what were your favorite nights and were you hanging out with anyone in particular at this point?
Well after the Hammersmith Palais days and the juvenile lager fueled years, I worked with a Rastaman cleaning shit out of drains and that was the job that originally paid for all my vinyl at a place called Spin Offs which was run by Jazzy M. The Rastaman used to put on dances on the front line , we used to “borrow” the work van and load it up with his kit and wardrobe speakers, I helped him set up and he gave me a bag of sensei, bottle of Canei wine plus a tenner cash. Nice! . At this time my mates and I started going to Special Branch where I first met the legend Nicky Holloway. That would pretty much be my first underground club experiences.
I’ve seen it reported that you started DJing sometime around 1988 when Acid House was really starting to take hold in the UK. Its widely stated that you went to Ibiza with your friend Nicky Holloway where you played the season at the Project Bar in San Antonio, a bar that had previously hosted Trevor Fung and Ian St Paul in 1987. What can you tell us about the experience and was this your first trip to the White Isle?
I got my first proper decks and mixer in 84/5 ish after seeing Chad Jackson demolish a pair on a Tony Blackburn soul night out at the Hammy Pally. I was then making a few mix-tapes in my bedroom and doing some local wank wank gigs with my mates. It was in 1987/88 (after Corfu) that I was fortunate and lucky enough to be asked by Nicky Holloway to do a few warm up sets on a trip to Ibiza he was planning... no pay, no expenses, not even a bloody joint or JD and coke, fuck all. A few mates and I jumped on board, why not? fuck it. That guy knew how to throw a beano. Ah man!.. that was a spiritual and musical experience, the stars were aligned and totally changed the course of my life...again. Project Bar was where I took my first E, proper E too, no messing about. One hour later I was in a club called Night Life and heard some bloke playing Balearic beats on a banging sound system whilst rushing my teeth off.. Fucking Hell!.. like I said, changed my life completely.
During that summer in 1988 can you give us some idea of the type tracks that you were playing, was it a real mixture of styles or were you concentrating more on the developing house sound?
When we arrived in Ibiza my record box contained some hip hop,breakbeats,pop breaks,a bit of house and a few Special branch safe tunes.
I was one of the warm up stand in guys for all the main DJs who “overslept” or completely forgot what day it was. Loads of em....Bob Jones, Giles Peterson, Chris Bangs, Mr C, Pete Tong, Fungy, Holloway and many many more. Done about eight sets overall, plus Holloway let me play in Night Life for 30 minutes one night....bought me a drink too. One of the best decisions my mates and I ever made going to Ibiza.
So you were playing alongside some big Djs back then, looking back can you give us three that inspired you?
Yeah I think I can. Firstly Jerusalem Gray on the frontline with his dubious technical mixing skills. “No fucking about, 10 wardrobe speakers, 1 turntable, an echo chamber and a microphone.....No finesse but brutal bass power. . Secondly it would have to be Chad Jackson the DMC mixing champ, that soul night I mentioned at the Hammersmith Palais, an absolute technical masterclass. Thirdly.. A guy called Carlos, the bus driver, glass collector, bog & cloakroom attendant, barman and warm up DJ at Night Life in Ibiza, that mans selections blew away anything I'd ever heard before. Still ain’t got a clue who Carlos was but he’s a legend to me. Would love to know and meet him again.. that man gave me a selection masterclass, broke all boundaries, next level.
So, you play this amazing season in Ibiza and then you return to the UK which is fever pitch with what can now be described as arguably the biggest youth culture movement in British history dubbed ‘acid house’. As a DJ did you find it relatively easy to start finding work playing records?
Oh matey! Getting back from Ibiza made England a brighter place in my eyes, it seemed different, wouldn’t mind but I'd only been gone 11 days. Might have something to do with the music and drugs? I found my path, my ears could hear my future, I’m serving my DJ apprenticeship and all musical boundaries have been broken. By just pure good fortune I’m all of a sudden gigging 3-5 nights a week. How’s ya luck!
Moving into 1989 we had a number of really big parties start take off, the M25 was linking counties and taking the whole party concept outside of the capital. Did you attend any of the now classic events such as Sunrise/Back to The Future, Biology, Genesis and Energy?
1989 is when it really started exploding and like ya said, there was no doubt a new music culture was coming that would change the lives of so so many, It was just beautiful.
Went to a few of the M25 orbital raves with my mates, bit to heavy for us but totally enjoyed and appreciated the experiences. Think we were going to more sweaty underground gigs and warehouses, along with our usual haunts.. Shoom at the Fitness Center which was in Southwark, Special Branch and some horrid rare groove gigs that my mates were into but were seriously boring the shat out of me.
Over the next couple of years, you became a regular guest DJ at many events, and you were involved with the Flying Records network alongside the likes of Charlie Chester, Terry Farley, Andy Weatherall, Rocky & Diesel, Glen Gunner, Dean Thatcher and also featured regularly for Phil Perry at his Full Circle parties. What are your best memories of that early developing scene?
I was truly blessed to be suddenly acquainted with so many wonderful people. The best days of my life. Yeah, used to hang out in the Boys Own office with Farley, Weatherall, Cymon and Maisee. Done many a warm up for Farley and Weatherall. How many times have I had to chuck Terry over his front wall for Sue to pick up after our gigs. I knew Rocky & Diesel from the Special Branch days, think it was them that introduced me to Charlie and Karen, Phil and Fiona.. along with the rest of their motley crew.
Flying and Full Circle are easily in my top ten clubs. That Rimini trip they put on was pure Spinal Tap, fucking brilliant, still laugh about it. Dodgy Italian coach driver dumped us in a vineyard at about 4am, middle of nowhere and pitch black. After Farley stacked it down a ditch and I went to try help him someone, Rocky or Scott Braithwaite pissed on my neck from above! We're going into panic mode now to the point where Charlie and I are thinking we could actually fit 12 DJs and their guest list plus 25 record boxes into some old mans Fiat 500. I think the exact words used were.. "Right.. You lump the wop and I'll nick his motor" Funny and good times.
Another situation I've read about is the infamous Drum Club incident which even got a mention in Mixmag. Apparently some guy just breezed up and took over on the decks?
Ahh.. That was very strange to say the least, mental actually. I was fuckin gutted, thought I'd been hooked by one of Ghislaine or Halls mateys. Always used to try my dubplates at the Drum Club and was always good for 1.5 hours, I was confused as that floor was loving it like they always did. Was only when I was at the bar thinking "what the fuck was all that about" and got into a discussion with Charlie and he said "Who's ya mate.. he's shit".. I was kinda thinking the same thing. We then realised some ragga literally just walked in off the street and bagged himself a gig. Next thing I heard was Billy Nasty say.. "He ain't chipping into my set", a few punches were thrown and the bouncers stepped in. By this point I was drowning my sorrows at the bar and couldn't be arsed. Turns out the poor ragga should have been in the Heaven club upstairs doing a drum and bass set. Good times! the ragga wasn't the worst DJ Ive heard, My ears were thinking slow this shit down by 80 bpm and add some home made chambers and it'll sound alright.
In 1991 you set up your own record label ‘Junk Rock Records’. Was the producing side of things a natural follow on from the DJing or was it something you had been dabbling in prior to 1991?
Always been about making the music, was trying that long before I went out and attempted to play it. DJing just kinda fell into place with alot of hard work and a bit of luck. Was nice to be able to do both. After knocking out a few dodgy bootlegs I decided to set up Junk Rock and go legit, mainly because we felt the police are coming.
You have a very distinct production style and sound both on your productions and remixes. In a piece I wrote for the blog in 2018 I said – When you think of Fabio Paras you think of drums, percussion, rhythm and eastern influences. Where did the idea come from to develop such a unique sound?
Drums, percussion, bass lines and haunting sounds.. love it!.. hitting bins & tins with sticks and things, got my first Premier Olympic 7 piece drum kit when I was 11, that was brilliant. I can't specifically say how the Soundclash Republic style came to be, I've always had weird sounds and noises whirling in my brain, drives ya mad sometimes. What I would say though, spaghetti westerns, early frontline dub, all the gigs I was going to and the tunes I was buying obviously was a major influence, along with the new style skunk that was incoming.
Many feel that you were one of the original Progressive House pioneers, you embraced the sound very early on, helped develop it and many would agree you do not get the recognition you deserve. Is it true that at one point you were in the studio two days a week working on tracks that would be cut to acetate for the weekend to make your sets unique?
Oh here we go.. I'm not so sure if I had anything to do with progressive house. I was just making tunes and playing em. I most certainly did not coin or champion the phrase. I wasn't looking for any recognition, personally i thought 'Dubskunk' was better. Yet again, right place, right time and lots of luck. I was more pissed with wank DJs I was warming up for telling me 'that's my record, I was gonna play that blah blah'.. wankers!.. You know who you are! I kinda realised then that I need to fix up and stop dropping tunes straight off the shelf and make my own, otherwise I'll end up like some commercial radio DJ. So I decided to make my own, at least 3 days a week in the studio and straight to Porkies on Shaftesbury Avenue on a Friday morning cutting fresh dub plates for my weekends, not like now with the USBs (ya lazy fuckers) this was proper graft man. Problem was the same wank DJs still used to say the same old shat.. 'thats my record, I was gonna play that, blah blah. Crazy considering I knew for a fact that I was the only one with the tune.. TWATS!
I've heard this type of behaviour talked about before and related to some pretty well known names, can you elaborate any further?
My mates and I used to call them ' top shelf or under the counter wank bag DJs' If ya happy going to a record shop and buying other peoples records and then just playing em without any technical ability you can kiss the bottom of my record box. Fucking lazy chancers the lot of em. As much as I'd like to name names and I'm close, trust me, I just can't be arsed. I think you know the types. How shit of a main DJ you gotta be to go through a warm up DJs playlist first and kick off! I always thought I was playing basic warm up crap but for them it was ya main safe go to lame tunes. I mean what gives any old lemon DJ the right to play other peoples records that they've just received in the post or bought from a shop and call it their own. These guys didn't even bother doubling up on a record and creating something with the tools we had back then after all its not hard work is it. No they just pressed play and started waving their fuckin hands about in the air conditioning and shit. Thought that 'Ravi Shanker' style died off in 89.
With a work ethic that is producing a couple of tracks a week I guess its possible that some stuff may not have been released, did that ever happen?
Being honest yeah.. loads of stuff, probably only released about 20% of it.
So did you manage to keep anything or has it all passed away with time?
No I kept every single one, including every single sample or kick drum, got em on Dubplates. DATs and even floppy discs.
Wow I was not expecting that, so many producers always say the DATs are lost, Ive got no masters.. but to have everything is some feat. So alongside your own production you became a very prolific remixer giving us some genre defining pieces of music. On Guerilla your remix of ‘I know you like it’ is quite possibly one of the best releases on the label. Titled - The not for love nor money do I remember saying – “I see myself been round for quite sometime” remix, it apparently refers to a magazine that misquoted you back in the early nineties?
Bloody hell, that’s a brain teaser. I honestly don’t remember where it came from, I thought I got half the quote from an old Italian film. Think I’ve only had a problem with one journalist and that was something of nothing. Everyone’s a fucking critic eh!
How do you feel about the remix being held in such high regard and arguably one of the best things Guerilla put out?
I was unaware it’s been held in such high regard till recently. There's one major problem with it though and that’s that fucking horrible euro sounding riff. Take that out of it and it’s a tune alright.
Did you prefer to produce your own material or remix other peoples?
Always preferred producing my own , at my own pace as and when. Problem with remixing and producing other people’s material it’s like an actual real job, too many people involved talking shit and that. My rule was (unless it was favours for mateys) if someone offered me a remix and the tune was good enough to go straight in my record box I wouldn’t take up the offer. A tune is a tune is a tune, leave it alone.
So that said, which of your productions is your favourite ?
Hands down my Shiva Shanti album. My pride and joy, nothing comes close man and for so many reasons. From the studio to Loud and Clear offices sticking bar codes on the sleeves. One monitor shy, all 30 minutes of it..
Yeah that is some album, big favourite in the FB group..
You know it only took me 5 hours to make that. I was in spaghetti western mode and stoned off my tits, I was in the zone. I remember listening to it the day after and thought.....fucking hell, this album is on!!
5 hours.. what the album?
No the One Monitor Shy track. 5 hours whilst lying on my back stoned off my tits, it just flowed man, took the engineer 10 hours fiddling his knobs to extract the sounds my brain was hearing though. The album took about a week all told.
How did the Outrage project come to be as it was a bit of a change from your usual musical direction?
Ha ha! Outrage. Well, Farley and I were gigging up north somewhere, we were clattered, I know, not very professional. Farley played his last tune about 5 times and when I took over with my first tune he still was trying to play his last tune over mine. It was turning into a total shambles but.....when them records aligned it sounded wicked and we both said to each other that needs to go into a studio and get done proper. And there’s the Outrage thing. Good thing with it was the clubbers, promoters and everybody else thought we were brilliant and re-booked us...how’s ya luck!
You played a number of times in Amsterdam at the Mazzo club back in the early nineties promoting the new progressive house sound. The recordings of these nights are off the scale. How did feel to be promoting this new predominantly British take on house music?
Amsterdam ruled man for so many obvious reasons. Nearly bought a coffee shop with a studio there once, one of my spiritual homes. Them clubbers were for real. I was unaware I was championing any genre of music at the time.
Mazzo and their clientele were a bit special too. One night I played there I dropped nowt but acetates in my whole set, it was almost like a live concert. Road tested many a tune in that club. No greater feeling than playing tunes for 2 hours that nobody anywhere has ever heard before and getting a response like that matey. It’s a wonderful thing.
One of the last regular venues I seem to remember you playing was Club UK, the music had moved on and the scene had become a whole lot heavier with sporadic police raids at the Wandsworth venue. How did you feel about the way the scene had evolved by this point?
At this point I was already getting bored of Djing I reckon. Maybe it was the gigs I was booked at but something wasn’t right. I couldn’t be arsed with the acetate thing anymore, what with all the graft involved and that. I was kinda back to playing off the shelf or promo’s again but that bored the crap out of me. I was losing interest in the whole thing to be honest, became like a proper job and I’d rather clean shit out of drains than play that rubbish for a few easy quid.
Your disappearance from dance music is arguably one of the most debated stories in clubland and with the rise in online forums and groups we regularly see posts praising your DJing and Production, then asking the question - ‘Where is Fabi Paras?’. Many stories have circulated over the years which have kind of added a real sense of mystery to your career. Can you tell us what actually happened?
Nah, bollocks Jay. I ain’t interested in replying to that or even explaining. I made a personal decision that’s got sod all to do with anyone else. In hindsight it wasn’t my best move according to others but I’ll stick by it and would do it again if need be. Yeah, I’ve seen some of the social media stuff, what a load of bollocks eh?
All I will say is .. I didn’t turn transvestite and read people’s palms on Brighton pier at £1 a pop. I never cashed inn and bought a poppy farm in Afghanistan. I didn’t have a sex change nor any other nonsense that’s been written. Bloody funny though that people I’ve never met or possibly even liked seem to know more than me and my nearest and dearest. But hey who don’t like a bit of non fiction....wankers!
Phil Perry was the guy that finally talked you into coming out of the retirement you had been in for so many years, this was for his final Full Circle party in 2019. Had you been asked before about making a return to the decks and what was it that Phil said that convinced you to play the party?
Yep, good old Phil. He’d asked a few times over the years. My mate Godden hooked us up again and Phil booked me in. As for what he said to me, well fuck all apartfrom he’s doing the last ever Full Circle, nuff said. Problem was I'd been away before the gig, Second problem I had was I hadn’t touched the decks for 20+ years. Literally went round my mates house the night before for a 30 minute practice. I was hours away from cancelling but so glad I didn’t, was a terrific night. Met so many old friends and clubbers. Not gonna lie, had a little cry when I got home after that gig.
So we finally get you back behind the decks and within a few months the whole Corona virus thing happens and everything is shut down. We've been teased with a new Soundclash Republic track for sometime now and at your Brighton gig you apparently dropped some exclusive 'Dubskunk Rhythm Remixes' which were very well received. From a music point of view did you use the clubland shutdown as a period to get back into producing?
Have a look at the news mateys.. it’s happening again. Just had 16 Soundclash Republic gigs next year postponed and we've got new material ready to go. I’ll get over the cancelled DJing gigs but them SoundClash Republic ones are a bitter pill to crush up and snort. Gutted for everyone involved. Yet again we got produce gathering dust or on hold. But we’ll be ok.....The grass is always greener n all that.
Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk, hopefully in the near future we'll get to see you back behind the decks and Soundclash Republic performing live.. Its good to have you back Fabi..
Jay Dobie / Wasim Afzal / Marcus Harriman / Willy Noglows
Various archive pictures and flyers supplied by PHC
Disco Piu Photo - Tony Davis