The Reese bassline was inspired by historic NYC club Paradise Garage, says creator Kevin Saunderson

Saunderson also thinks producers are making the Reese bass all wrong: “They’re using different machines I didn’t even use.”

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Kevin Saunderson and Paradise garage

Credit: Left: Rose Catherine Hohl | Right: Getty/Jake Wynter/WWD/Penske Media

There are few more iconic basslines in dance music than the Reese bass, with its driving low-end sonics that have permeated rave music. Now, Kevin Saunderson, the Reese bass’s original creator, has revealed its unexpected source of inspiration.

In a recent interview with MusicTech, the techno pioneer and Inner City member discusses a number of impactful innovations he’s created – not just the Reese bass but also a remix technique he applied in 1988 that “changed the game”.

In the interview, Saunderson also discusses creating the first-ever Reese bass in the same year, under his Reese alias for the track, Just Want Another Chance.

“Actually when I made that record, I made it for [influential 1980s New York club] Paradise Garage. I was thinking of the Paradise Garage. I don’t know if it was still open then but I went there several times so I always thought ‘how would it sound?’ I thought this track would work, get inside the dancers. I could see them dancing, screaming, and just twirling, doing their thing and it being played for an hour. Larry [Levan] playing it over and over.”

Saunderson, who is recognised as a part of the legendary Belleville Three, goes on to respond to modern producers today trying to recreate this bassline, specifically those posting Reese bassline tutorials on YouTube.

“I’ve seen a couple try to recreate the Reese bass,” he says. “They’re using different machines I didn’t even use – I created it on a Casio CZ-1000 – but the sound was close enough.

“I didn’t know I was going to create this bass. I created this bassline — I thought it was OK. But I thought ‘how am I going to enhance that line?’ [I began] looking around the oscillators of that unit, finding a sound and developing it.

“It’s dark, it’s deep,” says Saunderson, describing the sonic qualities of the bassline. “It gets into your soul. That’s where it grabbed me. It’s vibrant, powerful. It’s a hurricane of a bassline, the frequencies.”

Listen to Kevin Saunderson’s music on Bandcamp.


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