Just as rave culture was making its first waves in the UK in 1988, a mad English kid named Lee Reynolds rode his BMX bike across the Atlantic to Los Angeles, carrying with him dreams of big air and sunny skies. He was as wild then as he is now, it’s just that on two wheels, Reynolds’ lack of abandon resulted in broken bones, not broken beats. In 1992, he limped off the ramp one last time and soon found himself lost to electronic psychedelia, and thusly one of the West Coast’s finest DJs began his path to the Desert Hearts movement and the hysteria he now conjures with every performance.
Now, a quarter century later, Reynolds has a lifetime’s worth of experience bringing the weird and the wonderful to the dancefloor. He earned his chops up and down the West Coast in the dance scene’s dustier institutions––Moontribe, Moonshake, LiB––That’s where he developed his endlessly wide palate, penchant for mysticism, and an understanding that a dance party should be a spiritual experience.
“When I DJ, I want people to feel ecstatic, in a zone, in the moment, like the only thing that matters is the dance,” he says. “I don’t want to play music that people can dance to, I want to play music that makes people dance. I want it to sound like aliens are about to land on the dancefloor.”
In 2011, It was an encounter with a plucky bunch of San Diegans barely out of their teens that was the calling Lee Reynolds had spent his whole life working towards. Alongside Mikey Lion, Deep Jesus, Marbs, and Porkchop, Reynolds formed Desert Hearts and the rest is history in motion. Over the past three years of bi-annual renegade ragers and relentless touring, “Papa” Lee Reynolds has developed into the patriarch of the fastest growing and most visible cultural movement in all of stateside dance music.
“My real role in Desert Hearts is more on a spiritual level, making sure we spread a positive message and do the right thing,” says Reynolds. Wise words, maybe, but behind the decks, Reynolds is a maniacal presence as he channels his past lives, tastes, adventures, and perspectives into a dancefloor magic that captures you upon first beat and does not release: House, techno, acid, and breaks, they’re all conjured up in a plume of purple haze and that little mad bastard is at the center of it all.
Dance music now is so often about fast rises and immediate gratification, but Lee Reynolds’ story is a reminder that some beats taste better when slowly fried over the course of 25 years. “I’ve been obsessed with this shit forever and I’ve always believed the madness was coming,” says Reynolds. Well, the madness has commenced, and it seems like it’s here for good––and Lee Reynolds is conducting the score.
- Jemayel Khäwåja