Interview by : Vlad Havelka January 2013
Vlad : about your start
How and when did you start? (As a DJ / As a producer) What was the impulse?
I started in 1986 with a few friends in a Hip-Hop Group called Digital Power (DP)
I collected all kinds of records and was obsessed with sampling & sound synthesis techniques.
80ties computer game music inspired me to make my own with the first available music software in that time.
I had lots of records that i listened and sometimes sampled but Mixing as a DJ I picked up much later.
Vlad: Did you have any idols / or did you feel like a pioneer?
I have many idols from the old-school hip-hop scene and early electronic dance scene
And till today still discovering new old classics from the 60’ties 70’ties 80’ties
It was pioneering in a way , many traditional artist refused to have anything to do with drum machines,
sampling and so on, but we had lots of fun experimenting with new music technology.
Vlad: What was your goal?
To create and record music in my home studio and maybe release it some day
The dream still is to create original dance-floor classics and inspire others.
Vlad: Did you have any previous musical experience? Can you play any musical instrument?
I can play some keyboard but consider my self a computer musician,
I have many musician friends I worked with that learned me how to listen more carefully to arrangements, instruments and other music out there
I also worked with artists that are experts in certain styles if necessary I can involve them in a project ask for help or there opinion.
Vlad: What music did you like before Gabber started? (EBM? Industrial?)
Discovered Kraft-work in the early 80ties and i loved electro / electric boogie music
like Africa Bambaataa – Planet Rock & Cybotron – Clear
When Hip-House started around 1987 ,house music was getting my serious attention
Fast Eddy – Yo Yo Get Funky
Tyree Cooper – Turn Up The Bass
Before that Hip Hop, early electronic R&B ,Dance Classics, Soul , Funk , Jazz
Also I listened to a lot of pirate radio stations that played mainly import music which was rare at that time.
Vlad: Do you like any other music styles? What?
I’m a record collector since I was a kid and love music in general.
Still if you go true my collection its hard to judge my preference, People did not understand that some times and ask me what are you listening ?
its about a 2 second sound or a awesome break-beat, Reason enough for me to buy the record.
In the search for hip-hop samples I discovered lots of funk ,jazz& soul tunes I love
Vlad: Any more to say about your start in music?
Looking back I’m blessed and very thankful to make it this far in the music industry.
Even in the beginning there where lots of talented people producing already and it was hard to stand out .
Vlad: HARDCORE SCENE
When and how did it start? Were you involved in the early days?
Early nineteens in squads, under bridges and in warehouses.
As a visitor it was a great experience, you could dance like nobody’s watching, Totally different than in normal clubs in that time.
Just before my first record in 1992 I got more involved behind the scenes.
I started as a live act and was always present during the build up, sound checking, Deco, Show & FX preparations.
I learned a lot how things work on events and seen it evolve right before my eyes.
Vlad: Has it always been legal? Or do you remember any illegal rave/gabber parties?
Most where illegal in the beginning, We use to go to the legendary Multigroove events,
There would be a meeting / bus pickup point and groups of people where waiting there in cars to follow that bus to the secret location.
It took some time but after the dance virus spread-ed it was easier to get it in the normal club venues.
Vlad: Do you ever play at squats or warehouses? What do you think, is there any connection between gabber and “underground” hardtekno scene?
I think there is huge connection but not everyone learned it yet.
Because Hardcore moved to the normal Commercial Club scene and Big venues, so most people are now used to all the “ luxury” that offers like Full Bar, flushing toilets, known locations, The spirit is the same, good music and having fun.
I love playing for a Tekno crowd and had only good experiences as a dj but also as visitor.
They dress different and seem to be more political aware, Also they put more effort in creative decoration.
Vlad: I have heard there is (was) a kind of rivalry between Rotterdam crew and Amsterdam crew. If it´s true, can you tell us about it?
In 1992 the new label called Rotterdam Records released a track Called:
Amsterdam Waar lech dat dan? What says: Amsterdam where is that ??
A little rivalry about the biggest sound system and who was first and the best.
Some people where upset and took it to personal probably because of soccer, I had to laugh about it and thought it was funny and it was like the hardest record in that time. A few weeks later there was a musical response nobody ever mentions.
De Damrakkertjes – Rotterdam Bestaat dat dan? That was even more louder and faster and made me even laugh more, it was almost like a competition who can make the hardest fastest track and I think it inspired people to produce even harder en faster.
I always found it funny somehow so much noise, darkness and aggression in the music still people smiling enjoying and dancing like crazy the energy is amazing
Soon after that Fred Berkhout, Dano & the Prophet decided on some crazy after-party chill-out to start Mokum Records as a joke, what stands for Amsterdam Records. Because of soccer there will always be a little tension somehow between the 2 city’s
What can I say, I’m a Raver and I’m totally into basketball and like my friends from all over the world.
Vlad : About The legendary Mokum Records. When did you start with Mokum? Who was leader of Mokum? What was the biggest success? Why it ended in the 90ties in the best time? After the millennium Mokum was reborn, are you still one of Mokum Crew?
I went to the Mokum headquarters “Boudisque” behind Amsterdam Central station with a demo cassette in 1992 and met Fred Berkhout who was the label manager, he liked it and asked me to create more tracks loud & hardcore without limitations, with My first release Mokum 5 as the result.
I’m still with the Mokum crew helping out when I can, they always treated me so well and I believe in loyalty and long-term co-op. I have great respect for Fred Berkhout and he learned me a lot of the ins & outs of the ice cold music industry.
The biggest success of Mokum Records and hardcore history is
Techno Head “i wanna Be a Hippy”
It started out as a underground dance-floor smasher and later re-released with a Radio Remix made by Flamman & Abraxas.
It reached number 1 in 12 different countries including
Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland, and number 6 in the UK in February 1996.
With a staggering 1.3 million single sales as a result plus hundreds of cd compilation licenses.
Mokum was a sub-label of the Major “Roadrunner Records” and was no longer interested in Underground music because that didn’t sell so much.
After a period of Happy Hardcore club chart busters that most gabbers disliked in that time, hardcore went back to the underground and out of the charts,
Fred Berkhout decided in 2001 to continue with Mokum in the original hardcore form.
Vlad: How does the average Dutch person look at the Hardcore Scene ?
In the 90ties we went from a Underground Freaky Scene to a Commercial Pop-Core Scene. Things changed, 8 year old kids where loving it and actually they form a part of the underground scene today.
Hakkuhbar – Gabbertje ( Number 1 in the dutch top 40 radio chart 1997 )
First few text lines translated.
There is that Little gabber, strange little Gabber, little gabber with his bold-head, as you can see he already had a 1000 pills. This was meant funny and the artist actually are comedians.
I have to admit I found this one kind of funny and actually well done, but after this chart hit many others produced really bad ones. But back than the true ravers where ridiculed because of there style of clothing and presumed life style, people would shout hey Gabbertje to them on the streets.
Well I can tell you I met so many people with different education levels all these years, I think its amazing how diverse the people that love Hardcore are, so that was pure In the Box thinking. Even with the last Thunderdome december 2012,media that where present still only looking for the biggest drug abuser to get entertaining shots and interviews. So Highly underestimated scene and Gabber being the first subculture from the Netherlands that went worldwide still suffers from it, and people still kinda look down to a person that dress like a gabber because they think its not hip. Also there is a general stupid assumption that if you like Hardcore, you cant like any other music because its so different. I think everyone has a slightly different opinion about the scene and there place in it. I made so many good friends in all these years and met so many kind hard working people that truly love the Hardcore underground scene I’m proud being a part of it !
Vlad: When did you start with Cenobite Records and why did you start new label beside Mokum?
It was in the time that Mokum went to the radio charts , it was like a period that we kinda grew apart. I have nothing against commercial music but I would have probably released the happy stuff on a separate Label which is the difficult way because Mokum already had a name and Credit in the scene. Also the Psycore Cenobite Sound was way to difficult and not what the Mokum label really was looking for at that time. Still I made the Guyver E.P. For Mokum after i started Cenobite which is probably my best release on the label. Just like it was supposed to happen I got the chance to start my own sub-label with Immortal Sound Productions I.S.P. Which was ID&T’s biggest competitor at that time. I performed for them the years before on events like Digital Overdose , Immortality, and there main Hardcore concept “ Hellraiser (Ultimate Hardcore Dance Events) “
There events where like the best at that time with great Decorations, Projections, performing artist. Whats popular now on festivals, they already had it back than. And they created the first Indoor festivals with many sub-styles and some times live instruments.
Hardcore / Gabber / Terror / Rave / Techno
Drum & Bass / BreakBeat / Trip Hop / Trance
Psy Trance / Techno / Oldstyle / Mellow
This is where we felt at home and encouraged to develop our style and have creative freedom.
The name Cenobite Records was easy Because they are the main characters in the cult Hellraiser movie sequels. We also did the promotion for the new Hellraiser movie in 1996 Bloodline with an Hellraiser event and had official permission to use the samples.
To bad I.S.P. couldn’t last, music & event Biz can be very risky and most people go for whoever creates the best marketing Hype, Than Cenobite worked with ID&T as a sub label, but soon after ID&T decided to focus and concur the Techno Trance & Club House scene with Sensation and left Hardcore for what it was and put the concept in the fridge. Since than we take care of our own business.
Vlad: Your main music style you called Psycore – what can you say about this typical Cenobite style?
Are you founder of this style, or which is the history of this excellent music?
I think there are many tracks that could be categorized as Trancecore, Acidcore or Psycore, I think its obvious to hear the influences of other music.
When producing music you have to follow that gut feeling and take some risks, if you really like it,nothing else matters, dare to be different.
I really like dark melodies and vibes but also fast trancy riffs, break-beats off-course some acid sounds, there is so much you can explore, we try to make songs, a musical story with a beginning, middle part and End. We see Cenobite as a really wide range of styles concept , and music & sound as our playground.
Vlad: Cenobite have great project with Cenobots, can you tel us something more about this?
Who is making these Cenobots, whats the inspiration? Is possible to see it in Czech republic?
What is needed for it?
The Cenobots are 5 sensational robots 4 created by Artist ,Designer XanaX
They walk around on Cenobite Events and perform on stage
Moving futuristic robot sculptures that shows our love & hate for technology
Vlad: How is business in present?
Its good, it makes us very proud that people support us with legal downloads and buy our CD’s & T-Shirts.
Where not always fully booked but every year we are asked to play on awesome parties & festivals all over the world.
The last few years our crew and support are expanding again.
Vlad: What are recent Cenobite releases? Give us some good tips!
Latest release is Danny Firestone and currently new remixes are made for the coming album.
Advanced Dealers won the “this is hardcore” remix competition there tracks on Cenobite are also amazing.
Philosopher & Membrane – Paradise or Oblivion
And a new CD release from DAMIAN – MINDRAGE
You should check them all =)
Vlad: Who is in the Cenobites Crew these days?
Check our Cenobite Artist Agency C.A.A. Flyer 😉
Vlad: Do you keep looking for artists? If yes, what should a guy with good tunes on his hard-disc do to get his stuff released on Cenobite?
Sure its great to discover and support new talents.
He or she would have to figure out ,if it would fit the label Style.
Than send the best 3 finished tracks with all his contact & track info with
than hope for the best 😉
We get many Demo’s and requests so its very hard to write a full feedback on every song.
Artist Info in the MP3 is important because things can get lost.
We use to say to people to put there contact info on the “cassette tape” same thing 😉
We are not looking for people that want to make a fast career move, make a few release’s just because its good for the name and move on.. Once you start to release always some smooth operator wakes up getting interested and want to lure, confuse & snatch away the talent,
That’s not cool since we invest and put a lot of time & effort to promote all artist.
We are looking for Team members that make good songs, it doesn’t have to be a hit song in particular, its got to have some catchy dark vibe melody.
With established artist that want to collaborate its off course a whole different ball game
where not totally in to minimalistic , but we can appreciate it if its well done.
To make a song that is simple but still pounding and catchy is also not easy.
Last but not least, we can not tolerate a big wannabe a hardcore superstar ego BS in our team.
Vlad: What do you plan for this year with Cenobite / or personally?
As label manager there are many more distractions than normal but
I want to focus more on music & video production.
A Cenobite event in Rome
We have a Cenobite Area on a Major Festival in Belgium “ Last World Festival July 13th 2013”
Performing on Groundzero Festival again !
Together we are Hardcore Festival with part of the Cenobite Dj Crew
Cenobite Area on The Dreamteam 20 Years ( Amsterdam Paradiso )
Fantasy Island Festival
Introducing hardcore in Dubai
And a Cenobite Tour date in Budapest in November
We are expanding digital distribution and have plans for a sub-label with other styles.
Most of DJs in Europe are playing from CDs, is vinyl dead?
I think its almost dead in the dance scene accept for some old-skool parties.
vinyl switched scene’s again, some artist take the benefit of it making a 192 khz 24 bit super audio master recording in the studio what you can press on vinyl and not on cd, 192 khz 24 bit super audio might be the new format in the future.
Vlad: I notice a lot of dj’s use USB sticks lately
Do you think Dj skills matter these days? Are you also disgusted by recent trends of “Synch djs” and pre-recorded sets?
Most House dj’s mix 2 tracks together.
Than you have turntable-ism , mixing ,scratching , cutting Those people got the real vinyl skills.
But if you mix two songs that really suck it doesn’t matter if its flawless, it double sucks.
So choice of record is a very important factor
Live act’s normally have a lot of preparation in the studio.
Controllers like Traktor gives many extra possibility’s you could never do with vinyl.
A lot of Dj’s will become Vj’s as-well in the future if their not doing it already, technology is great!
What’s annoying is a lot of people think a DJ and music producer is the same thing.
Vlad: How often do you play? Do you have a “normal” job?
I Play on regular base and I also do Flyer Art & Web design.
Social Media & Online presence for company’s.
As project manager I translate client wishes to programmers & design team.
I work with a team of Multimedia specialist Developers and 3d Animators.
Also we make company presentation video’s & music video’s.
3d animated Trailers for events or commercials and of-course custom Sound effects & Music.
Vlad: What equipment do you use to produce music? Do you have any favorite / interesting instrument? Are you dreaming about any instrument? How big is your studio / how many instruments / do you have?
The Base is a Computer to run all Software.
I still have a collection of classic synthesizers & Rhythm composers.
Roland JD800 & MKS80 Super Jupiter, Alpha Juno are few of my favorites.
I use Hardware & Software , old & new techniques to create, also i love the software of our sponsors. tone2.com & robpapen.com
Vlad: Are you composing yourself or with a team?
Most of the time alone or with another producer, sometimes we have a team project.
Guest singers / vocalists, musicians some times.
I’m very grade-full I learned a lot of talented friends I worked with over the years.
Vlad: How has technology changed since you started? Can you compare the ways of creating music back then and now? Is it easier?
Its nice that you have software studio and don’t need much hardware gear.
But still it works the same as a normal studio without 150 cables.
So you still have to learn, Music, Harmonic, Arranging, Studio Engineering, Sound Design, IT, recording, if you are interested, talented and patience enough you can do it. You can find lots of tutorials online and there is lots of courses you can follow and you could hookup with someone that has more experience.
You need a good computer / software / sound-card / Amplifier / Studio monitor Speakers
And space to set that up properly without disturbing the neighbors to much 😉
The extension of digital technologies in the last 10-12 years opened the possibility of making music for much greater number of composers than it was in the early days of dance music.
Vlad: What do you think about it? Do you think it affects the quality of contemporary dance music?
I think its good, Its fun to see a new generation picking it up doing there own thing with it, giving it a new twist. Crazy some of the new stuff sounds like old-style hardcore, which was never so popular in the early 90ties for a wide audience. I’ve heard on a old-style house party a young man say, what is this soft music? I can hear harder style house music in every club in the country.
Anyway software technology makes it possible developing your skills as a musician, song writer, studio engineer. Back in the days you needed a band and invest much more in hardware or rent a studio.
Vlad: You have one interesting song named „You are not our gods!“ What was the inspiration /reason for this original hardcore protest song? Are you more active in protests against politic or something else? For us, in Czech republic, it sounds very familiar. Do you want say more about it?
It was a collaboration project , check the credits, We live in a great country, but people seem blind sometimes, its like they don’t want to know the truth or ignore all facts and try to forget about it. Or busy surviving in there own lives, also Every man has his price.
Call it brainwashed or ignorance, or because of media propaganda spreading lies its just disturbing to me and had to make some songs about it.
I have great respect for documentary makers that do the research and interview scientist and the people involved on many subjects like, the power of multinational company’s, food modification, oil, war, terrorism, vaccinations ect, ect,
I just find it very interesting subjects and love to watch these kinds of documentary’s instead of BS mainstream TV. You have to face it, if you don’t wake up you get screwed sooner or later in this system
Or maybe you full on support a big phat Lie, Off-course there are also false prophets and De-bunkers so you have to be skeptical about some documentary’s as-well.
Check out my playlists on Youtube.
Or this website
Vlad: Can you compare early rave scene with let´s say 2003 and with present? Do you see any differences between parties/party peoples in „gold“ 90ties and present time?
Not really much changed, maybe a bit more commercial I know the old gabbers moved on in there lives having kids and everything and go to 30+ house parties sometimes. So different Age & style of music would be the reason there not going so much anymore.
I kinda skipped the new style era in the beginning of 2000, it was not challenging enough for me we just followed our own musical and creative instinct. Nowadays people seem to be more open for different styles of music and influences, That’s good progress.
House its a simple concept in the end, having fun with friends, forget your troubles and Dance.
Vlad: Do you have any favorite Hardcore artists / other gabber styles than your own, from old-school and from present hardcore scene?
The list is endless, sometimes it could be only a few tunes I like from a certain label or artist.
Definitely a lot of old-skool house productions but a lot of these artist seemed to disappeared out of the scene.
Vlad: What´s hot in Holland gabber scene at the moment?
Frenchcore seems to be pretty hot, and as we know that was called tekno more than 10 years ago.
Some Hard-style is in the radio charts now, and some hardcore sounds like commercial hardstyle, sex still strong concept, and milli vanilli kinda act’s always works good in Holland 😉
Vlad: What do you thing about future of hardcore / hard dance music?
You have some harder styles festivals where the program all kinds of hard-dance / hardcore
Its likely people get in touch with hardcore styles this way, and experience the music & feel the vibes in full glory on the dance-floor.
All these people loving hard dance styles world wide nowadays are potential hardcore heads of the future .
Vlad: In Czech republic is very weak gabber scene – suppressed by hardcore tekno scene – what can you advice us to do for grow up our gabber scene? What do you think about combination tekno and gabber music together on one stage/one party?
It can work very well together on separate stages but also on 1 stage,
Just let the hardest and fastest play on the later hours.
I’m all for diverse programming and making a hardcore story with different styles, it keeps the night interesting.
I went to party’s where there were many different area’s and styles like drum & bass , Psytrance, Techno, I always appreciated that.
A lot of tekno artist play on Festivals and events in Holland.
Vlad: Any last words?
I would like to thank all the people that supported us all of these years, You give us the strength & inspiration to continue this epic journey!
Life is short lets try to make as many friends as possible.
Michel Klaassen “ Leviathan “