the west coast sound of holland
'we still kill the old way'
Story By Joep Vermaat - http://www.pjoe.net
SO YOU'VE HEARD I-F'S "SPACE INVADERS ARE SMOKING GRASS”?
THIS HAS BECOME ONE OF THE SONGS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WHOLE RETURN OF ELECTRO
AND DISCO TO MODERN DANCEFLOORS. BUT THERE IS MUCH MORE GREAT MUSIC WHERE
THAT CAME FROM. THE WHOLE WEST COAST OF HOLLAND IS A BREEDING GROUND FOR
MULTITALENTED ELECTRONICA ARTISTS WHO ARE ABOUT TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD.
SURE, YOU KNOW ARTISTS LIKE I-F (THE HAGUE), SPEEDY J (ROTTERDAM), GERD
(ROTTERDAM), BUT THERE IS A WHOLE NEW BREED COMING TO SPREAD THE WORD
AROUND THE WORLD. HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF DUPLEX, ALDEN TYRELL, PHAKO, LEGOWELT,
DEXTER, COSMIC FORCE/DOUBLE DUTCH, KETTEL AND FUNCKARMA? YOU SOON WILL.
in the beginning…
The Hague has played a pivotal role in getting a number of key people
to make music in the first place. But that was way back in the late eighties,
when punk rock got out of style and the new wild music was techno and
acid. Back then the Bunker label was started out of the squatted "Blauwe
Aanslag” building, releasing crazy acid tunes and mind blowing techno.
Basically the whole label was run by Unit Moebius. Their approach to techno
was different from other acts in the same era. They were harsh, relentless,
scary, strange, and most important. They made music first and foremost
to please themselves, as an outlet for their feelings and frustrations.
Unit Moebius was ahead of their time in the way they produced their music
and the way they ran their label. Having an anarchistic background they
are the perfect example of the new "Do It Yourself” movement,
the way punk rock used to be D.I.Y. At the same time Unit moebius started
their Bunker label and several other people started their own D.I.Y. projects,
people with completely varied musical backgrounds, such as hip hop, house,
disco and techno. In 1990 Hotmix started as a mailorder company and later
opened up a store in The Hague by a lack of other good places where you
could get all those amazing records being produced all over the world!
Another music freak and customer of I-f's Hotmix mailorder somewhere on
the west coast of holland was producing electronical music and acid and
techno tracks and to have an outlet he started his Clone label. Somehow
everybody got connected through the Hotmix store owned by I-f and that's
where a lively scene of small independent musicfreaks started to grow.
I-f started to distribute his own Ref-ference and Inter-ference labels
along with Bunker and Acid Planet and Clone. The labels where an outlet
for a whole new generation of artists making different music. The best
examples were of course Unit Moebius, Funkstörung (who released their
first 6 albums on Bunker and Acid planet), Electronome and I-f himself,
who made underground hits like "Portrait of a dead girl" and
"Superman". And at the same time, early nineties, there was
a new generation of producers on the American continent making tracks
different from the average techno at that moment. Artists such as Dopplereffekt
and Drexciya came out with groundbreaking records with influences from
early Electro and Techno. This was the period which did set the real trend
for the future which has now gone overground in 2002.
clone - the shop
I-f soon decided that running a shop was too much of a hassle and he'd
rather release music and make it himself, so he closed the shop and concentrated
on producing music which resulted in the amzing "Space invaders are
smoking grass!” At the same time in 1995 Serge who did run his Clone
label made the decision to continue where Hotmix had stopped and he started
the Clone record store in Rotterdam. He soon became now the number one
outlet for independent electronic music in Holland and the store soon
grew out to be a place where many people interested in underground electronic
could find the kind of music that no other shop in Holland would carry.
A place where you can find classic house next to Detroit techno, where
experimental IDM was as much appreciated as a slamming dance record or
an old obscure sound track. The store became a place where people not
only came to get their music, but also met up with other music enthousiasts.
A place where people got inspired to make music themselves.
the west coast sound of holland
Very soon the whole West Coast movement was being served from Rotterdam.
Many local producers where inspired by the records being released on the
labels Bunker, Viewlexx and Clone. After the first few releases Ferenc
and the members of by then split up Unit Moebius also joined in the fun
as The Brothers f*ck and friends. Soon selfmade bedroom musicians offered
their demos to release. Melvin White, Cosmic Force and Alden Tyrell where
the first to release their music through Clone. So, the musicians now
come from all over the place, the only geographical location they share
is that most of them are living near the West coast of Holland. From Zierikzee
all the way up to Den Helder young guys slave behind their analogue synths
and computer screens to make their own distinct versions of electronic
dance music. No wonder that Bunker Records coined the title "The
West Coast Sound of Holland" in two excellent collections on four
LP's, which present tracks by acts like Legowelt, Nukubus, Orque electronique,
The Novamen, Syncom Data and Duracel. Showing that there must be something
in the waters of the North Sea, maybe a hallucinogenic drug that sparks
people to make strange, harsh and very cool electronic music. Music done
by people who don't care about trends or crazes, but try to set their
feelings and inspiration to music in their own way, by finding inspiration
in old Italo, Disco, Electro and Techno records. Inspiring each other
and joining up together to learn and get even more excited about music.
By the end of the nineties, The Hague was no longer the only underground
electronic music capitol of Holland, some of it has also moved to Rotterdam
and other people found their place in Amsterdam. Clone has played an essential
role in becoming a center for all kinds of music from the west coast of
Holland. Since Clone already did the distribution of it's own records
it was a logical step to also do the distribution of other labels. By
now Clone is the main distributor for more than twenty labels. The neo
electro funk of Bunker, the radiating acid and techno records on Acid
Planet. The own varied Clone releases. The experimental IDM records on
DUB, FWD and Eat This Records. The labels owned by Ferenc: Murdercapital,
Viewlexx, releasing his own brand of italo-disco and electro. The more
dance orientated records on Grammar and WF, the disco on Cr?me and electro
on Klakson. Urban soul on 4Lux recordings, crazy multi style music on
Mocky recordings - from the Mocky, Peaches and Gonzales connection. And
new outlets are being started regularly following the very best D.I.Y.
The labels being distributed by Clone have a common factor that they are
all outlets for personal musical experiences and discoveries. Everything
is being produced for the love of music very often by the owners of the
labels themselves. Serge of course runs his own labels Clone and DUB recordings
and he managed to develop two labels of very high quality: The DUB label
was started just a few years after Clone opened shop and at first was
meant as a playful stab to the Djax-Up-Beats label. Serge and Ferenc named
it Djax-Up-b*tch hence the acronym DUB. Dub is essentially the more experimental
label for music that tries utilize the possibilities of new technologies.
It has released records by Funckarma who make music consisting of complex
rhythms and melodies that sometimes reveal themselves after many repeated
listens. The records by EOG have received a lot of critical acclaim. The
music of Phako, whose sharp techno funk is another good example of an
talented homegrown artist who is about to receive recognition. DUB also
releases music by Funkstörung, D'arcangelo, Passarani, Quench and
others. There are a slew of amazing new albums due for the coming autumn
on DUB among some twelve inch releases where the artists try to discover
how they can push the bounderies of modern electronical instruments. New
artists for the DUB roster are: Kadah\Vresky, a new band about to release
it's debut album who have an unique blend of modern electroica and real
instruments and Kettel who is a Youngster from the North of Holand, only
19 years old, but with amazing musical talents. After previous releases
on Mike Paradinas Planet M_ label he will release his debut album on DUB
The Clone label itself is even more varied. Serge tries hard not to focus
on a single type of music or just one genre. The main goal for Clone is
to release music which satisfies the listener and which has added emotional
value, no matter what style it is. Although the artists on the label all
use electronic instruments to make their music, it is not alway easy to
pin them down to a certain type of music. The big common factor is that
all tracks on Clone have a honest factor. All music on Clone has been
produced because of the fun of, without having second thoughts about sales
or trends or being in fashion. Like it says on the recently released collection
"We still kill the old way”: "No fake images, no name
dropping, no sunglasses at night. Just music." In this way of thinking
and taking care of their Business Clone and Hotmix can be compared to
companies like Submerge in Detroit.
I-f is doing Viewlexx and Murdercapital, labels which would have sold
tens of thousands of records if he had been releasing them in the early
eighties. His music, the seedy Italo disco, would have set the people
on dancefloors alight all over the world, like records by Moroder once
did. The records released on the Murdercapital label have been presented
in a way by adding a level of obscurity, records that could be used as
an imaginary soundtrack to a violent lifestyle. The neo-electro and italo
of I-f, Melvin White, The Brothers f*ck, Novamen and Electronome would
have been ideal to accompany films like Scarface or Goodfellas. And Bunker
is still good old Bunker. The label which always manages to surprise and
scare the wits out of the listener. Proud to be dirty, brown and miserable.
Besides these, there is a whole new breed of labels like Klakson owned
by the very talented Dexter who decided to take control over his own music
(after being fired from his contract by one of Hollands biggest commercial
record companies) and who is storming the world with his own defention
of electro and techno. Dexter will release a full length album fall 2002
on Clone/Klakson and just finished a remix for Fisherspooners Emerge.
Eevolute and FWD, owned by no-one less then Stefan Robbers, who released
on a number of labels like Planet E, Mo-Wax, Djax, Beechwood and A.R.T.
The new Creme organisation which its own defenition of Disco and Electro
comes with a whole roster of artists no-one had ever heard of. Grammar
is the techno label of DJ Tim, known for his techno and acid hits on X-trax.
Eat this records is another fine example of a D.I.Y. label with artists
such as L'usine, Legowelt, Quench, Matti and many others.
… but let us focus on some of the main acts on the labels presented
in this article:
One of the few bands whose music is easy to pin down is Duplex. This duo
from Rotterdam are cleary influenced by techno pioneers such as Derrick
May and Carl Craig. Music that makes subtle use of strings and tries to
accompany a strong melody to groovy rhythms. Over the years this act has
grown a lot and with every release they seem to add more of their own
style. Another guy, Alden Tyrell, who has been living and breathing dance
music in all forms for more then 15 years which can be heard on twelve
inch tracks such as "Love Explosion” (V12/6) and "Phaze
me” (Cx6) which are awesome disco dance anthems that have never
failed to make a room of dancing people scream for more. On the other
hand Alden Tyrell can make raunching electro tracks too as can be heard
on the "Krenk Box” release on Clone (C#17). A full length album
by Alden Tyrell is expected late 2002.
Like-A-Tim is a unique phenomenon, even in this varied group of artists.
Known for his releases on on Djax, Rephlex to name a few. His style of
music is just so different, it has something unique which make it very
easy to tell, if it is a Like a Tim record or not. Tim also has is own
way of presenting himself, making his own artwork which is always beautiful,
almost cartoonlike or art by Piet Modriaan. If you ever own a Like a Tim
record or see him play, you will not easily forget.
One of the first American artists featured on the Clone label is Detroit
In Effect, or D.I.E. for short. They are from Detroit and are a yet to
be discovered secret. Their very limited released EP's have become the
talk of legend among Clone store regulars. This music is being innovated,
being produced and being lived in the Motor city. True electronical funk
with influences from classic electro and techno which gave many of the
people in Detroit away to escape daily life. A new EP will be released
Adult released a great twelve inch on Clone wich became a small underground
hit with "Hand to Phone” taken from the new "Phonies”
EP. Carl Craig, Marco Passarani, I-f and MAT 101 all made an amazing remix
of this track which has been hitting so many dancefloors. Adult is a perfect
example of an independent band who stays true to their own values. They
are working on a new full length album for late 2002
Let's not forget about the Disco kings from the underground of The Hague.
Legowelt are a big influence everywhere. They produce many records under
as many aliases on probably even more obscure small labels around the
world, their recipe to make poeple dance is phat stomping disco tracks
with dramatic synths and bombastic effects. Drama is their game.
And I-f has not yet retired to the Bahamas either. Next to his big hit,
he has made classic albums and twelve inches and tracks on labels such
as Viewlexx, Interdimensional Transmissions, Disko B, Clone, Murdercapital,
and has made a classic mixalbum too on Panama records with neo disco and
electro tracks combined with new electronica (EOG) and obscure disco classics.
This album has been a big influence to many people. And this album shows
that you don't only need a four to the floor techno beat to make people
And last but not least, Drexciya, who need really no introduction. Clone
came in contact with Drexciya by accident and since the illustrious techno
act from Detroit was looking for a new label to release the next album,
they agreed to join up with Clone. The new album reveals where the aquatic
Drexciyan warriors are coming from, "Grava 4”, a solarsystem
near the Lyra starsign.
Labels like Bunker, Clone and Viewlexx are often named in articles about
the hyped up Gigolo label and the so called "electro clash".
However to the musicians on the west coast of Holland there is no bigger
evil then a hyped musical direction, a scene that celebrates itself. The
whole Gigolo scene seems for them to be based on hyped media exposure
and sexy poses, done by frustrated people who desperately want to become
popstars. Despite the fact that there have been some amazing releases
on Gigolo. Much of these hyped releases sound rather unpersonal, lacking
inspriration and dignity. Artists such as DJ Hell have no true connection
to true musical innovators even though most of the European an American
press may think differently. But true innovators do not care about hypes,
they just care about satisfying themsleves. Think of Viewlexx and I-f
and some of the releases on Bunker, Clone and Inter-ferenc years ago,
together with innovators as Drexciya, Ectomorph, Dopplereffekt on the
American continent. I-f is one of the main inspirators of the big disco
and electro revival at this moment, just think of all the releases which
came out on his label at the same time when many of the people who are
screaming that they have been playing electro for years were producing
records for labels such as R&S or Hardhouse. Artist such as I-f, Dopplereffekt,
Drexciya, Electronome, Legowelt, Le Car, Adult, Dexter, Alden Tyrell,
but also Autechre or The Aphex Twin who are operating how they like to
operate have a big influence on the mainstream. But they will never get
the recognition because they stay true to their own, Do It Yourself and
stay independent, way of working. This way they will be sure that they
can always do the thing which is important to them. And in the end some
of these artists may even feel the need to sell their music to a major
label, but they will know why they do it, and that's not just for the
fame, money and the exposure. But just to take advantage of the bigger
system, the system which never will be able to catch free minds and spirits.
The spirits where trends and inspirtation are coming from. Whatever happens
to Clone and Hotmix, just remember they will still kill the old way.
Story By Joep Vermaat
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