Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Be Alarmed

By Dave Chamberlain

MARCH 15, 1999:  Hardcore music will never die, won't fade away either. It just changes. Every new incarnation seems to take aggression and energy to another level. When I was sixteen, "hardcore" meant hardcore punk rock, three-chords-and-go. Agnostic Front, Uniform Choice, Minor Threat.

But time has left that scene behind. Sure it still exists, but it's a hollow rallying call, a sponging of someone else's rebellion and scorn. But hardcore remains, it's just different. Within electronic music, jungle and drum-n-bass constitutes hardcore­at least until now.

Now comes gabber, the latest, hardest incarnation of the hardcore. On March 13, the two men who make up Kultbox records, Kent Henderson and Robbi Rob, sponsor a global conference of DJs for the Gabberjunglewar at the Lab, 329 North Bell. DJs will alternate spinning gabber and jungle.

What's gabber? Take the 200 beats per minute of digital hardcore, break the beats and bass up even more, kill the guitar samples, stress the word "fuck," turn it up as loud as you can take and then add the sound of your car hitting a brick wall at 75mph. It originates from the Netherlands, specifically Rotterdam, and takes its name from a slang Dutch-Yiddish word roughly meaning friend, homie, bro.

For roughly the last four years, gabber has become the music of choice for what is essentially Holland's rave scene. The Dutch shave their heads, load up on narcotic cocktails (an article in Mixmag noted that the Hellraiser club in Amsterdam has a machine which can test the purity of ecstasy) and go absolutely nutty to tracks like "Fukem All" by DJ Dano. Some gabber DJs even have kiddie raves, with youngsters between the ages of five and twelve letting their little bodies go ballistic to gabber.

Gabber-jungle wars are common enough in the Netherlands, but despite Chicago's place in the forefront of America's electronic music scene, shows like this are far from the local rave culture's ideal. That's where Kultbox comes in. Kultbox records are drum-n-bass mutations, with DJs coming from all over the world thanks to the Internet. But jungle DJs, as well as DJs who are trying to expand, are not being booked by Chicago-area raves. "We approached every promoter in the city about doing an event like this," says Rob, "because we didn't want to do it at a venue where kids couldn't come. But they weren't really hip to this kind of thing. All the rave promoters thought we were nuts to book something dark like this."

"It was a bitch finding a venue," says Henderson. "We went to the biggest promoters in the city and said ŚHere's our artist, charge what you want, pay our DJs and you can have everything.' But nobody would touch it. We heard a lot of ŚWell, this isn't what the kids want.' They were saying that the kids want safe, like safe house music."

With the help of Steven Collins, a part of the Lab, another label which specializes in underground recordings, Kultbox found the right space. Organizing the event was another headache, involving DJs coming in from overseas (DJ Eye-D, Yoshi) and working around the looming Tortoise tour (U-Sheen and Designer are Tortoise band member John Herndon and sound engineer Casey Rice). The event will also be broadcast live on the Internet at Thelab.base.org.

Rob and Henderson have more in mind than just staging a gabber-jungle war. "As electronic music has gotten more popular," says Rob, "it's also gotten very conservative. It's a shame that guys like Casey Rice and U-Sheen were never asked to play raves. But the rave scene in Chicago has become safe. Delta-Nine (above left) is one of the premier hardcore DJs in the world, and even though he's out of Milwaukee, he plays Chicago rarely." Also, as an answer to the increasing prices of raves (usually more than $20), Kultbox promises to keep the price around $10. "So many raves seem to be all about money," says Henderson. "This is not."

Kultbox the label is run with the same punk-rock ethic as the gabber-jungle war, with both the owners doing it as a hobby. At present they are a strictly vinyl label, catering mainly to DJs. With two records out-a four-song EP by DJs Sandman, hidden and Eye-D and a two-song EP by Snuggles and 3D-Kultbox isn't looking to become a record-making force, it's just looking to make records with the same integrity as other local labels, such as Victory and Thrill Jockey. "We use an old system," says Rob, "called the verbal contract."

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