Gabber Will Make Your Head Explode
If shaving your head, swallowing enough pills to keep everyone at Global Gathering chewing their lips off for the next decade and having your ears battered by trauma-inducing nosebleed techno doesn't sound like your kind of thing, then you may not have heard of gabber. It's essentially a Dutch version of hardcore techno that's been around since the early 90s, only harder and more frenzied – the kind of thing you'd hear pumped out of a suburban Corsa's 6 x 9s if suburban Corsa drivers were more into pharmaceutical-grade MDMA and hoop earrings than bad skunk and body kits.
Alberto Guerrini is an Italian ex-gabber who made an amazing zine called Gabber, in the Name of Love and curates the gabbereleganza Tumblr, a blog that started out as a way to collate lost photographs and artworks from the gabber scene. It's since turned into an archive of anything that fits under the banner "rave culture" and is a fantastic way of distracting yourself from anything you should be doing. I stole some of the photos off Alberto's blog and spoke to him about growing up gabber.
VICE: Hey Alberto. So how did you first get involved in the Italian gabber scene?
Alberto Guerrini: Well, when I was a teenager I had an older cousin who I really looked up to, and he was really into hardcore, drum and bass and really catchy, horrible techno. So that was my introduction. Then, when I was at school – which was a private school with uniform – I saw this guy who looked really different to everyone else. He had a skinhead and was wearing a tracksuit, so I asked him why he looked like that. He said, "I'm a gabber. I listen to hardcore music. I fully fucking love, man." I was quite insecure, so as soon as I found this tribe I could be a part of, I went for it.
Did you transform overnight from normal school kid to gabber?
Yeah, the first thing I did was shave my head, which is a really easy way of becoming a gabber. Then I started buying all the other stuff. In the Italian gabber scene, we did it a little differently to the original Dutch gabbers and would wear more British skinhead-style stuff, like Lonsdale and Fred Perry, and Italian sports brands. But then we also wore the kind of Italian sportswear that was popular with the Dutch, like Fila and the figurehead gabber brand, Australian by L'Alpina – these fluorescent jackets and tracksuits.
But every gabber wears Air Max 90s, right? Regardless of where they're from.
Yeah, Air Max 90s are a must. Nike is generally pretty popular in gabber because it's really easy to dance in. Also, I got a little bit chubby, so I got into that a lot. That and these kind of rusty-bum style shorts and big, baggy t-shirts.
A totally sober guy demonstrating how to Hakken.
Oh yeah, the t-shirts in some of the photos on your blog are amazing.
Yeah, a lot of them have gabber-specific mottos and slogans on them, like, "Hardcore 'til death" and "Hardcore, you know the score," which is actually a saying taken from the UK hardcore scene, I believe. Then there are loads that say "Hakken," which is the gabber style of dancing. And then I had loads with kind of black metal iconography and slogans like, "Your mother sucks cocks in hell."
Ha, that's friendly. And what about the customised bomber jackets? Are they still as much of a thing as they used to be?
No, I think they're seen as kind of lame in the gabber scene now. I used to have one that I customised myself, though – I cut a picture of Pinhead from Hellraiser into the back of it and covered it in gothic writing and patches and stuff. But yeah, gabber is being taken over by other more general rave fashions now; you know, the pacifiers and sunglasses and multi-coloured dreadlocks and that kind of thing.
Image taken from Exactitudes.
That's a shame. Is that female gabber hairstyle still around? That has to be the most impressive aesthetic dedication to the cause.
Yeah, you still that around sometimes. That was always good because obviously the guys just shaved their whole heads, so I always thought the brutal undercut with a ponytail was a cool way to separate the male and female gabbers. It's funny – so many stylists and designers and fashion magazines have been using that look recently.
Yeah. It sounded like the gabber scene used to have a lot of problems with neo-Nazi skinheads invading the parties. Did you ever encounter any of that?
Yeah, a couple of times, but it was never much of a problem. They were always just fucking posers – like, 16 or 17-year-old guys who didn't really understand what they were doing or talking about, but would shave their heads and put Celtic crosses and swastikas on their jackets and just walk around raves trying to look hard. It was kind of pathetic, to be honest. The main problem with that is that people would accuse gabbers of being racists because they had shaved heads, which is always a problem for skinheads. Like the original British skinheads who all listened to reggae, who obviously weren't Nazis.
What about everyone else? Was it quite an inclusive scene when you were part of it?
Yeah, definitely. A lot of the original gabbers in Holland are really educated, good people – they just look weird. But, I mean, if a fight was to break out at a rave, say, the DJ would stop the music and make sure everyone was fine. It was absolute zero tolerance for dicks. Plus, everyone is on pills, so they're all super loved-up to each other.
What about in the Italian scene?
It's not quite as nice, but it's still not terrible. I remember these guys at one rave who ran around stealing people's shoes and selling them for cheap so they could buy coke for the after-party. But that's about as bad as it got. That's why my zine is called Gabber, in the Name of Love – everyone got along.
Keep updated at gabbereleganza.tumblr.com.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton
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