RELICS OF GABBER
In the early 90s a new Dutch movement emerged from deep, deep within the underground. A movement that strictly fed on Dutch soil and soiled Dutch minds. It was called gabber. Gabbers were recognizable by their bald heads, fancy tracksuits and sneakers, their love for everything connected with death, and those John Lennon sunglasses with red, blue, or most commonly yellow lenses. By these powers combined they all looked somewhere in the middle of a football coach with cancer and Gollum on acid. The pumping engine behind the scene was gabber music, also known as hardcore. The loudest and hardest form of house music that has ever graced humanity, gabber came with a very specific dance, called hakken, which is kind of hard to put into words. It basically involves putting one hand on your own head, the other on your dance partner, and then moving your legs back and forth as fast as you can while simultaneously banging your head in a horizontal Roxbury fashion. Fast-forward to the one-minute mark on this video to behold it in its full glory. The most popular gabber words were (I'm giving you the closest English equivalents here): "Cancer-esque hard," "terror," and "totally fucked-up." We assumed that, nearly two decades on from its birth, gabber had sunk to the bottom of the ocean of grating house music. But when we traveled to the south of Holland for a nostalgic interview with former gabber legend DJ Paul Elstak, we stumbled upon the still-beating heart of that gabber industry. And it was beating hard. Paul's studio, where he records soulful tunes like "Fuck You," and "Your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell" is the locus of gabber's chief commercial empire, Rige Entertainment. Everything that's ever had anything to do with gabber was housed here. DJs, bookings agents, website servers of online megashops, hardcore radio, and disastrous amounts of merchandise. An entire subculture tucked away in a warehouse in the lost south of the Netherlands. Where previously I would have thought that everybody with a "Hardcore 4ever" tattoo on his arm had long since sliced it off with a cheese grater, I could not have been more wrong. Hardcore is alive, in the hearts its fans but more importantly in the mountainous piles of merch, which would make your little brother cry a tsunami of tears if he founded it under the Christmas tree. At least it would if he's as dumb as mine. Anyways, I present you these pictures. This is the stash. On the left "This is Terror" stickers and posters. On the right skull-bedecked skullcaps, "Hardcore Hooligan" long-sleeves, and cheap Lennon sunglasses that feel like they'd break if you looked at them too hard. Like these. Surely, this rubber Pinhead mask stretched on my hand is the ultimate symbol of terror. Gabber love him. Bomber jackets with the Thunderdome logo. Thunderdome is the biggest hardcore party in the Netherlands and has been running for 15 years straight. It's like the Gathering of the Juggalos of the Gabbers. This mask from "Angelfist" is another hot-ticket item. This is for the gabber's lady (gabberella?). An elegant fan perfect for use at the beach or to conceal the consumption of a ginormous handful of pills. More Hellraiser-iana. I bet Clive Barker could live happily off Dutch royalties for the rest of his life. Sidenote: Guess what illegal, wasabi-based energy drink we just got over here? Jealous? Piles and piles of bargain-priced CDs and DVDs. You can watch three hours of "Terror TV" for just 6.75 euros. This mask felt a little more like a joke about gabber kids than something they'd actually wear to parties. This one, on the other hand, fit much better. Initially I thought this guy was the warehouse manager, because that's what he looks like. But he wasn't. He's the boss, the caesar of this techno empire. When I asked to take his picture he willingly made the sign of the devil and said "Terror" in the exact same voice as a high-school math teacher who's really tired of having to re-explain the quadratic formula. OK, I'll translate. Because you probably don't speak Dutch. Which is a shame, really, because, you know, we owned New York first and all. But whatever. It says that gabber's on the radio. Also to be quiet. This man is arguably more famous than Rocky in the Netherlands. Paul Elstak is the godfather of hardcore and its more successful cousin, happy hardcore. Listen to this saucy little number by him, "Rainbow High in the Sky". Paul is smiling here because he just finished remixing his hit "Fuck You" (sung by his 4-year-old daughter) with a sample of Christian Bale swearing at folks on the set of Batman. This is his favorite tattoo. Old but still relevant (apparently). This is supposed to be Alien, but it looks more like Predator. Paul hates it. This poster looks nearly identical to the ones from 15 years ago. Oh gabber, you kill us.