Photo: Nieto Dickens (Kilbourne)
While the news cycles’ turnover is becoming more rapid and unstable than ever, serving us new horror stories virtually every other minute, underground culture reacts in two noticeable ways to the everyday sensory overload. While the soothing sounds of New Age and Ambient music or the so called Neo-Classical genre offer a momentary escape from the world, some musicians go harder, faster, stronger, seemingly willing to amplify, if not accelerate on aesthetical level what is happening in politics. The forthcoming edition of Berlin’s CTM Festival dedicates itself to the Turmoil that we have been faced with and also picks up on a recent trend in extreme club music – the resurgence of Gabber and Hardcore. Usually frowned upon by the rest of the scene due to its ties to Hooligan culture and destructive hedonism, a slew of young musicians is reinterpretating the frantic sound. The US-based DJ and producer Kilbourne is affiliated with New York’s KUNQ collective and will perform at a special Hardcore and Gabber focused night at Berghain on February 2nd as well as participating in a talk on the not-so-unlikely revival of the genre. Kilbourne’s contribution to our Groove podcast pays homage to the Hardcore genre’s roots while providing a refreshing update on the stylistic formula at its core. Turmoil indeed.
At your forthcoming CTM Festival performance, you’ll be performing side by side with Gabber and Hardcore legends like The Darkraver. How did you come across Hardcore music and what drew you to it?
I’d heard snippets of hardcore and early rave in happy hardcore mixes but I think the breakthrough came in high school when a friend showed me the Bonkers CD series, one of which was mixed by Neophyte and Scott Brown (I just checked and it features DJ Panic who is also performing at CTM!). It was the first time I heard artists like Ophidian, Promo, Lenny Dee, and many others who I still love today. While hardcore is part of a mainstream culture and therefore more familiar in some countries, in the US it felt impossibly dramatic, heavy, and new.
Last year, your EP Sourland dealt with “femmeness, transwomanhood, sexual violence, and medicalizing of queer narratives”, as you put it in an interview. Hardcore is usually perceived as a hypermasculine style of music – why did you use it as a template to explore those themes?
Much of hardcore culture really sucks – especially in the Netherlands/EU I count on being harassed and bothered at hardcore events -, but when I think of techno, which is so austere and unflinching, in relation to this genre where the kick is constantly rolling, reaching insane levels of resonance, that fades out to entire minutes of atmosphere and cinematic noise and samples, I can’t help but identify something feminine and theatrical. I love how hardcore allows me to sit with simultaneous feelings of anger, euphoria, vulnerability, and hurt.
Together with Besharam, you formed Balasa in 2015. What was the idea behind the collaborative project?
The first time Besharam and I met was when we were performing at the same night. Since then we’ve talked constantly about music and fought over the aux chord, and eventually it was like, ‘Why aren’t we collaborating?’ I like that we we come from non-dance music traditions like Noise and Grindcore. It gives us an appreciation of imperfect and raw moments in a genre so obsessed with sanitizing every sound, as well as a desire to not make this project totally computer-based. We have been recording vocals, working with hardware more, and are close to finishing a new EP that I’m so excited for people to hear.
A few months ago, you have rescored Blade, the late 90s vampire slasher prominently featuring the legendary Pump Panel remix of New Order’s “Confusion”. How did the project come about and how did you approach it musically?
I first became aware of the Loveless Records film score series when Stud1nt rescored [Alejandro Jodorowsky’s] The Holy Mountain. I chose Blade because it has such a reverence for dance music and its entwined history with action movies. I doubt if anything can rival the original “Bloodrave” scene paired with “Confusion,” but my goal was to see how much further I could push the energy. Like for that opening scene, what if instead of the original 140bpm it jumps to 280? Or replacing the generic movie strings section with Metalcore drums. I also loved that I had 2 hours of space to fill, it forced me to create without so much self-censorship, and I was able to perform the score with a live vocalist for the first time.
Your contribution to our Groove podcast brings together a few of your own productions with classic material by Liza N’Eliaz and others. What was your idea behind it?
I’ve been sitting on so much new music for the last year from Blade and otherwise, so I’ve been impatient to put it out there and let it breathe. I also tried to focus on more music from the 90s and early 2000s and contrast it with these big polished contemporary tracks. We’re in a constant arms race of compression and “loudness,” so it’s fun to listen to a song that just couldn’t have hit the same frequencies or thickness with the technology available and still feel it pummeling you. Hardcore as a genre is especially obsessive about past eras, and I’m interested in how we idealize times we weren’t around for or put on rose colored glasses for those we were.
Last but not least: What are your plans as a DJ, producer and musician for the rest of the year?
OMG, so much! After CTM I’ll be playing around Europe for all of February as well as doing a second screening of Blade in Seattle. I’m currently working on a small run of cassettes with music from the new score, and I have two more releases coming out this year with labels I love. Life is nice!
Stream: Kilbourne – Groove Podcast 142
01. Kilbourne – Evnika
02. Somniac One – Perpetual Motion
03. Tieum & Ophidian – Dark Is A Part Of You
04. Nosferatu – The Prayer
05. Chosen Few – Freedom
06. [KRTM] – Gum & Something That Puts You In A Wheelchair
07. N-Vitral – Such Kick
08. Synaptic Memories & Sacerdos Vigilia – Possessed By Distortion
09. Bald Terror – 2 Seconds To Live vs Hardcore
10. Kilbourne – As Adam
11. The Visitor – 4 Count
12. Somatic Responses – Alien Code
13. Lenny Dee – Forgotten Moments (Ophidian Remix)
14. Ruffneck – I Am Death (Corinthians 15:26 vs John 5:43)
15. DJ Choose – Implementation
16. Beuns – Ready Or Not
17. Knightvision – Knight Of Visions
18. Akira – Deadnet 240 (incl. Godd)
19. Aprile – Please Subscribe
20. Destructive Tendencies – It’s All About The Drop
21. Kilbourne – Ceti
22. N-Vitral & Aux Raus – Getverherrie
23. Lady Dammage – Fear Me Bitches
24. Liza N’Eliaz & The Prophet – Love, Sex, And Danger (LSD)
25. Manu Le Malin & The DJ Producer – Enemy
26. Delta 9 – Speaker Worship
27. Kilbourne – Injustice Gods
28. Tripped – Fucking Child
29. Kilbourne – There Is No Ocean
30. The Destroyer – The New Head
31. Kilbourne – Red Army (For Martina)
32. Cyberstruct – We Carry The Burden Of Our Existential Thoughts
33. Kilbourne – The First Candle
34. CRPTC – Tribute To The Fallen