Did you believe that MP3 has only mistreated record labels ? It also has weakened techno, restructuring one of its pillars : DJing. Explanations, revelations and discoveries with DJ Plague.
During the day, Ian Wright is a polite and courteous guy who composes music and edit videos. When night comes, wearing a monster mask or a terrorist hood, he becomes DJ Plague and strikes down dancefloor with the most extreme form of techno : speedcore. And he produces parties aftermovies. The meeting with this noisy eminence has revealed a wonderful storyteller, giving his version about dematerialization of music, the consequences of our society computerization, or the legitimacy of wearing a mask when playing live. Ah, and he’s Canadian, has founded Canadian Speedcore Resistance, and just got sacked from Holland where he was living since six years. Thank you European Union !
Before going further about your music and your artist life, could you explain what happened to you when you left Holland for holidays in Canada (where you are from), and what is your situation now ?
Well after coming and going with no problems for 6 years, they said I had been overstaying and told me that I had to stay away from Europe for 3 months, and there was the possibility of a 5 year ban from re-entry. I don’t know how serious this is, as it has never been a problem before, but in any case, the immigration system in Europe is a mess.
I’m waiting already 6 years for my working documents to come through, so this along with a dozen other factors, including the end of vinyl and the scene getting smaller and smaller was what made up my decision to move back to Canada. Maybe I will return to Europe occasionally for short tours, but there is no future for me to live there as an illegal alien my whole life.
You talk about “the end of vinyl”. Do you think that all DJs in all styles will have to play on CD soon ? What about the thousands of tracks which have not been released on netlabels ?
Yes, it seems to be going that way more and more. It used to be that the turntables were the main focus of the DJ’s setup. Now they are more often pushed off to the side and CD decks are the standard. Maybe in 5 years or even less the turntables will be completely gone.
The idea of a “net label” I don’t really understand. Since there are no costs involved anymore with releasing your tracks there is no more need for an actual label. Anyone can put their track on the internet to be downloaded. It makes for a very chaotic time to try and find good music as the record labels used to act as a kind of filter to showcase the best tracks. However it also gives a chance to people who want to get their stuff out there. The only problem is there is a sea of amateur tracks to sift through, so what used to be digging for vinyl is now digging forums and download sites for good tracks.
Do you think there is a difference between vinyl DJs and CD DJs ? If yes, could you give details ?
In my experience the feel is not quite the same. When I started going to raves I used to watch the DJ closely, look at the logo of the label spinning and knowing what track was coming next. Looking at the artwork on the sleeves. The record bag was like the DJ’s magic box. His secret weapon. Now seeing a DJ shuffle through his CD wallet is about as interesting as watching him flip through a telephone book. Or watching a laptop DJ is like watching someone check his email.
As for mixing, although there are lots of time saving features and effects. And you don’t have the problem of skipping needles, mixing on CDs just feels a bit too technical. It’s not that wonderful feeling of slapping a big vinyl down on the turntable and actually touching the music with your hands. But that’s just the way society keeps heading in general. Putting computers between humans and actual experience all in the name of “progress”.
OK but this music (techno, hardcore, terror, speedcore…) is born from the computers. Shouldn’t we consider this progress as a chance more than a menace ?
Well it’s certainly not without its benefits. You can more easily apply effects and mess around with the mix. But people must be aware of the downside of all this “progress”. When anything is easily available its value declines. And with music in general, with the invention of the Ipod and being able to have thousands of songs you can carry with you, those songs are no longer as precious as when you had them on an album complete with artwork and inlays. Also all the record shops are going out of business now since the music is moving to the internet. It’s taking human interaction out of the equation. It’s a big change, and there are good things and bad things about it. It’s just important not to jump too blindly towards what we think is progress without first understanding the hidden costs.
What are your 5 favorite albums of all times ?
Vinyl : GFB vs Rotello – “One In Seven” / Sonic Overkill – “Born In Hell” (Speedcore) / Kenny Gee – “Full Scale Riot” / Canadian Speedcore Resistance 6. CD : “Yatsuzaki Hardcore”. Almost anything by Sonic Overkill, Mutante or Speed Freak. It’s a very random list off the top of my head…
What could make the scene become bigger again ? Isn’t all this about cycles of birth-death-birth again ?
It tends to be that the scene goes in cycles. Big organizations grow up from a fertile scene, free of police intervention and government restrictions, once they get big enough smaller organizations grow up around them. Eventually there are too many parties and there is not enough to go around, so the scene declines and only the big organizations are financially secure enough to keep going. So the scene shrinks and if the ground is still fertile, then the same thing will happen again.
The difficulty now is that with the death of vinyl and the ease of mp3 downloads, a lot of big organizations are suffering and what used to be one of their main sources of income is gone. So for the first time you see big companies like Midtown closing their doors, and that is not a good sign, since if the big organizations go under, it’s going to be very hard for the smaller ones to start up in the future since there will be no longer a scene to build off of.
How did Ian become DJ Plague ? What’s the story behind the mask ? How did all started ?
Back in 1996 there was only one DJ in Toronto who played hardcore named DJ Dominik. I used to go to every party he played at and wait until 7am when he would be on. He was always at the end or the beginning.
But I soon learned that there was a lot more styles of hardcore out there, and after being tired of waiting for him to put out new mixtapes I decided to start mixing my own. However once I started buying records, Hardcore all of a sudden turned drastically slow and boring. So then I discovered Shockwave and UK labels like Area 51 and later Deathchant. That’s when I decided to play fast hardcore, or speedcore as we knew it.
Then I met Interrupt Vector who was producing speedcore, and so we decided to start our own label, Canadian Speedcore Resistance. Thanks to parties thrown by Terrorist Kriss at this time (around 2001) things grew pretty big until after a few tours I decided to move to Europe to focus entirely on CSR.
As for the mask, I figured that you can’t just go up there looking normal with this music. You must look like the music sounds, so you must have some kind of mask. Unless you are The Vizitor who looks hard enough as it is.
Would it be possible that you work with a circus which would make a show with clowns doing their stuff with speedcore music ?
Sure it’s possible. Look at Insane Clown Posse, Slipknot, or even Marilyn Manson. Have you ever seen Marilyn Manson with no makup on? Pretty mild looking guy.
You are one of the main terror/speedcore artists. For those who don’t know the difference, what are terror and speedcore compared to hardcore ?
Well these are all terms invented in different countries. In Canada we had only Hardcore (Neophyte, Paul, RTC etc..) and speedcore (DOA, Deathchant, Shockwave etc..) When I went to Holland everyone started calling what I was playing “Terror”, so I thought ok then, Terror it is.
I suppose Terror is hard and fast, often with guitars and yelling, and is around 230 to 290 BPM. I tell people it’s like the Death Metal of Techno. (Frenchcore being somewhere from 190 to 230, Hardcore being usually between 150 to 190 BPM and mostly focused on a hard kick and synth, and speedcore supposedly being faster then everything and focused almost only on fast kicks. Then some people say there is “Splitter” which is like machineguns.) But all these names are a bit vague, and people will argue for days about it on internet forums.
Are you part of the people who think that hardcore has to reinvent itself because the all-for-the-kick music has reached its limits ?
YES!!! It’s long long long overdue for re-invention. It’s been the same sound for the past 10 years or so. When it slowed down I thought that trend would last only 2 years or so, but here it goes on 10 years later.
What are your favorite 5 tracks (hardcore/terror/speedcore) of all times ?
Tough one….and again a random list. Rotello vs GFB – “The Berzerk Manolo Macchetta” / Sonic Overkill – “Raise Ya Fist” / Mutante – “Money” / m1dy vs M-Project – “Squid vs Pantyhose” / D.O.A. – “New York City Speedcore”. Just the first 5 of the top of my head. List is changing constantly. There’s just too much good stuff !
Terror and speedcore share one particularity : they are party music, and in the same time they are appreciated by an audience who is into experimental stuff. So, as an artist and a label manager, do you feel more like being on the party side or on the experimental side ?
I don’t really consider CSR to be experimental at all. The idea was only to bridge the gap between too slow hardcore, and too fast extreme speedcore. To keep it fast, but still to keep it listenable. In Toronto there was always friction between breakcore and speedcore. Breakcore tried to be more experimental and intellectual, while speedcore was just about saying fuck it all !
My idea of speedcore is just to have raw emotion and let out your frustrations through the music. Honestly there is not a lot of room to be experimental in this genre, since you have to keep a heavy bass going all the time. It really comes down to kick drums and samples and how well they can be cut, arranged and mastered. I know there are a lot of people who pride themselves on being experimental and new wave. But I just want high energy music with a great beat that gets you moving. If you get too experimental then it really just doesn’t go over well on a dance floor, and if you are a DJ then that is the reason you are making it. Once I saw a guy and a party with a t-shirt that said “Fuck art, let’s dance”. There it is in a nutshell.
How would you describe the evolution of the terror/speedcore scene since you arrived in Europe ?
Hard to say what has evolved. I guess it became more of its own style rather than being in the 3rd room at a hardcore party all the time. But it still gets shoved back there quite often. I recently saw a video from 1998 and the Terror room looked almost exactly the same as it does now. The energy this music generates will tend to attract the same people no matter when the time or place.
So the more things change the more they stay the same.
You are also a movie maker. What technical advices do you give to guys who shoot party movies ? Because the conditions are quite difficult for a camera (light, sound)…
Haha ! Rent a good camera, don’t film an empty floor, film lots of lasers, keep the camera moving, and film as many pretty girls as possible.
Would you like to work with a movie director to compose the music score of a movie, for example ? Would you think of becoming yourself a director ?
Yes that is a possibility. I studied media arts, and film making was one part of it. I enjoy doing a broad range of things, so just doing sound or just doing editing is limiting. I prefer doing the whole production, and creating a whole finished concept while having a part in every step of the way.
Imagine you have to organize a Megarave party in Canada. What would be the line-up you would dream of ?
Very random and I know people will say “ohhh I can’t believe he forgot so and so!!!” but anyways….
Hardcore / Terror / Speedcore : Sonic Overkill – The Speed Freak – Mutante – Smurf – Fishead – Micropoint – Ron D Core – Drokz & Akira – Noisekick – The Vizitor – Moshpit – The Berzerker – m1dy – Ozigiri – RoughSketch – Speedloader – me… etc.. etc.. etc…
Early Rave Room (all playing the style they played in 1997) : Ruffneck – Neophyte – Rotterdam Terror Corps – Predator – Masochist – Scott Brown – Dj Dominik (Toronto DJ who started hardcore here) – Brisk – Clarkee – SOS
Yeah, I don’t know. That’s all I can think of for now…Its a tough question, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten tons of people already.
Which activities will you have once back in Canada ? What’s the future of CSR ?
Well for now I’m working with DJ Mutante to make a new album. We’re turning out quite a few tracks already so there is still lots to come. As for the future of CSR I’ve been thinking of ways to take it one step further. Maybe turn it into a comic book or a cartoon even. Something that can use the music as part of a whole story. Some way to add a new dimension to it so it doesn’t have to be confined to the 3rd room at a hardcore party. There will always be people wanting to vent their emotions through this music, so maybe this will be a way to reach a larger audience. One thing for sure, is I’ll be working more and more with the Japanese scene. They have more of a style that im interested in. A very eclectic scene, and hardcore full of different variations, not only relying on how hard the kick drum is. They have many diverse producers and they have a lot of potential.
But we shall see. There is no death, only new beginnings….
Could you present a couple of Japanese hardcore musicians you like ? From Europe, Japan is very far and we don’t know this scene much.
There are many, but depends on your style because they are also very wide ranging in sound. There is Sharpnel, m1dy, RoughSketch, M-Project, Ozigiri, Chucky, C-Type, Shimamura, Akira Death and lots more. It ranges from extreme speedcore to happy hardcore, but it is all very well done.
What about the scene in Canada and America ? From Europe it seems to be small but dynamic. What about the parties, and the crowd ?
In Toronto you have a very diverse scene. Made up of many different people from many different countries and cultures. It’s impossible to have a massive hardcore party like they do in Holland. There are so many clubs you can’t charge more than $5 at the door, so it’s not likely you can make back your money. Its more that you get your friends together and all pitch in and decide to have a party. The plus side of this is that you get very different music styles, and the audience is usually people who really feel for the music. Since they had to find it in the first place, it usually means they really know something about it and come with an open mind.
Do you still go to parties as a party people, so as to have a crazy time of dance of booze ? Or are you going to parties only when you’re booked as a DJ or live act ?
Less and less. I still enjoy the music and always will, but the older you get the less energy you have to party and drink. That is another factor in my decision to move back to Canada. I will never completely give up music, since I love it, perhaps I will return now and again for special bookings. But it should never become a job that I feel forced to do just for the money. If you are doing it only for money and not for love of the music then you should move on. You should always have passion for what you are doing.