Intense techno sounds from the Italian rave archivist
Gabber, as Alberto Guerrini told Dazed in a feature last year, is “absolutely the hardest music in dance”. A typical gabber track has a tempo that ranges from fast (150bpm) to furious (180bpm) and a punishing, pill-smashing sound that spread out across Europe from its home city, Rotterdam, in the 90s, inspiring a wave of fluoro fashion along the way. Guerrini is one of its most notable modern day proponents.
Growing up in the countryside around Bergamo, a city in northern Italy, Guerrini became exposed to the gabber lifestyle through local clubs like Number One. Since the start of the decade he’s been meticulously documenting and archiving the scene’s fashion, aesthetics, and history on his blog, Gabber Eleganza. In 2016 he took Gabber Eleganza to the real world, performing DJ sets in clubs and raves across Europe and most notably bringing his ‘The Hakke Show’ on the road, a DJ set-cum-performance that combines old school hardcore with on-stage, skin-headed ‘hakken’ dancers.
He’s also been producing music of his own under the name, with a new EP, Never Sleep, having recently been released on fellow Italian rave traveller Lorenzo Senni’s record label Presto?! The EP takes gabber hallmarks – rapid synth lines, hoover bass, distorted electronic kickdrums – and twists them into unexpected, experimental shapes. It’s the first in a set of EPs from Guerrini, as well as the first release in Presto?!’s tenth anniversary celebrations.
To mark the release, Guerrini put together our latest Dazed Mix, capturing the brute, in-your-face sound of gabber as well as the current wave of underground club music drawing inspiration from hardcore sounds.
What’s going on in your Dazed Mix?
Gabber Eleganza: I tried to hybridise, pitching and connect different music genres with a common hardcore feeling.
Your new EP is coming out on Lorenzo Senni’s label, Presto?! How did you two connect? What did you bond over?
Gabber Eleganza: I met Lorenzo several years ago around Milano. We come from very different backgrounds – Lorenzo, hardcore punk, and me, hardcore rave. But we grew up with a similar outsider vision about our music and art.
Tell us about the concept behind the cover art for the new release.
Gabber Eleganza: The EP is called Never Sleep, and the cover character is a rip-off from a classic Italian mattresses company. There’s a paradox between the EP title and this cartoonesque, rave-inspired illustration. This concept is a design collaboration with Studio Temp.
What was the first single you ever bought?
Gabber Eleganza: It was probably a horrible Eurodance compilation called Yabba-Dabba Dance, with a techno Fred Flintstone on the cover and a CD with the X-Files theme, back in 1994 at age of eight.
Your ‘Hakke Show’ performances are already pretty legendary. What makes a great live show?
Gabber Eleganza: The unity of the crew. We’re all close friends, all of us were gabbers. First of all we enjoy ourselves, we have fun, and we let off steam like nobody is watching. In the last Hakke Show, we introduced a couple of young (lovers) gabbers to keep the energy level high to transmit to us and to the crowd.
There are a lot of white, shaved-headed people in the photos on your blog – and obviously in the shows, too. Do you ever think about the racial breakdown of gabber, or what sort of image it puts forward?
Gabber Eleganza: I’ve grown up with an open-minded vision, and this performance is just about dance, body intensity, aesthetic, and rave energy. In the past, the gabber scene had a very dark period where a minor percentage of people created a misunderstanding that is still alive in a few people's memory. But I’ve always fought this shit and, at the same time, these prejudices.
What’s your favourite piece of clothing?
Gabber Eleganza: A Gildan black hoodie.
What are you listening to right now?
Gabber Eleganza: Random order: Nkisi, Mark Fell, Casual Gabberz, Lory D, Atari Teenage Riot, HDmirror, Squarepants Spongebob, Still, Ingler (aka Laurent Ho), Mumdance, Caterina Barbieri, and Giorgio Gaber (with one b!).
What are you working on currently?
Gabber Eleganza: A lot of things! I’m working towards starting a label, the new EP, publishing a few zines and books, and designing new uniforms for the performances.
Gabber Eleganza’s Never Sleep #1 is out via Presto?! now