From VHS clips of infamous party Thunderdome to today’s wild raves, @ukgabbers curates the best images from the unique hardcore subculture
“Being a gabber in London is quite difficult as it’s not as widely accepted as other genres of rave music,” explains Nikita Sarukhanov, the 21 year-old Londoner and Westminster University student behind @ukgabbers: the Instagram account sharing videos, archive images, and club ephemera documenting the past and present gabber scene.
Sarukhanov describes @ukgabbers as a ‘simple rave archive’, but his posts aren’t just directed to those in the UK, they’re meant for a global gabber audience. “It comes from a simple gabber guy, and it’s for other gabber boys and girls,” he explains. “Originally, I started the page to upload tasty material, but within a year or two I had decent recognition.”
Sarukhanov first encountered hardcore music at the age of 12. “I heard a classmate playing Baba Nation’s “Jesus Words” out loud to piss off the teacher. None of us understood what it was at the time, we just thought it was some funny sounding music. It didn’t resonate with me that significantly then, but it definitely caught my interest. Then, when I was 14, I found a podcast from DJ Outblast. It was all new style, but holy hell – I listened to that podcast so much. If it was a tape it would have had holes in it. I had to find out if there was more of this stuff around. It was following this that I started the long process of forming my taste and and my undying love for old school began to unfold.”
The material Sarukhanov posts has to be authentic. “True in sense that it has to be gabber,” he explains. “No new style, no bullshit, no commercial foolishness. Only history, love, and passion, shown through pictures and videos of youth having the time of their lives. Monumental events cemented in the minds of those who took part.” Sarukhanov gathers such content from late night internet rabbit holes and original gabbers (“individuals who experienced the golden age of partying, people who simply want to share their cherished rave moments with the rest of the world”).
When it comes to his favourite post, a cut from the VHS of the 1998 edition of infamous hardcore party Thunderdome is high on the list. “Relentless terror music was shaking the foundations of the location. Terror is a big sub genre of hardcore music which is defined by way darker imagery and faster, harder bass drum kicks. You can only imagine the raw power and subsonic waves floating in that room. The moment where you see some bloke just going absolutely bonkers to extreme BPMS is a place I’ve found myself in many times and I can tell you it’s bliss.”
The gabber dress code is important for Sarukhanov, too. “We’re like a tribe, we wear our colours with pride. It’s our armour and our culture. It’s part of our identity,” says Sarukhanov of himself and his peers, who spend their time scouring original gabber party VHS tapes and YouTube clips for inspiration. “Everything from record-label merch and dance moves to their hairstyles are memorised, admired, discussed, and then copied by us, the gabbers of today.”
DayGlo tracksuits, buzzcuts, and sports scarves are central to the gabber aesthetic. Originally born from a need for comfort when raving, before becoming more experimental over the years, the ‘Aussie’ – a particular type of tracksuit by Australian by l'Alpina – is key. “I simply can’t describe to you how nice they feel on your skin and how comfy they are. When I wear my Aussie I feel empowered, I feel like myself, like I’m part of a huge family. A family you won’t find anywhere else.”
As with most subcultures, there’s been a rise of attention towards gabber style from the fashion industry ever since Raf Simons’ SS00 “Summa Cum Laude” show. “On one hand it feels negative for me. For example, if I was walking down the street and saw that everyone was wearing an Aussie because it’s ‘cool and trendy’, I’d be pretty pissed off. That’s disrespect to culture. But on the other hand, it makes the world more aware of a subculture. And not just that, it also raises awareness of thriving subcultures scattered across the globe. in my eyes, that’s a very good thing – we must learn to learn from one another to gain ultimate balance in life.”
When asked what gabber means to him, Sarukhanov’s response is simple. “It’s my life,” he says. “Call me over the top, but nothing makes me feel as good as this music! I never imagined that at times, it would be the only reason that I get out of bed. I never imagined that I would be spending all my money on beautiful Aussies, cds, posters, merch and so on. But most importantly, I never imagined feeling truly at home amongst other humans. I’ve experienced such strife and mental troubles and it’s generally hard for me to interact with other individuals due to this. For the first time in my life I got to be in a big group of old schoolers and it changed my life forever. We have so much passion and pure love for each other. That’s what gabber is to me! Love to your brothers and sisters, acceptance, adoration for the music, and loads of fun.”