One of those names that’s always coming up with new music and an ever-evolving view on things is The Speed Freak. Martin Damm, as he’s known in real life, is a real dynamo. Always on the move, creating energy like no other. So what’s The Speed Freak up to in 2018?
Last month we mentioned your Gabberdisco project. Could you explain to us a bit more about why you started this?
“There are several reasons why I started Gabberdisco. One is that I find the current popular styles in hardcore quite boring and lacking evolution. Since I started producing tracks my natural goal has always been to make a difference, to see “what else is possible”. One more reason is that due to our digital age, the kids are used to being served their musical knowledge by Soundcloud, Youtube etc. They hardly investigate the roots or the evolution of what they like to listen to.”
My natural goal has always been to make a difference
“In Gabberdisco a lot of elements and even production-techniques of the 1980s and 90s are used to showcase that there was great dance music in past, too. I was a teenager and started collecting vinyl in the 1980s (best pioneer-time for electronic music) and sometimes feel like the ‘wikipedia of useless knowledge’ regarding 80s music. With Gabberdisco I can finally make use of this!”
“Another reason is that, simply put, times are bad. Politics, Society, Economics, the killing of our environment etc are very depressing these days, so somebody has to come up and put a smile on people’s faces. The dark side of Core is already covered by other styles. Gabberdisco is about the bright side, the humor and the unpredictable.”
“Personally another reason is that I realized (when remastering Shockwave etc for digital re-release) how much of a different approach to producing tracks I had in the 1990s and how limited I felt in the last years when producing for certain scenes.”
“When producing Gabberdisco I feel the ‘guerilla-approach’ to producing again. There are no limits like; is that sample too much, the melody too cheesy, the structure too different? With Gabberdisco things are more like; when it’s too much, then put another on top. Gabberdisco may sound really easy and fun, but producing the tracks is hard work. Not only because of the many elements from different musical genres, which all need to be adjusted and tuned, but also because arranging them in a homogenic way while still leaving room for surprises is pretty difficult.”
At a certain point, the track itself takes over
You mentioned the idea behind Gabberdisco is to bring back the fun in (hardcore) music. As someone who has been active in hardcore for over 25 years, how do you keep yourself and your music unpredictable?
“Well, this comes naturally when I am producing. I never had the approach of “let’s make a dancefloor-smasher” when starting a track. But I do think about the subject of the track first, then search for matching samples. And then, at a certain point, the track itself takes over and develops naturally. It’s a kind of artistic approach to dance music which kinda keeps me from producing club-hits. On the other hand this also keeps my music a bit unpredictable.”
As one of the household names in hardcore, The Speed Freak has been a constant source of inspiration. One could wonder if there a trick to pioneering?
As Martin states it, it’s all about personality. About the demands you set yourself as a producer. “If you are a producer who wants to be “everybody’s darling” then you have to play safe and deliver basic tracks which fit clearly into a certain style. If you want to pioneer you have to accept that you will probably never be in full spotlight. But you can produce your music without boundaries and full artistic freedom.”
Back to Gabberdisco. How come The Speed Freak is the guy behind such an upbeat, positive movement. Listening to the Best of 25 Years MiniMix you made last year, the overall vibe is much darker.
“If you know the music I‘ve been producing since I started in 1990 you will notice that there has always been two sides of The Speed Freak,” Martin explains. “Back then I did cheesy tracks on Shockwave and at the same time I produced ultra-noisy and hard stuff for Napalm or hard Acid for Dropbass Network. With all my projects I was never limited to one sound.”
There has always been two sides of The Speed Freak
“You will also notice that I have this kind of cynicism in all of my music. To me personally Gabberdisco is the sum of all I have done so far, both technically and musically. It allows me to be myself.”
Gabberdisco is more than just The Speed Freak, the first (3) releases feature various other artists like Mutante.
According to Martin, the releases are about showing the concept itself. Not promoting a single artist. “The Gabberdisco-label will only release such small compilations.”
How did these compilations came to be?
“Back in Shockwave-times, I gathered some skilled artists as the core-team of Gabberdisco. I developed the concept together with Francois Mutante, because he, like me, has a huge musical knowledge and knows how to put his ideas into good-sounding tracks. Another core-member of the Gabberdisco-family is Chryzis (from The Netherlands), very talented, and recently my long-time friend Stormtrooper has joined as well.”
Did you already play Gabber Disco sets? How was the response? One can imagine an alternative, weird, disco-esque dress-code would be appropriate for such nights.
“I tested single Gabberdisco-tracks in my sets last year with great results and also me and Mutante did a set as Gabberdisco Tag-Team at a party in November last year – simply to test the (then unfinished) tracks. To me this was one of the best and most interesting sets ever, because the audience did not know what to expect and we did not know how they will react. Obviously everything went well and encouraged me to stick to this new concept.”
”Regarding the dress-code… just wait and see when we are booked for real Gabberdisco-sets.” Martin keeps the suspense while showing a somewhat evil wink.
Do you think you could crossover from Gabberdisco to The Speed Freak and vice versa? Or do you prefer to keep things to their own?
“In fact, there is no such thing as a crossover. I am playing Gabberdisco in my sets since it started in February. The sets by Gabberdisco Tag-Team will be more over-the-top, but The Speed Freak-sets will be Gabberdisco as well. There’s no sense in re-inventing myself if I don’t show it.”
Last year you celebrated your 25th year in hardcore. What were the highlights for you personally?
“One of the highlights surely was my own floor at Vive La Frenchcore in November. I played a lot of my old and new tracks, most of the frenchcore-tracks I am well-known for, plus a NUKEM-set and the Gabberdisco Tag-Team “test”-set. Big fun!”
Talking about the early days, you’ve got the complete Napalm and Agent Orange back-catalogue available on Bandcamp. Would you say: a mandatory listen for people just getting into hardcore today?
“A mandatory listen for everyone,” Martin responds smiling. “But seriously, for people getting into hardcore nowadays Napalm might even be too hard and noisy. After quite some years of not listening to those tracks, when I remastered them for re-release, I was blown-away by the raw sound of Napalm myself. I don´t think there has ever been any other hardcore-label with such a level of noise.”
So, what’s coming in the next 25 (years)? Any ‘(2)5-year plan’ you got written down and would like to unveil?
Martin very justly replies that it would be boring and inflexible if he had a real plan for the next years. “Right now the only mission is to spread the word about Gabberdisco. Let’s see where this will go. So far the feedback is great, now it needs to evolve and spread out.”
NUKEM is a name that’s often associated with you. No surprise there, as NUKEM is you and Mutante. Where does NUKEM stand in the balance that is The Speed Freak on one end and Gabberdisco on the other?
“Nukem is just the opposite of Gabberdisco, except for the cynicism. Where The Speed Freak has turned Gabberdisco, NUKEM will remain hard and raw. NUKEM is some sort of Uptempo for people who don’t like uptempo.”
It’s no coincidence that Martin is working with Mutante a lot.
“Since I met Francois (Mutante) for the first time it showed more and more how much we think alike musically. I am not really a good person for collab-tracks, but with Mutante things work out quite easily and naturally. I like the ideas he has and how he turns them into good-sounding tracks. Both of us like to think out-of-the-box.”
When you look at the discography of The Speed Freak, it’s like you’ve always danced around the dark as well as the fun side of hardcore. By means of samples, by choice of sounds. Is it safe to say that this is a defining feature of The Speed Freak? A so-called two-faced demon that is Martin Damm.
“It definitely is. And I refuse to choose one side. I simply like to write music. How it turns out depends on the direction a track wants to go to while I am working on it. Right now the ‘bright side’ obviously is stronger.”
Uplifting it is! Tune in to the Gabberdisco for their latest release, no. 03 a.k.a. ‘Creatively Challenged Genius’ featuring ‘Trampoline Takeover’ by The Speed Freak as well as new music by Mutante and Chryzis.
The Speed Freak can be booked as himself, as the Gabberdisco Tag-Team and as NUKEM (both Mutante & The Speed Freak). Make your pick!
– S.Boom –