Fierce Ruling Diva Interview: The Ongoing Battle Between Intention And Perception
You were one of the first artists to import the house and techno sound in to Holland. You organized your own underground events, performed live, DJ-ed and founded your own record label Lower East Side Records. As an introduction, could you tell our readers a bit more about that time and how that influenced your later career?
Flamman: “The scene was very small then as well as the international network. Everything had a high D.I.Y. feeling. We always wanted to do something new and different and I really feel we co-defined many aspects of the current scene. I think we weren’t only one of the first few to import the American House sound into Holland; a year later we were also one of the first to do the opposite: exporting the Dutch sound. Fierce Ruling Diva were the first Dutch DJ/live act to extensively tour abroad. Especially in the U.S.: we did the Limelight, N.A.S.A., the first raves in L.A., Mexico, Canada and of course many countries across Europe. That was all in ‘90/’91/’92. Later people entered the scene who saw business opportunities. They basically copied what was done in the first years and made it more professional and commercial – soon it overshadowed the original style of partying/producing and still does.”
Is there a difference between the underground scene in the early days and the underground in 2012?
Flamman: “I think it’s the same actually: doing its thing and not being noted – apart from the people who have business interests who keep an eye on the underground to see if there’s anything worth copying and packaging. The word “underground” is a bit overrated, at least in the Netherlands people will call something “underground” when the music being played is innovative and not mainstream – whilst the way these events are set up is 100% commercial. “Hardcore” may be considered underground and “Trance” commercial when in fact often the exact same people and organizations are behind these projects and events.”
Abraxas: “The underground scene today is fragmented upon sharply defined sub-genres, these genres are (more often than not) socio-economically determined. In the early days this was not the case.”
You have released various house classics under the Fierce Ruling Diva moniker, including the evergreen Rubb It In. Can we expect new material from the project?
Abraxas: “We would love to release more FRD material but we need a label! I don’t want to produce & market my stuff anymore.”
Flamman: “I like producing and marketing – but if professionals who see an opportunity give us a budget to work with, allow us to spend some quality time at Studio Le Roy, and then they take care of the rest… that would definitely be better!”
In the mid nineties you launched one of your most successful projects to date, the Party Animals. The Party Animals are known for their Happy Hardcore sound and are still going strong to this day. Will you keep true to the original sound, or are there plans to experiment with dubstep like sounds which is the sound a lot of youth are in to today. Perhaps ‘Happy Dubstep?’
Flamman: “To be honest I have nothing with Dubstep. Also we don’t follow what is the trend of the moment, we’ve basically been doing the same thing for 24 years now and happy that sometimes the trend of the moment includes us and sometimes it doesn’t.
Also the Party Animals were never “launched”, it’s something that grew on us, it was never planned or thought out. In the beginning it was another moniker like Fierce Ruling Diva – but we had some boys running around in the music videos and supporting our DJ sets as “dancers” on stage. At one point there were too many bookings and we did not have enough time to produce, we basically gave them an MD with the songs and a microphone and that’s when it turned into something similar to a pop group.
The Party Animals are still performing every weekend but we also do it old school these days, we now call it “Flamman & Abraxas (feat. MC Remsy)” – the Party Animals have become part of the Dutch DNA as 4 happy boys on stage and we’re comfortable keeping this the way it is.
Also we just did a Party Animals Remix for German producers Reinlaender & Simons feat. Sabrina – “Scream For More” We did it completely in the original style: a 303 for the bassline, a Juno for the kick, a 909 for the cymbals and a DX100 for the signature offbeat chords – it’s pretty much a “Have You Ever Been Mellow” remake..”
Abraxas: “If only I could remember….”
Flamman: “Damn, there were so many… Especially in Amsterdam in the first three years when drugs were going around like candy. Also the raves in England and Scotland were totally wild. One of the most memorable trips though was a show we did in Mexico. They had this big Spring Break event, we started in L.A. with a couple of shows and some radio and stuff and then got on a camper that drove us to San Felipe in Baja. The promoter had confused Mexican Spring Break with the American – they weren’t in the same weeks. So there we were with the biggest names in the industry in a huge tent playing for a handful of locals and we were all completely off our faces. Thanks to our Manager, Matt E. Silver keeping a clear head we were the only ones to get paid… Before re-entering the U.S. we completely took the camper apart to make sure we weren’t used as a cover for smuggling drugs into the U.S. and when we were convinced this was not the case we ended up back home safe and sound.”
Flamman: “We had a big blow in 2007 when we had two top 10 singles with Patrick Jumpen which ended up in a legal battle with the record company we licensed the songs to, Start Stop Records and the bankruptcy of that company. We never saw a penny in royalties and ended up with huge legal bills – whereas the project was supposed to give us a fresh injection and an opportunity to invest in the future.
Lower East Side Records then went dormant for a couple of years. I started working as full time PHP developer for a web application development company while in the evenings and weekends doing our DJ and live bookings that were ongoing.
Last year I started attacking all the rogue downloads that were out there in the internet download shops operating on expired licenses, etc. Early this year we reclaimed our entire back catalog and that’s when we signed a distribution agreement with Believe Digital.
In April this year I stopped as PHP developer for others when I achieved Zend certification and I’m now slowly re-establishing Lower East Side Records as a label / production company.
Currently Patrick Jumpen is our best selling artist internationally. Especially in the U.S. and Mexico we see a real surge in digital sales of the album “One Man Army” and the singles “Holiday” and “The Secret”. We’ve just hooked back up with Patrick and beefed up an earlier production that was never released, “The Sound of Amsterdam” which really reflects the sound that is popular at the moment. I have high hopes we have a second chance with Patrick Jumpen, this time without shady labels and dodgy managers involved.
In fact – the last year we’ve been working with Dom Toulon, CEO of CAPP Records in San Francisco.. who has been a fan & friend of Patrick over the years. It’s a perfect partnership match: they specialize in releasing hard dance compilations in North America and we provide the goods… CAPP has proven to be a big support so far!”
House music is known for its use of many different synths, drum machines effects and so on. Yet, do you like guitars?
Flamman: “I love guitars.. Also managed a punk band for two years during my PHP development period, an Amsterdam band called The Hangouts who had great songs and many shows. Unfortunately the band split up but we’re still good friends and I often “hang out” with them in local Amsterdam punk bars where I can be anonymous and enjoy some drinks without running into people who start talking to me as DJ/producer.”
What is the weirdest sound you have ever sampled?
Abraxas: “A choir of 30 out-of-control gabbers for a Football Anthem.”
Flamman: “There were some really off the wall vocal ad-libs from that session which ended up sampled in snippets on the Party Animals album “Good Vibrations””.
Can we expect new hardcore records?
Abraxas: ”NO, for two reasons; Today’s hardcore is stifling formulamatic & the entire scene is controlled by a handful of producers and an even smaller number of labels. That said, whenever we play at festivals or mega events I always pass by the hardest arena/tent and let myself go!”
Flamman: “There will definitely be a new production under the name Flamman & Abraxas within the next months with most likely some hardcore mixes.”
Where will EDM go in the next decade?
Abraxas: “Everywhere and back again.”
Flamman: “Hopefully down the drain… EDM to me is a dirty word, it represents the institutionalization of House music – it’s the “corporate rock” of Dance. I really hope people will stop going to these events where they don’t actually dance, but all stare at Disney-like decorated stages with synchronized lighting and sound and every once in a while a “hands in the air” moment when they’re all supposed to scream in ecstasy and then continue staring.
I hope these EDM promoters will take the DJ off the pedestal and stop the crowd focus on a centralized stage. Decorations and lights should be all around the event area – it shouldn’t make a difference whether you’re near the stage or not. People should start dancing again and stop staring at the DJ.. It’s called DANCE music for Christ’s sake not STARE music. DJ’s aren’t prophets..”
Abraxas: “I’ve heard it before.”
Flamman: “I’m thankful that we are able to do what we like best for 24 years, that our songs seem to withstand time and for all the positive energy and happy faces we get in return. I really hope people will increasingly find their way to our label section at the many digital download shops so we can keep creating, producing and collaborating with others.”
Thanks again Flamman & Abraxas for taking the time for this interview!
Flamman: “Thanks for not asking the same boring questions everybody else does ;-)”