We at PAYNOMINDTOUS have always been interested in “hardcore” music, whatever the meaning of the word might be. The term, generally related to heavy and uncompromising genres generated by different cultures, historical and political periods, music production tools and attitudes, particularly fits the notion of Speed, reached by the often deranged use of new technological weaponry. Hardcore techno is most certainly among the most widespread instances of hardcore music, being a key development stage in the process of the rave cultural takeover started at the end of the 80s and going on throughout all the 90s. On different occasion up to now, we’ve had the chance to talk about Hardcore, from its recent revivalists (here, here, here, here and here) to its all-time pioneers (here, here, here, here and here).
Today, we launch a new series called Hardcore Tales, taking on our interest and focused on offering some fascinating insights into different scenes, artists, labels, and historical contexts in the form of interviews, mixtapes, video content and much more. The first entry is offered you by the Italian writer, musician, and sound artist/researcher Federico Chiari, already well-known in the field thanks to his Hardcore Will Never Die project, and it features Jörg Buchholz aka Taciturne.
A very prolific musician, Taciturne is a sinewave / experimental hardcore techno project that has been active from 1989 to 1999 and appeared on now legendary outcomes such as Fischkopf, Blut, and Anticore, and on many others with the parallel alter egos Demoiselle Douce Innocence, Xero Tolerance, Goremaster, and UHT (pretty much everything is now available on Bandcamp). Officially died on July, 4th 1999 he rose again from the dead in 2008 under the name Taciturne Redux, together with an old-school techno alter-ego (Abilgaard Re-Activ8) chosen as a resident at the Brainstorm party series in Hamburg, Germany for quite some time. One of the most interesting topics about his activity it’s the staged suicide, of which you can read about in detail at this link and further on in the interview.
Taciturne is now one of the most influential acts of the early underground European hardcore scene, despite the fact he only released a very limited amount of records: in 1995, Pot Pourri EP was published as a vinyl 12-inch on Fischkopf Records (fisch08), followed by Ebizeme (blut01) and Vendetta 1 (with EPC, blut03) on Blut (the ideal prosecution of the Fischkopf outcome, as already discussed here), an untitled split on Maniak’s Anticore with Metronome under the Demoiselle Douce Innocence moniker, and two limited edition tapes on Faustrecht (On Dirait Du Hardcore and Taciturne vs Ad Absurdum).
Between fisch08 and Blut 01, Jörg Buchholz released the record that is both the most well-known in his discography and one of the greatest ever in late 90s experimental hardcore: 6 Fragmente In Der Chronologie Des Wahnsinns. Its title, that translates in “Six fragments in the Chronology of Madness”, is clearly a reference to the 1994 Austrian independent movie called “Sechs Fragmente in der Chronologie des Zufalls”, or “71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance”. It was published in 1996 (12”, fisch12) and re-released this month also in the twelve-inch format by Synderesis Records, after a slight remaster of the tracks done at the Irrational Studios in Hamburg, Germany. The outstanding record also featured a humorous version of the famous Cure track “Boys Don’t Cry“, amazingly sped-up to reach over 230 BPM, and enriched by crazy breaks, an overall lo-fi recording quality of the samples, and a strong sense of humor. If you’re gonna listen to it now, be warned you might never be able to appreciate the original version again.
The track was released in a time when remixes of “pop” tracks where not common in the scene outside the “happy hardcore” world. I remember [he] once did a chart for the french TNT Magazine (one of the most spread hardcore zines back then) which had only synthpop and new wave songs in it, so i think he honestly liked The Cure. What I especially like is the complete intentional trash/lo-fi way this track is produced, the sample often somehow muddles up as if it was taken from a bad tape, and seems somewhat off-rhythm most of the time. lovely.” [Sönke Moehl aka Low Entropy]
Of course, a lot of things could be said about Taciturne’s work, but we feel it’s best to let the artist speak himself through the amazing interview below focused on his background, an overview of the 90s Hamburg hardcore scene, the fake suicide, getting faster, harder and noisier, and much more. Have a good read!
Q: What were your early musical influences and how did you discover the techno (and hardcore) scene?
A: In 1987, when I was just 13 years old, my big sister got me infected with the acid and house music virus, even though I was about to become a hard-line thrash-death metal-grindcore-teenie. Classics like M|A|R|R|S’ “Pump Up The Volume”, ROB BASE & DJ E-Z ROCK ”Get On The Dancefloor”, HITHOUSE’s “Jack To The Sound Of The Underground” and ARMANDO’s “Confusion” were actually my first approach to what later became techno music. In 1988-89 though bands like OBITUARY, CARCASS, and GODFLESH made such a devastating impression on me that I stopped listening to electronic dance music for a while until I got fed up with the “metal attitude”. I guess it was FRONT 242’s “Tyranny For You” and an ever-growing rave-party-movement in Toulouse (South of France) that changed everything. It still gives me goosebumps, when I think about the first illegal rave-party I went to in 1991… It took place in an abandoned mansion near Toulouse, there were a lot of strange people, everybody was wearing camouflage or S&M gear… and when Liza‘N’Eliaz started mixing, all hell definitely broke loose. And after that, it was all about getting faster, harder and noisier… until I got fed up with that as well.
Q: Did you live in Toulouse at the time? What about Hamburg? How was the scene like at that point?
A: Actually, I was born in Hamburg. In 1979 my family moved to Toulouse, we lived there until 1994. From 1994 to 1998 I lived in Hamburg again (this is when I got involved with Fischkopf) and from 1998 to 2002 I lived in Paris. In Hamburg, there was, of course, The Box, a hardcore techno club run by the Nordcore guys, where I went every Friday. It was a small u-shaped corridor-like location, which was constantly flooded with so much fog you couldn’t see your own hands… and they used a strobe light way too powerful for this small a room. I’ve seen lots of great DJs and Live-Acts there, like E-DE-COLOGNE, STICKHEAD, THE SPEED FREAK, PCP DJ-SQUAD, as well as LAURENT HO and LIZA’N’ELIAZ, whom I convinced The Box to book… Until one Friday night, I got banned because I had released a record on Fischkopf. I guess those silly little feuds were quite common in the hardcore scene at that time. In the Netherlands it was Mokum vs Rotterdam, in Paris it was Explore Toi vs Manu Le Malin… and in Hamburg, it was Nordcore vs Fischkopf. But actually, I was very happy to be on the Fischkopf side, since Nordcore kind of reached a dead end at the end of the 90s… and they were so insupportably redneck.
Q: Was this rivalry on a personal level or also aesthetical, political or else?
A: As far as the Nordcore guys are concerned, it was more a kind of territorial pissing thing. I guess they could not stand the idea of something else claiming to be “hardcore” in their city. Hardy Storz (the head of Fischkopf Records) on the other side couldn’t care less… he was more the Dalai Lama type, always cheerful and getting along with everybody. There was nothing personal and nothing political about that rivalry, but there was definitely an aesthetic incompatibility and a totally different approach to music and art in general. Nordcore was indeed more “gabber”-oriented and attracted a kind of suburban party crowd who were more into drugs and cheap thrills than into music. Fischkopf on the other side attracted all sorts of freaky nerds, who went to parties for the music and to push the limits of their musical horizons. And even if the Fischkopf parties happened in regular venues (in Germany techno was never illegal), there was a crusty-squatty feeling about it… and this is why there was a strong connection between the French underground hardcore scene (Fractal, Anticore, the Michelson sisters, TNT, Explore Toi, etc…) and Fischkopf. There was an artistic exchange taking place, which resulted in the DEMOISELLE DOUCE INNOCENCE / METRONOME split on Anticore Records and the MOUSE and NO NAME EPs on Fischkopf. Through EPC (who also released on Fishkopf) we were in contact with the totally crazy Breton hardcore scene: A.N.T.I. and Attila, for example, they were far ahead in the matter of blending harsh noise and experimental hardcore at that time. I also did several live acts in Toulouse, Paris, and Nantes, due to our contacts with some of the French sound systems, labels or groups like Fraktal, Tripconiks, TNT, Virus, Anticore and Eat Your Bones. So there really was a kind of synergy happening.
Q: Back to Taciturne: when did you start producing? What gear did you have and how did you get it? Did you have any particular inspiration, reference or idea behind what you were doing?
A: I began producing in 1987 on an Amiga 1000 using a software called Music Studio, but, unfortunately, there are no recordings of this era. Later on, I got hold of a copy of the legendary Soundtracker and this is when everything really started. Actually, the idea behind my first tunes was to sound like KARSTEN OBARSKI, who back then was my absolute role model and whom I still consider an unsurpassed genius. I also got involved with a small cracking group (whose name I forgot) for whom I composed a tune („Mega Track“ as featured on „Old Bullschitt Vol. 2“). After a while, I began to realize that 8-bit technology could be used for other things – not only game or demo tunes but also techno, house, hip-hop, chip-grindcore… you name it! Since I didn’t have a sampling device, I was on a never-ending quest for sample-floppy-disks and I ripped modules and samples from games and demos. It was all very playful and innocent, everything was allowed and there were no limits to creativity. Everything I did at that time was recorded direct to tape, meaning I never saved anything, because floppy-disks were quite expensive (like Anthony-Michael Hall wisely says in John Hughes’ „16 Candles“) and I preferred spending my pocket money on records.
In 1993 I finally stumbled upon E-DE-COLOGNE (who was a precursor in using the Amiga and the tracking technology to produce hardcore techno) and this is when I decided it was about time to get serious. So I bought an Amiga 500 and a sampling cartridge and started composing “real” hardcore-techno tunes (those are the tracks featured on Old Bullschitt Vol. 8). Shortly after I took my chances and gave Hardy (whom I knew from the Container record store in Hamburg) a demo-tape… and he liked it.
Q: Can you talk a bit about your releases and how were they received?
A: The Potpourri EP is mainly a selection of tracks Hardy picked out from the demo cassette I gave him. Those tracks were my first attempts to sound like what I listened to at that time: DISCIPLES OF BELIAL, ROB GEE, GANGSTAR TOONS INDUSTRY and the likes. Due to the Hellraiser melody, “Der Toten” surprisingly became quite a hit in the Netherlands and the EP was actually repressed in 1997. If I remember correctly the first run was limited to 500 and the second run to a 1000 copies, which was really amazing even back in the mid-90s. eOn the “6 Fragmente in der Chronologie Des Wahnsinns” EP, I tried to distance myself from the “funcore” side of things, which was very dominant on the first EP. I was much into gothic and new wave stuff at that time (this is why there are so many samples from Robert Smith on that EP) and I wanted my music to become more sinister, eerier… I think it was very much appreciated in France and was pivotal in the following connection with the French hardcore scene in Toulouse, Paris, and Brittany.
As “Ebizeme” was about to come out on Fischkopf (we’d already received the test pressings from the record plant), Hardy got fired from Container and since Fischkopf was a Container sublabel, Hardy founded his very own label Blut, on which “Ebizeme” was subsequently released. I guess that record and the split I did with EPC (the “Vendetta Vol.1” EP also on Blut) were a bit too far out for a lot of people. Mostly the Germans hated those records, but the French loved them. On “Ebizeme” I tried to break most of the pre-established rules and pushed the limits even further… I think all I ever wanted was to become a sort of hardcore techno enfant terrible. And the aim behind the legendary “Miss Louise” track on the “Vendetta Vol.1” EP was to produce something similar to ALBOTH (one of my favorite bands at that time) but in a hardcore techno fashion… everybody thought I was crazy, except Hardy I guess.
Q: Curiosity: where does the sample from Mourning [6 Fragmente In Der Chronologie Des Wahnsinns] come from?
A: The choral in “Mourning” comes from the Swedish post-industrial-ambient project RAISON D’ÊTRE and the watery noises and screams come from the first album of the NY-Emocore band LIFE OF AGONY… a very strange combination.
Q: Can you tell us about the parties organized by Fischkopf?
A: During the 4-year lifespan of Fischkopf Records, only 3 parties actually took place, all of them happening at the Club Marquee, a small venue in the red light district of Hamburg. The line-ups of those parties were so amazing: we had live-acts from RAGE RESET, AMIGA SHOCK FORCE, P-SERVER aka CHOOSE, TRASH ENEMY HQ, and Dj-sets from Dj ENTOX (aka John Farning from THE SKREEM magazine), Dj ABOLITION (aka Michel Comte from TNT magazine), MONOLOOP, METRONOME, SHANGOE, JEAN BACH, LA PESTE, DJ MANIAK (ANTICORE), myself and many more. METRONOME and I created a highly SPK-influenced experimental hardcore side-project, which had no name but just a symbol (three black dots arranged in the form of a triangle, which is the symbol for disabled people in Germany). During our live-act, some very explicit autopsy scenes were screened behind us, and a few people were so shocked they left the venue… That was fun!
The RAGE RESET guys were so amazing. I remember myself and the AMIGA SHOCK FORCE people standing just behind the two Heutling brothers, watching the tracker routines scroll down on their Amigas and we just couldn’t believe what we saw and what we heard. RAGE RESET really were on top of the Amiga-based hardcore-techno scene, because you couldn’t actually tell that it was 8-bit… and Otto and Peter are so pleasant and amiable. Another example that people who are into extreme music are the kindest in the whole world.
Another outstanding moment was the set of Dj ENTOX, who did a totally hectic and mind-bending cut-up-noise-hardcore-new-wave-anything-goes performance. It was so hilarious to see some of the classic gabber people completely overstrained and mumbling nonsense like: “this is not hardcore”. And John also is such a nice person, whom I’d felt sort of in sync with since the phone interview he’d done of TACITURNE for THE SRKEEM back in 1995.
And of course, the third party was a crucial turning point for myself, as I met Dj ABOLITION of TNT magazine. Michel Comte and I had something in common, which at that time was really important to me: the compulsive need to irritate and to confuse, not only other people but also ourselves. In a way, this encounter actually led to my move to Paris and was the starting point of what was to become the Gigabrother experience some years later.
Q: Did you have any experience on connections between the hardcore scene and politics?
A: The one thing I really appreciated about the techno scene was that it was not political. I never was into politics and I never will be. At the end of the 90s though, there were more and more people adorning themselves with left-wing imagery and forging a revolutionary attitude for themselves, which I thought was ridiculous. I mean I’m not proud of everything I did and thought at that time, but at least I never claimed to be a Maoist and used Mao’s portrait as a logo to “embellish” my music. In this context, I always found it very strange that atrocities committed by left-wingers seem to be more acceptable than those committed by right-wingers. I never understood that…
A few musicians and DJs who were in between the hardcore techno and the post-industrial and noise scenes probably played with some militant imagery relating to national-socialist Germany, but this was a mere provocation and there was nothing political to it if considered from an “industrial” point of view… again it was just a fin de siècle feeling gone haywire. And of course, there were some rumors of right-wing gabbers… but actually, it’s the same as with football: wherever there are hillbillies, there is local patriotism.
Q: What can you tell us about the fake suicide story?
A: The end of the millennium was a really strange time and some of the events that occurred back in 1999 remain a mystery to this day. The staged suicide of TACITURNE is but the tip of the iceberg to something much bigger, something impossible to grasp. But retrospectively, I think it was a necessary step in order to move on to other things. Although it is difficult to analyze this dark corner of my past in retrospect, I think I can discern three possible reasons why I decided to end Abilgaard’s life. The bluntest of them was to escape the abysmal drug-fueled stupidity of the French “free-party“ scene and of its increasingly invasive zombies. I felt surrounded by people who didn’t understand anything about the deeper sense of artistic creation and at some point it just became unbearable.
Secondly, I guess I had reached a dead end as far as provocation was concerned. Some people got really mad at me after we did the TNT CDSMOS2 because I decided to ban all lettering from the booklet, meaning that on top of the highly subversive imagery, there was no tracklist accompanying the CD. Because of this Michel Comte almost got beat up by one of the artists featured on this compilation… which made me suspect we might be overdoing it a bit and heading for disaster. Another key event was the “ONH Manifesto“ performance in Toulouse, one of the last I gave before the suicide. I had with me a pre-recorded set on a CDR and the only thing that was actually live was me pushing the play button of the CD-Player: it was the first “dead-act” I ever did… something I was to repeat later with other projects. I posed as some sort of representative of a sectarian eco-terrorist group called the “Ordre Du Nouvel Homme” recruiting followers to work at the total annihilation of mankind. I distributed propaganda material, amongst other things a flyer asking people who might be working in the field of nuclear warfare to get in touch. At that time I thought that authors like Pentti Linkola and Emil Cioran weren’t extreme enough. I listened to a lot of PUISSANCE, ATRAX MORGUE and the likes, the more morose and nihilistic the better. I was over-pessimistic and felt in me a stupendous urge to destroy everything. From this perspective, the fake suicide was like a last supreme provocation and simply the punchline of something that got out of hand.
And thirdly, I think I subconsciously realized that my compulsion to constantly re-invent music and push the envelope was vain, a misunderstanding of what art really is. Art has no need for renewal at all, it is not an end in itself but just a means to an end. Back in 1999, I didn’t know that in so many words (and I still find it difficult to accept today) but I must have had an inkling of it. So I had no choice but to “kill” the turbulent agitator in me… and this was Leontin Voigt Abilgaard.
I’ve changed a lot since those days. I’ve embarked on a study of the world’s religions, discovered the Sophia Perennis and finally become religious myself. Looking back at what happened in those tumultuous times, I try to give it all a spiritual meaning and I often wonder about the similarities between this fake suicide and the “death of the ego” in initiation rituals. Those meanderings might have been like a journey through hell, a necessary passage to other shores… who knows?
Q: Was the “iceberg” you talk about something that affected the whole scene? Was this feeling that you had (detachment from the drug-fueled rave crowd, creative exhaustion, disillusion) something that can be generalized?
A: I am quite sure that the turn of the millennium and all the angst it generated is partly responsible for the aggressiveness and bleakness of the hardcore techno scene. I really think this fin de siècle feeling not only affected the scene but actually fueled it, particularly the French hardcore underground.
During those two last years of the 1990s, I mostly hung out with people who felt the same way I did: LA PESTE, EXTRAKWALITEIT, PUTRIDE DEGLUTITION, AL ZHEIMER, EPC, SH’TANK, MIKE. No one was in it for the fun, the party or the stardom. We all had our way of dealing with a crisis that was not only on a personal level but also on a cosmic one due to the turn of the millennium. At that time we regularly met at the Gigabrother headquarters in the 18th arrondissement of Paris to philosophize about the world we lived in. For us, music wasn’t just a pretext for taking drugs. It was a vessel for the unspeakable, a Lovecraftian truth that couldn’t be rationalized. We Gigabrothers also tried to build up some sort of terrorist cell of disillusioned musicians, who were disapproving of everything common. We made a lot of plans, which – luckily enough – were never put to action. We were deeply inspired by the Unabomber, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Heaven’s Gate, even the RAF and desperately longed for some actionism… until one day the storm was over. The New Year’s Eve of 1999 went by and we woke up to find the world still turning, and everybody went their own way.
Q: Isn’t longing for actionism and at the same time proclaiming to be unpolitical a contradiction?
A: Definitely. And this why the actionism we longed for was doomed to fail right from the start. It’s a typical catch-22 situation: If you react to something you disapprove of, you actually do but acknowledge it, hence approve of it. So then you start wondering if the only possible mode of resistance might not be not to react. But then you realize that not reacting is also a way of reacting. Just as to be apolitical is totally political. Since logic and rationalism won’t solve this dilemma there are but two options: either you choose utter nihilism or religion.
I for myself am quite convinced that when you encounter a paradoxical situation, it only means that the universal truth – as it is called in doctrinal metaphysics – is not far and that it is your obligation as an intelligent creature not only to resolve this situation in the right manner but first and foremost to learn from it. Universal truth is beyond any dualism and seems therefore paradoxical to our dualist way of thinking. Consequently, the only way of solving a paradoxical situation is to transcend it.
Federico Chiari is a musician, sound designer, and field recordist, living and working between Milan and Turin. He’s been studying hardcore techno music and related subcultures for many years now. Right now he’s working on a book about the birth of the hardcore genre.