HALL OF FAME. Adam X: “Brooklyn is hardcore” (interview in Frontpage, November 1992)
Adam Mitchell aka Adam X is one of the few survivors of the early 1990’s techno scene not thinking about the retirement. The Brooklyn native and current Berlin resident runs the Sonic Groove label for cutting-edge techno sounds and keeps himself busy with new releases, as Adam X and under the Traversable Wormhole moniker.
Recently a few interesting write-ups have been published about him, like Richard Brophy’s feature “Fusing the past with the future” on Juno Plus or Adam X’s thoughts about his early musical influences for the Tea and Techno blog.
Here comes a call from the past: As a driving force of the American techno underground, Adam X was interviewed by German techno mag Frontpage at the end of November 1992. Here’s the translation, with some comments added by myself in square brackets.
Adam X interview (Frontpage magazine, November 1992)
In addition to grandmaster Frankie Bones and Lenny D, in Germany the most popular New York DJ and top performer of the last Mayday, a new top gun and hardcore prophet is rising from the Big Apple, Adam X who is Bones’s younger brother. Recently we interviewed his pal Jimmy Crash about their label Direct Drive. Together with his girlfriend Heather Adam X publishes Under One Sky, a fanzine, and he’s a guy to watch in the proliferating American East Coast scene.
FP: How was in the Omen [defunct club in Frankfurt am Main run by Sven Väth]?
Adam X: The crowd was a bit weak as Sven’s people seem to be more used to house and tribal and the energy disappeared rather quickly, it just wasn’t a hardcore crowd. It reminded me a bit of Limelight, Manhattan, as they rather prefer commercial mainstream sound too. But I mean, this is really a cool club, 50 C hot and despite that still having a tremendous vibe.
FP: Where do you DJ in America?
Adam X: The rave scene in the US is very large now and after flying back to the States I have to go to Washington, to a gigantic Halloween rave. About 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected there.
FP: Really, Joey Beltram told us a few months ago there are no raves in the US?
Adam X: Well, he would not give any credit to us, because there have many ugly things happened between him and us, my brother’s ex-girlfriend is now with Joey and that has somehow happened behind Frankie’s back. Joey will definitely not say that there is a rave scene in New York, because we are the only ones who organize raves. We did a rave during the New Music Seminar, with Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin and about 3,500 people, it all went on till 9 a.m., and a month ago we had another one with PCP people and Lenny D. About 5,000 people, this is how it goes in the East Coast. People from Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston, Rhode Island come to our raves, buses come from all small towns, like here to Mayday. We are from Brooklyn and it’s the same here like with the people in Frankfurt: Who comes a bit from the outside can’t do it so well with them; the same is with Brooklyn and Manhattan. Brooklyn is hardcore, we play Rotterdam Records [a Dutch gabber outpost] and German records, the Limelight is fully commercial. Just go there, Jeff Mills is DJing there and you think he plays Detroit, but no, Dominator! Quite pathetic, if you ask me. I think the UR have separated because Mad Mike wanted to go his own way, because he is very underground and might not like Jeff Mills hanging out with the people in Limelight because it’s all about money there. In the East Coast is everybody in the rave scene more culturally in there and cares for the scene, not for the money. But Limelight is just a gigantic club without ravers, with a lot of tourists. Just ask Lenny when he comes over.
FP: You prefer to DJ rather in raves than in clubs?
Adam X: Yeaaah, I mean, three weeks ago we launched a new club, a small one, Thunderground. About 1,500 people get in there, in a 150 years old wine brewery, feeling very underground. When you get in you see caves everywhere and everything is done up in euro-style with an excellent sound system, lasers, hi-tech lights but so far not many people have come. I think we ourselves have created the contradiction, after having said that in Brooklyn you can’t do any rave in a club and the kids want warehouse parties, fully illegal, fully underground. We do Storm raves but also smaller parties with 800 people, basic equipment and generator.
In Storm raves we have all, including good security but it takes some time to organize so we don’t do that too often.
FP: Is security important in New York?
Adam X: Actually not. You hear all the time New York is a dangerous city and so but now it’s for the first time that there’s music everybody feels fine with and has great time, totally without any revolts and brutality. I swear in the name of God that have not seen even a single fight in a Storm rave, even not a single one, and all that with 5,000 people. I mean some people from other states like [Washington] DC look a bit frightened because they know more the UK scene, wear Jive clothes and look like people from Manchester in 1989 while the Brooklyn kids are just hardcore, very underground. They look like me and then they think, look these are hoodlums, but we try to make it clear to the scene that nobody is interested in fashion and it’s all about the music only.
FP: How it comes the scene is so “hardcore” in New York?
Adam X: We have the only techno record store in New York, Groove Records. There are also other outlets like Vinylmania and Downtown but they are not specialized on techno. We just want to be back to the original Detroit style, Chicago acid and not to commercial stuff, with a load of hooks, and, good heavens, not any Dominator, Dominator – just the music that opens your mind and in this year the scene has become more open and larger to this. Labels like Djax Up, they make it for a while already, the Chicago sound, and even the label like Rotterdam, actually quite commercial, have those Chicago influences. I would not say Detroit because when listening to early records by Armando; the drums are very similar, just 60 BPM slower. There was a huge discussion in the seminar where it all comes from, Detroit or Chicago, but the rave scene came definitely from UK, one should not forget that. To me it all belongs together.
FP: What do you think of the breakbeat trend in Germany?
Adam X: When Germany starts producing breakbeat records only I might look silly in the US because we have the hardest scene in America and all just go crazy on German stuff because this is the hardest. And I should then sell breakbeat records and that will make null and void everything I try to tell to the people. Because we really try to bring the music closer to the people visiting our shop and tell them where comes the music from. And it’s really convincing when it comes deep from the heart and not because we just want to sell something. We don’t make any money with Groove Records, though we have a good clientele but selling records is not a spectacular thing. We use the shop more like the base of operations, for DJ booking, Storm raves, our label – Direct Drive – and the one of my brother, Groove World Records that recently released “Bones Breaks 6” and also his new EP, which is different, very minimal acid tracks with trippy sounds, very personal. It also has a track that was sampled by Holger [Holger Wick, known also as Hoschi] from Labworks and I didn’t know yet that Holger takes me to Germany. Well, I have told him this and proposed to release the record in Germany. Sampling as such sounds to me a bit senseless and I don’t sample anymore at all and I hope my brother gives it up too. He was influenced by breakbeat and rave music but I have changed his opinion. Because acid and German stuff opens your mind when you listen to that, doesn’t matter how fast it is. And when you go to England and hear all that breakbeat stuff, see 14-15 year old kids on E, who don’t have a clue what’s going on, and the scene has become so commercial that you have to go to underground again. I mean, I don’t have anything against Ecstasy, when people necessarily want to take it. But most often people just take E because it’s trendy and not because of wanting to go into the sound, which can be done also without.
FP: Did your brother also influence you?
Adam X: Yes, and I have done some records that sound a bit like from my brother. But not more. We are setting up our own trio, Jimmy [Crash], Frankie [Bones] and I. It has been unbearable with the production people we have worked so far, they complained about the oversteering of sound mixer but this is exactly techno is all about. I did an EP with Robert [Babicz aka Rob Acid] and Andre [Fischer] from Injection and it was top, I like this analog feeling and that’s why I like acid. Andre is very cool and has many tracks ready for the next years.
FP: Tell us about your magazine?
Adam X: My girlfriend makes Under One Sky, some people read it in Germany but unfortunately it’s expensive to send it by post. It’s pretty cool what she makes, otherwise there is only Moneypenny who does similar in New York and I can tell some stories about her, just switch off the tape recorder /…/ There are no politics in our mag, except for the crash with Smart E’s people from Suburban Base.
FP: What was all that about?
Adam X: We placed “Fuck Sesame Street, let’s get hardcore” on the sleeve of a release of ours. Because techno is rather new in America, it’s like brainwashing to tell the people what is it and what’s not. And Sesame Street [a mainstream breakbeat hit on Suburban Base from 1992] is not techno and the kids come and think this is techno. That’s why I have blocked all records of this type from my record store, although I could sell hundreds of them but we want to sell techno and not some kind of shit. I could have several stories about that.
To return to Joey Beltram, he’s so stuck-up, not in the scene, does not DJ anymore and better so. When did he produce last time? Just ask Renaat [Vandepapeliere, founder of R&S Records] when he releases the next Beltram, he doesn’t know. Ah, it’s not interesting to you as you have the best music in the world, all people I’m really interested in are Germans, all I can look up to. And I haven’t known it so long yet, that’s why I’m in Germany now to see how it goes there. And the crowd in Warehouse did me right tonight. It was the best crowd in Germany so far.
FP: What do you like the most in Germany?
Adam X: Ah, better not to say anything about that here in Germany because I have here friends who hate each other and it doesn’t matter where you go, you hear that he doesn’t like somebody and somebody doesn’t like some other. I don’t feel like getting into this type of politics, it’s too stupid for me. In fact it’s the only thing here you should get rid of because it kills the scene. It was like that in LA, in San Francisco und the danger is high here too, whereas all should be about the music only, nothing else.