by Aaron Montaigne
2100 hrs, Peking Tavern Downtown Los Angeles 19 Jan, 2016
Aaron Montaigne- We’re here in DTLA with z musical group Xultur – the musical group with James Rupert Powell who is a music producer a member of z Dead Fly Ensemble. And also with me is Sarah Toon who is a local celebrity and birthed z legendary LA party Killing Spree (made goth cool again) and currently curator of z killerest venue in Los Angeles The Lash in Downtown LA.
AM- So, I want you to describe your music to me and z readers of Lethal Amounts. I’ve seen you play a number of times and I would describe it as violent and methamphetamine fueled evil. Would that be about accurate?
Sarah Toon- We’re really on the side of being anti-fascist.
AM- OK well tell me more about just the sound, what you guys are doing.
ST- We’re general making gabber industrial. Super fast, EDM, lots of older sounds.
James Rupert Powell- The sound is really a reaction to the music scene that was going on here. We were both dissatisfied with what everyone was drawing from culturally so we wanted to take it back to a different reference point. In doing so we have traversed many types of gear to get the sound we have, so it’s an amalgam of an ode to gabber and early rave through different types of gear. And that’s really where it starts. We never really go under 200 BPM now and usually we’ve been veering toward a happier back but yeah most of it’s very apocalyptic. Very negative. But that’s like we’re taking a piss. If anything. The main thing that I’d like to maintain is taking the piss.
AM- Taking the piss?
JRP- OK, I guess I am English.
ST- Fucking with everyone.
JRP- Yeah well you know everyone takes himself or herself way too seriously and you fuck them.
AM- I agree. Right. Fuck them.
AM- So I’ve noticed a resurgence of rave culture in LA over the past few years of being here. It seems a lot of younger millennials are at the forefront of that.
JRP- Well you know there’s a very structured base to the underground and hardcore that’s always been here. What’s different is where the music’s being played now, it’s migrating to different types of clubs, consciousness has shifted as the popularity of the 90s has become more of a thing. It sounds stupid but it’s fucking true.
ST- Yeah, the old scene is still around, it’s still doing stuff. Maybe it’s not as visible somehow but it’s definitely there. I notice it, I see it. That style has seeped into different types of scenes, too. Unfortunately what happens is that the style seeps into a scene without them understanding where or what it came from or giving credit of what was before, it’s like they rip off the aesthetic without understanding where the scene came from.
JRP- Another thing to understand is that the LA culture is based around turn table-ism and we cannot pretend to be turntablists; that is not a skill we have. So I stick to what I know. And that’s programming shit, I’m a fucking nerd.
AM- Gabber sort of came out of Detroit, really grew in Rotterdam. It’s funny, I actually Google’d what ‘gabber’ means and it means “Hey Buddy” or “Hey Pal.” it’s really funny and positive which is funny because Gabber doesn’t seem like such a positive jam, but more evil. But what is interesting is Gabber has this Death in June Neo-Nazi skinhead fashion.
ST- Yeah that’s definitely there.
JRP- Yeah there’s that element but with all these things the undercurrent is that ‘gabber’ means ‘friend’ and the whole idea is an acerbic view of existence you’ve got this whole dry humor going on during the whole thing so it’s a very inclusive culture. I know that it’s rough when white guys talk about inclusive cultures but the whole idea of gabber has always been about inclusive culture, just about being able to be as crazy and fucked up as you’d like to be with nobody judging. If you look at the basic dance of that culture which is the hakke dance, that dance just is like a frenetic twitching leg kicking thing.
Nowadays you can see it graduated into being like jump style. The same with shuffling. There’s a concurrent set of cultures related to this music that has to do with dancing itself that is different you know the popularity around certain cultures with jump style and the fuckin shuffling is entirely different than the original intent of what the music was.
ST- I think culturally it’s really apocalyptic in that most of the places where this thing is happening or has been happening is there’s been no jobs, there’s nothing to do, all you do is take drugs and party, party for 2 days 3 days whatever, and that’s you know the European style of things because it’s been that way forever over there, there are just no jobs, and I feel like that’s starting to kind of happen a little bit more over here. But all scenes like that that have really harsh music are generally filled with really nice people.
Because I think that people that really express themselves through really morbid or dark or harsh things get it all out and then are just kind of good people generally.
AM- Speaking of gabber, I was looking at your SoundCloud and you had some Jemek Jemowit remixes, what would you say are some of your other influences? That’s a cheesy-ass question, especially because your sound is really unique on its own, there’s really nothing else like it right now.
JRP- I played different types of metal growing up and I can’t lie that there’s more than a little of that that makes it in, a lot of black metal.
ST- You know, I come from a noise background, and electronic, some metal, all the minimal synth stuff, just generally darker music. Both of us are super open to different genres of music. We’re just as likely to listen to trap as we are anything.
JRP- As we are friends, you already know we are heavily invested in trap. You know, overcomplicated high hat patterns and fucking real bass, you know you’ll notice – if anyone ever gets around to listening to our second release, it has less bass than the first and then the newer stuff we do has more bass. And that is actually a stylistic preference because of the way we chose to make the thing, you know. In anything that’s good, you know, there’s a struggle for authenticity in approaching this idea we definitely tried to be as authentic as possible with the approach. I believe the breath you take before you start making something is what the thing is going to be, it’s almost like your intent before you wake up and get out of bed is going to color your whole damn day. Is that stupid to say?
ST- Nah, not at all
JRP- So this is an expression of true intent.
AM- Is there any other gabber star or artist that you guys think are killer? A lot of people don’t really know about gabber.
JRP- You know we went to go see DJ Skinhead.
AM- What? He is killer!!!!
ST- Dude you met him Aaron, he is ——-.
AM- (Mind blown).
ST- Industrial Strength, Rodney Core. You know Rodney Core, all the Thunder Dome stuff. We love all that. We just started our last mix with that Rodney Core track. I love it because it has all these little clips from Escape from LA in it. It’s so perfect. So perfect. I love that movie.
JRP- Such a good movie.
AM- Alight, hypothetically, what is the ultimate lineup that Xultur would play for a crazy ass rave in a basement somewhere.
ST- Oh man, that’s really hard.
AM- Take your time, I’ve been drinking.
ST- I’m dying to play with Jemek Jemowit because I think he’s super awesome and weird and I’m hoping at some point we get to play with him. James knows because of how many times I’ve made him watch his video.
JRP- It’s a good video. It’s a really good video.
ST- Yeah man, fucking…
AM- Ok cool, that’s good enough for me. OK, if you could kill anyone who would you kill. Anyone.
JRP- Can it be multiples or would it just be one? This is why they talk about how we’re fascists, talking about cleansing.
ST- You know, I would say Donald Trump for sure.
AM- I knew you were going to say that.
ST- I hate that guy, But then it would make him a martyr, so, I don’t even care that much
JRP- That’s why you have to be so selective.
ST- It’s true.
JRP- Yeah because there are more people behind the scenes than you know.
ST- Yeah and anyone you kill is just going to be a martyr and people are going to worship them after so why even do it, just let them live their miserable lives.
JRP- which is kind of the point that we began: Nihilism to the point of doing nothing.
AM- Gotcha. Interesting. “The Xultur Philosophy.”
JRP- Kind of, you know. It’s like: everything’s going to be so shit. You’re really accepting your position to the extent that it’s gonna be. So if I try to interpret it, it’s only going to make the problem worse and make the person worse.
There are plenty of people I could get rid of.
JRP- Yeah, I think we should leave it like that.
AM- So you guys have two CDs out already, which we can get from you guys, I’m sure. And what’s new, you have a new CD coming out?
ST- Right now, we have a new thing in the works, a couple new videos that we’re working on. Those should be done soon. Mostly we’re working on videos. We have a whole other record ready but we’re waiting on that while we work on some videos. Hopefully we’ll play in Germany in May.
JRP- I mean, hopefully they’re down to play with us.
AM- For the nerds out there, what kind of gear do you guys use?
ST- We write most of our stuff on ReNoise. We used to use Milky but we started using Trackers because James and I have really different schedules so it was easier for us to work on music separately, send stuff to each other, and meet up once a week.
JRP- Another reason we started using Trackers is that a lot of the original gabber music was made on it and we were going for the most authentic sound. So you can download back catalogues of old gabber and rave music that is all made on Trackers. In the early 90s, it was the most efficient up-to-date sampling technology to use to make that kind of music. That would defy typical tempo constraints of your GrooveBox or Midi sequencer. So when we started the project we were using a ton of gear like the first EP has 20-30 different synths on it ranging from old Moog kind of nonsense to really digital Waldorf [inaudible] stuff and everything in between. I remember from our first shows I had this giant case that we would drag around in conjunction with the coffin.
AM- Talk about your coffin.
JRP- OK, right, we had this sound to light coffin that flashes in time to our music.
AM- Very psychedelic.
JRP- I guess it is. When we started I was very into building light circuits and that was kind of a uh, instead of programming everything with DMX which is a little more controlled, I was looking for the warmth of a simple circuit that interpreted sound and then turned it to light, and our coffin is an expression of that. But yeah, we used to use a ton of gear and then we switched over to Trackers because it was easier to trade our programs and it was good for the most authentic sound. We started with Milky, the second record we have out, is all made on Milky Tracker. Everything newer than that is made on ReNoise. And now all my very big synth noise you know I have an RK Modular I’ve been sampling a lot of, and then working that back into the Tracker.
For those of you who don’t know what a Tracker is, it’s basically a sound sampling organizer. Basically we have samples of all kinds of sounds and instead of a regular program like Ableton or any of those other ones, that move from left to right, it moves from top to the bottom, scrolling through the samples. And that’s the most easy way of putting it.
AM- Any last words?
ST- I can’t think of anything.
JRP- The appropriate people will die.
For more information and tracks, check out Xultur’s Soundcloud.