Interview: Perfect Dark - Still Standing


Hardcore music is something a lot of us Goth types love, don't deny it. No matter what genre of Industrial or electronic you listen to, it's clear that hardcore always find at least some foothold in each one. Be it the drum and bass, trance, and super fast BPM influences or remixes, or the amazing mash ups the like of which Karkasarus play, there's always something very happy about mixing in to hardcore. For change we bring you a different genre than usual, gabber, a type of hardcore with its roots in 1990's Rotterdam.

 

In 2002, Alexander Azzi, otherwise known as the hardcore/gabber electronic act, Perfect Dark dropped a six-song EP titled Here I Stand. It was released by DJ Rob GEE who signed Perfect Dark to a record deal and helped the project break out into the aggressive hard dance scene.


After an indefinite leave and losing touch with his label, Alexander moved onto other things including a venture into the dubstep genre under the name, Drop Goblin which received notable success.


Now, 2022 marks twenty years since the release of "Here I Stand" as an EP and song. Alexander Azzi says, "I thought it would be fitting, two decades later to release a single titled "Still Standing" to mark my re-entry back into the genre of hardcore/gabber music for anyone that remembers me. I haven't truly gone anywhere and I am still standing to this day."

 

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Interview


Q. For those unfamiliar, how would you describe your music, and where does your inspiration come from?


A. To describe my music would be to first describe the overall genre itself. A great way that I can describe Hardcore/Gabber music is Angry Electronic Dance Music. Depending on where you are in the world, you may find yourself in the eye of the storm of a mosh pit at a rave or possibly doing some crazy European style dancing known as “Hakken” dancing. That kind of dancing is a whole different type of story, so I suggest anyone wondering how to “Hakken” to do a Google or YouTube search for that.


The elements of Hardcore/Gabber is a much faster BPM tempo ranging from 160’ish to 200+ depending on the type of hard dance sub-genre you are listening to. My style sits nice at around the 185BPM tempo. Slow enough to feel the ingredients of the music and dance to without fainting from exhaustion, but fast enough to give you an aggressive adrenaline rush where you feel the fast-paced energy.


My music I produce personally includes elements of what’s expected in Hardcore/Gabber music such as dark sinister style synth leads, doom and gloom vocal phrases while moving at a frantic pace from the beat of crushing distorted 4/4 and 3/4 signature kickdrums patterns. Occasionally, I incorporate Hardcore-Metal style elements into my mid-break parts with real guitar breakdowns and Hardcore-Metal style lyrics and gang vocals. Bands like Sheer Terror and BLood for Blood are my main influences on those breakdowns.


As far as genre specific inspiration, I would say the likes of Neophyte, Rotterdam Terror Corps, and Art of Fighters would be some good mentions among many. I feel that my personal synth pattern style comes from Neophyte primarily. They have a very bouncy but scary sound that I am heavily influenced by. I would suggest looking up the song “Skullfuck” from Neophyte (they are also known as Masters of Ceremony) on YouTube to get a good idea of that specific influence.


Q. What is it about hardcore that attracted you to the scene and what are the best parts, and potentially some of the not so good parts of it for you?


A. Coming from a Hardcore-Metal and Punk/Oi! background, discovering and producing aggressive EDM was an absolute requirement. I love that fact that you can take what is generally a “happy” and “feel good” type of music, push it down the stairs into a dark and dirty basement owned by John Wayne Gacey and then kick it around on the floor for a while and suddenly you have Hardcore/Gabber music. I mean, if I put a mental picture in my head, that’s what I see. I might be clinically crazy, I don’t know. Anyway, to me this is what I consider the positive parts of what attracted me to this genre. When I made the decision to focus on electronically programmed music, there really is nothing better.


As far as any not-so-good parts. I really hate to admit it, but the truth is the truth; Hardcore/Gabber is the bastard stepchild of an elephant man like humanoid with acidic diarrhoea. Or in other words, to most people that are into multi genre EDM, they either hate it, or are terrified of it. It’s usually because they were introduced to it in a sloppy way. That bugs me because there are countless amazing Hardcore/Gabber anthems that exist in this world and most first-time listeners are instead presented with noisy crap. Or Hardstyle. (OK I admit I don’t hate Hardstyle, I have a whole playlist of it in my car, but Hardstyle is NOT Hardcore/Gabber)

Anyway, a negative always has a chance at turning into a positive if approached with respect and care. A well-placed turntable needle drop on the second half of Angerfist’s song “Creature” might make quite a few sceptics start nodding their head to the synth lead that hits them and they may change their opinion a bit.


Q. I know the hardcore scene is huge in Europe, what is the scene like over in America and what are some of the best Hardcore events there?


A .The scene in Europe dwarfs the USA Hardcore/gabber scene here. It is dwarfed 10X in comparison. That doesn’t mean it’s not flourishing here, but things are vastly different even if the very same music is played. One big difference is here in the USA, the genre is given a spot at multi genre EDM music festivals and Rave events as its own “room” or “stage”. It’s very rare and only a handful of event promotions create strictly Hardcore/Gabber events. Army of Hardcore USA out in Los Angeles California is the only event promotion I can think of as I am typing this that promotes and offers just this one genre. I am sure there are some others but that’s the only one I can think of right at this very moment. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s though, when I was breaking through, there were more Hardcore/Gabber specific events being put on, but yeah, that has since died down considerably overtime to just a handful now. But hey, mega events like EDC have a Hardcore/Gabber stage so that alone is proof that this style of music still has some American demand.


The scene in Europe however thrives on it. I could list countless event promotions that put or used to put on Hardcore/Gabber specific events, on a yearly basis. Masters of Hardcore being the big daddy of them all, then there is Harmony of Hardcore, Thunderdome, Nightmare in Germany, Defqon.1. The list is endless.


I mentioned in the beginning of the interview about mosh pits in the USA vs. “Hakken” in Europe. There is an obvious difference there as far as dancing style. It’s like night and day. Here in America people use this music to justify punching people in the face in the pit (I'm all for it) but across the pond overseas, the popular “Hakken” dance is seemingly individual but done as a group with vibrancy and positivity.


The one major thing I want to bring up is that while the genre originated mainly in Rotterdam Holland, there are many names that need to be recognized as the pioneers of the sound here in

the USA. Rob GEE from New Jersey being not only one of the pioneers of American Hardcore/Gabber, but of all the DJ’s that have ever played the legendary Limelight nightclub in New York City, he was hailed as THE hardest DJ to ever play there. Other legends of the

American scene would be Lenny Dee, Ron D. Core, Omar Santana, and Delta 9. It was these legends that allowed America to take notice of this crazy aggressive genre of music known as Hardcore/Gabber.


Q. How has your sound and direction changed in the 20 years since your previous release and what direction do you expect to take in the future?


A. I think my mentality in what I want my music to sound like hasn’t changed much. The times have changed obviously and so hasn’t certain sounds and processing of those sounds, but I feel

my core standards in the type of product I put out remains intact from then until now. I will be the first to admit that what Hardcore/Gabber was back then sounds much different now. Back in

the day the synth patterns and other elements drove the track from beginning to end. Today’s Hardcore/Gabber seems more kick-drum prioritized. I hear a lot of music where the kick-drum

takes centre stage as the lead and other elements follow that as just a compliment to the kick. The overall tempo has gotten much faster as well. It’s a little bit too different for my taste but it’s not discouraging me in the slightest of concerns. I have no difficulty respecting the new style of sound while still adding elements of the older era to my workflow.


In the present day, any time I make a synth pattern that is to represent a lead part in one of my songs I realize I now also need to engineer harder and more brighter kicks of the modern. By

doing so I confidently believe that I can give the modern day Hardcore/Gabber fans the current sound they need while blending the energy of the millennium era straight through it. If I had to create a title for what I make I would say “Modern Millennium”. (With some Hardcore-Metal thrown in here and there for good measure)


Q. Do you have any more music in the works, maybe even working towards an album?


A. I have quite a few tracks finished and in line for release. My debut single “Still Standing” was produced after some of these tracks were already finished. I just was very adamant that “Still Standing” had to be the first original to come out under my name since my first release that was ever put out in 2002 was “Here I Stand”. There are two remix’s I did that were released before “Still Standing” in 2021 and early 2022 but since they are my re-imagined versions of other people’s original tracks, I didn’t count those as anything that would take away from the specialness of my debut original.


I don’t think I will put out any albums in this new day and age. We live in a world now where single tracks can travel far quickly and make just as much of an impact as albums used to back in the old days. I figure this gives me a justified reason to put out single releases over a longer period as opposed to blowing my wad too fast buy dumping a whole bunch of tracks at once.

This also allows each individual single release its own chance to shine and not be diluted among other tracks.


Q. Who has been your top three music inspirations of the past, and who are your current top three inspirations or favourite artists?


A. When I need to feel the musical aggression, I put on Sheer Terror or Blood for Blood. They will stand the test of time for as long as Hardcore metal exist.


If I am in the mood for some Hardcore/Gabber I listen to Neophyte. They too will stand the test of time for as long as Hardcore/Gabber exists.


As far as current favorite artists. I am talking about overall favorites, not so much inspiration to

my own music. The top one would be John Denver. Didn’t expect that one, did you? I have been a fan of him my entire adult life. Whenever I am driving or flying to play an event, I have John Denver playing in my ears. Whenever I am done playing an event and going back to the hotel or coming directly home afterwards, I have John Denver playing in my ears. If Hardcore/Gabber represents the “Yin”, then John Denver is the “Yang”. He keeps me sane when throwing myself into the insane.


The other two would be Nightwish and Ghost. I have been listening to Nightwish ever since their formation in 1996. Amazing Power Metal. And lately I have had Ghost playing in my car almost on repeat. Love them or hate them, which I know is a very mixed bag among the masses, I absolutely love what Tobias Forge has created visually and musically is something I have never encountered before.


A few other honorable mentions; King Diamond, GWAR, Alestorm, The O’Reilly’s and the Paddyhats, and Volbeat. These are some of my other bands I enjoy.


Q. Is there a favourite funny or important moment story from your music career you can tell us?


A. Well, just yesterday, when I posted another interview where I mentioned Sheer Terror, they removed the tag I did on them and then the infamous front man of the band Paul Bearer kindly commented “Please stop tagging us with this crap”. Talk about catching me off guard considering I was tagging the band because they were a primary influence of mine ever since the beginning. Anyway, as a knee-jerk reaction I removed the comment, but in hindsight I wish I kept it public. He is a self-proclaimed “professional asshole” after all. Still a great band.


As far as memories of the past, I remember playing a very large music festival called Boo 6 in New York (Randalls Island) in April of 2002 along with Rob GEE, Neophyte, Gizmo, Buzz Fuzz, Omar Santana, among others. Neophyte and I at the time were a live act which means we were playing out our original music elements literally live with computers and keyboards, but because of the logistics of flight travel from Holland, they didn’t have any of their keyboard gear with them to trigger and output music. They were in a situation where they would have had to play off of audio CD’s or something not as flashy. But, by a sheer stroke of luck my gear was compatible with their arrangements so the lead “trigger man” asked if they could use my gear for their performance which I happily allowed. It might not matter to the entire world, but for a

young guy like me at the time who was directly inspired by their Hardcore/Gabber style, it was a very satisfying moment to know that I was able to now help them in their time of need. We went to breakfast the morning after.


Q. Anything you'd like to say to your fans?


A. First and foremost, I want to thank all the fans I have had over the years. Then, now and hopefully as life goes on.


Secondly, here is some deep talk: Sometimes crazy things happen at the most least expected moments. These moments can change your life’s trajectory. If that trajectory goes in a direction that you feel in your heart will impact your life in a positive way, then go with the flow like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream. Don’t force a thing. And when you find yourself at the starting line of that new adventure for yourself, sprint out of the gate fast and hard and don’t let anyone slow you down for any fucking reason.


Thank you for your time!

 

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