Q&A: Adam X On Being Known As A Producer Instead Of A DJ, The Importance Of Mixing It Up, And Berlin's Energy
To go back to the beginning a bit, what kind of music were you playing as a DJ during the early STORM Raves?
We were playing a mixture: the British stuff, because in the beginning, in '90, when I first got into it, I was really always into the Sheffield sound, the Warp stuff, bass and beeps. Warp wasn't the only label doing it. There was Network, Chill Records, Ozone: There was a handful of labels that were making this kind of bleepy techno. I always loved that stuff, but at the same time I loved the Belgian shit, the hard beat Frank De Wulf, R&S stuff. So we mixed it all together. But we also played the London stuff. My brother is the pioneer of the breakbeats for techno, [which is] of course a lot of the precursor to drum and bass, or all that U.K. hardcore stuff. We used to play a lot of that as well.
You're well known for playing hard acid and very rough techno. Did you ever play gabber, like Lenny Dee?
No. I could play it. Did I ever drop a gabber record in my set? Yeah. But no, I could never consider myself a gabber DJ. I played hardcore. I play hardcore acid. I always said I play harder than gabber. I could play a 160 BPM, most distorted acid track where everything's just fucking rhythmic fucking noise, techno acid shit, [laughs] the darkest, evillest shit. What I played at a party, after all that shit, heads would be getting melted. [laughs]
Even though the warehouse scene died in '94, the [New York techno] scene got really fucking good. It got better because it got these guys and this kind of professional level of working. They could pay a decent fee to DJs and they were down to bring in really good talent from Europe or from the States. There was a lot of really great parties in that period. I think from the point from the [beginning of the] '90s to, I'd say, '98 techno was fucking amazing in New York.
Did it stop being amazing generally, or just for you?
For the sceneI think for everything, actually. It was so strong, the techno thing. The amount of records [Sonic Groove was] selling was crazy, man. Christian Vogel came out in '95 with Absolute Time; I think we sold 200 copies of the double-pack. It was a great, great period. That '95-'96-'97 period was some of the best techno, real techno. You could still play that shit now, a lot of that stuff is still good: early Surgeon, Regis, Christian Vogel. I hear people when I'm in Berlin, people playing these tracks out all of the time, still. I just heard Regis the other night at Tresor. Beltram was coming out with Places on Tresor. And Pulsegrind on JB3there was so much good stuff that's timeless.
By '98-'99, you had the problems with the rave scene with the cracking down. You had a problem with techno. The market was flooded with all this loop techno stuff that was all sounding redundant. All these companies in England like Integral and Prime. All these distribution companies that were doing all these pressing-and-distribution deals with labels. They were just over-flooding the market with these fucking basic loop tracks. It was nothing more than a loop. I felt like the whole scene was just crashing: Musically, the people, the interest in people going out. As 2000 came, things started going more into different things, like electroclash.
There was a real backlash against techno right then.
I was so bored of it, man. I was looking for something new. Me and my brother were always going out secondhand-record shopping, around the tri-state areaPennsylvania, Connecticutbecause we did big business for the second hand records in the shop. We had the best collection of classics, and by getting them, you'd have to drive over to the ghetto neighborhoods in Philly for classic disco records. We were always doing crazy missions. So I just got more into secondhand collecting and was getting into Italodisco. I wanted something new. It didn't have to be totally new in sound. It just had to be something that you weren't already doing.
Is that what led you back to EBM?
That's what it was. I got into the Italo thing. I know a lot of these records from when I was kid. But the other records it was like, "This is great! These bass lines!" Then all of a sudden you listen to them, it's all this cheesy shit: "Aw, fuck, it just killed the whole record."
And then the EBM just camea Clock DVA record just changed my game. It introduced me to another scene. With EBM and industrial music, there's as many different elements like techno. It has as many different subgenres in it. And then this girl that I knew was playing this rhythmic noise stuff, which was new at the timethis new form of industrial for the last 15 yearsand it's techno. It's like Aphex Twin stuff in the early 90's, but more industrial. I found the niche that I was looking for, while everybody was doing their minimal thing. I was even trying to break some of this music in the techno scene. Now it works! [laughs] It only took 10 years.