A Brief History of Gabber

By The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The gallery has been curated by writer and music journalist Holly Dicker.

Gabber was the first truly Dutch style of electronic music. In the Netherlands in the 1990s, gabber wasn’t just a sub-genre of hardcore techno, it was one of the country’s most significant youth culture movements. Throughout the decade both the music and subculture transitioned from the fringes of society into mainstream popular culture. But by the turn of the millennium, the entire scene had collapsed. This multimedia gallery by The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision charts the rise and fall of gabber in the Netherlands, featuring archival TV and rave footage, audio recordings, images from private collections, as well as newly commissioned photos by photographer Kim Pattiruhu. The gallery has been curated by writer and music journalist Holly Dicker.

Mescalinum United - We Have Arrived (1991) by Mescalinum UnitedThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

We Have Arrived
'We Have Arrived' is regarded as the first hardcore track ever made. Written in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1990 by Marc Acardipane, it pioneered a dark and distorted sound that would form the blueprints for hardcore techno. The Dutch would turn these blueprints into gabber.

Lenny Dee by ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Lenny Dee

‘We Have Arrived' might not have made such a global impact, had it not been discovered by accident by Brooklyn DJ Lenny Dee during a visit to Frankfurt. Lenny Dee loved the track so much, he ended up issuing it as a first release on his own record label, Industrial Strength Records, in 1991.

PCP Live (1995) by CommuniqationsThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Planet Core Productions

Marc Acardipane formed Planet Core Productions (PCP) with Thorsten Lambart in 1989. PCP was a label, hardcore techno production outfit, and formidable live act featuring a varied lineup. PCP disbanded in 1996. This video captures the group’s final live performance together in Leipzig in 1995.

ANTENNE______-HRE0001D0A4_73680200_73706840The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Gabberhouse versus Mellow
House music hit Amsterdam in the late summer of 1988. As pop culture journalist for Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Gert van Veen was the movement's main champion. In this clip from a 1993 TV report on house music, by Christian public broadcasters EO, Gert van Veen explains how 'gabberhouse' (or gabber) evolved as the hardest offshoot of house in the Netherlands.

Tunnelfeest (1992) by MultigrooveThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Multigroove

Between July 1991 and April 1992, a group of 20-year-old Amsterdammers, headed by Ilja Reiman, threw a series of illegal raves in squats and warehouses throughout the city. This was the start of Multigroove. Their most (in)famous event was the Tunnel Rave, captured by VPRO's youth culture program Onrust ('Unrest'), which drew 1,500 ravers to an abandoned cycle path underneath the A10 motorway on Saturday March 7, 1992.

Multigroove Flyer Collection (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Warehouse Elementenstraat

After eight months of playing cat and mouse with the police, Multigroove finally settled in an old peanut factory in the industrial west of Amsterdam. Their first event at the new venue, Warehouse Elementenstraat, took place on Saturday 11 April, 1992, with DJs The Prophet and Voodoo Child. One month later, The Prophet and Voodoo Child returned, this time with US musician Abraxas from Fierce Ruling Diva, for Multigroove's first event dedicated to the emerging hardcore techno sound. From this moment on, Warehouse Elementenstraat would become the crucible for gabber in Amsterdam.

The Raid on Multigroove (1993-05) by AT5The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Operation Ponytail

On Saturday May 15, 1993, the police raided Warehouse Elementenstraat as part of an undercover operation, codenamed 'ponytail' because most of the Multigroove crew had long hair. Multigroove were operating without an official license, but the main reason for the raid was drug-related. All the founders and DJs performing that night were arrested. Ilja Reiman was imprisoned for four weeks and slapped with a 1.5 million guilders fine, whilst Warehouse Elementenstraat was forced to close for good. Two years later, Multigroove was resurrected at the Hemkade in Zaandam, now as a fully legitimate operation.

Holy Noise by Paul ElstakThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

DJ Paul and Holy Noise

Rotterdam's 'Godfather of Hardcore', Paul Elstak, started his career as a hip hop DJ in 1987. He was a resident of the Bluetiek-Inn discotheque in Rotterdam when he formed the group Holy Noise with Rob Fabrie and Richard van Naamen. Peter Slaghuis was also involved in the beginning, but quit the group after their first release. Holy Noise scored their biggest hit in 1991 with 'James Brown is Still Alive', a response to L.A. Style's 'James Brown is Dead'.

DJ Rob at Parkzicht by ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

DJ Rob

DJ Rob's career began at Parkzicht, a stately villa-turned-discotheque built in the 1900s under the shadow of Rotterdam's iconic Euromast. DJ Rob was one of the first artists to play vinyl with a drum machine and experiment with a harder techno sound that would become known as gabber.

Parkzicht crowd by ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Parkzicht

From December 1989, DJ Rob had a Friday night residency at Parkzicht. As with Multigroove in Amsterdam, Friday nights at Parkzicht became the hub for gabber in Rotterdam throughout the early '90s.

CLUB PARKZICHT ROTTERDAM, FULL DOCUMENTARY // HOUSE EARLY 90'sThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Remembering Parkzicht

The popularity of Parkzicht grew simultaneously with the gabber craze. In this 2002 TV special for RTV Rijnmond, Paul Elstak and DJ Rob share stories about the club that put Rotterdam (and gabber) on the map. DJ Rob left Parkzicht in 1995. After two shooting incidents the following year, Parkzicht was closed down by the Mayor of Rotterdam. Here, DJ Rob confesses regret over leaving Parkzicht; if he had stayed, maybe the club would still exist.

Parkzicht Mixtape - Underground Rotterdam House Tape 24 (1992) by ParkzichtThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Sound of Parkzicht

DJ Rob, as well as other residents and guest DJs, recorded mixtapes live from Parkzicht, which were sold every fortnight. Due the the popularity of the club, a bootleg industry soon evolved with bouncers selling Parkzicht tapes to punters in the club cloakrooms or the car park. There are hundreds of official (and unofficial) Parkzicht tapes in existence.

A Nightmare in Rotterdam Flyers (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

A Nightmare in Rotterdam

On December 4, 1992, DJ Rob and Paul Elstak organised the first edition of A Nightmare in Rotterdam at Parkzicht. A Nightmare At The Park featured Holy Noise on the bill, as well as other acts from Elstak’s newly minted hardcore/gabber label, Rotterdam Records. Follow up Nightmare editions were held at the Energiehal, a sports and events hall in the northwest of Rotterdam, and drew crowds of up to 15,000.

A Nightmare in Rotterdam shirt (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Nightmare Energiehal 1992-1995The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Energiehal

The Energiehal was considered 'The Temple’ for gabber in Rotterdam. From 1992 until the building was demolished in 1999, it hosted monthly large scale raves, chiefly with a hardcore/gabber soundtrack. The last rave at the Energiehal was held on Queen's Day, April 30, 1999.

Mike Redman as Freddy at the Energiehal (1994) by Mike RedmanThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Horror and Gabber

Rotterdam rapper/MC, special effects artist and filmmaker Mike Redman was hired to dress up as Freddy Krueger at Nightmare raves. Gabber's obsession with horror extended to other rave brands during this period, such as Hellraiser in Amsterdam, featuring Pinhead as its mascot.

Human Resource - Dominator (Live at Rave The City) (1991) by Human ResourceThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Rave The City

Rave The City, and its affiliated label Rave Records, were early adopters of the emerging hardcore/gabber sound in the Netherlands. Based out of The Hague, the first Rave The City event took place on Saturday September 28, 1991, at the Houtrusthallen and was organised by local pirate radio station Radio Stad Den Haag. Follow up editions happened infrequently throughout the decade at sports halls across the country, including The Energiehal in Rotterdam. This video shows Human Resource performing their newly released track ‘Dominator’ live at the first Rave The City. ‘Dominator’ would go on to become a cult rave classic.

Paul Elstak's Studio by Paul ElstakThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Rotterdam Records

In 1992, whilst working at the counter of Rotterdam's Mid-Town Records store, Paul Elstak founded the first Dutch hardcore/gabber label, Rotterdam Records. The infamous 'Amsterdam Waar Lech Dat Dan?' 12'' by Euromasters was its first release, written by Elstak with Holy Noise members Rob Fabrie and Richard van Naamen. Rotterdam Records peddled Rotterdam's early '90s 'straight to the point' style of gabber to the rest of the world.

The Prophet's Studio by Thunderdome Book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Mokum Records

Launched in 1993 by Fred Berkhout, Mokum Records was Amsterdam's answer to Rotterdam Records. In the early '90s it released the 'more experimental' gabber sound of Amsterdam. DJ Dano and The Prophet wrote Mokum's first release under the alias Vitamin.

ANTENNE______-HRE0001D0A4_73811440_73941680The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Harder! Faster!

By 1993 gabber was getting harder and faster. In this TV report from the same year, Dano explains how a record he made a year ago will be 'too slow' to play in a DJ set in a few months' time.

Euromasters (1992) by Kees LiniaThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Amsterdam versus Rotterdam

The intercity rivalry between Amsterdam and Rotterdam can be traced back to the 17th century. The rivalry was played up on the cover of certain Rotterdam Records sleeves, designed by local cartoonist Kees Linia. But the real culprit was football. Even today, Ajax (Amsterdam) and Feyenoord (Rotterdam) supporters are bitter enemies, and as gabber grew more popular it attracted more and more football supporters from both camps.

1995 Gabber documentary (Lola Da Musica) with English subtitlesThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Gabber Culture

Gabber in the '90s was the Netherland's most significant youth culture movement. Gabber culture emerged as the scene exploded, with gabbers all dressing, dancing and acting the same. Being a gabber was fundamentally about unity and belonging to an outsider community.

The Uniform (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Uniform

Gabbers adopted a uniformed look. Gabbers were instantly recognisable, which was part of the appeal. In 1994, photographer Ari Versluis and stylist Ellie Uyttenbroek started a Rotterdam street style project, documenting various subcultures, including gabber. The pair's now iconic tiled headshots of gabbers has been recreated here by photographer Kim Pattiruhu, modelled by Rotterdam gabber collector Bobby Jacques wearing his own collection.

Uniform: Nikes (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Uniform: Nikes

The Nike Air BW, or Big Window, was launched in 1991. As the most comfortable trainer around, it was picked by the gabber scene as the ultimate shoe for raving.

Uniform: Australians (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Uniform: Australians

The sportswear look was adopted by gabbers for practical purposes: to dance and sweat freely in the rave. Sportswear was also worn in reaction to the sleek look of the ‘mellow’ house scene. Brightly coloured Australians from the Italian tennis brand L’Alpina were the tracksuit of choice for gabbers because they were the most exclusive (and expensive) at the time.

Gabber Kapper by ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Uniform: Hair

The gabber hairstyle (bald for the boys; undercuts with ponytails for the girls) was an important part of the gabber uniform. Besides making you physically cooler in the rave, it was a way to prove how hardcore you were.

Gabber DanceThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Uniform: Dance (Hakken)

Hakken (meaning 'chopping' or 'hacking') is a style of dance that evolved exclusively from the gabber scene. Here are some variations on the dance, taken from the 1995 gabber episode of TV series Lola Da Musica, directed by Ari Versluis.

Polaroids by Release book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

ID&T

In 1992, the Netherland's most significant dance music organisation was founded by a trio of 20-year-old school friends. ID&T would go on to produce some of the biggest dance music events in the country, including Thunderdome, the brand that brought gabber music and culture to the masses.

Duncan Stutterheim and Irfan van Ewijk by Thunderdome Book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Thunderdome

The first Thunderdome took place on Saturday 3 October, 1992, at the Thialf ice skating arena in Friesland. The event drew over 30,000 people to this province in the northwest of the Netherlands. For six weeks in the lead up to the rave, ID&T's founders Duncan Stutterheim and Irfan van Ewijk relocated to Friesland, renting a room from an elderly couple in order to daily flyer the area themselves.

Thunderdome (1992) by Sascha VogelaarThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Dreamteam at Home by Thunderdome book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Dreamteam

In 1992, Amsterdam DJs Dano, The Prophet and Buzz Fuzz formed gabber/hardcore's first DJ team, together with Gizmo from The Hague. The Dreamteam would become Thunderdome's flagship act.

DJ Dano (1992) by Michel KlassenThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Dano

Dano started DJing as early as 1984 for pirate radio stations in Amsterdam. He was a resident at the renowned Mazzo club on the Rozengracht when Ilja Reiman invited him to play at Multigroove. Dano loved acid music, which he'd mix with harder techno to form his distinctive sound.

The Dreamteam on Tour (1995) by Thunderdome book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Prophet

The Prophet started out producing hip hop in 1984, turning to hardcore in 1990. The Prophet and Dano regularly played together at Multigroove events at Warehouse Elementenstraat.

Buzz Fuzz by DanoThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Buzz Fuzz

Buzz Fuzz started DJing hip hop and swingbeat in 1987 at the Zorba in Amsterdam. A set by The Prophet inspired him to switch to hardcore.

Gizmo (1995) by DanoThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Gizmo

Gizmo was DJing hip hop at the Roller Disco in The Hague from 1983. By 1989 he was playing house at big clubs throughout the Netherlands, as well as abroad. He was the last member to join The Dreamteam.

Forze DJ Team (1995) by DJ PanicThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Forze DJ Team

In 1994, Paul Elstak set up his own Rotterdam answer to The Dreamteam. The Forze DJ Team originally featured Elstak with DJ Lars and DJ Panic. Darrien Kelly and DJ Neophyte joined later.

Rotterdam Forze Team Shirt (2020) by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Forze Records

Forze Records was launched in 1994 as a sub-label of Rotterdam Records, alongside a clothing line featuring the notorious Forze bear, designed by teenage Dutch graffiti artist Slush (real name Stefan Tijs).

Thunderdome 1993 | Official Live RegistrationThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Thunderdome on Film

Thunderdome 1993 at the Jaarbeurs convention centre in Utrecht was the biggest edition during ID&T's founding years. The event featured The Dreamteam, DJ Rob and Paul Elstak on the bill, as well as New York DJ Joey Beltram and Grooverider from the UK. Thunderdome crucially documented every rave, which were later exported to the rest of the world via DVDs, and nationally on Dutch music show TMF Hakkeehhh.

Thunderdome flyers (1992/1999) by Release book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Thunderdome on Tour

From 1993 on, ID&T organised multiple Thunderdome events. They were held in 'neutral' territories throughout the Netherlands, such as Utrecht and Friesland, in order to avoid the Amsterdam-Rotterdam rivalry. Thunderdome also went on tour, touching down in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France and Spain during its first three years.

Thunderdome CD Collection by Kim PattiruhuThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Sound of Thunderdome

The Thunderdome CD series brought the sound of Thunderdome (and gabber) to the world. The artwork was designed by illustrator and horror enthusiast Victor Feenstra.

DJ Dana (1997) by Thunderdome Book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Dana

Dana started playing hardcore in 1992, at a time when there were very few women DJs in the Netherlands. She's been a Thunderdome mainstay since 1996, and next to The Dreamteam has racked up the most Thunderdome appearances.

The Original Wizard by MODE 2The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Wizard

Thunderdome's iconic Wizard logo began as a mural in Paris by one of Europe’s first generation graffiti writers, MODE 2.

Hardcore Ink by Harcore Ink, Oliver RaychartThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Wizard Tattoo
The Wizard has since become the symbol for hardcore, and tattooed on the skin of hundreds of diehard fans around the world. A registered wizard tattoo guarantees free entry to Thunderdome for life.

The Dreamteam in Sydney (1995) by Thunderdome book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

The Cult of Thunderdome

Thunderdome merchandise and CD sales funded the ID&T empire throughout the '90s. New lines of Thunderdome merch were advertised on the inner sleeves of Thunderdome CDs, like mini catalogues.

Daniel Gouweleeuw (2017) by Thunderdome Book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Super Collector: Elvis Brandt

Today the cult of Thunderdome and gabber culture endures via supercollectors located around the world. Here is Elvis Brandt from Wormerveer in the Netherlands pictured with his prized Thunderdome collection.

João Dias (2013) by Thunderdome Book, ID&TThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Super Collector: João Dias

Here is João Dias from Lisbon in Portugal with his collection of 150 posters, 450 flyers, 150 casette tapes and much, much more. The entire collection has an estimated net worth of more than 100,000 euros.

DJ Paul Elstak - The Promised Land (Official Music Video)The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Happy Hardcore: Rotterdam Records

Happy hardcore, a pop-friendly version of hardcore, hit the Netherlands (via the UK) in 1995. Between 1995 and 1996 Paul Elstak made the switch from gabber to happy hardcore, releasing a series of happy hardcore tracks via Rotterdam Records. Though the music was commercially successful, the move alienated the diehard gabber community that had grown around the label.

Hoe I wanna be a hippy een wereldhit werd (2018) by AT5The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Happy Hardcore: Mokum Records

In 1995 Mokum released ‘I Wanna Be A Hippy’ by British act Technohead, featuring remixes by Flamman & Abraxas and Dano. It was an instant hit, selling 50,000 copies in the Netherlands and topping the charts in several countries around the world. As with Rotterdam Records, Mokum continued to release a mix of underground hardcore/gabber and more commercial hardcore music for the remainder of the ‘90s, including parody acts like Hakkûhbar.

clip 'GABBERTJE' (Ruben van der Meer) van HAKKUHBARThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Gabber Parodies

Hakkûhbar, formed by Bob Fosko, was the first gabber parody act to emerge in the Netherlands. Their track 'Gabbertje' hit the top of the Dutch music charts when it was released in 1996. Many more parody acts followed, who outrightly mocked the music and the culture. It was the beginning of the end of the gabber scene.

Mysteryland Indoor 1997 (1997)The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

TMF Hakkeehhh!!

Gabber peaked in 1996. The same year Dutch music channel TMF launched it's own weekly gabber TV show: TMF Hakkeehhh!! Hosted by Thunderdome MCs Drokz and Da Mouth of Madness, TMF Hakkeehhh!! broadcasted gabber raves, interviews and more to the livingrooms of thousands of gabber fans every Monday nigth from 10PM, becoming one of the channel's most popular shows. Here is Da Mouth of Madness reporting from Mysteryland Indoor in 1997.

Duyvis Gabber commercial by DuyvisThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Gabber Commercials: Duyvis

By the mid-'90s gabber had transitioned from an underground youth culture movement into an exploitable commodity for advertisers. Here's an advert for Duyvis dipsaus.

KitKat commercial by KitKatThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Gabber Commercials: Kit Kat

Even Kit Kat tried to cash in on the gabber craze.

When a gabber dies (1997) by ZemblaThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Media Frenzy

The press were drawn to the excesses of gabber culture. TV and newspaper reports focused on the hooliganism, racially motivated violence and extreme drug-taking associated with the gabber scene. During a New Years Eve rave in 1996 at the Energiehal in Rotterdam, 19-year-old Dennis Goudappel died from a suspected overdose. His story was turned into a 1997 investigative TV documentary by Dutch broadcasters VARA.

DJ Promo by Mirco Kuit, Thunderdome BookThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Collapse and Rebirth

Prolonged negative media profiling, commercial exploitation, parodies and massive overexposure all contributed to the collapse of the gabber scene. By the end of the '90s, gabbers were a national joke and many DJs moved away from gabber into other genres. At this point ID&T issued a series of EPs by DJ Promo showcasing a darker, rawer sound, inspired by Marc Acardipane and early PCP. ‘The Promo Files’ marked the start of a new scene emerging from the ashes of gabber, complete with a new uniform. Dutch hardcore was (re)born.

Credits: Story

Curation, research and text by Holly Dicker.
Thank you to ID&T for providing access to their photo archive, Bobby Jacques for sharing his collection with us, and Kim Pattiruhu for documenting it. Thank you to everyone who provided fresh eyes and feedback and access to their own personal photo collections. Enquiries related to the material used in the exhibit and future collaborations can be directed to: info@beeldengeluid.nl.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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