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martin damm: biochip c, subsonic 808 & steel

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(taken without permission from dark angel #19 (1995). interview by andrez, typed in by michal lehmann. (thanks michal!)

Biochip C

Martin Damm is responsible for an multitude of projects involved in the production of a broad range of exprimental electronic music. As well as his own labels Anodyne, Shockwave and Ozon, he produces music under various distinct guises. While Martin's best known pseudonym is as Biochip C, he also moonlights with happy hardcore mania as Search & Destroy, DJ Fistfuck and The Speedfreak and dabbles with the chilled-out journeys of Braindub, right on through the spectrum to acidic experimentation with R.I.C. and Psychic Parasite and the more house-oriented Subsonic 808. With a continuing flood of products under all these guises in the form of vinyl and CD compilations as far afield as Mokum's "Terrordrome" series and Force Inc's "Rauschen" collection, Martin more recently produced "Inside (Chapter 2)" as Biochip C and has now released a full length album under the Search & Destroy moniker called "Music For Happ-E Parties"...
Martin's first reaction when confronted with an interview is to differentiate himself and his own personal state of mind from the broad range of music he produces under more than seven alternative guises. "It's obvious that Search & Destroy, The Speedfreak and Biochip C are the same person, but the other stuff like Braindub and R.I.C. are more ambient listening music. So it's okay for me that some people know it's all the same person, but I don't want all people to know", he asserts.
Andrez: In some circles so many different identites would lead people to suspect a form of schizophrenia...
Martin: (laughs) Oh yeah!
Andrez: Is this the case, or is it more that you would prefer to be known as a kind of musical chameleon rather than the person behind the music?
Martin: Yeah, but it's not in my mind - I don't have such a clear plan. There are several projects which are a special concept, but you see when I work in the studio I just do what I want to do, and sometimes what comes out at the end is different from what I initially planned! There are different styles in my music, just as I listen to different styles of music.
Andrez: Yeah, there are huge differences say between what you are doing as The Speedfreak compared with what you are doing as Biochip C - when you go into the studio to create music, do you specifically set yourself within certain perimeters, say as Speedfreak music or Biochip C music, or do you prefer to free-range and see where you go from there?
Martin: Yeah, you know if I want to do Biochip C now, for example, I have a certain style and I have some limits that I won't cross with that concept; I won't get too hard and I won't get too ambient, and of course I won't get too trancy, because all trancers are my enemies! (we both laugh). Let's put it this way: I want to do different things but in no way will I do trance stuff. In Germany over the past three years, trance has been so popular that some tracks have even made it into the charts. That's something that I really do not want to do at all; I want to stay underground and just do my thing.
Andrez: How do you find the differences between say the harder acid stuff with Biochip C and the happy hardcore you are doing as Search & Destroy and The Speedfreak? Do you think that in some bizarre way they complement each other, or do both styles offer you the chance to express yourself in different ways?
Martin: Yeah, well of course they are both totally different styles and it depends on the mood I'm in on the particular day. It's very personal what style I wish to do, you know.
Andrez: Well, your music has been released as far afield as "Fucking Hardcore" on the Mokum label and Force Inc's "Rauschen" seriesof compilations. Which do you feel you would prefer to listen to - the happy hardcore or the experimental harder acid stuff?
Martin: Well, I have some problems with the happy hardcore thing because, okay, I made that kind of music and I still do with Search & Destroy, but I don't like what is happening in Holland these days. All the famous DJs like Charley Lownoise and Mental Theo just have an eye on the charts and produce to get into the charts - not to produce something for the underground. They just have dollar signs in their eyes and want to produce for charts to earn the money. So labels like Rotterdam are getting so commercial that, even as a DJ myself, I cannot play these records anymore. They have no credibility. They are a little faster than pop music but there is no heart and no sense of the underground; there's nothing at all. And so I do this Search & Destroy project as a reaction to this. If they say, okay, we want to be commercial, then I make a very, very, silly and very funny Search & Destroy record in a way that shows people that this shouldn't be taken seriously; it's a way of poking fun at people. I don't know if it comes across clearly...
Andrez: Yeah, it does definitely in "Music for Happ-E Parties". I really think it's quite amusing and I liked it.
Martin: Oh good. Well, The Speedfreak is now more analogue and more dark; these's a new double-vinyl coming out in autumn which I have to produce right now, except it's too hot. I don't know if you've heard but it's very hot here!
Andrez: Yeah, I did hear that from this guy Jozef, who runs Nova Zembla records in Belgium - he said it was roasting over there. It's only two degrees here - it's freezing!
Martin: (laughs with disbelief) That's okay for working - I cannot work with my instruments in the heat because they also get hot, and last year in summer some of my equipment broke down because of the heat.
Andrez: Oh god!
Martin: I cannot afford to buy new instruments every year. So I tend to work more with graphics than the computer at this time of the year - I have also my own labels. One is called Shockwave Recordings, which deals more with the not-so-serious hardcore - we have all the hardcore DJs like Lenny Dee and lots of others. Do you know the guys from Nasenbluten in Australia?
Andrez: Yeah, yeah I've spoken to Mark from Nasenbluten quite a bit.
Martin: Yeah, because they want to do something for Shockwave as well!
Andrez: What do you think of their stuff?
Martin: I've heard the first Industrial Strength release and I liked that, but they recently sent me a tape that I liked very much.
Andrez: Was it "We've Got The Balls"?
Martin: Yeah, that's it.
Andrez: Yeah, there's a track on that called "Crops" which I really like - very interesting breakbeatish weird stuff.
Martin: I like what they're doing... (he muses)
Andrez: And your other labels?
Martin: Well, there's Napalm which is the weirdest thing we've ever released, very hard and different! There's also Ozon, and as Biochip C I have my own label Anodyne, which is more for acid stuff. There will be some releases by Freddy Fresh.
Andrez: What current directions have affected your music apart from what you mentioned about your reaction to what's happening in Holland?
Martin: Well, with Search & Destroy I'm getting sillier to show people exactly how silly it already is over in Holland. With my own labels and as the Speedfreak is that I'm getting harder and faster again - doing the opposite to the producers in Holland. We still believe in the underground and it's very important to us, so we would never work together with a major label. We have our own labels and and independent distributor so that we can continue to do our own thing. If people like what we do then they'll buy what we make whether we're on a major label or not. If Holland is not hard anymore, then we have to become the hardest guys. It's okay to have a hard underground sound when everything gets commercial, but someone has to do it. (he laughs)
Andrez: In Germany, what's the electronic scene like at the moment - are you happy with the way it's developing?
Martin: Well, for two years now I haven't been interested in anything that's going on here. There's that hard trance thing, the typical Harthouse style, and it's such boring bullshit! So i've never had one eye on what's going down in Germany; I just did my thing with the underground acid with Biochip C, and my speedcore of course. At the moment most of the DJs are bored with the hard trance stuff, and now they play Chicago house which has become very popular in Germany in all the clubs. Subsonic 808 is my more housy project. When I DJ I don't play house; when I DJ I just play hard industrial stuff at the moment, without heavy melodies or things like that. Really hard acid stuff is like stuff released on Drop Bass Network or Napalm, which is very similar. Strange music. I actually DJ under the name Speedfreak.
Andrez: Of the current crop of other German artists such as Walker and Thomas Heckmann and Mike Ink, are any of them influences on what you're doing?
Martin: I can surely say that my style hasn't been influenced by Mike Ink or Walker because when I began producing acid I didn't know anything else was going on in Germany. I then worked together with Walker, of course his labels like DJungle Fever and MonoTone, and that was an interesting experience! (he chuckles). But I've never actually produced anything together with him and I've always worked in my own studio - which really wasn't a studio; more like a bedroom!
Andrez: So what was the first musical instrument you played with?
Martin: It was a piano.
Andrez: And how old were you?
Martin: I was four.
Andrez: Four?!
Martin: Yeah, that was my parents' fault - they wanted to have a child playing piano! (he laughs). And imagine or not but here in this city there's a church where I played the organ on Sundays for two years!
Andrez: Ahh, little did they suspect...
Martin: Exactly! I don't tell this story very much, but it's part of my musical development. I stopped playing piano at about ten or eleven years, because with pianos you can only play piano tunes for sure, and I didn't like that... When I was eighteen I bought a sampler.
Andrez: And how old are you now?
Martin: Twenty-six.
Andrez: So you've been producing music for about eight years?
Martin: I started producing records in 1990. I've released 120 things since then!
Andrez: And under how many different project names?
Martin: I can't tell you, because I started with a totally different techno sound which isn't particularly relevant now, so no, I'm not happy to tell that - it's not what I would like to do! [he laughs].
Andrez: Are there any noticeable differences between what things were like when you started and what it's like now?
Martin: It's strange, because when I started we sold more copies of each record than we do now, because there were not so many labels and it was easier to sell more. But that's okay - it's better now.
Andrez: Yeah, well down here in Melbourne the scene's really small - as an independent label, if we sell 200 releases then we're happy about it!
Martin: Ah-hah!
Andrez: That's where licensing overseas, especially in Europe, comes in. We seem to do better over there than back here because I mean there's not enough people in Australia to support the scene itself by itself.
Martin: Yeah, that what the guy from Nasenbluten told me - that when there's a small party it's really a small party!
Andrez: Yep, that can be the case...
Martin: But that's okay. I've also played in Hamburg and there were 250 people but it was a good crowd, and they danced and screamed and shouted, and that's better than having 5000 people sitting around.

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...enough with the overtly symbolic Cs, okay...?

If someone other than me has written an article, I'll be sure to include a byline at the bottom. OK? Good. Now... who am I again?