THIS DUTCHMAN SINGLE-HANDEDLY WROTE A CHUNK OF DANCE HISTORY IN A CAREER SPANNING ABOUT THREE DECADES. HIS HARDCORE PEDIGREE SPEAKS VOLUMES BUT ALSO AS A TECHNO PRODUCER – OPERATING AS RUFFNECK PRIME – HE IS STILL AS RELEVANT AS EVER BEFORE. HIS REMIX OF ESTHER DUIJN’S “DANW OF THE LAST ERA” IS OUT NOWON COINCIDENCE AND IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF HIS RELENTLESS RAW TECHNO SOUND. MEET OUR FRIEND AND MY PERSONAL HERO: PATRICK VAN KERCKHOVEN.
You’ve been around for ages. Do you have any idea how many releases you’ve done so far?
Uhm to be honest…No. I believe someone counted most of my tracks and that is somewhere around 700 or something (laughs).
Stepping back in time: you founded a bunch of labels as well over the years. How was it to start a label in the early days?
Well, back in the time when I started there basically was NOTHING. We had to pave the way for future generations, which unfortunately also meant that a lot of us had no idea how the business side of things worked as there basically was no reference. Internet was in 1989 not a thing you could use to find out about these things either. On top of that, there was not really such a thing as a music community as we know it today so it meant you where truly on your own having to deal with a bigger record company who where much different at the time as well.
Try to picture this: Me arriving with a DAT tape with a very early “house” (We called everything (techno) house in the beginning sort of….) tune at a company, who normally would release stuff by the Pointer Sisters and Michael Jackson etc…..can you imagine how weird that must have been for both parties?
I was lucky enough to talk with an A&R manager who liked what I was doing and was interested in more obscure music besides the regular, so we ended up talking about the plans for an underground label. I called it house music…he called my music “cult” music as the term house for some reason did not really fly with him. I was ok with it as for me the only thing that mattered was getting my music released on that holy black vinyl 🙂
The sales in comparison to the big artists of course where nothing in comparison, but big enough to continue the label I was running at that time called 80AUM records (yes the label which also originally released the all-time “dominator” by human resource classic)…
After my 80AUM adventure I moved on to my second label which released just a few vinyls before I finally started my Ruffneck records Label which is pretty well known I believe.
In short…It was not an easy thing to start in 1989, but fast forward to 2019…I guess I pulled it off pretty well 🙂
As if it’s not enough to keep track of releases, labels and DJ gigs, you also have produced under lots of different names. Why, Patrick, why?
Well…as said…back in the days there was not a scene like we know it today so in order to make it appear bigger than it actually was we pretended that there where a LOT of people doing this new craze. Not only me, but also several other big artists who are still around did the same thing. Think for instance about Richie Hawtin, Joey Beltram, my old friend Jochem Paap, better known as Speedy J., my German buddy Marc Acardipane, the Belgian crew I toured with who go by the name of Nicky and Maurice known for instances as Channel X (who are also Lords of acid, Praga Khan, Digital orgasm etc etc).
I can name a lot of others from that time who did the same. To make it seem bigger than it actually was before it became big.
This is a big reason PLUS (and in a lot of cases) ALSO because as an artist we just find that certain tracks are not suited for the same artist names as it just “feels” like a different vibe for us, thus also needs an own identity to go with it.
Nowadays I try to stick with either Ruffneck (hardcore) or Ruffneck Prime (Hard / Industrial / Acid / Whatever – TECHNO / ELECTRONIC music).
What track are you most proud of as a producer, what’s your favourite track of all?
Out of 700 tracks spread out over a LOT of different genres that is an impossible question to answer (laughs).
Produced as Ruffneck (Hardcore): As far as Original Hardcore goes I would say : Evolution Theory from before 2000, The death below and Massive from my latest album in the original hardcore style and My balls and my word which is a record that will be released in September 2019.
As for millennium hardcore I would say : SO many sacrifices.
Produced as Ruffneck Prime (Hard Techno):
My favourite two are Motion Sickness and Void Capacitor Who can be found on my second release on Absolete records.
Also the string part and the entire vibe in Sign of the 13th Pyramid (played at Boiler Room by the mighty SNTS) is worth mentioning for myself.
So you see, the question is way to complex to simply null it down to one track, and even this little explanation doesn’t really do my entire discography much justice. I could give an entire interview about most of the tracks AND the stories behind it, but maybe that’s a nice topic for something else some day 🙂
Your career spans roughly three decades. What keeps you going?
My desire to tell my stories. Just like a good rapper tells his stories via his lyrics, I use my music to express my emotions and tell what is going on in my world. You just need to read between the lines much more as it is not as easy as looking at lyrics like in regular vocal music obviously.
However, I guess I simply feel like I have to create….In my case it means creating music as a way of leaving being my legacy.
That and I simply LOVE it when I’m in the studio fiddling round and all of a sudden something forms that touches my soul. Nothing makes an artist more happy than that ONE fat riff or sound or drop…or that one well placed sound that nobody else notices but took you hours to place it correctly (laughs).
I guess good artists are a bit “different” and just feel the need to keep on riding the high of a good sonic orgasm in a way. As long as I still leave the studio excited about something I just made for myself happy as a child in a candy store I will continue (so be prepared for a long ride still).
You are of course most known as a Hardcore DJ but you are now also producing and DJing as Ruffneck Prime. What’s that about?
As I got less and less interested in the nowadays sound of the direction hardcore was going, especially the extreme fast stuff, I found myself in need of the old feeling I got from when I just started in 1989. At that time I used to hang with Jochem Paap, Gijs Vroom etc so my background comes from the Detroit techno scene. They went completely into the techno scene whereas I went into the hardcore direction. However we stem from the same background.
However, as said in the last few years, my interest into the direction hardcore was going just got less and less and so I decided to return to my original roots. I created an entire album making the early hardcore sound as I did in 1993 and released it on 4 vinyls which all sold out in one day each.
HOWEVER, at the same time I was doing this, I also worked on an album that I created without wanting to conform to anything or anyone. I basically sat down and created music I wanted to make PURELY for myself in a more electronic kind of way. This was at the beginning of 2016. The songs turned out to be very techno orientated and not hardcore at all. I already listen to techno ever since the very beginning but sort of stopped it a bit during the very minimal period techno went trough. For me this was just not my thing. So, here I was making this more obscure music which made me curious to what kind of direction techno was heading at that time as well, so I picked it up a bit and stumbled upon some very interesting artists like AND, Remco Beekwilder, Headless Horsemen, Ancient methods, Rebekah, Dax J,… All of a sudden I recognised the excitement I had when I was making music in 1989 again! Finally techno seemed to once again go into the direction which I refer to as the old “awakenings train techno” . This means for me techno with a really nice drive, dark, raw and with that – tjsikkatsjikkatsjikka feeling hahahah (maybe sounds weird but for me it makes sense). Pumping and buzzing!
This made me decide to pick this up on a more global scale. I decided it was time to step out of the shadow and into the light with this. I did not have to be afraid anymore that MAYBE I was going in too hard as some of the big names out there dropped tunes that made me go like “dayum son…that’s pretty rough and sounds almost like my begin period hardcore!”. Tunes like “LSD” by Remko Beekwilder and the entire album by AnD – Cosmic Microwave Background (2014) and the works by Björn Torwellen have been reasons why I felt it was time for me to make my Ruffneck Prime project a very serious business. I simply feel like this is what I have passion for and what I wish to do right now. It feels..Right.
So far I am already in contact with quite a few big names who surprisingly where influenced by MY OLD music which got them onto the techno scene. Quite hilarious if you come to think of it as I had NO idea to have been of such importance to some of the top names out there hahaha. I was also pleasantly surprised by the support from the techno scene and the kindness of a lot of the DJ’s and Producers which only fortified my resolve to pursue this new adventure. A LOT of things work very differently in this scene which is like a fresh breath of air to me and I truly love all of it so far. I have played at a few events already and those where quite successful. Obviously it takes time for organisations and events to be noticed but since people like SNTS, Remko Beekwilder, Esther Dune, Clouds, Psytox etc already spin my music and support me I guess it’s just a matter of patience.
Also the fact that the first record on my Absolute label sold out on vinyl and is now in the process of repressing with the new vinyl coming out on august the 30th, a remix I made for Esther Dune on coincidence records, some releases on several other labels who asked me, and some more remix work requests while being busy with new material is quite an indication that it is most definitely going in the right direction 😉
In the future a few collaborations between me as Ruffneck Prime and some big names have been planned already which is pretty exciting for me as well. To top this off without exposing the name, there are negotiations going on for a gig at a pretty BIG festival who have turned their eyes towards me. So right now there’s quite a LOT going on around the whole Prime project.
The Ruffneck Prime tracks are – to me – on that fine edge between the industrial mayhem of Paula Temple, Noneoftheabove or I Hate Models, but with almost a Hardcore aesthetic. What are your main influences?
I think I basically answered this question in the previous one, but my main influences as producers in this genre are most DEFINITELY: AnD, Remko Beekwilder, Headless Horseman, Ancient Methods, Dax J, Perc, Scalameriya, Anfs, Ansome, Paula Temple and Björn Torwellen. If you listen to those fine artists and mix that up with my past and desire for dark rolling music and interesting soundscapes you basically automatically end up with the essence of what (Ruffneck) Prime is 🙂
What attracts you most in the Techno and Hardcore scenes?
For hardcore its the sheer energy and the undying relentless support by my followers. They have my utmost respect as they have supported me for over 25 years (Some of them even since I started in 1989!) so I will never forget about them. They where also besides my own desire to return to my original roots which made me create and restart the whole early hardcore sound once again (or as I prefer to call it “ ORIGINAL hardcore”, as that’s what it is.)
In techno I simply LOVE the freedom as a producer and as a DJ as you basically have NO rules or boundaries as what you can do! The variety in this genre is simply MIND BLOWING and as far as I can tell the most diverse out of any musical genre.
Techno(house) for me stands at the base of everything we know so far. The possibilities are simply endless. As far as the entire vibe backstage with DJ’s and artists I truly feel very welcome and have had nothing but very positive reactions and nice conversations with everyone involved. It feels pretty relaxed and open.
You’re playing in Ghent at Rave Alert XL. What can people expect?
Well…to be honest I’m still not quite sure as basically ALL acts who spin before me are playing techno as far as I know, but I have been asked to drop more hardcore….
I have been scratching myself behind my ears with this question as well so in all honesty…I STILL don’t truly know how I am going to handle this as I also truly would love to drop techno as well. I guess we’ll find out the moment I am behind the wheels of plastic (laughs).
Find Ruffneck Prime on Facebook.
Ruffneck Prime’s latest release on Absolete is available on Bandcamp.