Kniteforce Records has just unleashed the latest in its seminal remix series almost 20 years after the last instalment. We caught up with label boss Luna-C to find out more.
Back in 2014 I wrote an article about why I felt that '90s Happy Hardcore was about to go through a kind of bidecadal renaissance, citing a series of cultural signposts that had led me to that conclusion. You can read that article here. Two years on I find myself presented with the return of Happy Hardcore's most acclaimed remix series from Luna-C's Kniteforce and Remix Records. The original series spanning from volume 1 to 8 took classic Kniteforce and Remix Records releases and gave them anthemic remix treatment from the biggest and best of the then Happy Hardcore scene. So you can appreciate that when I discovered that the series was returning, my Happy Hardcore barometer went off the scale. This is the label that birthed the careers of Force & Styles, DJ Brisk, DJ Ham... Need I continue? I caught up with Kniteforce Records bossman and general Hardcore legend Luna-C to find out more about the series and his take on modern old-skooled Hardcore.
'90s Happy Hardcore seems to be having a revival. Regularly I seem to be seeing events like 'I Love Happy Hardcore', 'Raindance' and a whole heap of events up north boasting huge back-in-day lineups. People like Slipmatt, Vibes and Billy Bunter seem to be busier than ever Have you felt this increase yourself?
I am aware that things have been on the up and up with old skool Hardcore. But as I live in the USA, I tend not to notice things like the events - I don’t see the flyers etc. I am a little bit isolated from a lot of what goes on, which is my choice as I find it better for me, musically. But maybe a year ago I got asked about repressing some of the back catalogue by my friend DJ Jedi, and when I saw that those releases were doing well, I slowly became aware of a whole old skool music scene that was being ignored by everyone.
Its all new artists such as TNO or Alex Jungle, and new labels like Jedi Recordings, and new radio shows like Glowkids. None of the big Hardcore people are paying it any attention, but it is already a very vibrant scene. And me being me, I was like “I can make this music again? That’s the best news ever and I am in!” lol. I have always made old skool sounding music anyway, but its really exciting to see this happening - new music with that real old skool vibe. Not a new take on it, or a version of it, but actual new old styled Hardcore.
Over the past 10 years almost every underground UK dance genre has had a revival, be it Hardcore, Jungle, UK Garage and Grime. Why do you think it took so long for Happy Hardcore to get a second spin? Or did it never really go away?
The simple answer is that its not cool. Happy Hardcore is one of the only not cool musics there is any more. All the others you have listed can be painted as the “the return of the cool thing” where Happy Hardcore will never be that. The more complex answer is, during tough economic times, people turn to music, and often want to party more rather than mope - they have enough grim events to deal with just getting by each day. So the popular music becomes either rebellious, or fun - Happy Hardcore is both in that it is a fun music, but it rebels against the pre-conscribed idea of what is cool, of what you should be listening to. Its an immature, silly music. Its brilliant like that.
You've always stood separate to the rest of Happy Hardcore, be it though more interesting artwork or music that could stand alone from a "scene". I once heard you say regarding being not asked to be part of the Bonkers series that you didn't think they really understood what you did. Where do you see yourself fitting in to the bigger picture?
That’s a tough question. I think a major part of it is simply the way I am built. I have no interest in what I have just done. And I have no interest in staying still or remaining in any particular box. So I tend to make a piece of music, and where other artists spend time promoting it, I am bored of it by that point and am doing something else. I should say this has probably not been great for my career, but that’s the same as saying my face has not been great for my modelling career - I am what I am. There are things I can change, but I am fundamentally an artist first. This is what I have learned over the years. I am concerned with my art, and everything else - the record label, promotion, my career etc, comes second to that. Often they combine, often my label is my art, or my DJ set is my art. But when I don’t have inspiration for a DJ set, for example, I just don’t play. Or if I don’t want to mix a Bonkers CD if I feel I would have to compromise my art, then I don’t do it. This is not the fault of Bonkers, or DJing, or a fault at all really. Its just not ideal for a stable, ever growing career.
So by default I end up as separate to the scene - I don’t do the things I am supposed to do at the times I am supposed to do them. But as I have always viewed Hardcore as a place for outsiders, I think that is okay. And I accepted it a long time ago – who I am and what the results would be. I could have made much more money and been much more famous if I have have kept walking the same path - either stuck to one sound or decided to just be a DJ or whatever. But I think I would have been unhappy. And what’s the point of that?
The 'Remix Records & Kniteforce Remix's' series are the stuff of Hardocore mythology. Tracks like Brisk's remix of 'Six Days', Slipmatt's remix of 'Take Me Away' and Hixxy & Sharkey's remix of 'Shout Out' are absolutely genre defining. What prompted you to bring the series back?
Well, it was the safest bet. I know that sounds bad, but doing a new Kniteforce vinyl release was a pretty big risk. Most of the music coming out now on vinyl is represses of already tried and tested tunes, or slower hardcore from a slightly earlier era, or darker material. I had no idea if people would buy new old skool Hardcore in the Kniteforce style. I thought they would - I hoped they would. But vinyl is a heavy investment - financially and time wise. So I really felt the best way is to start as strong as possible. Which means, classic old skool Kniteforce artists plus big name remixers. And I had always felt we missed out a few remixers that I would have liked on the series - Scott Brown being a major one. Scott and I have shared a mutual respect for decades - like me, he is sort of an outsider in that he did not, and does not, conform. And sometimes that had backfired and cost him. And like me, he has always had a foot in the main scene, but also the other foot in other scenes. So when he agreed to remix, it was a no brainer.
I have always made old skool sounding music anyway, but its really exciting to see this happening - new music with that real old skool vibe. - Luna-C
Billy Bunter should always have been in the series. He was one of the first DJs I ever heard play out, back in Labrynth all those years ago. That was just right, you know? I have 2 more parts to the series - 11, and 12, and they have 3 proper big old school names on them to round the series up. I also wanted to give new artists a chance to get involved, which is why I did the remix competition, and the quality of the work is stunning. Through that, I have picked up Nicky Allen, Ant To Be, Alex Jungle and other really talented guys that can keep the KF sound moving forward without losing what hardcore should be.
Luna-C's Top 10 Kniteforce Records Releases
1. Jimmy J & Cru-l-t - 'Take Me Away (Slipmatt Remix)'
This pretty much defines, and defined, the Kniteforce sound, and unlike other classics, I am not bored of it, which is rare. There are many versions of it, but Slipmatt's Remix on the remix series is probably the best of them. My favourite is the original version, but that doesn’t mean its the best version!
2. The Timespan - 'Shout Now (Hixxy & Sharkey Remix)'
This is just an incredible remix, far surpassing the original tune, very banging, very exciting, very rave, and I have always loved it.
3. DJ Ham & DJ Poosie - 'Thinkin About U'
This is one of the coolest tracks we ever released - it balances right between Happy Hardcore and Jungle, and does a perfect job.
4. DJ Ham - 'Let Yourself Go'
I just love this track - DJ Ham is phenomenally talented, and this was his peak on Kniteforce in my opinion.
5. Alex Jungle - 'The Need In Me'
This has only just been released, so maybe its too soon to call it a favourite? But its so damn good!
6. XTATX - 'Smashed'
Modern Hardcore as it should be - clever, fun, banging, and beautifully executed.
7. DJ Brisk - 'Airhead (S3RL Remix)'
A modern remix of a KF classic, I love this version so much. S3RL just gets everything right in this version.
8. Belladonnakillz - 'Kill Bella Donna (Original Mix)'
This track transcends Hardcore - its almost punk. Absolutely original, there is nothing else like it at all.
9. The Panacea - 'Love Me' / 'Habibi'
Jungle? Rave? Breakbeat? I don’t know. All of that and more, The Panacea is simply superb, and this is my favourite of his that I have released.
10. Saiyan & Cru-l-t - 'High Da Way (Luna-C Remix)'
I hesitate to put my own work in such a list, but this is maybe the best remix I have ever done, and the original tune is also awesome, so I had to have it!