Axel Rator: “And then there was house”

Axel Rator 2016
Axel Rator has an incredibly vivid memory of the early years of house music. In 2017 he offered an intimate view into the history of dance that exceeds his original debut story.

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

In 2017 the story of Axel Rator was revealed. "Some people gave Paul Elstak and me the title 'pioneer of the hardcore gabber scene'."

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'The butcher was our ride to gigs'

“When I was younger, I always had to grin when I heard older people talk about ‘the old days’. And still, it’s a rather weird idea that things used to be different. Every generation knows its own music, a complete scene of painters, poets, writers, philosophers, musicians, typical instruments and of course drugs.” 

The eighties

“In the 80s I used to listen to the radio a lot. Renowned DJs as Ferry Maat, one of some notorious radio-pirates on boats just of the Dutch shore, fatigued us all day. Constantly you would hear Doe Maar, Drukwerk, Benny Nijman and so on. At night the same dull DJs played their so-called drive-in-shows in so-called super discos where again you would hear the same Top 40 music. People stood around bored, hoping to find someone to hook up with. But those people were just as boring. I truly hate the last years of the 80s!”

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“And then there was house! Of course it didn’t present itself at a birthday party with wish-wash and a cookie. No, house entered as the punker from The Young Ones, with door and all.”

Bloody noise

“With the arrival of house in 1986, the critics were clear in their opinions: house was bloody noise, a harbinger of the end of times. Record companies that usually begrudged each other everything, were suddenly united: this was unacceptable! Even the church got involved and called house music blasphemy. People would get negatively influenced by the low tones that were an assault on common sense. This type of bizar, unfounded information filled the newspapers every single day. Fortunately, also people like Gert van Veen exist.”

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Fierce Ruling Diva

“Clubs and other legitimate venues were afraid to burn their fingers on house-parties. Despite this, somewhere in 1989, I received an invitation by Jeroen Flamman (Fierce Ruling Diva) to visit his party Subtopia, somewhere in the middle of the night at a dubious spot. Later, Jeroen made waves with The Party Animals.”

Dubious spot

“That dubious spot was in fact Pier 14, behind the Amsterdam Central Station. It was revolting, a total rust-bucket of a ship. When you danced, the water from the hold flew around your ears. In short: it was amazing! The speakers were turned on loud – as loud as they could be. Big absentee was a light show. We had to settle for a couple of lights, smoke and a stroboscope.”

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“I had been producing a lot of synthesizer music for years, in my attic room at home. By now I was bursting of inspiration. So I had started, mostly for myself, to produce house music. Jeroen liked it and offered to be my editor. The recording studio was Mike Le Roy in the Kerkstraat in Amsterdam, where real men with priceless mixers recorded my music. Soon I released my first record: XLR8 on Subtopia #1 on the Lower East Side record label.”

First gig

“My very first gig took place in 1992 in club Mazzo on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam. I was 23. First Jeroen Flamman and Dano played and after them we went live as warming-up for Eddy Flashing Fowlkes. I wasn’t really nervous. With years of keyboard-experience and often on my synthesizers guided by heavy metal guitarist Stef A.L.F. – who had adopted house as well – we bashed our tracks high speed into the club.”

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Crazy woman

“Because that first gig was actually an album presentation, we only played music from my first record. Also, we had spotted a cross-over of a mega-creative yet completely crazy woman, Inge von Jefferstein. She was pimping the show in her own particular way. It was crazy, totally idiotic, but above all: fabulous!”


“The audience existed of guys with very long hair, long Waterlooplein-hippie-house-pants and girls in tracksuits. The age varied from thirteen till aged über-hippies with beards and Indian hats with small mirrors, who had just started their second or third youth. We were all connected by our common love for this new music. Mind-blowing pills may have played a roll in this scene, but it was quite different from the former era, when people solely used uplifting drugs to become jolly and expel the boring 80s.”

Club Escape

“After this gig, we receiver new requests for live performances every day. One of those gigs took me to the Escape at the Rembrandtplein in Amsterdam. Here we had the first house party in a mainstream Amsterdam clu, with also on the line-up N Joy, a top-act from the UK. Until that point other clubs were still hesitant to welcome house.”

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Bloody butcher's coat

“Many people remember my XLR8 performance at the illustrious Multigroove New Year’s Eve party. We played in a squatted warehouse at the Duivendrechtse Kade in Amsterdam. The guitarist with whom I produced, is a butcher’s son. His father, the butcher, often took us to gigs. As he did this time. Of course we had no cell phones or navigation systems, so if you weren’t familiar with the exact location, it was rather hard to find. 

Finally, we arrived at the spot. The Hell’s Angel’s types that guarded the door, opened it immediately when they say the butcher approaching, wearing a bloody butcher’s coat and a huge carving knife in his pocket, hehehe.”

Great gear

“By then we had a – for those days – pretty big set-up for our gigs: a Roland sampler W-30, Juno 106, drum computers, an old Atari with Steinberg Cubase, Moog Liberation, TB 303, TR 606 and a lot more great gear.”


“An incredible amount of people showed up at this New Year’s Eve’s party! Certainly for those days. The moisture dripped of the glass blinds in the ceiling. How many attendees? Ten thousand? Fifteen thousand? I suspect that organizers Henk and Ilja had no clue until they started counting. There were no sound limits and no-one measured the decibels. So it was loud. Incredibly loud. There I was, wearing jeans shorts, a tanktop and a vague plastic heart around my neck. For those days the line-up was mad: Neuv, Monde, Dano, The Prophet and Lady Dames, to name a few.”

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Pioneer of hardcore

“After The Netherlands, Europe followed. First I went on a tour to the United Kingdom, that took me from Bristol to Leeds and back. Also, I went to Belgium and Italy and I played in Planet E. in Switzerland. In Vienna, Austria, organizer Prudil held parties in squatted metro stations. How cool was that?! Over there, my act contained a Japanese geisha tea ceremony, that seamlessly evolved into self-mutilation, after which the fake blood (sugar water) splattered around. The Viennese spoke shame of it in Vienna, and I loved it. With all that traveling, I sometimes forgot in what country I was. Some people gave Paul Elstak and me the title ‘pioneer of the hardcore gabber scene’. DJ Lenny D. of Industrial Strength (New York) and myself shared a reputation for the hardest shows in the early 90s.”

Faultless feeling for music

“I have a very educated feeling for good music. Out of thousands of records, I faultlessly will pick out those that will score. I used to work as a DJ-booker for the organizers of HellRaiser, Immortality, Digital Overdose, Multigroove and Fun Factory, among others. I was the first to bring a whole bunch of golden artists to the Netherlands. People like Jeff Mills, Robert Hood/Underground Resistance and Ken Ishii. One day, in an obscure record shop I stumbled onto one of Ken’s records. After hearing it, I moved heaven and earth to book Ken. It took 6500 guilders and a trip of 24 hours from Tokio to get it done. And it was awesome!”

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“In 2011 I celebrated my 20-year anniversary as XLR8 with two albums, of course released by the label of my first record: Lower East Side. I’m still going strong. In 2012 and 2013 I released a lot of music on the Zimmerman Label of Tanzman and Fraulein Z. I’m known for the fuming and fretting tunes that you might qualify as raw techno/electro till Tanzmetal and minmal techno/electro. Recently I recorded a classical music track with opera-singer Martina Prins, Martin Duvall and the Dudok Quartet. Besides that, I’m working on new projects with the Spanish David Meiser and German producers.”

“We had some rough days. I’ve had so many experiences, good times and bad. Now, In 2015, I’m father of a daughter, Kiara Vesper. Older and hopefully wiser.”

Spencer Vos produces under the names: Axel Rator, Axel E Rator, XLR-8, Spencer, Boris Rechnyf en The Mad Accelerat.

This interview with Axel Rator was originally published on February 21st 2015 on

Who is Axel Rator?

Axel Rator started his music carreer in the underground clubs of Amsterdam in the late 1980’s. Produced by Jeroen Flamman in 1990 the first Subtopia Record came out as one of the first House albums of Holland. Since then having toured the world twice 30 years have gone by.

Axel Rator is the Dutch founder of Euro dance music. Axel Rator has been in de music business for over three decades. He’s also the founder of the first Dutch Dance Agency DDA and co-organizer of the best rave’s of the world: Hellraiser, Immortality by Cosmos Government.

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