The greatest hardcore artist on this planet must be Danny Masseling, better known by his alias Angerfist. Hitting the scene in 2001. with his first EP “Criminally Insane” for Overload Records, he managed to capture the audience quite instantly, employing a characteristic, innovative approach to production. One could easily recognize his sound by the unusually hard kicks and vocal samples from various obscure horror and thriller movies. This success was followed by powerful hits like “Dance With The Wolves“, “Raise Your Fist” and “Riotstarter“, while in 2005. he composed the Masters Of Hardcore hymn “The World Will Shiver”.
In the years that followed, fame just continued growing. With the infamous hockey mask that resembles Jason from “Friday the 13th” and the hooded sweatshirt he developed a mythological figure that hypnotizes the masses on big events such as Masters Of Hardcore, Thunderdome, Defqon. 1, Mysteryland and Dominator. Besides that, he’s the first hardcore artist that hit the renown Top DJ Mag list of world’s best DJs in 2011., while in 2016. he was holding the prestigious 46. place. Quite impressive for a performer that’s blasting such aggressive sounds!
A year ago, Angerfist performed at the Hard Island festival at the Zrće beach on Croatian coast for the first time. This summer he’s back and abot to hit the decks two days in a row! For starters, he’s blasting at the Opening Fiesta on Monday, followed with a boat party tour on The Ark Of Angerfist on Tuesday, where he’ll be joined by two masters: Destructive Tendencies and F.Noize! For this occasion, we caught up with him to fish out the details on his approach to the adrenaline fueled hardcore beats, the development of his career and some juicy curiosities. Enjoy the read!
When hardcore first emerged, even the more commercial electronic genres were still considered bizarre and alien to the general mainstream public. How did you perceive this sound and the culture surrounding it?
I was into electronic music since as far back as I can remember. I listened to all types of music on my walkman when I was a kid, but electronic music has always appealed to me the most. I remember listening to “House Party” and “Move The House” cassettes/cds and always playing the hardest tracks at the end the most. When in ’93 the first real hardcore CDs came into being I was as instant fan and have been till today. It was the aggression and vibe of revolt that attracted me to it.
You’ve hit the scene as an artist at the beginning of the millenium. By that point, hardcore mutated and branched into many different subgenres, even had its commercial moments such as happy hardcore. Please tell us what was going on back then, and which were the innovative ideas that helped you capture the attention and respect from the new troops entering this scene.
The hardcore movement as it used to be in the 90s, basically died by then. Commercial tracks by artists like Gabber Piet, Hakkuhbar and De Mosselman ridiculed the hardcore scene in music videos that appeared on mainstream TV. What was once a cool movement to be a part of, suddenly became something people made fun of. The millennium style of hardcore came into being a while after that and that’s when I released my first tracks. Inspired by artists like Headbanger, I made tracks the way I thought they should sound like. I didn’t really have a calculated approach. I just did what I thought was cool, and people liked it.
What was the main difference between this fresh approach and the original hardcore sound? Which musical innovations have you delivered at the beginning of your career and what kind of equipment did you use to achieve it? Also, what do you consider your own most important contributions to this sound throughout all these years?
I guess it’s just a matter of style that attracted people, and not so much a different approach. I just made music the way I liked it. I was on a PC from my room at my parents house, used only a Juno synth back then, the very basic Technomaker XXL software and later on one of the first editions of Fruity Loops.
Even though the sound is aggressive and the tempo is fast, hard dance genres like hardstyle and hardcore manage to attract massive audiences (and they’re growing each day). Is it because this sound reflects the reality of the modern world or because it provides a way to escape this stressful reality?
The electronic music world is changing constantly. In general, it has become more edgy and rough. Slowly, people are getting used to sounds being more crispy and distorted. It doesn’t sound so alien as it used to. And of course, many people who are new to it and are hearing it for the first time, will get that same feeling of revolt that I had when I heard the first hardcore beats. It has an attraction that other styles don’t have. Music in general is a way to escape reality and I don’t think that’s exclusive to harder styles, but it is gaining followers worldwide because basically it’s just fucking badass.
You’ve gained the reverence of the audience as the world’s leading hardcore artist. Besides the technical proficiency and complete dedication there must be something mythical emerging from your style, a magic trait that seduces such a numerous following. What’s the secret? How did you manage to develop such a prominent trademark that resonates with so many people?
I think it’s the timing that I started, the music, the name Angerfist and the mask and hoodie. Somehow that whole package worked out quite good.
Besides the obvious horror reference, is the mask you wear something more than just a stage prop to you? Are you still Angerfist when you take it off?
Back when I started I was a 100% producer and not a performer. I never really wanted to perform at first and was more a studio freak. But I understood that I wanted to bring the music to clubs and events anyway, and chose a way to stay low key and at the same time have an aggressive and hard image to go with it. The first priority was a dark vibe, and the mask and hoodie were the perfect way to do this. It looks good and allows me to stay somewhat anonymous. Now it’s 15 years later and I love performing just as much as making music, but the mask and hoodie was probably one of the best choices I ever made. And to answer your last question..No, I’m actually Johnny Cash when I take off the mask.
If you ever had to give up on the mask your wear would there be an alternative one? Maybe Freddy Krueger’s?
I’d probably go for something like one of the Slipknot masks. They all look cool and messed up.
Give us some details on the mayhem you’re preparing for the Hard Island festival! After your set at the The Opening Fiesta on Monday, there’s also The Ark Of Angerfist boat ride on Tuesday – how did you select the “sailor crew” that will accompany you at the decks? What kind of an adventure can we expect and how will your act reflect the unrestrained vibe that accompanies such cruises?
Last year I’ve experienced Hard Island for the first time and really enjoyed it. This is a great event with a huge atmosphere and a lot of potential. I’m very much looking forward to playing both the event and the boat party. I have prepared an uplifiting set for both days of course. The reason the sailor crew exists of Destructive Tendencies and F.Noize is because they both breathe hardcore and have riot in their veins. Together with all the hardheads, this will be a memorable trip.
What do Angerfist’s afterparties usually look like?
Usually quite mundane. People might envision DJs with lots of groupies and champagne at afterparties, but it’s not. It’s mostly Jagershots. trashing backstage areas and an occasional conflict with colleagues. Good times though.
Considering the near future, are there some exciting new projects or releases on the way?
I am working on an album now which will be released at the Angerfist event in December in The Netherlands. I’m planning to do some collabs with producers I haven’t worked with before and am working on some fresh solo beats which will refer a bit more to the millennium era than before. Lately I’ve been missing that typical millennium sound and want to bring it back into modern hardcore. Also some cool and unexpected remixes will be featured on the album.
Out of all your worldwide performances which one would you single out as the most peculiar?
Once I played at a very fancy restaurant in India where upscale people would enjoy a quality piece of steak and a glass of fine wine. As soon as I entered the place I knew this was going to be absolutely surreal. I ended up playing about 30 mins and decided that that was probably enough. I could actually hear the sound of knives and forks scraping the plates at silent parts In the music. Quite weird, quite weird.
Was there ever a situation when you scared someone without your mask on?
Probably those customers at the Indian restaurant.
This summer, Hard Island festival is about to unleash July 3rd – July 6th on the Croatian island Pag, at the famous Zrće beach. Check the entire program HERE, while the info on the tickets and accommodation can be found HERE.