Koreman was actually lovely. He frequently let out a cavernous belly laugh, chatted openly about his motivations and he had a great sense of humour. He agreed, though, that age has softened him, because he wasn't always this way.
In 1988, as a youth growing up in a small town near Tilburg in the Netherlands, Koreman started a band because he was "bored shitless." A green mohawk haircut and being in "the loudest, most punk group in town" wasn't quite what his parents had in mind when they encouraged him to take guitar lessons. Koreman began overdubbing tapes and making tracks for the band. Then he discovered drum machines, and the emerging New Beat sound from across the border in Belgium. From there, his mutual appreciation of guitars and electronics flourished.
"I found all this out in my bedroom through lots of eureka moments," Koreman says. "I didn't know anybody who did this and I had to figure it all out myself." The local youth centre allowed him to play records on a Friday night. Before long the venue was packed with local kids, delighted that there was suddenly something exciting to do and in awe of these crazy new acid and techno sounds. "I told the guy in the local record store that whenever anything said 'New Beat' on it he had to buy it and save it for me. I think we were one of the first in Holland to play that many records in that style. We just had one strobe and a smoke machine, but that was the start of it all for me."
Koreman continued to experiment with making music. He amassed 50 or 60 tracks on tape, and decided to release them himself. Not having a clue how to do so, in 1996 he sent them to Guy Tavares from Bunker Records, the respected label that was known for its techno output. "I was going to press it up myself and just wanted to ask him how I could do it. But he called me and immediately said, 'I want to release all these tracks,' so that was a big milestone for me. It was the first time someone told me they liked my music. He was so enthusiastic and that was very important to me."
That music came out under the name Ra-X. In the following years Koreman released music on various labels and became a staple on the local rave scene. All was well for a few years, but Koreman eventually grew tired with the scene. "I got tired of attending raves at four in the morning," he says. "Typically, the sound I was creating was so loud and abrasive that it meant a lot of people were really fucked up on drugs and didn't listen to the music any more. It didn't matter what it was, as long as there was a kick drum and a load of acid on top. So I got really bored with that—not so much the music, just the setting in which I had to present it.
"When I first started playing, it was new and it was fresh and it was something that wasn't so much done at the time. That was '95, '96 and there were less massive raves, more nights with other artists from Bunker and it was a family thing we did together. It was a lot of fun. But it soon became big business after that when the second wave of techno hit, and then we were doing these massive raves in France and Belgium. They were very impersonal, driving up at 5 AM, hooking everything up and playing, and nobody really knew who was performing or DJing and it was just about keeping the vibe going for the party. There was a feeling it was taking over and becoming something we weren't interested in."
He wasn't alone in this feeling. Around the same time, the Viewlexx and Murder Capital boss I-F left to focus more on Italo and disco. He launched the radio station CBS, which later became Intergalactic.fm. Koreman went back to playing in bands, but around 2009 he began the Drvg Cvltvre alias that has recently been gaining ever more traction. "It came together in a way I liked," he says. "I met the right people from the right labels and they were interested, so it was very smooth sailing, everything kind of naturally came together."
The Drvg Cvltvre sound is certainly indebted to his love of punk and metal—it's dirty, scuzzy, sweaty stuff that's lo-fi and dense, veering from acid to house to techno. But it's also hugely varied. Koreman has found unlikely homes in the NYC house stable Nervous Records and the disco leaning Permanent Vacation (thanks, Koreman suspects, to John Talabot having turned them on to his stuff). When asked whether the gigs he now plays are more enjoyable than the early raves, he reckons so, because "it's much slower, and is more about people coming to see me because they have heard my tracks or my sets and like them, and I like that interaction."
Those tracks are almost always written in just a few hours. That's a rule Koreman sets himself. Another rule is that he tries to distil things he encounters in everyday life—something he overhears on the train, on the street or in a coffee shop—into sound. "Making music is something I have to do," he says. "When I get home, first I kiss my wife, have a cup of tea, then I turn the machines on and try and compress my day into a track. It has to be finished the same day because I'm not good at working on prolonged material. As much as this sounds like a romantic artist from the 1900s, I think it's about capturing an emotion as fast as I can and then being done with it and moving on to the next episode."
This idea of the "next episode" is just one example of Koreman's anti-careerist instincts: he also uploads most of his tracks for free on SoundCloud, never focuses on one sound or style for too long, and often releases limited run cassette tapes. But he can afford to do these things. Because of his day job as co-founder and artistic leader of Incubate Festival, a massive gathering of young punk bands that's well renowned in the Netherlands and attended by 18,000 people, Koreman doesn't rely on music to pay the bills.
"It's very liberating," he says. "It gives me a lot more ways to twist and turn and make weird decisions like this new website." The website is Something Between You And Me, a site where you answer five questions, pay a €25 fee, and get a track made in return. "You're the only one in the world that will get this track," says the site.
"It's not about making money," says Koreman. "I know this is the music industry, but that is something so distant for me, and so hard to comprehend even though I am part of it. It's so abstract so I thought it would be much nicer to make something for somebody personally—a track inspired by a sentence or an answer that I can respond to directly.
"People say all the time, 'Focus on this sound or project and you will be flying around the world in no time,' but that is not my goal. I just want to make music I like. When I make music, I don't feel angry. When my fingers are fiddling for the bass, I hit this combination and think, 'Oh this is nice,' but usually that niceness is something dark, so it just comes natural for me. It's like a lightening rod. The music is just a safe, clean way to get a lot of stuff out that needs to be said or made, without doing any self destruction or any other kind of destruction." He does listen to some cleaner, lighter music, such as The Beach Boys, but of course, he laughs, "I do favour their later, darker period."
Koreman says his penchant for darkness comes from going to Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia gigs as a kid. He was too young to enter the bleak techno group's inner circle, but he relays tales of blood and semen rituals that appealed to him. "That darkness at the end of the '80s and '90s, a certain period where industrial music and darker stuff came to the forefront, their views on music and their metaphysical, philosophical look on what they were doing and what a performance was and what a record was and means, all those questions had a bigger influence on me than any band I have ever seen. There is something very interesting about being young and creating something loud together—it is a very powerful feeling. The quality is not so important as the feeling, I think. That doesn't mean every message is more important than the music of course, and I now think it is important to have a musical aspect as well."
Although he trained as a visual artist and was a teacher for some time, as soon as Koreman could work full-time in music, he did. "I thought it was more fun making music and running the festival," he says. He admits that the artwork for his numerous labels—Angelmaker Records, New York Haunted, Snug Life, Vatican Analog—is all done by "people that are better at it than me." Those labels are often less about a platform for his own work and more about helping artists he thinks deserve a leg-up. "I'm a very, super small-time curator or something," he laughs. "I pick these acts I really like and that haven't released or are just starting, and so by attaching my name and the label to it, it gets a little bit bigger, but not TV-big. It's more like a service I am offering actually."
Koreman says he's happy to remain something of an outsider because it means "I can continue to hear as much music as possible, to learn, research and grow." He'll soon release his first album for 15 years. It features eight tracks and follows a larger narrative arc than his usual one-track-a-day approach to making music. It's due on Pinkman, where he's released a number of times, and it started life as a written story of a few hundred words. "I used that as a starting point for the album. It worked really nice and people will know tracks are connected I think. You can hear that there is a storyline that develops and I think it will be recognisable as such." Exactly what that story is about though, he won't say.