Holly Dicker meets the artist who's been described as the inventor of hardcore, a dance music rockstar and the forgotten man of techno.
In a 1990 German TV interview, Acardipane likened PCP to the "rock 'n' roll movement of the computer"—he hadn't given up the dream, he'd just changed tools. He'd discovered an even better mode of expression to live and die by, one that didn't lead back to the past and to fading guitar heroes. This new futuristic kind of music forged furiously ahead. Its name was techno.
30 years later, Acardipane is still living out his dream. He ended a recent set at Unpolished in Amsterdam with a "twisted rave version of a guitar solo," as Ryan Keeling wrote in a review. Onstage, there are still traces of his old "I'm from Frankfurt, who the fuck are you?" attitude. Offstage, though, he's very approachable. He's a dance music rockstar who has enjoyed huge commercial successes, notably in 2003 when he teamed up with Scooter for a remix of the 1997 track "I Like It Loud." The original featured lyrics from Shawn Mierez, AKA The Ultimate MC, a long-time collaborator of Acardipane's. The Scooter version featured another of Acardipane's vocalists, the MC Dick Rules, and hit the top-40 charts in Austria, Germany and Hungary. Like Speedy J's "Pullover," it got adopted by the European football community and became a rousing chant.
In other respects, Acardipane has remained extremely underground and criminally underrated. "In all honesty I don't know why Marc Acardipane isn't as revered as Jeff Mills, or Drexciya, or Juan Atkins," said the writer and critic Simon Reynolds in a blog post from 2015. In other older articles, Reynolds refers to Acardipane as "the forgotten man of techno," largely misunderstood by his peers during techno's formative years. His rare courtship of pop and underground dance music, coupled with an almost insurmountable discography—fed by over 80 different aliases, ranging from ambient and hip-hop to drum & bass, techno and hardcore—is what makes Acardipane so fascinating.
Acardipane believes in manifestation. "If you think you are shit, then you are shit," he says. This is why he won't open up about his fixation on the year 2017. The date has been part of the PCP vernacular since the beginning; "Reflections Of 2017" appeared on the B-side of Mescalinum United's 1990 PCP white label. It has haunted Acardipane's output, cropping up in track titles ever since. It stems from a two-year period, just prior to the launch of PCP, where Acardipane was experiencing episodic dreams, "always playing out the year 2017." Pressing him any further comes to a dead end. "It's nothing to do with me or the music, it's the world," he says at last, before drawing the subject firmly to a close: "If I tell you that tomorrow you will have an accident, you will think the whole night on it and then you will have one; if I don't it, you won't. So it's better nobody knows."
It was definitely not a promotional gimmick. The Mover's return in 2017 was purely coincidental, something that Acardipane had been contemplating for years. Getting booked for Bangface Weekender 2016 was the instigator—a set that Angus Finlayson called preposterous in his write up of The Mover's Selected Classics reissue album, which came out last summer. Now there's a new record, Undetected Act From The Gloom Chamber, the first one since Frontal Frustration, which was released on Tresor in 2002.
Gloom Chamber is ominous but not as oppressive as you might expect. It's the burnt-out embodiment of rave, pierced through with signature Mentasm jabs, which now feel more like weapons of nostalgia, sounding out past traumas rather than future ones. As ever, it's the wrenchingly morose melodies and pounding doomsday kicks that has Gloom Chamber functioning at some deeper level. Not much has changed then, except Acardipane's route to get here. "It's harder to finish and record tracks as I get older because I'm more of a perfectionist; when you're younger you don't give a fuck about these things," he told Juno Plus in 2015.
The new record was ready for release last September, and was even debuted live at ://about blank in Berlin alongside sets from The Horrorist, Neil Landstrumm and Miroslav Pajic, AKA Miro, the artist behind all the PCP records that Acardipane didn't make. "Nothing I played there made it onto the album," Acardipane says. "I had polished it until it was so complex I thought I could never perform it live, and it's not this raw Mover sound anymore." Apart from one track, the entire record was scrapped and rewritten in the intuitive and speedy fashion of Acardipane's youth; Gloom Chamber is this second, more stripped-back iteration.
Acardipane has always written music very quickly, so long as "the feeling is right in the beginning." The Final Sickness took a single day to complete—"production, writing, mixing, everything." "I Like It Loud" was finished in a few hours. "Stereo Murder," ten minutes. This rapid production process partly explains Acardipane's prolific output and past need for so many aliases—the latter of which became more complicated with the rise of social media. "I have three Instagram accounts and it's too much!"
Quickly as it may have been written, The Mover's music comes from years of speculative contemplation, which brings us back to the year 2017 and PCP's original prophetic raison d'etre. In a 1995 interview published in Alien Underground, a subversive publication linked to Christoph Fringeli and Praxis, Acardipane said: "Mover is dark because it's set in the phuture of mankind. I can't possibly justify seeing a happy end to this stupid human drama. Darkness is not mystical, it's your everyday reality."
Acardipane envisioned a grisly future for humanity back in the late '80s, and The Mover has served as a conduit for those feelings and fears. For Acardipane, The Mover is like therapy. He calls the tracks "painkillers" and the writing process like "self-medicating." "It's like, I have a shit feeling when I work on a track, and when it turns into a positive good feeling then the track is right." He hopes it's the same for the listener. "The Mover is depressive but always with hope," he says. "There is dark negative and dark positive, and The Mover is dark positive."