Parallax Recordings has been around for a few years and initially started out with reissues but quickly moved on to releasing original Hardcore-Jungle influenced music. We caught up with Vali, the man behind the label, to dig a bit deeper…
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your musical journey.
I’m Valentin, better known as Vali from the NME Click (spoken ‚Enemy Clique’), a 4-headed Drum&Bass Crew that exists since 1994. I am also a freelance graphic designer and illustrator and did sleeve artworks for labels like Metalheadz, CIA, Dispatch, Basement, Impact and many others. I am 42 now, live in Berlin and run the Parallax label.
I grew up as the youngest of 3 kids in a musical household in Ulm/South Germany. Both my parents are classical singers and multi-instrumentalists, so there always been instruments (my dad even self-built a Cembalo), equipment and jam sessions in our house. I learned the guitar and was a soprano and alt singer in a boys choir until my voice broke.
There was no key moment how I found into music as such, it was always around me and I was naturally drawn to it for as long as I can remember. I was a regular at the local library, renting Best-Of and pop albums on cassettes, reading music magazines and built knowledge on that. I was always keen and wanted to learn about styles and artists from a kids age on. Through my family, I got to know more about the pop/rock side of things (Beatles, Supertramp, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Jazz, a bit of early Synthesizer music and the likes) and I remember I spent whole afternoons going through their vinyl collection, looking at covers, the fascination for vinyl started early.
The entrance into DJing and Jungle/Hardcore:
I started skateboarding at around the age of 8 and was into loud music with electric guitars. At the end of the 80’s I discovered the (for me) early Rap stuff, like Beastie Boys, Too $hort, 2 Live Crew, NWA and Public Enemy (I was shocked when Chuck D taught me that the whites stole the rock’n’roll from blacks, that was early education about racism that I had not experienced until then) and remember all the other skaters shouted at me when they saw me in my Public Enemy hat. I was hooked and became a massive Hip Hop head, writing graffiti and tagging, spending ages learning dance moves from VHS tapes and taking part in dance battles. To me, it was one big bubble though. It didn’t make a difference if it was „Hardcore Rap“, Hip House, early Dance or Rave stuff, it all was one big pot and it didn’t occur to me the world would need different labels to put on it one day. Around that time I remember I spent whole nights under the blanket, secretly recording „dj megamixes“ until I fell asleep. The mixes were often made on computers with fake computer scratches and I remember every time an MC came on I paused the tapes as I didn’t want the presenter on. I never thought you could do that with two turntables and that a MC was part of the concept lol, so my first attempts were trying to scratch with the reel to reels of my poor dad and I even spent days doing edits and mixtapes with pause buttons on a double cassette deck (if you would free the button slowly you could create a glitch effect). I was absolutely tapping in the dark. But I wanted to learn more about tunes and titles and pre-internet, it was hard for a kid to get any info on it. When I first saw a DJ live I was hooked and wanted to learn that straight away. You have to know there weren’t many dis around in the early days and a set of turntables and a mixer were expensive, not to speak about records or the knowledge about blending. Around 1990 I always went to the youth centre in my small village, watching the older busting moves and trying to copy them on the big mirror there until my mom came in and pulled me out on my ear. I also watched the local DJs playing the dance stuff there. One day, I even went to one of the DJ´s houses (he also still lived with his parents) and just rang the bell and asked if I can have a look at his record collection in the hope he would pass on some knowledge to me. He let me in and was very kind and just acted like it was just normal, but he must’ve thought I was an absolute freak! I was always around older skateboard kids and they took me with them on my first house parties and to record nicking with big sport bags in the chain stores in the nearby city, it was mad times!
There was one key moment that got me hooked on Hardcore especially: It was the first break at school and I went for a ciggy with my mate Önder (we got to know each other at a school party when we wanted to fight, but then dance-battled against each other and still are best friends and dj together today). He took out his walkman and said „check this out, you’ll like it, I promise“. I put the phones in and blasting into my eardrums was the first Knite Force EP – ‚The Luna C Project‘, the one with the Roxette sample and Sublove´s Remix that goes „..there´s an invisible intruder that go inside your mind..“. I was sold pretty much straight away, sucked in by the energy. I loved the breakbeats at neck-break speed and the b-boy elements referencing my roots, the speeded-up hip-hop vocals and what grabbed me most was the creative and cheeky sampling. From that moment on I was fixed like a junkie, I wanted to hear more. The first releases I remember I hammered excessively was the Prodigy – Experience, album (I knew bits and bops before, from radio and the youth centre, to me it was just rave, I never asked further what the music was called), Blame – Music Takes You, Criminal Minds – The Criminal, DMS- Vengeance, the first Joint LP by Moving Shadow and Suburban Base, the Happiness vs Darkness compilation by Jumpin& Pumpin, Orca´s 4AM and the likes. So guessing from the tunes it was probably at the end of 93 or early 94, taking into account I might not have heard them on release date and it needed time until they wandered over to Germany on youth’s overdubbed tapes.
In 94 we got lucky as the local DJ Naughty sold my mate and me two crates of 92/93 Hardcore. For something like 100 Euros we were in for a treat: XL, Production House, Reinforced, Moving Shadow, Suburban Base, Basement, Formation, Lucky Spin, it was all there, but also a lot of obscure whites that I couldn’t find out the name of until the internet was around a decade later. We practised without any idea of arrangements or mix structure on cheap belt-driven turntables until some more experienced djs took us under their wings and showed us the ropes. We literally traded weed against time to use other people’s Technics decks, I even did a free graffiti on one of the guys wall.
Listen to Parallax recordings and many other emerging Hardcore Jungle labels and artists
But being technically bad didn’t stop us trying to attract people and talking club owner into giving us nights. But it was always just a handful of attendants and we got laughed off by everybody for playing that strange „jungle“ music when everybody was into Techno and Trance in Germany. The scene was literally so small, we thought we were the only ones liking the UK breakbeat stuff. In the back of a music magazine, I found an announcement of a Tuesday night in Stuttgart called ‚Massive Sounds‘ put on by the Fever Cru, which was an hours drive. I quitted school at that point anyway, trying to live off graffiti jobs and the sale of illegal substances and often went there, but it was small. Then I found another announcement in a magazine: A beach club in Forst/ Heidesee named ‚Vibration‘. We went on a 2,5 hour drive by chance (7 people and a bong in the car, you know the ones..) and that night changed it all. When we arrived at the car park you could hear the basslines, everywhere you looked were jungle ravers with the trunks open, blasting loud Jungle. As soon as you entered the club the bass was rattling so hard your stomach went upside down, you had to jump to not puke. It was UK line ups each week, the dance floor was open at the back, leading straight to a lake that was the chill-out. The most perfect club ever, I loved every minute there and met a lot of my Mannheim friends there. We were around 15/16 and it was always a gamble if they let us in, often hitchhiking back in sweat-drenched clothes. We went raving around Mannheim all the time from 95 onwards and ended up playing the big raves in Mannheim like Kings Of The Jungle, Phace Club, Made In Germany etc.
I was in Blackmarket and Nicky handed me more whites from under the counter the longer I stayed
Things kicked off from Halloween 1997 for NME Click, the definite key moment and the hour zero for Drum&Bass in our hometown. We got one shot and played the whole night on one floor on a massive rave and it was packed! I just came back from school camp in London, fully armoured with the freshest UK pressings and whites (I spent every free minute digging through shops, the teachers were close to sending me back home as I was always missing). I remember I was in Blackmarket and Nicky handed me more whites from under the counter the longer I stayed. There was even a moment when everyone was panicking as I left my backpack in a corner unattended and they thought it was a bomb!!! Anyway, through the strength of that night we got a weekly residency in a cinema after the flicks stopped (you could play video games on the massive screens), that led to a residency in another town (worth a mention the „ConFusion“ parties with scratch-crew OTM, when we mixed, cut and scratched Drum&Bass on 4 turntables). Things snowballed and we had a booking agency with good connections outside the Drum&Bass world, we had two weekly radio slots per week, a pub residency during the week, the future looked bright. We started our own event-series „Touchdown“ and „Echoes From The Future“, broadcasted live, did the „Feel!“ open-air festival and had vinyl with our music on out on DSCI4, Basswerk, Shadybrain and a few other labels. It looked like we could make a living out of this, I was young and DJing like 4-5 times a week. By writing for magazines and having our website early on the guestbook was used as a forum. We built a Drum&Bass scene in our hometown Ulm/ Germany that was centred around us and had everybody that rang a name within the scene playing at our events over the years. What goes up must come down, the scene got a lot smaller later on, but we are still active, do the radio shows and events (well, not during the pandemic) and even want to bring the festival back.
So, there were many highlights and many favourite moments in that career. I´d say playing radio was what I liked most as I could draw 100% tunes I want to play when I want to play them, you don’t have to make a floor work. Apart from that every new milestone was a highlight: The first residency, the first radio show, the first own event, the first booking abroad, the first time ordering records from the UK by checking online lists (trying to communicate via phone with hard-to-understand-Englanders, sending cash money in envelopes and having records returning weeks later). These were different times. But most of it all I always loved the experience of raving, meeting old and new friends and playing tunes to people. We all need this to return!
How did the idea of Parallax Recordings come about?
There was never a masterplan or any plan at all to start a label. Will Irvine of KVA/ Sublogic decided to do a joint release after I got him in touch with the „On 1 Crew“ and asked him if he wanted to repress their „Bad Dreams“ tune. He asked me what label name I want to use and since I did small illegal Oldskool parties here in Berlin I named the label after the parties – Parallax. I thought it was a one-off thing but soon after I found the Technosaurus guys and they had fantastic unreleased music. I couldn’t pass that chance by. Will helped me by passing on his contacts to me and I did this double pack as the second release on Parallax fully on my own. From then I was hooked. The Total Dark release followed and showed another side of the Parallax sound, that it can be versatile and loosely centres around Hardcore and Jungle from the early 90ies. I started buying and playing a lot of new Hardcore around that time too. I can’t recall how I got in touch with Tim Reaper anymore, but we got along well and that led to the Dead And Buried EP. Looking back now, it’s almost as if the label came to me. It was always just a labour of love, not done with the aim to make money, but to put those tunes out that I as a collector would love to buy. But it keeps on growing, so thanks to everybody that supports the thing!
What does the label stand for?
The label’s approach is DIY. I do it all on my own – from A&Ring, manage mastering, cutting and pressing, designing the artwork, do the (online) promotion, calculate pricing and (trying to) do controlling, do the packing and sending out – and love (and sometimes hate as it can be difficult) to decide on every detail.
Although being relatively open in regards to styles and tempo I still strive for a Parallax sound of its own. Being a DJ for some time now I know quickly if a tune sits well on the label or what needs to be changed to give it the Parallax approval. I always ask myself: Will I play it myself? I aim for tunes with teeth that work on a floor. I like elements and arrangements that stand out, surprise you and make a tune remarkable, so you remember it once you heard it. At the same time I don’t like too pompous tunes. Ideally, the arrangement doesn’t take too long till it gets to the nitty-gritty, so it´s easy for a DJ to work with, but at the same time isn’t too formulaic. I like it rough and a bit manic, but also melancholic and retro-futuristic. Too obvious horror samples can be just as cheesy as a chipmunk vocal and long and meaningful film samples mostly don’t work for me, they at least have to have a good sound to them, so they work in a club environment even without anyone getting the deeper meaning. And I rather have a rolling beat than something chopped to death to prove the skills of a producer (<- I probably get slayed for that haha).
On the aesthetic side, I am influenced by comic artists Frank Miller and Dave Nords (the designer for Suburban Base) and the typical hand-scribbled look of the early 90ies Hardcore. If it works with one colour that’s perfect, strip it back to the core. If you look at the back catalogue there’s no colour, it´s all black and white. It´s also strictly black vinyl too, it wouldn´t make sense any other way. This approach gives it a distinctive look, uneasy and militant. I don’t like the corporate and minimal look many labels go for. I understand they want to mirror the quality in their products, but personally, I find it boring. I want the craziness and creativity of the music to shine through when you look at the packaging. How it sounds that’s how I want it to look, unpredictable with a strong recognition value. And hopefully, there are always small details to discover to keep it interesting.
Tell us about getting the first release out.
That was rather boring from my side. You’d have to ask Will Irvine as it went all through his shop. I only connected him to the artists and did the artwork.
The Technosaurus EP was the first real release on the label, and that story is rather interesting. Technosaurus aka DJ Techno Brewster & DJ Iceman are probably best known for their hit „You Gave Me Nothing“
They had a second release on their Invention label that was rare and as hens teeth, the „Dream On Tangerine“ EP. When I found one of the producers through his Facebook page it turned out they even had a third release that never passed the test press stage. Both of them were really nice and approachable, but also terribly slow, it took about 2,5 years to get this out, sometimes months went by without any reply. I doubt I´d have the patience today but I was very persistent. Anyway, they found the masters of Invention 2 & 3 and we used a mint vinyl of the first release to restore from (big ups Dave Elusive for ripping and restoring). I picked basically all tracks from the second and third releases of Invention and as there were 3 mixes of ‚You Gave Me Nothing’ on the first I picked the strongest one and the additional tune ‚One Day We All Be Free’ and had an EP I was sure would fly out. I spent way too long on the design, I wanted to pay homage to the typical Hardcore look of the era (Suburban Base/ Strictly Underground). Also I wanted it to be a bit tongue in cheek. Of course with a name like Technosaurus it always had to be a Dinosaur theme. I found the idea of a T-Rex with very short arms, trying to play an Juno 106 synth very amusing. But I never got response from anybody, I guess most people didn’t pay enough attention to see the joke behind it. The EP also took longer to sell than I expected. But then what again did I expect? That people run into my door when I just starting out as a label? With a very obscure release that only some beardstrokers ever heard of? If you take that into account it did quite well and in the end sold out too. It stood the test of time quite well and looking at it now, its still one of my favourite artworks on the label. The selection is strong and a lot of thought went into it. I’m still happy with it. I also still have 200 sleeves that I overproduced, but I doubt the demand for a further repress is there.
What’s been a notable release for your so far?
One of my proudest moments was releasing DJ Lewi’s „You Better Run“. I had it on an old DJ Hype from Roast in 95.
After buying all tunes from the mix I couldn’t get my hands on this one. I even bought the Afterhours EP/ elt.1 (which was really hard to get hold of/ expensive until Kemet repressed that last year), only to find out that its not the right version, it missed the Tim Dog samples. When I thought all was lost and I’d never get hold of it I left a comment on the listing of the dub plate, asking if somebody has it for sale to contact me (DJ Hype certainly never answered to my begging messages via social media networks haha..) Now how high is the chance that happens? But guess what? It worked! From about 2 dubplates in existence I got hold of Kenny Ken´s copy. For unbelievable 350 pounds!!! There I was with my holy grail and the most expensive „record“ I ever bought. Now I could’ve been selfish and have an exclusive forever. But I decided to contact Lewi and test waters if I could restore it professionally from the dub plate and put it out. Lewi first didn´t even remember he made this version with more vocals and it took months of persuading him. In the end we found a deal he was happy with and so Skunk Assassin in Vienna did an amazing job in restoring it. After a planned Remarc remix didn’t happen I asked Pete Cannon for a remix and he delivered a beast in no time. That release flew out within two weeks and I still get weekly emails of people asking for it.
You have a brand new LP out Message From The Parazone with an amazing selection of music and artists – tell us the Parazone concept and story.
The project began with just a various artists 4-tracker I wanted to put out, I got the first tracks in January 2019. At that time there wasn’t a bigger concept. But I got hold of more and more artists and great music that I decided to put it all out as an album as tenth release, the introduction of the roster of artists that I want to work with on Parallax. At first, I didn’t think about it, but when others said to me that it´s the ultimate snapshot of our contemporary Hardcore Jungle scene it really struck me. Of course, it will never be a complete picture, there are so many great producers missing. But I’m really proud of this project and how it turned out. I always liked the idea of having something special as the tenth release. I didn’t know it would take me so long so that it’s also the fifth birthday of the label was a coincidence. I was overwhelmed by how many of the artists were totally up for working with me, none of them was complicated. I’m very glad I did this project, it was a great learning curve and put me in touch with so many of the producers I adore. And it puts me in a good position for the future output of the label. There are already some solo EPs in the works with some of the artists that contributed to the project. The project already drives so much attention to the label, which is great. I also put a lot of thought into the visual concept. It has a dark and mystical feeling to it and the story centres around the meaning of ‚Parallax‘ in a cinematic/ graphic novel way.
Order MESSAGE FROM THE PARAZONE on Big Cartel or Bandcamp
Now that it’s about to come out finally I can reveal that I have material for another 4 records and toying with the idea of making it a longer running series, I just can’t let go of this conceptual project. I like the idea of having releases with mixed artists. I think for buyers it’s more interesting as more diverse. and for me as A&R it’s always easier to find a track I like by somebody rather than four tracks at once. I’m just very picky. Also having the risk of a whole release by one artist that eventually isn’t as established might not sell as easy. Although I hope people take Parallax as a quality stamp it would be a bit vain to believe people would buy anything because I put it out.
Thoughts on the current scene?
This year appears to be a bit calmer than the last years before. Everything is on hold, waiting to kick off. The situation is created by the pandemic and pressing plants that are booked out. My broker just told me my pressing plant don’t take on new customers and pressing times are about 25 weeks! Still, I think there’s a lot bubbling under the surface, I can’t wait to see what’s happening when clubs re-open. There’s a lot of positive energy around in our micro-scene. You can tell the innocence faded a bit and scene politics come into play here and there. I always try to stay away from it, I just want to have fun and put out good music, I’m highly annoyed if certain people want to dictate a direction or play gatekeepers. Anything goes! Tim Reaper is doing really well and getting recognition and press left-right and centre. I think he has already done a lot for the scene and he is a key player in shining a light for people from the outside trying to find a way in. Don’t forget how hidden we still are, if you aren’t a collector in that field for years you will have a hard time getting an oversight of what’s happening. That’s why it’s so healthy still. It’s a lot of nerds with a lot of knowledge, I love it! Big ups on the other labels doing a tremendous job. Kniteforce have an unreal output, Brent Aquasky, Bill Vega and Robin MPS are on the frontline putting out quality represses and I’m glad to see Dave Elusive is back, firing on all cylinders with his 92 Retro label. Big ups 8205, MJazz, Future Retro, Globex Corp and 7th Storey Projects, Green Bay Wax, LORE, AKO and the Reinforced camp, InnerCore Project, Demonic Possession/ Deadbeat, Cantina Beats, Modified Magic, Sound Entity and all the other labels that keep pushing it to keep the scene alive! Of course, you can only lose if you start to mention some people as you leave out others. So maximum respect to everybody who takes the risk and money to release music and add content to this small scene, as well as the DJs and radio stations that do the footwork, keep it going!
Rub your crystal ball, what’s the future looking like for the label?
Right now I have a hard time believing it can get bigger for Parallax than the current moment. I worked 2,5 years on the album and put literally everything I had into it – all my money, energy, creativity and time. I am over the moon how it is received and now, due to it being a small success, it opens up more possibilities to let the thing grow.
Next up on the label there will be the ‚Body Journey‘ EP by a well-known Jungle producer under the synonym ‚DJ Mindhunter‘. Four tracks of pumpin dark 93 style Hardcore Jungle, all made on the Amiga. This will be shortly followed by more artist EPs, but I’m not a big fan of showing my cards, I like to surprise people. There is more, also on the repress and collaboration side of things, but it’s too early to speak about it now. I was so focused on the album, now full steam ahead!
I am unsure if the follow up to the album will come in the form of 2×12“ EP´s or another 4×12“, but I don’t want to wait too long and have them out latest next year (fingers crossed).
I keep on putting out merch. Besides the usual shirts, there are sometimes slipmats and caps and I want to have record bags and bombers with embroideries, hope I can find the right balance between quality and pricing to be able to offer fair products. Watch this space!
I started out by releasing only music from the old era, strictly on vinyl. By now we also release currently made music, as long as it sounds authentic to the old era. All new music will come out digitally too, I think I owe the exposure to the artists. I want the world to take notice of them and get them as far as I can.
Where can people find you?
Parallax Big Cartel Shop
We accept demos!