Fracus and Darwin: Bringing a Fresh Spin to Happy Hardcore

Fracus and Darwin, of UK-based collective Hardcore Underground, are two of the foremost DJs and producers driving the evolution of Happy Hardcore and electronic music in general. Bringing a fresh spin to an already diverse genre, the pair has been collaborating for almost a decade to produce and perform their music as well as hosting events and managing the label. I managed to flag them down while we were all together to perform at HTID In The Sun, a week-long Happy Hardcore festival in Lloret De Mar, Spain. Read on to hear about how they started working together, their take on the current state of Happy Hardcore, and Fracus’s James Bond drink. Enjoy!

How did you meet:

Fracus: Through Jon CDJay; Nick was signed to RFU, so Jon introduced Nick to various people and that included me and Ant Johnson. Those two made a track in 2004 and 2005 and we just went from there.

Darwin: Then a bit later down the line, Hardcore Underground was born. And it was a good idea putting us together – there wasn’t any massive story to it really, just the right time and the right place.

Tell me a bit about Hardcore Underground:

Fracus: Hmm… where do you start with this? It started as just a compilation series but it’s now more than that. In 2009 it became its own label as well, and in 2008 started doing events. It’s just sort of grown to become a brand – we never meant for it to be a brand, but it just kind of made sense to stick the same label on the events, the CDs. And we’re really ****ing disorganized, and most of our best ideas are dreamt up when we’re in the car driving somewhere or whatnot, and we’ve sort of prided ourselves on pulling off the most ambitious things we can do and if we can pull off half of what we plan then we’re happy. And we’ve got a lot of new additions: we’ve got CLSM and Al Storm as the latest additions, and Scott Brown’s mixing our new compilation album.

It was always going to be about good music, whether events, or albums or singles, a label that just puts out good music, whether they were new, or people who’d been around awhile, or British or foreign.

It’s music that wasn’t written to sell music but was written to be good music. There are tracks you’ll find sometimes that are several years old written by somebody you’ve never heard of, but it’s a good record and should be released. In ten years people won’t remember the details, they’ll just know it was a good song. We just want to do what we like rather than necessarily chasing money, which probably isn’t the best business plan in the world (laughs). But at the same time at least we don’t really have to answer to anybody or any sort of commercial strategy. We just release what we like, book what we like.

What’s the proudest memory you have in association with HU?

Darwin: You know, actually I can pick that: it was 2010 and we’d just done Radio 1 and the breakthrough award for Hardcore Heaven, and that was a highlight.

Fracus: It was a completely unexpected piece of recognition from a place we never expected recognition.

Darwin: I think that was the first time you could actually say that hard work paid off like that.

Fracus: In 2010 we were just everywhere. We did four or five gigs in some weekends, we were playing anywhere and everywhere, we did Fantasia, Radio One, big bookings we’d never done before.  It’s a recognition from your peers that, you know, hey those guys are doing okay.

Darwin: You could see that the hard work was getting appreciated. It’s not just something that people say just to give you motivation, it does actually happen if you put your mind to it and work really hard. That was the first time I think that I could actually say I felt like “yeah, it can be done.”

Fracus and Darwin 2

What interests outside of music?

Fracus: Sleep (laugh).

Darwin: Eh, I don’t know. We’re both music all the time aren’t we?

Fracus: I don’t know, we do like comedy, football.

Darwin: Yeah, we’re pretty normal.

Fracus: We listen to loads of different music, not just hardcore, and by the time you’ve kept up with D&B and trance, there’s really not much time for anything else.

What do you think about HTID In The Sun?

Both: It’s been good!

Fracus: As time has gone on, it’s become more important a part of the calendar, not just for the ravers cause it gives them a chance to hang out with people, which is good. I don’t think it’s good for there to be a separation between the artists and the audience.

We see so many people just for thirty seconds in a booth and just shake hands and say “hey, how ya doing?” and move off or a quick exchange on Twitter, but here we have a chance to really get to see them and chat with them. It’s nice to be able to kick back and have a conversation with them when you wouldn’t really normally have that chance to, cause they live all over the country or the world.

Darwin: It’s like a network thing, a place to get to know people you’ve never met before.

Fracus: Lots of collaborations and bookings and such have come out of it. Basically we’ve always been about the more people who work together in Hardcore, the better, we don’t agree with the “this is our crew” thing – I think that’s a bad philosophy building fences around people. We’re a small enough scene as it is, we should be working together to push the scene as a whole.

Darwin: If the music is good, then that benefits everybody. If we’re all trying to fight for the small piece of whatever’s left that’s not good for anyone.

Fracus: There are so many talented people in hardcore really; artists, producers, singers, if we all got our heads together we could take on any genre. There’s enough talent in this scene that it could be and should be recognized a lot more by the main dance scene. Like DJ Magazine and Mixmag – don’t even get me started on them, it really pisses me off that people don’t take this music seriously. I mean none of us take ourselves too seriously, but at the same time I think Hardcore deserves some recognition from the industry at large that it just doesn’t get. And I think Kutski should get his weekly show back, because that’s ridiculous that he gets one show every three weeks to represent hard dance as a whole.

Favourite drink?

Darwin: I like a Fosters, a cold beer on the right day, sun’s out, I just love a cold beer. Nothing beats it.

Fracus: I discovered this weekend that my fave drink is martini and tonic, which was what James Bond drinks.

Anything else you want to chat about?

Fracus: We’re switching up the way we work things this summer, and I think people are gonna see things from the label they’ve never seen before; we’ve also got some really exciting things with the breakbeat side of hardcore that’s not even really directly related to HU.

Darwin: It’s a big step.

Fracus: I just feel like we’ve finally got the label to the point where the infrastructure is where it needs to be for people to finally focus on the music and building it, we’ve been a bit distracted with building that over the years but I think we’re finally now to where we need to be, just focusing on making good music. And we can just do that and let it happen.

Thanks again to Darwin and Fracus for taking time out of their busy partying schedule in Spain to share this with us. You can listen to some of their work on Soundcloud, or check out their Facebook page to keep up to date on the latest Hardcore Underground info. Until next time – happy rave!

Words: Tim Ellis