If you’ve so much as sniffed at the UK hardcore scene then you’ll know all about Gammer.
Even if you haven’t put your nose near the UK’s most singular, passionate rave scene then chances are you’ll know about Gammer anyway. The last few years has seen Gammer (real name Matt Lee) tinkering away beyond the tight confines of the scene he came through in, dabbling with high profile edits of Nero, Jack U, Porter Robinson and Marshmello or collaborating with the likes of Kayzo, Pegboard Nerds and Kill The Noise.
His DJ sets see him pitching up trap and dubstep to hardcore tempo and hurling it into his heady mixes and in the last month he’s also dropped a stinking slab of dubstep in the form of Let’s Get Crunk. It’s set to be followed by one of his most heavily requested tunes to date – The Drop, an explosive bass bomb that’s been on the ID request hotline since DJ Snake opened his Coachella set with it this summer. But first, his hard-to-classify hardstyle/bass crossover Stay Tonight. Out now it’s another example of where Gammer is at and why he’s mixing up the styles with such a zero-fuck attitude.
And this is just the start. Read on to find out why he’s more inspired than ever, why he’s only making tunes for him now and why the diehard fans of his original hardcore sound should probably give the social media trolling a bit of a rest. Huge respect for this man, right now…
Let’s Get Crunk… This is your first solo dubstep tune to be released, right?
The first one I’ve done as Gammer, yeah. I did one as Geezy – Hashtag in 2013 where I was conditioned to believe that if I wanted to branch out as an artist but not upset my current fanbase then I had to change my name. The track didn’t do much, I never got paid and I put it down to a learning experience.
It seems fans are being more accepting of artists doing different things now? There doesn’t seem to be such a need to hide behind aliases…
That’s the way dance music has gone. I think if you diversify very quickly from the beginning, like Chase & Status or Skrillex for example, then it’s more acceptable. If you’re known for a particular style it’s harder. One thing I love about the hardcore community is that they’re passionate about the music but unfortunately the passion can go too far. Whenever I put dubstep or trap in my mixtapes fans will accuse me of selling out and turning my back on the genre. The one difference between then and now is that at some point over the last few years, I just stopped caring.
It sounds very blunt but it’s true. I got myself into a point where I was playing the same sets and making the same music and just constantly worrying about upsetting the diehard fanbase. But I got very miserable. It got really bad and I spiralled into clinical depression. It was hell for a while. And the way I pulled myself out of it was thinking ‘you know what? I’m going to make what I want to make.’ I say this from the bottom of my heart: if I lost all my fans tomorrow and my career came to a screeching halt then at least I’d be okay with it because in the end I did what I wanted to do. It’s such a cliché but it’s bloody true – I just make music for me now. And it’s working. I made a dubstep tune, DJ Snake starts opening high profile performances with it, I put out Let’s Get Crunk and I’ve got loads more coming. All different styles. Hardstyle crossover, hardcore, some trippy bass stuff, I’ve even got a whole EP of emotional ambient downbeat electronic music.
It’s what I wanted to do from the get-go but when I started in the early 2000s hardcore was booming and I was getting loads of work and I kicked off with it. For a while I forgot about that original plan.
You got caught up in that merry-go-round. It’s fine when you’re on the up or peaking but you come back down you realise what you should have done…
Yes. That’s the biggest piece of advice I’d give to anyone – complacency is a killer. Things started to move slower and slower and I started looking for a proper job for a while. I guess this is why I respond to online haters and take it very personally and bite back. I’ve been through more than people realise. A recent comment I had was ‘I hope your plane forgets how to fly like you forgot about the happy hardcore scene’ That’s quite a harsh thing to wish on someone! I admire the passion but still…
Yeah but for every jerk there are thousands of real fans
For sure. And it’s not fair on the people who do say nice things. I only get back to that one guy who’s not being very nice. That’s something I need to work on myself. But yeah, fuck the haters – there’s so much inspiring music and different styles to explore why make what I’ve been making what I’ve been making for 15 years? I love hardcore. I still play it, I’ll make it when I want to. I always will. But I’m not limiting myself any more.
This is the same with all scenes that have extremes as a characteristic – you can say the same about dubstep, D&B, metal. Fans don’t want their favourite artists to change because the music means so much to them.
Oh yeah, I totally get that – you want to keep your scene special and underground and meaningful to you. I was that fan, too! But you can’t expect artists to stay the same all the time. That’s too enclosed and limiting for any artist. Who wants to limit themselves to one style? Look at Porter Robinson or Diplo or even Kanye on a wider perspective – you can’t pin them down. They don’t seem to give a fuck what people think and they do what they want to do. That’s a great way to approach life in general I think; and what I want to do now is make real heavy turn up shit!
Did this come about with the various edits and bootlegs such as Where Are U Now, Sad Machine, Alone and Promises? Was that you basically showing your wider references and hinting at the future?
Those edits and remixes actually opened doors to where I wanted to be. Me and Darren (Styles) did that Jack U bootleg and Nest were really supportive of that, then Basscon were really supportive of me and Darren, which was awesome and led to me collaborating with Kayzo. A lot of people thought that I was only collaborating with him because I wanted to become a trap lord but that wasn’t the case at all. It was a case of starting to move in different circles and have peers in that sound.
Before that I was messing around with dubstep but had no one to bounce ideas off. Now I can send something to Kill The Noise, for example, and ask his advice on things and share ideas. I’ve always been a big fan of trap and dubstep and been public about it. I’ve been mixing it in my sets for years – but any time it’s on a mix online it goes down like a sack of shit.
There’s a big tempo gap between trap and hardcore. Did you make your own edits of each tune?
No I just pitch it up and whack it in. So it sounds more like drumstep I guess. But I found that the US audiences were really receptive to that so I knew it could work. But whatever I play there’s always going to be that mix of styles in my mixes and hardcore will always play a lead role in that because that’s the sound I’ve championed and is still the heart and soul of what I do and the basis of my sound and inspiration but now I’m going ‘fuck it’ and making other things as well.
That must be liberating?
Totally. I’ll never forget the first time I sat in the studio with Kill The Noise. A year before then I’d have given my left nut to ask him one production question, then I’m working with him. Through that the Pegboard Nerds Go Berserk remix came about. And all these people I’ve met have been really supportive and helpful. Kayzo gave my dubstep tune to Snake who opened his Coachella set with it. Not for any other reason but to share the music – it’s really selfless and helpful.
So this is The Drop, right?
Yes. It’s been ID’d for ages and I’ve had more requests on it than any other track I’ve done. It’s actually quite a weird track because it’s ridiculously loud and tough sounding but if you listen to it at home, it’s quite bare and minimal to the point it sounds empty. But on a big system it kicks right off. I’m really happy with it.
In contrast to this, you mentioned a downtempo emotional EP earlier…
Yeah, that’s an EP I wrote during various stages of my own depression. It’s a bit morbid but each track is about what I’m feeling at the time. Hudson Mohawke has supported it a lot, which has been amazing. It was going to be an alias thing but now I want to put it out as myself and talk about the impact and rifeness of mental health in the music industry. I know we get to live the dream and do what we love but there’s a whole other side.
The loneliness on the road and constantly questioning and doubting yourself…
Yeah and the fact that people are very quick to fire off opinions, that fuels the doubt and self-criticism. I’ve deleted all social media apps off my phone now because of this. That was liberating. Within seconds I felt less pressure!
How do you know Hudson Mohawke then?
I heard a TNGHT bootleg of a Dutch happy hadcore track Go Get Busy and was like ‘wow!’ A lot of TNGHT stuff has so many old hardcore elements in. Just listen to Higher Ground with those pitched up vocals and build ups. It’s classic hardcore in a future context. So I tweeted them and he replied personally. It turns out he was an old hardcore fan and had all the old Bonkers mix CDs so we were talking and I eventually sent him that EP. He massively supported it and we’ve been speaking off and on ever since.
So many artists come from hardcore!
Don’t they just. Kill The Noise, Audion, Porter Robinson.
Yeah! I remember him when he was doing freeform stuff which was very high energy trancey hardcore. When I first heard his house stuff I thought it was a different guy but it wasn’t.
Proof you can release what the hell you like and genuine fans will gravitate to realness!
Oh yes. I’ve made music I’ve felt I’ve had to do and I listen back now and I can totally hear it. Now I’m back to doing what I want to do, I’m happy with what’s coming up. The only person who I need to impress is me. If fans like it and want to support it then that’s great and amazing. But that can’t be the only reason. I’m so glad I’ve realised that now, I’ve not been happier about where I’m at as an artist for a very very long time.