“I first heard Gabber while I was at art school in Newcastle in the early 90s,” photographer Ewen Spencer tells us. “I was very much into the duffer/mod thing at the time – 1964 Vespa Sportique, desert boots, beads – so hardcore wasn’t necessarily my thing. My mate took me along to a club called Loaded on a Monday night where they played a Gabber set. As soon as the tempo shifted and the beat became more industrial, the whole place erupted. There weren’t many Gabber kids there with the Dutch scally look, but they danced in a Gabber style and were pretty intense. So I’ve always been aware of the scene.”
“Ewen approached me about working on a Gabber feature, and talked me through an amazing scrapbook he had put together of found imagery and his idea for the story,” Dazed art director (and one of our 2016 Ones To Watch) Jamie Reid adds. “I think Ewen, Tom Guinness (who styled the shoot) and I had spoken a few weeks previously about our admiration for the whole zine. Talking through the idea more and planning the accompanying interview, Ewen suggested involving Gabber Eleganza, whose blog I love and have followed for years now.”
“Myself and Alberto (Gabber Eleganza) connected a couple of years ago while I was making Brandy & Coke and the style films for Channel 4,” Ewen explains. “I’ve always loved his blog – it’s beyond Gabber and hardcore. He’s a head, he knows his history and understands the importance of youth movements. He has a great eye and we connect on so many levels. A real diablo. His archive of Gabber images is comprehensive from the 90s Rotterdam raves to the local scene in Bergamo or Milan. Incredible.”
“We thought it would be great to incorporate some pieces from Alberto’s archive in the story,” Jamie says. “The content is so amazing and I think seeing this alongside Ewen’s new photography really encapsulates the mood of the Gabber movement. It’s high adrenaline and impactful, contrasting the new shots onto of a kind of eclectic mix just felt like the right treatment."
“I always make scrap books as a form of visual communication, from the genesis of the idea to having it there at the shoot to assist in directing the models,” Ewen adds. “The scrapbook process for this project was integral. The layout incorporates Alberto’s archival images and flyers brilliantly.”
As for casting, Ewen explains: “I cast the Gabber kid, Hugo Lesourd through Instagram. I’ve been checking on him for a couple of years now. He hadn’t a clue about the Gabber scene but he had the look regardless. We flew him in with his pal from Dijon in February and spent the day shooting at my studio space in Brighton.”
“The outtakes could make a brilliant book,” Ewen says. “We’re intending a lot more for this project; it’s going to expand and turn into something else over the coming year. There’s talk of a space in Shoreditch – so let’s see.”