When it comes to hardcore, one of my favorite characteristics of the genre is the incredible culture that surrounds it. Hardcore is a way of life: you either love it or you hate it, and those who love it are some of the most passionate fans in dance music. The same goes for the artists who helped build the genre into what it is today, even those who didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with the culture in the Netherlands where it all began. Hailing from Italy as a passionate, music-obsessed teenager in the 1990s, DJ Mad Dog holds the title of a hardcore legend who has created the type of influence that affects the entire globe.
Beginning his career at the ripe age of 16, DJ Mad Dog has been creating his legacy for over 20 years. Mad Dog put in work throughout the late 1990s across Italy, popularizing hardcore by organizing large-scale events dedicated to the gabber culture with the help of friends and collaborators. In the summer of 2000, DJ Mad Dog embarked on his own journey as a solo artist, signing with the famed Italian hardcore label Traxtorm Records. His sound was raw, classic, and embedded in the classic hardcore culture alongside fellow rising artists such as Tommyknocker and Art Of Fighters. I could spend hours talking about his rise to the top over the span of many years — he’s been committed to the hardcore movement for as long as he’s been in the game, and it shows. With over 100 cataloged releases and countless festival appearances, the sheer output from DJ Mad Dog is worth praising in itself, but it’s his achievements in recent years that make his story so special.
In 2016, DJ Mad Dog announced his own record label, Dogfight Records. Based in Italy, the label puts on for what’s known as the Dogfight Clan: himself, AniMe, Noize Suppressor, and Unexist, along with budding talent from around the world, like Myosuke from Japan. Though the sound is rooted in the essence of Italian hardcore, Mad Dog continues to expand the label’s repertoire with each release. He’s keen on signing tracks that boast pure energy and follows a trend of putting on for tunes that take influence from psytrance, rock, and more. He announced the label with his own single, aptly titled “Dogfight.” When I first heard this track, it shook me to my core. The rising dog growls followed by the call to action line of “ENTER THE DOGFIGHT” couldn’t have prepared me for the sheer power of that first kick, driving this beast of an anthem to ultimate nirvana. He represents a lifestyle with this anthem: Dogfight is a way of life, and that’s apparent through the lyricism:
What you’re about to witness
It’s a new beginning
It’s our manifesto
It’s the birth of a new sound
We stay hardcore, we keep it real
We never back down, we got no fear
Ready for war, ruthless and wild
This is what we are
The motherfucking dogfight
Following his 2013 full-length record RUDENESS: Hardcore Beyond Rules, Mad Dog spent four years crafting what is now regarded as his magnum opus: Till I Die, Vol. 1. This record represents the best of his forward-thinking creativity, delivering 15 all-new tunes that scream DJ Mad Dog’s essence. Tracks like “Bring The Hardcore,” “1996,” “XTC,” and more bridge the gap between classic hardcore and a new style of the genre, boasting squeaky-clean production that’s still caked in distortion and noise. Ranging from 170 to 200 BPM, this record acts as a culmination of Mad Dog’s 20-year career. It includes “Maze of Martyr” featuring Dave Revan, the official Dominator Festival 2017 anthem — one that I believe is the best anthem in the history of the festival.
There are many elements that explain why his anthem is superior: the energy, the arrangement, and the dedication to what Dominator is all about. “We are hardcore,” gang vocals scream as Dave Revan drives the bridge home, shouting the iconic line “We are Dominator.” It’s a seamless blend of melody, kick drums, and crazy distortion. Much like the passion we hear in “Dogfight,” this anthem does the job of speaking for those of us who feel hardcore running through our veins. I had the honor of experiencing this track during DJ Mad Dog and AniMe’s sunrise set at EDC Las Vegas in 2017, complete with Dave Revan performing his vocals live. That year was Mad Dog’s first appearance at the festival, kicking off his back-to-back set with AniMe at the crack of dawn and driving it home at 5:30 a.m. The pair returned to the Wasteland stage of EDC Las Vegas this year as well, taking the coveted spot of the final set of the entire weekend.
With the label, his own legendary releases, and a stacked touring schedule, DJ Mad Dog is on top. Sitting at the top of the hardcore scene with the likes of Angerfist, Evil Activities, and Art Of Fighters, Mad Dog has succeeded in paving his own lane and he’s stayed true to his culture throughout the entirety of his journey. With 2019 fast approaching, I imagine he’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Speaking locally, the American scene isn’t so big on hardcore, but it’s getting stronger every day thanks to event companies such as Insomniac’s Basscon imprint, Fresh Events, Hardroadz Media, and more. You can catch DJ Mad Dog along with AniMe, Noize Suppressor, Tim Shopp, and KAMI in Los Angeles this Friday, November 30th at Basscon: Sanctuary at the Belasco Theater — buy tickets here.