11 August 2009
The ego is quite an unpredictable aspect of popular music. It can manifest with remarkable ease within the most insigniﬁcant and unremarkable of musicians, yet conversely be lacking from the kind of artists you’d think entitled to an inﬂated sense of self-worth. Holland’s Dov Elkabas reminds you of the ﬂexible concept of ego almost from the moment he enters into conversation. An unquestioned legend of contemporary Dutch dance music, Elkabas (alias The Prophet) has arguably done more to further the cause of Holland’s dance music community than any other individual artist over the past two decades. There hasn’t been a popular movement within his country since the mid-’80s that hasn’t been directly linked to Elkabas’ efforts – from house to hardcore to hardstyle. Dov Elkabas, however, will not allow such hyperbole to circulate around his person if he can do anything to help it. The producer and DJ laughs at any genuine attempt to place him on a pedestal and calmly proceeds to correct anything he deems over the top.
“The superstar thing?” Elkabas inquires – digniﬁed bemusement drenching his demeanour. “I am no superstar. I am a human being like all of us, so let’s start with treating each other equally and then check what will happen in the world. When someone comes to me and treats me like a superstar… I just try to be me. That is what I am and that is who I am – nothing more and nothing less. I mean, back in the days when I started there were no ‘DJs’ like nowadays. The DJ is now a band; a rock-star/pop-star. The interviews back then…In those days, I just wanted to be
a DJ with nothing like interviews or photos around it. In my days - you didn’t get paid to play all night in a club! You were happy that the owner let you play on their equipment!”
While Elkabas’ comments may seem somewhat harsh in their judgemental tone, few performers are better equipped to offer such insights (and, in truth, the DJ is not so much annoyed by the developments as he is amused and enthused by them). One of the original pioneers of the Dutch incarnation of The Second Summer of Love (1988-1990), The Prophet actually began life as a hip hop DJ before
gradually gravitating towards the developing sound of house music emanating from the European underground and, when the wave ﬁnally broke, Dov Elkabas was at the forefront of the new movement. His legendary sets blended aspects of live performance, sampling and DJing and saw him earn acclaim throughout his native country and continental Europe.
“I just like music and because of that I bought some stuff. I guess, from that moment, I suddenly became a ‘producer’ too,” Elkabas offers with typical self-deprecation. “Now you just need a computer. You download some Torrents with some programs, then some plug-ins, you create something and you are a producer too!
That is something that has completely changed since back then…We needed very expensive hardware, like synthesisers, expensive computers etc. You really had to be commited to what you wanted or else you would lose a lot of money. My opinion is still that if a DJ is really fully commited to what he or she does and they believe in what they do, and get a little push from the right people, then they will get there.”
The undeniable subtext of Elkabas’ every remark is one of humility and submission. While the legendary artist never offers his insights with any hint of condemnation, there is a deﬁnite sense of mourning that undercuts the DJ’s otherwise jovial comments. Dov Elkabas, like every musician and artist who experienced the Summer of Love, has gradually had to witness something fundamentally pure, celebratory and communal become subverted and eroded by selﬁsh, personal interests of ﬁnancial gain and self-aggrandisement and petty, unproductive genre politics. It’s impossible not to suspect that The Prophet laments the evolution of the ego within contemporary DJing and production – musicians living for the glory as opposed to the music.
The sentiment actually goes some way to explaining one of the mysteries of The Prophet’s career. While Elkabas’ innovations continued successfully throughout the ’90s, The Prophet contributing to the development of hardcore via his work with legendary label Dreamteam Records, the arrival of this decade saw The Prophet temporarily disappear. When Elkabas emerged four years later, The Prophet had morphed into a hardstyle artist and Elkabas, shunning his relationship with hardcore, cemented his relationship with the developing hardstyle genre by establishing the now-legendary Scantraxx Records. The stylistic shift, however, becomes less surprising when one considers the ‘live for the music’ values espoused by hardstyle artists – values not at all dissimilar to Dov Elkabas’ own philosophies.
“Everyday I feel limited as a DJ/Producer – especially in Holland,” Elkabas expounds with exasperation. “People are so narrow-minded here but from now on I will do what I really like. The harder styles of music are in my heart; when I hear a distorted kick, I feel good – that’s how it is and I think how it will always be but, despite that, I think it’s good to look around you. What do you listen to when you want to escape from your daily life? What do you dance to? What do you have sex to? I still look around and I make ‘minimal music’ or ‘house music’ – that doesn’t mean I have to break with anything. The future is mine. Retiring is sitting down and doing something you like without working… But what I do is working and doing what I like. I will be the ﬁrst DJ who dies on stage!”