Dutch producer and DJ Tommy de Roos has been mutating jungle and hardcore as FFF since the mid 1990s. Piling noise and distortion on top of intense, complex breakbeats and gargantuan bass lines, he was one of the early innovators of the breakcore scene, as well as its dancehall-influenced raggacore subgenre.
Nowadays he is considered one of leaders in the new jungle scene alongside other monstrous names like Tim Reaper and Coco Bryce... I caught up with Tommy to find out what makes him tick!
Hi Mate. How’s your week going so far?
All good thanks, busy but good!
Can you give me a brief bit of background on yourself. How old are you, where you were born, where you grew up, what school you went to etc
I am 43, Born in Vlissingen in the southwest of the Netherlands. Lived there till 97 then I moved to Rotterdam (where I still live). After high school I tried several studies which I didn't finish. Ended up graduating from art school as an audio- visual designer in 2010.
So musically, lets start right at the beginning… Going way back, before raving and DJing and all that good stuff… What is your very earliest musical memory?
Not sure if it's my earliest memory but I was always obsessed with my parents’ records + the excitement of going to a record shop. Was about 5 or 6 when my mum took me to a shop filled with boxes with bargain vinyl. She let me pick something I liked. Picked out 2 records probably just for the artwork. Which had Skulls, monsters, and devils ;) Still have those records
When you were growing up, what music was likely to being played in your house? In other words… What was the soundtrack to your youth? And how did this music effect your future?
Was a mixture of things my dad listened to blues, rock and more experimental/psychedelic rock type things. I hear a lot of “Them” “Mink Deville” “Rolling Stones” “Zappa” “Soft Machine” “Dr John” “Pink Floyd “ and “Captain Beefheart” My mum listened to bands like “Alice Cooper” “The Cure” “Sisters Of Mercy” “The Pixies” and “the Cult” . This in combination with regular radio and watching music shows on tv. Think mainly the more experimental music had a big influence, made me search for more out there stuff. With this search my neighbour played a big role. He was (still is) a music collector and he always brought over records/cd's to my parents to check out. At some point he started bringing cd's for me to listen to as well. Introduced me to “The Residents “ “Ween” “Lard” lots of punk/hardcore, noise and experimental music and first time I heard “The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu“ was thanks to him. Those blew my mind and to a lot of those recommendations I still listen regularly. Also, my older cousins provided me with music, taped me cassettes with "Geto Boys", "Poor Righteous Teachers" and other hip-hop.
What was the first record you ever bought and how old were you?
Not sure what my first record I bought myself was but the above mentioned 2 metal albums with amazing covers were probably the earliest I picked out myself. I do remember getting Iron Maiden's Powerslave and Twisted Sister’s Come Out and Play for my 6th or 7th birthday.
Are you a big vinyl collector? If so, how many records do you have??
Yessss I do collect. Probably between 5 – 6000. But the correct answer should be "never enough".
How was the rave scene in Holland in the 90’s? When & What was the first rave you ever went to? What was it like and how did this change things for you?
First house party I went to was in 1992, I think. It was a country wide anti racism rave, spread around venues across the Netherlands. My local youth centre / concert venue took part in it. It was great but the enthusiasm of buying records and informing myself about the culture was already there before this. I was 12 back then so it was mainly local parties like this (and small self-organised ones) Started partying more seriously mid 90s. Went to early breakcore/digital hardcore nights, jungle/d&b nights, Electro, and experimental electronic music nights. Later in the 90s early 2000s I went to a lot of illegal raves as well. The main rave scene over here was mainly a lot of gabber. Which I loved in the early days, bought the records etc but never went to one of those massive raves back in the day though.
When did you first start learning to produce and what inspired you to do so?
Started experimenting with sound early 90s, mainly with tape loops, feedback, and my sisters lesson keyboard. And around the same time trying out making music on trackers at friends houses. Thing seriously changed when my parents bought a pc around 96. Then I started using tracker software every day (and night)
Also, are you self-taught or did you go to college to learn music production… ??
What DAW do you use? Have you always used that? And do you have any hardware in your studio?
I use Renoise. Started with Fasttracker but it was the logical next step to use Renoise. I do have an Alpha Juno II but to be honest haven't used that in a while.
Why did you choose to call yourself FFF?
In the above mentioned Fasttracker software the code FFF was used to make the tune go faster. That's it ;)
You were very well established in the Breakcore scene. Do you still dabble with that or is it just Jungle now… Tell us about your transition from Breakcore to jungle and how do they differ?
I still use elements of that and make an occasional breakcore influenced track. Most of the breakcore I made was heavy jungle inspired. So nowadays the bpm is lower and less distortion. Tried to get more funk in the breaks instead of hi speed over the top breakbeats. Still love the first waves of breakcore and truly miss that sound. Not digging the clean tutorial breakcore that came later though.
You used to run a couple of nights in Rotterdam… Breakcore a GoGo and then Wreck Havoc. Tell us a bit about these nights and are you promoting events still?
Breakcore a gogo was one of the early breakcore nights in the Netherlands. Hosted this together with Bong Ra, Assassin & Dionysos at the Waterfront club (RIP). We booked a lot of international breakcore artists. Played breakcore and jungle there. 2001 – 2004. Wreck Havoc I organised with Thrasher (PRSPCT), Newk and Assassin at the Nighttown club (RIP) And Waterfront. This was a breakcore night as well but became more & more jungle later on. One of my favourite nights we had Bizzy B and DJ Moonraker playing. 2004 – 2010. After that I did some small events but haven’t done anything in years but since Rotterdam seriously is lacking a jungle night, I might start something again.
Can you remember the first time you heard one of your tunes played at a rave by a big established DJ? Who was the DJ and how did it make you feel seeing all those people going mental to something you had made?
Always makes me happy when someone plays one of my tunes doesn't matter if it's an established DJ or not. The first time I heard one of my tunes at a rave in 2001 on a big sound system was something special. It was the tune "South west" from the EP:
Fast Forward / FFF - Untitled EP - Necromaniacs Industry.
Can't remember who played it or which Soundsystem but it was surely special!!
So, you have a label 3AM Eternal… Tell us about that…. How did it start and what is your Mission Statement…
Wanted to start a vinyl label for a long time. Had a cassette label mid 90s and did the DIY label Encounters with my mates Newk & Copacod.
I released an ep on one of the Triple Vision labels (Vibez 93) and after that release they gave me a chance to try to start my own label. That became 3AM Eternal. Mission statement is releasing music I love nothing more than that to be honest!
Why did you call your label 3AM Eternal? I assume it’s something to do with the KLF? Or not?
Haha yes! I am a big KLF fan. Had a list of potential names for the label including that one. I have one of those Kit Kat clocks in my living room that around the time I was starting up the label stopped working. It was stuck on 3 o clock, couldn't fix it so it's stuck on 3AM for eternity. Then I started putting things together and the name and logo were sorted.
What releases do you have lined up for the label??
First one that will be out is 3AM06 by DJ Sofa & Arkyn (March 31st) And after that 3AM07 is by FTL and have releases planned by Coco Bryce and probably another FFF ep.
There has been a massive resurgence in vinyl sales lately with loads of old classics being remastered and repressed. Is this a good thing and why? Discuss….
I think it's a good thing that records become available again for a new generation to play out. But luckily there's a balance with new releases as well. I think if it were only represses it would be different. Happy to see that there's tons of high-quality new releases. New blood is needed to keep the scene alive and fresh. It can't survive with only classic tunes.
Do you think the vinyl thing will grow or fizzle out? discuss your reasoning…
I work at a record distribution and there is no sign of it fizzling out (yet). But with current economic changes it might change. If everything gets more and more expensive there might be less money left to spend on (also getting more and more expensive) vinyl.
Who do you see as your early musical influences and who continues to inspire you today?
Music in general too many to list to be honest!! But if I have to pick one; Jungle wise it's going to be Bizzy B. His output back in the day was so unique, energetic and instantly recognisable as him. Even some of the records he engineered for others have his sound. I love that he still is enthusiastic about the music and supportive to the new generation with his Youtube channel full of tutorials and weekly show showcasing old and new talent.
The sound of the early 90’s hardcore and jungle has come full circle with lots of young people, who were not even born first time round, adopting this sound, buying records, and even producing music in this style… It’s amazing… what’s your thoughts on this and how is it going to affect the future of the scene?
As I mentioned earlier, a scene cannot survive without new blood. There's so much fresh talent at the moment. It makes me so happy to see that this music is living on and with fresh new ideas added to the mix. The music moved so fast back in the day and all the tiny subgenres now finally get the time to get explored more. I think because the hybrids with different styles & scenes it will continue to evolve.
How does the newly produced hardcore / jungle compare to the original stuff?
The oldskool stuff sampled from material that was around them in that time or where they grew up on. Nowadays people go back to sample from the same sort of sources/styles/time. Some of it has been used too often but there are still producers using the same samples and still manage to make something fresh with it. And others dig deep to get original samples but in the same vein as the originals. This only counts for the oldskool sounding new stuff.
Some of the new tunes sound like they could've been made back in the day. Artists like Kid Lib and other GBW artists mastered the oldskool sound/technique and equipment so perfectly that it sounds like it was made years ago. Other new tunes you can hear instantly it is made nowadays due to certain daw tricks/effects or hybrids with more recent styles of music.
And what I mentioned in the previous question that sub genres came and went back in the day and nowadays sounds that were gone for years are being explored and experimented with again.
The similar thing between the oldskool tunes and newly produced tunes is the energy!!
Check out FFF's website here: http://tripletimesf.com/
If you missed the show you can listen back here:
Pt 1 of Tommy's Killer album is still available in store, but only a few left...