The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places and parties that made this whole operation possible. And with that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we break out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
Most North American old-school ravers can trace their roots to the dawn of the 1990s, when the underground electronic dance music scene began to spread like wildfire around the globe. While the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands were in the midst of their own rave revolution, if you were one of the lucky ones to find yourself in Los Angeles at the time, you no doubt witnessed a very West Coast version of the Summer of Love, as “raves” and the accompanying blitz of renegade music began to take hold in warehouses, clubs, and backyard parties alike.
At the time, the lines between genres were a bit more blurry than they are now, but with techno and house serving as a kind of mother root from which hardcore, breakbeat, gabber, jungle, and the like were beginning to branch off, there were no separate rooms or even separate parties or scenes—it was all one scene, one sound, one room, with each DJ delivering their own chapter in an ongoing narrative that could just as easily course its way through a variety of BPMs and genre influences.
Certain songs stand out from that era—not only for their ability to bring on the flashbacks and nostalgia-laced memories, but also for their ability to continue to move you at a deeper, almost primal level. One of those tunes, without a doubt, was Human Resource’s “Dominator.” Consisting of a crew of Dutch producers, Human Resource had formed a year earlier, and while they were beginning to find a level of success, they had no idea just how much their world was about to change in the summer of 1991.
Released on the influential R&S Records imprint, the techno-hardcore classic known as “Dominator” was an instant hit and is often hailed for its seminal role in the evolution of genres like gabber, drum & bass, and even house and trance, as evidenced by Armin van Buuren’s recent homage to what he cites as one of the tunes that changed his life.
But all of these developments would come to pass in the future. In 1991, Human Resource found themselves quickly elevated out of underground status to international acclaim as the tune cracked the singles charts in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. With Joey Beltram’s “Mentasm” released earlier the same year under his Second Phase moniker, “Dominator” seemed to perfect what has since become known as “the Hoover sound,” the instantly recognizable synth hook that can be traced back to the Roland Alpha Juno synthesizer.
One listen, and savvy music-lovers will be able to hear echoes, if not outright samples, of the sound in their favorite genres, as the mentasm and hoover not only featured in the more than 50 versions of “Dominator” that have been released over the years, but continue to surface in tunes from the likes of Rihanna, Rita Ora, and Lady Gaga. What made, and continues to make, the sound so seductive is the way it announces itself like some future primitive growl that couples aggression, if not outright anger, with an almost addictive, alien-like detuned quality.
Of course, “Dominator” itself owes a great deal of its popularity to the now-classic vocal hook: “I’m bigger and bolder and rougher and tougher / In other words, sucker, there is no other / I’m the one and only Dominator,” followed by the very ‘90s but oh-so-essential, “I want to kiss myself.” Reading it decades removed from the source may make it seem cheesy, but trust, when you were down in the trenches and all up in that bassbin with hundreds of heaving bodies beside you, once that mentasm hook sunk its teeth into you and the synapse-frying pain took over, those lyrics were like the voice of God coming down to ground you as the dancefloor euphoria kicked in.
In the same way that listening back to the original 123-BPM version now may feel slow or even anti-climactic for some, those who were there can attest to the way the tune seemed to invoke a breakneck velocity on the floor, a kind of speedy hunger that perfectly captures the spirit of the time, even as hardcore, gabber, jungle and drum & bass were already waiting in the wings, ready to take the “Dominator” effect to the extreme by beefing up the bass and boosting the BPMs—and dance music culture as a whole—into the stratosphere.