MIGHTY4 FEATURE INTERVIEW
Interview done by Paulskee in 2004
Whatsup Remy, tell us about yourself and how you got into the B.boy scene.
I saw Breakin for the first time on TV back in the early/mid 1980ies. I can’t remember what kind of channel/program and who exactly it was though. It was everywhere in the media anyway. But at that time I was too young and there were too many other personal things and activities around that I really got into it seriously. It took some more years. I remember there was some event I went to in winter of 1988/89 where I saw for the first time live B-Boys in a circle doing their stuff. These local B-Boys did continued headspins, windmills and all kind of moves and steps and I was so much fascinated that I started to try out all this the following days, weeks and months. One major influence, not only for me but for most people in the scene, of course was the movie “Beat Street”. Besides that it was all about trying out and practicing. Video cams and B-Boy tapes were still really rare back then and if you got some footage on tape it had been copied at least hundred times so that you could hardly recognize what was going on… 🙂
What is the scene like where you are from?
Back in the days it was all about improving your skills to get the respect and the connections. The better you got, the more other dancers you could speak to and thus the more knowledge you obtained. Knowledge was really rare back then, thus you mainly oriented yourself on what was going on around you. Because of the small size of the country you soon knew who was who but still there were differences in how a dancer danced from city to city. You could recognize where a dancer was coming from. But you really had to do your own tricks and stuff, no biting at all. Also people dancing like a gymnast were laughed at and not truly accepted. And there was of course always a big challenge going on between the cities. Compared to the small size of Switzerland the scene was always quite strong and active compared to other countries. In the late 1980ies to mid 1990ies Switzerland was together with Germany, France and some dancers from England, Italy and Hungary mainly the ones who were still holding it down seriously and actively in Europe. And Swiss Jams were many times also the meeting place for everybody. That’s why the Swiss scene played quite a role within the European scene. In contrary to Japan where Breakin is mainly learned, practiced and done in dance studios, or also in contrary to France where Breakin is highly linked with theatres and stage performances (because of the special artist supporting system by the government), Breakin in Switzerland is and always was a youth center thing. But nowadays there aren’t any unique regional styles anymore, everything is uniform and most of the young dancers are following trends. The circumstances and the scene differ totally from back in the days.
Do you get down with any of the other aspects of Hip Hop Culture?
If I do something I try to do it the best possible. So besides all the other things I do in daily life, I don’t have time to focus on another creative element of the culture besides Breakin as much as I need. I’ve tried out everything and I’m also collecting records but for the moment and as long as possible, I wanna put all energy into Breakin. I can still do all other things in the future although MCing is definitely not in my nature and I didn’t draw and studied the letters enough for Writing. Music and Dance was always a big and important part in my life, so one day when I’m not able to b-boy that much anymore I wanna focus more on music. Maybe playing an instrument again.
When and why did you begin the www.spartanic.ch website? It’s one of the www’s most knowledge containing sites around.
I studied and did my PhD in Chemistry at the University of Bern from 1993 until 2001 and thus I got in contact with the internet at a quite early stage. In the very beginning it was just about trying out what kind of stuff you can do and about being creative. To start a page you need some topic, thus I chose Breakin, also because there wasn’t really anything around on the internet about it at that time (early 1996). The more info I put on the site, the more emails with questions I got. Instead of answering the same questions over and over again, I just compiled everything on the site. And during all the years I tried to complete the site and topics. As the site was also one of the very few Breakin websites based in Europe for a long time, I got many emails about connections and information regarding the European scene and also regarding Battle of the Year. Before BOTY finally got an own domain, the official BOTY website was even a subsection of spartanic.ch for some years.
Tell us about your crew, for a couple years straight you guys would win the Best Show performance at BOTY and represent with solid performances.
Most people probably don’t know that our crew exists already since 1986 (with almost the same members!) and has a long-dated history within the Swiss and European B-Boy community. With the connection to Japan all of us got a new and really interesting impact. Out of curiosity we exchanged information about the 2 countries and their scenes and found out that our philosophies and views regarding the dance really fit. At first sight a link between Switzerland and Japan sounds really weird and crazy but if you study the 2 cultures and countries you will find out that both have much in common. So after having met and getting to know each other really well, our connection was more than just loving the same dance but it was mainly also friendship. Friendship is and always really was important in our crew. That’s probably also why we are all still together after so many years.
Anyway, regarding shows and performances: In the middle of the 1990ies the Japanese Breakin scene was quite small, Breakin was often performed and linked with all other kind of dances and the events were rather stage shows within a general dance community (whereas in Switzerland you have had just circles and/or battles on Jams as part of the Hip Hop culture). Because of that the Japanese dancers were really used to do shows. We never really focussed that much on choreography, counted routines and steps; we just went out and did everything freestyle. So it was a challenge and we learned a lot while combining both styles. The show we did altogether for Battle of the Year 1999 was a big effort because 2 of us went to Japan for one week during holidays to build up the show together with the Japanese members. At the end of the week we filmed the whole show and went back home practicing and teaching it to the others. One week before BOTY took place the Japanese members came to our town and we practiced altogether once again to make it perfect! It was exhausting but great fun. The last 3 years though all of us we were injured and/or too busy with all kind of stuff and thus we couldn’t do something like this altogether once again. But we’ve still got the appetite and although we are getting older and older we wanna soon travel and dance all over again!
You also organize the BOTY Switzerland event, when did you start getting into promotions for B.boy events?
The first thing ever we organized was our 15th crew anniversary event in 2001 which ended up in a big financial loss. But beside of the money problems the event was a success and we reached our aim to do something positive for the scene. We were never interested in getting into event organization. BOTY Switzerland exists officially since 1998 but the guy who organized it until 2001 disregarded more and more the philosophy. BOTY in general got a bad image in Switzerland. Although several people tried to talk to him (including Thomas) he kept on doing the biggest event and spectacle possible out of it with Breakin as the main attraction for thousands of people not having a clue about Breakin at all. And although a lot of people in the scene talked bad about the event and how it was developing, nobody really did something against it. Although I was and still am quite strongly involved in BOTY in general (website, judging, etc), I hated to defend BOTY and explain the real thoughts behind it here in Switzerland all the time. Thus I finally decided to help Thomas out and give it a try. It’s a non-profit and all-the-year work with a lot stuff to do and problems to manage all the time and nobody thanks you afterwards but I learned a lot new things because of it and last year’s event was one of the best I have ever been to regarding the atmosphere.
What is the European scene like presently?
It’s really hard to answer such a question as everything is always rather subjective. Each person has his own history and own beliefs (b-boy wise and also regarding life in general!) and thus each person has different point of views every single moment. Something which sounds and looks really great for one person can be judged totally different by another. I also haven’t travelled enough lately to have a certain overview. But compared to some years ago I think the countries in the eastern part are getting stronger; their scenes are evolving and growing steadily. Beside of that the countries with the strongest scenes and dancers are more or less still the same. Event wise there are weeks with too much going on and other weeks with nothing at all. It’s too bad though that most b-boy events are based on organized contests and not just on circles with good vibes and battles evolving automatically out of it. Also one really bad thing going on is that people start practicing at events which is totally wack.
Myself being a westcoast resurgence B.boy (one of the very last few of this era 1991-present), I always give major love to the European B.boy scene because in the mid 90’s things began to slow down here in the Cali until some of the crews out here gained footage of what was going on in Europe, which impacted and inspired the westcoast (and eventually the rest of North America) greatly to keep evolving with this dance. I now hear that a lot of kids in Europe are being influenced greatly by what’s going on in the U.S.A. What are the good and bad sides to this in your opinion?
The groundbreaking alteration happened in 1997 when Style Elements won Battle of the Year. Their way of dancing was totally new to most people there. Before that I believe most heads in Europe were inspired by the top European crews and dancers and by old school footage of Rock Steady Crew and New York City Breakers. But afterwards mainly for the young and fresh starting dancers it was all about dancing like Style Elements. From this moment on people orientated themselves more and more from what was going on in the USA. It’s like the scene lost some independence. Since then also the worldwide B-boy scene got more and more global and the connectivity and exchange is stronger than ever nowadays, of course mainly because of the internet. Thus you get a lot of impact and inspiration from all over and people try to find and emulate the latest trends. The bad thing about this is that nowadays everything is getting uniform. You don’t have self-contained dance personalities anymore that are also known after many years and almost ending immortal in history. Nowadays the hip dancers are forgotten so fast again because they were only hip for some time as they were leading or quickly catching up a trend but they hadn’t the whole package. So there are good and bad sides to this global exchange but the uniqueness and unconcerned progression got definitely lost to a certain point because of it.
What are your judging criteria when it comes to Breakin competitions?
Judging Breakin competitions is and always will be really controversial because (fortunately) there are no rules and guidelines in Breakin. And imagine everybody being creative to the fullest and doing just their own-never-seen-before tricks and steps with high difficulty and in perfection and to the music. This would be the ultimate goal for everybody but how do you wanna judge this?!
Anyway, there are some general criteria you can pay attention to, like how clean and perfect are the movements and endings, is there some innovation, how deep is the repertoire, is there a story behind in other words does it make any sense what the dancer is doing (beginning-middle-end), does the dancer move to the rhythm, how difficult is the stuff he is doing, how does everything look in general (aesthetics). And then there are so many little things that can come along. And if it’s a crew competition I also pay attention to how the crew acts together, how is the reaction to the opponent and is the crew well balanced regarding the skills of each member. And although a judge should be as objective as possible it is always also a subjective thing. What do you think Breakin should look like and what do you like and what not…
What B.boy crews or B.boys/girls in general would be your all time classic B-peeps in your opinion
Rock Steady Crew, New York City Breakers, Aktuel Force, Battle Squad, Style Elements.
What were the most memorable battles you have ever witnessed on video and or live?
The atmosphere and everything at Battle of the Year 1995 was really exciting! Just legendary.
What future projects are you working on at the moment?
After I finished University, I started a company together with 2 other guys (one of them is the world known graffiti artist “Toast”). It is again something totally new for me as I’ve never learned anything about business and how to run a company and all that. So it is again a big challenge for me. Until now everything goes really well but of course it needs a lot of work as well. Our company is called “Atalier – visual entertainment” and we offer services regarding print, web (including games), illustration, animation and streetart.
This is my big future project for life right now. B-boy wise our crew has pretty much done everything we wanted to do: representing, judging and winning at contests, dancing all over, meeting all kind of people, producing a song, organizing an event, carrying out and doing all kind of other things. So right now the only project left is to keep on dancing and having fun… 🙂
How stressful can things get for you when organizing a B.boy jam?
Too stressful. You are trying to do an event like you love it but you haven’t the time to really enjoy it, break and party yourself. Not even talking to all the people you haven’t seen for a while.
And during the planning you never know how everything will turn out and missing money is always the big problem for everything. And after the event nobody really thanks you.
The history showed us that the local scenes always played an important role for everybody so big up to all b-boy jam organizers! Keep on doing your stuff!
What are some events/scenes that you would like to get busy at or just chill out at?
Anything new is interesting. So there is still a lot to explore…
Any last words for the worldwidewebbers at home?
Thanks for reading that far. 🙂
BBOYING DOT COM INTERVIEW
Interview done in 2004
Who was the founder and what does Spartanic Rockers mean?
Defice was the founder of our crew in 1986 and also the one who came up with its name to express a certain crew thinking: The Spartans were Greek warriors; the hardest, toughest and most brutal ones. They lived a very hard and simple life to focus on the most important thing: the battle. They didn’t like half-hearted things and situations. They did everything with maximum employment. And regardless of what happened they always stuck by and fought for each other. The Spartanic Rockers are working hard to achieve a common purpose. We don’t just come together to hang around but we focus on improving our skills. Nevertheless it’s not only about dancing but mainly also about friendship!
Tell us the members through the years and some crew history.
Defice and Zed belonged to the first generation B-Boys in our country, both started to dance in 1983. Between ’83 and ’86 they were the only Breakers in our town Berne (capital of Switzerland) who practiced seriously day after day. That’s why they joined the legendary Jazzy Rockers which were based in another city called Biel/Bienne next to ours. Soon after the foundation of our crew in 1986 and some initial and minor alternation of members, the core of our crew emerged and kept together more or less the same until these days! Monty started to dance in ’86 and joined the crew the same year whereas myself I started in ’89 and joined the crew in ’92. In the early ’90ies Zed was also a member of the legendary UK crew Second To None. In ’97 we got 3 new members from Tokyo/Japan after we got to know them via WWW one year before, exchanging knowledge, ideas and histories via email, meeting them at the 20th Rock Steady Anniversary in NYC and becoming friends with the same interests, ideas and goals; not only regarding the dance. Takeo was the first we got to know, he owns a dance studio in Tokyo and he is also breaking since the ’80ies. Another member, Hiro Sakuma, is the founder of the legendary Imperial JB’s and in the mid ’80ies he even won a major dance contest in the Apollo Theatre in NYC. Tsuyoshi used to be a student of Takeo and before joining our crew he was a member of Freez, a crew who had quite a few TV shows nationwide back then. To be able to do shows and battles on their own, the Japanese members soon expanded to 5 members. That’s when Jo (former member of Freez. R.I.P.) and Go (member of the Popping crew 3D Connection) joined the Spartanic Rockers. Soon later Go won a big dance contest in Japan (called Dance Delight) and thus got a contract as singer/dancer in the band PaniCrew (several top10 songs) and so he was most of the time too busy to join the other members for shows and battles.
Tell us about your biggest and best battles.
The battle at the UK Champs ’99 against Bag of Trix (Canada) was probably the biggest of our crew where I was involved in as well but I wasn’t really prepared and hadn’t my best day. The best battle of our crew was probably the one against Style Elements (USA) one year before also at the UK Champs ’98 where I wasn’t dancing but watching and feeling it in the audience. But actually I prefer battles happening spontaneously in circles and not a long time announced and organized before. Battles like they used to be back in the days. And there have been several “best” battles.
You have a well respected website. Tell us about it.
I was studying at the University of Berne and there I had the possibility to go online almost from the very beginning. When I checked the web in 1995 there was hardly any info about B-Boying! And when you found something it was like a little sensation. Atually it was the same with media in general back then. So after some weeks and months checking out everything I felt an impulse to build up a page of my own and soon later I found out that it was a quite creative work. And the more info about Breaking I put online the more emails I got with questions about the dance and the scene in Europe and thus I tried to complete the site more and more. As it was almost the only page from Europe for a long time (and also worldwide there were just a few), I got a lot of emails about connections and what’s going on. For about 2 years (1998 until 2000) the official Battle of the Year website was even a subsection of our website. I was and am trying to help out everybody regarding the dance and bringing people together. Unfortunately because of the lack of time the site didn’t get a lot of new stuff during the last months…
Name some big European and American b.boys you like.
Basically everybody that has flow, soul, power, unexpected tricks and is feeling the music is an inspiration and nice to watch. Unfortunately nowadays it’s rare that you watch somebody and you have the “wow, what was that?!” – feeling like it used to be. Of course the tricks got really crazy the last few years but the B-Boy flava got lost. Some dancers that really inspired me: everybody of Actuel Force (France), Maurizio aka the Next One (Italy), Ken Swift (USA), Ivan (USA), Wicket (USA) and some old school guys from the UK like King B and Powerful Perves.
How’s the culture in your country and where you live?
Switzerland is a small country. But the Hip Hop culture is and was always relatively quite big. Of course there are ups and downs but eg. Breaking was always strong in our country and there was always a scene. It never stopped like in a lot of other countries. Back in the days the whole culture was of course much more underground and the elements were combined because most tried to do all and also because of common interests and the lack of info and events. There was one spot called “Coupole” in Biel/Bienne where the best jams were held in the late ’80ies early ’90ies. It got more and more also international with heads from Germany, France, Italy and the UK. Then from around ’92 MTV got aired and everything changed. But it’s the same everywhere probably. The media used our culture more and more to sell their products and didn’t care about spreading wrong images. The sad thing is that nowadays Hip Hop is what the media was telling everybody the last 10 years and not what it really is. The mass doesn’t see the positive aspects the culture actually has but just the negative misconceptions the media is and was telling them. Of course there is still a core or artists in all elements but the elements are seperated and the young generation doesn’t dig for knowledge as the media already gave them all they have and want to know about it. Thus nowadays it is basically all about who releases the next cd and next video clip. It’s all about products.
Why did you start with breaking and how was the scene back then? Who or what inspired you?
I think it is the same for almost everybody. You see some Breaking (TV, event, ..) and you think you wanna do this as well. Of course you are impressed by the acrobatic moves and you just start to try out how the hell it works. Back then it was a really local thing and you got involved with and inspired by what happend around you. The more you practiced the better you got and thus the more people you got to know which was again important for the knowledge and learning. The most inspiration back then I got from the other crew members.
What do you think of the new generation b.boys/b.girls?
Unfortunately all over the world everybody tries to do more or less the same stuff. Hardly any individuality. It’s more about imitate than innovate. That’s really a pity!
Do you think breaking is presented in the right way to the people?
I think the media will always show just the spectacular stuff to their customers. Within the scene fortunately there is still an evolution going on and speaking about dancing it was actually also already even worse some years ago. But people forget fast nowadays and I really hope that the roots and foundations of the dance don’t get forgotten within the evolution because that’s what it’s all about. Without it is not b-boying anymore. You gotta have the whole package. And the B-boy flava on top of that.
What do you think of the new “look I can bend my back 90 degrees”-style that’s spreading like a plague?
Go and apply you for a artiste in a circus. But probably they will laugh at you because every real artiste can hold the poses cleaner, longer and better. Of course you can tell them that you are not a circus artiste but a dancer, so then you can try to apply for a dancer in a theater but they will probably laugh at you even more.
What do you think about the big contests?
The only possibility to bring people together from a lot of different countries and thus you can meet and see a lot. Of course it depends strongly on how the dancers and the scene are involved with and supported by the event. To enjoy myself dancing I rather prefer a nice vibed circle with other fresh dancers and not masses that just want to be entertained. But I’m glad that I could attend several big contests as participant, judge or what ever in the past and thereby had the chance to meet people with the same love for the dance from all over.
Do you practice any other element in Hip Hop?
I haven’t the time and thus also not the skills to do so. I prefer to put all energy into the dance and concentrate on that. I’m collecting records and I used to mix a lil’ bit some years ago though. If you are a dancer you also have to know and understand the music. Because it is the basis! Later when I won’t be able to b-boy anymore I wanna concentrate again more on collecting (maybe even making) music. But for now and the next years it’s all about b-boying!
How’s your life besides breaking and Hip Hop?
I’m co-owning and working for a company which is specialized in visual entertainment (check www.atalier.com) and thus I’m quite busy all the time. Beside of that our crew is organizing Battle of the Year Switzerland for the third time this year with me doing the main work which is also hard as hell. And all of that is actually exactly what I’ve never learned in school and at the university (where i did my doctor in chemistry). But it’s interesting and it makes my overall skills more complete. So in Switzerland life is basically all about working because everything is quite expensive. But it isn’t as bad as it may sound now..haha..
How’s your style evolved throughout the years?
When I started it was all about powermoves. Of course we did also toprocks and footwork but it was not as serious as it should have been. Then I concentrated more on the dancing, the footwork, own steps, tricks and stuff. And it keeps evolving ’til nowadays…
What do you know and think of Swedish breaking, for example Throw Down?
I haven’t seen that much of the Swedish breaking scene and I think the rest of Europe only realized about them since Spring Jam ’91 or ’92 when Throw Down attended the event as well. Before and most of the time also afterwards most people were thinking the Scandinavian scene was more or less all about Boogaloo and maybe some Locking. But I was impressed of what I saw from Throw Down ’til now.
Don’t you think Europe is a little left out in the worldwide scene?
I don’t think so. Of course it is not like in the mid 90ies when the whole b-boy world was supprised that Europe had still such a strong scene and everybody from the States to Japan was heavily impressed and inspired. Then the European scene got outdated fast again just within two or three years. And nowadays Europe is not the trend-setter but nevertheless there are some really good dancers around that get respect worldwide. I think one problem is maybe that there are hardly any (strong) crews anymore that stay together during several years and really go to events worldwide to represent and win!
Which is the nicest jam you ever been to?
A jam for me is an event with all elements combined (getting rare nowadays) and thus one of the nicest was definately UK Fresh 97. Not only the event was cool but also the travel and stay with my buddies was real fun, which is most of the time even more memorable and important. Back in the days we used to rent busses and drive to jams in Germany with a lot of people. Most of the time the travel was hella funny and everybody got cramps in the stomach because of laughing. The event afterwards was like the dessert. Nevertheless the Spring Jams happening in Germany in the early 90ies were more than memorable as well. And CH Fresh 89 was my first big Hip Hop jam and thus also unforgettable.
Have you changed as a man during the years as a b.boy?
I can’t answer this question because I’ve been dancing for half of my life now and grew up during that time as well. Of course a lot has changed throughout all the years. But I can definately say if I had never started to b-boy I wouldn’t have seen, learned and experienced a lot of things. A lot!! Because of Hip Hop you gonna explore the world. Back in the days it was maybe other cities and countries next to yours. And nowadays it’s so easy to get connections all over the world. You must be stupid if you don’t catch this possibility.
What are your plans in the near future?
Keep on dancing and having fun! Master some more tricks and create new steps. And hopefully being able to go to Japan soon again.
Finally, give a shout out to the ones that deserve it!
Shout outs to all my crew members from Switzerland and Japan! Thanks for all the nice memories! To Thomas “BOTY president” Hergenroether (Germany), Break DJ Leacy (UK), Wicket (Footwork Fanatix), Gabin & Karim (Actuel Force), Poe One (Style Elements), Ken Swift (Rock Steady Crew), Maurizio “The Next One” (Rock Steady Crew), Kapi & Addictos (Spain), Machine & DJ Tee (Japan), Black Noise (South Africa), Paulo Nunes (NL), Second 2 None (UK), South Side Rockers (Germany), Enemy Squad (Hungary), Battle Squad (Germany), Cros1 & Paulskee (USA), Bag of Trix (Canada), Circle of Fire (USA), Waseda Breakers (Japan), Passo Sul Tempo (Italy), Soul Control (USA/Germany), Maniax (Germany), to all my buddies in Switzerland especially DJ Woodo for the sound and Mykey, Umit and Hannes for practicing together and to everybody I forgot, you know who you are! Peace!