Like most North Americans who came of age in the 1990s, the first electronic dance music I ever heard was Euro. I have vivid memories from my early teenage years of encountering groups and producers like Snap!, The Real McCoy, 2Unlimited, Technotronic, Haddaway, and Mo-Do on the countless ‘Dance Mix’ compilations that seemed to crop up on a yearly basis. I also had the advantage of growing up in Quebec, where Eurodance was a little more mainstream and frequently got airplay on Musiqueplus, the cable channel that played a huge role in my musical exposure at the beginning of that decade.
As fun as Euro was, however, it wasn’t at the core of the rave culture that was slowly making its way across the Atlantic. My initial exposure to the hardcore vibes fueling British, Dutch, Belgian, and Germany dance floors came later after a close friend (and past soundtrack contributor to the Code 45 Kickstarter) DJ Tamerax came back from a teenage trip to Switzerland with a handful of CDs featuring names like ‘Rave Base 7.’ In them lay the answers to the mysteries of the musical universe—or at the very last, tracks from names like Dune and RMB that sent my brain off in an entirely new direction.
I had just turned 18 by the time I got involved in my first rave (as a promoter), and by then my thirst for hardcore had led me to the series of music releases that would define that moment in time not just for me, but for the kinds of parties portrayed on the pages of Code 45: Happy 2b Hardcore.
This 8-chapter set charted the evolution of late 90s to early 2000s happy hardcore as curated by Anabolic Frolic, a Toronto-based DJ who was behind the extremely successful Hullabaloo raves that began that same year. Frolic (also known as Chris Samojlenko) would have an outsize influence on my dance music tastes thanks in large part to fantastic track selection in each of the mixes, as well as the sheer diversity of sub-genres he managed to stuff into each happy hardcore set.
For myself, and thousands of others, Happy 2b Hardcore represented my first brush with legends like Hixxy, Scott Brown, Brisk, Bang!, Trixxy, and Dougal and Gammer. Amazingly, I would later share a bill with some of these artists a few years after hearing the Happy 2b Hardcore mixes, while others I would end up booking for my own parties with my partner Doc Savage.
Each and every one of these artists and their incredible tunes have remained with me on my personal 20 year musical journey. Now they’ve reached out through time to touch yet another important part of my life—telling Vanessa’s story through Code 45—and they bang just as hard today as my neighbors did on the wall back then when I was blasting them out for the first time.