Introduction

 

IMAGINE A WORLD without Abel El’Toro.  A startling premise when considered within the context of Sydney’s rave history. What if Abel had never met Ming D and Australia’s first outdoor electronic music festival, ‘Happy Valley,’ was never created? Can you imagine how different listening to Sabrina Johnson’s, ‘Peace (In The Valley)’ would have been over the years? Consider extinguishing from existence the inspirational Mixed Beans rave parties, Mortuary Railway Station recoveries and Sydney’s longest running mid-week club night, ‘Warm Up.’ Then, envision if you can the hundreds of blank spaces on all the rave flyers, over all the years, had Abel’s name suddenly faded from existence. The mind boggles. Abel is a pinnacle of Sydney’s rave scene, like Minneapolis’, ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,’ Abel is Sydney’s prince, our city’s rave royalty reigning as DJ, promoter, techno pioneer and breaks champion from the old school to present.

 

HOUSE MUSIC PUMPED from a rustic farm out across the hills of Byron Bay. It was 1993 when I first met Abel El’Toro who was already a legend of Sydney’s rave scene having created Happy Valley and Mixed Beans. This Byron Bay dance party had been created by a bunch of English travellers associated with the Welsh Embassy, but it was shut down by police because of noise complaints from the local farmers. Amongst the crowd, however, in the guise of punters, were two of Sydney’s most formative DJs: Abel El’Toro and Ming D. They had both travelled up together in Ming’s ‘Renegade Van’ that was essentially a mobile dance party on wheels. The guys offered up their musical expertise and helped us move the party down to Tallows Beach. Reversing the Renegade Van down onto the sand was quite a feat from memory, but it was achieved and then out popped a generator and decks and we were in business. We danced all night on the beach, under the moonlight. 

 

Abel to me is like a guru, a mystic, conjuring up wicked sounds to entrance and enthrall us all as the tribe dances amongst our city’s most sacred sites.  When Abel is not on the decks you can usually find him on the dance floor amongst the punters. His energy is open allowing people to approach him whereupon ladies kiss and hug him and dudes shake his hand and pat him on the back. 

 

Abel at his mixing desk

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The conversations usually revel in the effects of music, both that night, and in the inspirational times. Abel used terms like ‘organic’ and ‘The Collective Unconscious’ to describe his partnership with Ming D which culminated into some of the greatest raves  this country has ever experienced. Further, interviewing Abel for this article was humourous as he was quick with a joke and genuinely enjoyed a laugh. In speaking with Tony Papworth (Hardcore Café) he said, ‘Abel is a straight up guy who doesn’t carry any airs and graces. Abel is a real person who is one of the pillars of the scene. Through Happy Valley, he and Ming have seen great success and great tragedy. ’

 

ORGANIC, ORIGINAL and RAW are the words that come to my mind when listening to Abel’s music and mixing. His style is such that if you walked into a club or warehouse where  his playing, or hear one of his mix tapes (‘the one’s we all played to death,’), you instantly recognize it, exclaiming, ‘Hey, that’s Abel!’ His musical selection has an alternative edge to other DJs and this is one of the reasons why he is so spectacular. In discussing his mixing, Abel revealed he prefers mixing the core of a song, the inner marrow if you will, the best chunk.  Further, Abel is known for hunting down alternative versions of songs to mix – those odd, rare and often acidic B sides as opposed to the the standard radio and club versions. In Abel’s ‘Golden Room’ mix for example, he played GTO, Elevation, ‘Troll Mix’ (React, 1992) instead of the ‘Sonic Love Mix’ that was the anthem you always heard at rave parties. 

Tallows Beach, Byron Bay, 1993

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INTERVIEW

EARLY DAYS

 

ABEL: Abel El’Toro and this is Sydney Rave History!

 

BEN: Where were you born?

 

ABEL: I was born in Enmore (Sydney), 17th July 1971, Then, when I was 3 years old we moved to Spain for a while which is where both my parents are from.

 

BEN: I read an article that said you were trained classically in piano. Did that influence on your music today?

 

ABEL: Yes, absolutely. My father was a big lover of classical music and my favourite classical record is The Clockwork Orange Soundtrack which is mostly Beethoven. I love the composition in classical music sometimes you hear that same composition in electronic music.

 

BEN: You said once before your family encouraged creative freedom and music when you were growing up. Can you describe your family?

 

 

 

Abel as a teenager in his Dad’s garage

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Abel as a teenager learning to mix

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ABEL: My family encouraged creative freedom and individuality. My mother was a hairdresser which I feel is an art form and my father was an artist. In Spain before coming to Australia, my father painted movie sets and met Sophia Lauren and Charlton Heston. Some of the movies he worked on were ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ (Paramount, 1964), ‘El Cid’ (Allied Artists, 1961) and ‘King of Kings’ (MGM, 1961). My father painted the backdrops of movie sets back when it was a real art not from computer generated stuff. My parents would always encourage me to follow my dreams and visited my gigs. 

 

BEN: What was your first DJ set up?

 

ABEL: My first DJ set up was in my parent’s garage learning to DJ on belt driven turntables. If you can learn to DJ on belt driven turntables you can DJ on anything! (Both laugh) It’s starting off in the deep end with some hard tools. I got my head around it, and loved it so I went out and bought some proper Technics 1200s (direct drive turntables) which then felt like a breeze. I pretty much collected and played (records) in my parent’s garage for about a year before I approached promoters and club owners to put me on the bill. I waited until I got to a point that I thought I was good enough to play to a crowd. 

BREAK DANCING 1984

 

BEN: I read you won a break dancing competition at Hoyts Cinema (George St) judged by Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) from the movie Breakin (MGM, 1984).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABEL: It was a pretty special event, but at the same time I was a little disappointed. I went there that day thinking I’d see Turbo (Michael Chambers), but instead they sent Kelly and one other guy. I think his name was ‘Poppin’ Pete (Timothy Solomon) So, they sent him and Kelly (laughs) which was ok, but I was really there to see Turbo. To see Turbo with the broom, you know when he does that scene?

 

BEN: Yes, when Turbo danced to ‘Tour De France’ by Kraftwerk (1983).

 

ABEL: That’s right.

 

BEN: Can you still bust a few moves?

 

ABEL: I can still do the ‘Crazy Legs,’ I can still do ‘Stars’ and I can still do some Poppin’ and Lockin’. In 1995, I felt the need to bring that all back so we started break dancing at Warm Up at Mr Good Bar (Oxford Street) on Wednesdays. 

RAT PARTIES AND ACID HOUSE 1988-89

 

BEN: You mentioned '80s RAT dance parties as a catalyst for becoming a DJ. What was it you saw and felt there that inspired you?

 

ABEL: Well, dance music basically. In the mid to late '80s if you wanted to listen to dance music the place to go and hear the latest sounds was either a gay party or a gay venue. There was nothing pretentious there, it was a mixture between the inner city straight crowd and the gay crowd and everybody got on like friends because of the universal language - music.

 

BEN: Ironically, my first party was RAT in 1989 at the Hordern Pavilion.

 

ABEL: I was there! (Both laugh) I went to all the RAT parties because I got to know Jac Vidgen the promoter and he had a crew of us who would help set up the décor for a free ticket. So that’s how we got in even though we we’re slightly underage. (Both laugh)

 

TRAP DOOR 1991

 

BEN: I’d like to ask you about your first DJ spot at the Trap Door?

 

ABEL: The Trap Door was an underground venue in Pitt Street (Sydney) which later became Central Station Records. It was on each Friday for a month and Ming D was the promoter and he was kind enough to put me on as a special guest for one of the nights. That was the first gig I played at. Later, at the same venue I also saw Carl Cox in his first ever Sydney show and I kid you not there were only 10 of us there for that event. He did not care how many people were there, whether there was 2 or 2000 people, he still played one of the most killer sets.

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY VALLEYS 1991-2000

 

BEN: Moving onto ‘The Summer of Love’ and the original Happy Valley on the 23rd of November 1991. Phil Booth, one of our Sydney Rave History historians, asked, ‘What were the inspirations behind building the first three Happy Valley parties to such a large scale production wise?’

 

ABEL: It grew organically. The first Happy Valley in 1991 was the first outdoor electronic music festival held in Australia. It was the first time speakers, lights, DJ, to such a large scale, were set up outdoors, with no cover whatsoever. If it rained we would have been stuffed! (laughs)  It was completely exposed to the elements, the production, everything! (Laughs) It had an attendance of 2000 people! It was big numbers for 1991 because back then the inner city raves were getting probably about 1000 people. We had 2000 people out at Pacific Park in Windsor so it was big numbers for back then. From there it grew organically, so as the rave scene got bigger, so did the Happy Valley festivals. The year 2000, was probably the last good Happy Valley; we had 9000 people through. So it went from 2000 to 9000 people and now if you go to some of the other outdoor festivals there is 30-40,000 people! 

 

BEN: Do you remember any particular moments at Happy Valley?

 

ABEL: I would have to say the first Happy Valley. It’s that old saying: the first time is always the best. It was the ‘Summer of Love,’ it was our Woodstock and everything felt right about it. 

 

 

 

 

BEN: They were a massive production and I’ve seen photos with things like skateboard ramps and Ferris wheels.

 

ABEL: Well, that was later on. The first Happy Valley was just a big, ‘fuck off’ sound system in a paddock. Which went all night with no noise complaints the sunrise was spectacular.

Happy Valley 1991

HAPPY VALLEY 2

 

BEN: Happy Valley II was on 12th of December 1992. One of the most infamous incidents was the car accident. Do you remember how the Press responded to that?

 

ABEL: It was unfortunate. The press jumped on the whole thing saying ‘dance music kills.’ being one of the first events to have someone die. It was not a good time for us, we felt sorry for the families involved but we did not have any control over the situation. The authorities acted hostile. They came and shut the party down early and told everyone to leave the site. There were no protocols in place as we were the first. We did not tell everyone to leave the site; everyone was welcome to stay on the site for as long as they wanted. It was the police that forced people to jump in their vehicles and drive home when they clearly were not ready to drive home.

BEN: Do you think that was one of the first catalysts for the clamp down on the rave scene?

 

ABEL: Yes, after Happy Valley II the ‘Guidelines for Dance Parties’ (NSW Government) were written. As you know there have been a lot of deaths at dance music related events over the years i.e Big Day Out. It is unfortunate that when large groups of people gather in the one place accidents happen.

 

BEN: So you and Ming were both involved in Happy Valley?

 

ABEL: Yes. The two of us and then my brother Alex Polo came in later. He did all the graphic design, all the flyers for all our parties. He was the eyes and we were the ears.

 

BEN: What was your friendship like with Ming back then?

 

ABEL: Great friendship, it’s that thing of the Collective Unconsciousness: of two people having the same ideas. Even our music tastes were similar, so it was all very natural, organic and it just fell into place.

 

GREEN ACRES 1991 – 1995

 

ABEL: Green Acres began as small gatherings in the bush for friends and each event had no more than 50 people at one time. The parties we're so memorable they inspired me to make a mix tape. The first Green Acres mix tape 1991 was recorded on cassette in my parents garage all on vinyl in one take, no computers or editing. Looking back it was ground breaking, I mixed in long intro's by 70s rock band The Moody Blues.

 

 

 

A Punter’s Experience of Happy Valley by Adrian Gover (Caffeine)

 

It was always quite an adventure trying to find the venue for a party and Happy Valley 1 was no exception. After driving for what seemed forever, we turned off the road onto a dirt track, winding our way through the darkness and following the tail lights of the car in front. Finally, through all the trees we could see the lights and a stage that was deep in the valley. I remember thinking ‘wow, we’re in the middle of nowhere, but check that out!’ After parking the car, we looked back up the hill and could see other cars that were bumper to bumper, all the headlights and tail lights streaming down the track. It looked like peak hour on Parramatta Rd and it was an incredible sight which got even better as the night progressed.

 

In terms of music, Happy Valley was a real mixed bag of melodic house to hard Belgium techno. The music left an impression on me because over the last 22 years I’ve been collecting much of what I heard that night. From Sheen’s set the likes of Choice by Orbital (FFRR, 1991), music by Sonic Solution to Moby’s, Go, Rainforest Mix, (Outer Rhythm, 1991. Joe 90 who played ‘Feel So Real’ (sorry was off in search of friends so can’t remember any more). 

 

Abel: Speedy J - Pullover (Music Man Records, 1991) (my all time fav song), The Hypnotist - The House is Mine (Rising High Records, 1991), Convert – Nightbird (AM:PM, 1991), Problem House - Party People (Hit House, 1991) just to mention a few. When Abel dropped in CJ Bolland’s, Horsepower (R&S Records, 1991). I was standing next to the gyroscope at the back. I ran towards the stage zig-zagging in and out of people. It was like I had tunnel vision. Once I got to the massive speaker stacks at the front I went off, dancing harder than ever before. Sugar Ray: MDA - Take An E (Btech, 1991), Band In a Box - Get Dynamite (No Name Records, 1991), PKA - Let Me Hear You (Say Yeah) (Not On Label, 1990), Cappella - Take me away (Media Records Benelux, 1991), DJ Dick - Weekend.

 

Ming D: Who could forget when he let off a flare as he kicked off Prophetia’s - Rave Is Your Party (Out, 1991) and just as the sun was coming up, Bam Bam Musique - Milk of Magnesia (Bam Bam Records, 1991) (one of my all time fav morning tracks). Then there was Anticappella - 2/231 (Underground, 1991), Shades of Rhythm - Sound of Eden (ZTT, 1191) and Safety Dance. Morning DJ (sorry don’t know who that is) Such a good feeling, Get ready for this, Everybody’s free, and a track that changed the course of techno, Strings of Life by Rhythim Is Rhythim (aka Derrick May) (Transmat, 1987). Song of the night for most (which was played by multiple Djs) was Sabrina Johnson’s, ‘Peace (In The Valley)’ (Brothers in Rhythm mix) (ATCO Records, 1991)

 

Although not along the lines of what I was collecting at the time, it did encapsulate the vibe of not only Happy Valley but many of the parties around that time. Each time it was played there was a sense of excitement and happiness across the dance floor. Many running from cars, picnic rugs and the chill out area to share in the experience. And, yes, it’s now part of my collection. A very memorable night and one which has definitely earned its legendary reputation.

Happy Valley II - Outdoor Music Festival 1992 Sydney Australia

BEN: 1992, Eclipse Rave Radio voted you DJ of the Year. Why do you think that is?

 

ABEL: It’s not something that you think about at the time. Looking back I was one of the pioneering Techno DJs in Australia. Before that, it was a little bit more Balearic and piano and happy which is nice, but I was one of the first DJs in Australia to start playing German techno: Frank De Wulf etc. The early techno that came from New Beat. 

 

BEN: Was that Techno on the Green Acres 1 & 2  DJ mix releases?

 

ABEL: Yes, Green Acres 1 & 2, I would say is a mixture of early techno, acid and early trance.

 

 

 

 

 

MIXED BEANS 1992 – 1993

 

BEN: 1992 was the year you did Mixed Beans (23 May 1992). What was the set up at Mixed Beans?

 

ABEL: At the first Mixed Beans we wanted to do something different. Something that hadn't been done before. We had a DJ play simultaneously at either end of the warehouse and video cameras set up inside both DJ booths pointing at the turntables. One DJ would play two songs and then the next DJ on the other side of the room another two songs. We had a video feed so that the DJ could wave into the video camera to tell the other DJ that the song was about to finish. It would rotate like that. (Laughs)

 

BEN: A strange back-to-back?

 

ABEL: That’s right. Then with the second Mixed Beans we wanted to do the back-to-back thing again. That was Mixed Beans II, The Chocolate Factory (2 October 1993) over in Alexandria. The venue is still there, it’s now a shoe factory. With the second one we set up the DJ booth in the centre of the warehouse and we had a DJ facing one way and a DJ facing the other way. Four turntables, two each, so the DJs were virtually standing back-to-back in the centre of the room.

 

BEN: Is that what you meant by ‘Mixed Beans?’ The mixing of it?

 

ABEL: The word came about whilst I was on the phone talking to a friend about wanting to create something for a mixed crowd like the old RAT parties at the Hordern. And she said, ‘mixed up, like mixed beans?’ And I said, ‘yes, like mixed beans! That’s it, we will call it that!’ (Both laugh)

 

BEN: I remember the gay scene being very prominent at parties in the ‘80s. In 1992, my wife attended ‘Mixed Beans’ and she felt that was the last of mixed parties for gay and straight crowd before it split?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABEL: Yes, Mixed Beans was something my brother (Alex Polo) and I wanted to capture with a mixed straight / gay crowd being under the one roof (again). We had the late, great Robert Racic play at Mixed Beans. He was one of the all-time greatest gay Sydney DJs.

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A Feminine Reflection on Mixed Beans by Jasmine Georgevic

 

REAL JELLY BEANS were attached to the Mixed Beans rave flyer that I was offered to me coming home from work in Maroubra. I had never been to a rave before, but the flyer looked interesting (plus it was tasty) so I took it home and showed it to my boyfriend who said we should go to that party. We rang the 0055 number on the night for directions, but it still took us a while to find the place. I remember walking in and the security guard waved his metal detecting wand over me and saying, ‘bless you my child.’ The outdoor area had a fun park with a rolling tunnel and a massive ball pit from which everyone was throwing balls. Inside, the DJs were up on scaffolds, there was a platform in the middle and even a Perspex container with even more real jelly beans in it. 

 

The highlight of the party was around 1:30am when suddenly all the lights went out and the music stopped. Everyone freaked out thinking maybe the cops had shut the power off, but then ‘O’Fortuna’ Apotheosis (Radikal Records, 1992) started playing and suddenly a laser shot out into the crowd showering everyone in green stars. Then, a jester on big stilts came marching out followed by girls dressed as blue flames like the natural gas TV ads back then. I also remember a hippy couple later in the night, they would have been in their 70s, just wandering through the party, hand in hand, enjoying the vibe. I was hooked after that party and my rave journey had begun. Thanks Abel.

Mixed Beans 2, 1992

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PAUL HOLDEN’S STUN! AND SAMEER FROM SOUTHEND 1993

 

BEN: 1993 was the year you played at Stun!

 

ABEL: Yes, with Paul Holden who I had known as a DJ at the Hordern parties. He put on the Bacchanalia parties and he was looking to start DJing in the rave scene.  He liked the music and the vibe so he started a club night Stun! at Neo Pharaoh which was one of the first mid-week regular rave nights. It was cool because back then ravers were only used to partying in dirty old warehouses but Neo Pharaoh was flash, with smooth marble finishes, like a five star hotel. It’s actually a five star hotel now. It was the first time ravers got to party in first-class! It was first-class raving! (Both laugh) 

 

BEN: You and Paul Holden got to play one after the other at Sydney Rave History’s, Donkey Kong. How is your relationship then and now?

 

 

ABEL: It’s great. We’ve always had a good relationship. I see Paul every now and then and we still say hi and catch up.

 

BEN: In 1994, I noticed you also came to work with Southend on ‘Take Me Up’ remix.

 

ABEL: Southend was Sameer who regularly visited Stun! The remix I created was a high energy trance mix which was produced with Sameer on his Korg MS-20 synthesizer where the main riff in the song comes from. It is quite a legendary synth. Sameer these days is still involved with music he is Mastering Engineer at 301 Studios.

 

BEN: Nik Fish also worked with Southend and he also DJed at Eckythump (2014). Do you know Nik at all?

 

ABEL: Nik and I go way back. There was a handful of us getting into the techno sound back in the early rave days. There were not many, Nik Fish, Jumping Jack, MD & The Techno Terrorists were the early ones. R&S Records, I mentioned the Frank de Wulf (Belgium) music earlier on. There were only a handful of DJs, I can count them on one hand, that were playing techno at parties in those days. 

Abel and Paul Holden at Sydney Rave History’s, 'It’s On Like Donkey Kong'

Abel in his home recording studio

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BEN: It’s often been noticed that you played music differently to other DJs.

 

ABEL: I always tried to avoid the main stream (anthems) even though at the time it was all underground music. Not intentionally I'd steer clear of what other DJs were playing so that during a DJ’s set you didn’t hear the same songs three times that night. I’d push the boundaries. I really enjoyed taking people on that journey, making those long drawn out mixes seamless so the one hour set was like one long song. I was one of the first DJs to start scratching over techno. Scratching back then was more for the Hip Hop DJs. There were only a few DJs like GT in Adelaide and the late, great Angus in Brisbane were probably the only two other DJs that would scratch over techno.

 

BEN: Yes, I noticed you beat mixed a lot longer than many other DJs.

 

ABEL: YES, to get that seamless result. I tried to avoid the boring bits in songs because that is the time people say, ‘hey, I’m going to bar to get a drink.’ (Both laugh) Each song breaks down to something. I try to avoid the boring bits and keep it on an up vibe throughout the entire set. Avoid the intros and the outros. Just get to the chunk of the song, the middle bits, the good bits. This style of mixing is featured on the Green Acres mixes.

Simon L (left) did the artwork and lighting for Stun and DJ Phil Smart (right). Photo: Warm UP Goodbar 1998

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MORTUARY RAILWAY STATION RECOVERIES 1995-1996

 

BEN: In 1995, I remember you playing at Mortuary Station.

 

ABEL: My brother Alex Polo and I who put on Midnight Madness (22 February 1992) at Darling Harbour fun park, which is now the IMAX Cinema, would always look for obscure venues. We would always try and break away from parties being in just another warehouse. Mortuary Station was one of those obscure venues. We were really influenced by what was going on in Berlin at the time. You could put on a party anywhere, say an airplane hangar and the authorities would say ‘yes’ and there would be no shut downs. Mortuary Station was perfect for recoveries and we did a bunch there. We set up the party right on the railway platform. The railway was not in use anymore so we set up scaffolding (DJ Booth) on the tracks pointing into the platform. We had all the public driving past going, ‘what the hell is going on there!?’ (Both laugh)

Abel’s old record case

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WARM UP / The Hoong & I - 1994-2001

 

BEN: 1995 was the year you started Warm Up at Mr Good Bar. I noticed you called yourself ‘El’ Toro.’

 

ABEL: Yes, I wanted to break from the rave scene, not desert the rave scene as it made me who I am today and I will not forget that. But I wanted to try other sounds and genres and other crowds because I felt the rave scene was getting too young and fast .  So I changed my name to El’ Toro to not be stereotyped as being a rave only DJ which worked out fine and allowed me to do new school breaks at events like ‘Warm Up.’ I also did some mixed, gay, straight parties called ‘Bent’ under the name ‘El’ Toro.’ Nowadays, people are more open minded and it doesn’t matter if you play mixed styles and genres, but back then it did.

Warm Up was created together with DJ Mixmaster aka Oscar Goldman after he later changed his DJ name. We decided that Sydney needed a midweek club night where "new school" breakbeat and "old school" hip hop could be heard. It was the first big beat, breaks club in Australia. I remember guys ringing from Melbourne and saying, ‘Man, what are you guys playing up there!? We want to know what’s going on?’ we had never heard anything like this. It really was a new sound at the time. We started in 1995 doing break beats mixed in with break dancing. Break beats nowadays has evolved into Dub Step & Trap.

My roots come from hip-hop. I am a ‘Breakin’ Raver!’ (both laugh) So that is why the new school breaks really appealed to me because it was basically hip-hop sped up. Hip-hop was 90 BPM with new school breaks being like 120-130 BPM. 

 

BEN: Warm Up was touted as the longest running mid-week event in Sydney’s history.

ABEL: It ran for six years without skipping a beat. We had a bunch of celebrities visit like Kiefer Sutherland and Marilyn Manson. Plus, we had international DJs like Rhythm Digitals, Adam Freeland, Roni Size who would come to the club and play for free because they happened to be in town touring for festivals like Big Day Out. It was all very organic at the time, nothing was planned, very word of mouth.

 

BEN: I noticed in 1994 you had a band?

 

ABEL: Yes, ‘The Hoong and I’ started in 1994 I had just come back from India. I had travelled to Goa . When I came back the rave scene had changed. I felt the crowd was getting younger and the music was getting faster so I was looking for something else to do in the music scene. It was around the same time we commenced Warm Up and we would make live appearances at the club. The Hoong aka H.J came from a band called, ‘Itch-E and Scratch-E,’ Paul Mac worked with them. (cont. >>>)

WARM UP 2001

ABEL: (continued.) We partied together and started writing some music together. At the time it was ground breaking because it was the first time we broke away from the regular four-on-the-floor beats and brought in the break beat sound. It was still psychedelic like rave music, but with a break beat edge. It was around the same time when we also introduced break dancing again (to Sydney). It was the Hoong’s idea. He said, ‘man you still remember how to break dance don’t you?’ I said, ‘I guess so.’ He said, ‘Do it at our gigs.’ So that’s when I started break dancing at our live shows and people just freaked! It had never made a come back before so when people started seeing break dancing again in 1994-1995 it was almost like seeing it for the first time.

 

BEN: I noticed you played the Byron Bay Arts Festival and Strawberry Fields in the late ‘90s.

 

Mixed Beans 2, 1992

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ABEL: Yes, "The Hoong & I" played a series of live shows from 1994 to 1999, including The Byron Bay Arts and Music Festival, Australia, and The Strawberry Fields festival in Brisbane, Australia. We were well received. Big crowds turned up and it was good to play live and do our own thing.

 

BEN: This was around the same time you returned from India?

 

ABEL: Yes, in 1994 I DJed in Goa and Pune, India and I met up with Sven Vath and Juno Reactor. I really feel those early ‘90s in Goa were quite special and it was the ‘Golden Era’ of Goa. Parties over there were very spiritual held in old ruined temples, the music and parties stay with you forever. I am not really into the Psy Trance these days. It is all a little bit fast and fluffy for me, but back then it was analogue and still had soul.

 

BOOGALOO CREW 2001-PRESENT DAY

 

BEN: Then came the ‘Boogaloo Crew’.

 

ABEL: Yes, the Boogaloo Crew started in 2001. It started as a DJ sound system. I would play the backing beats which were instrumentals, there was also a percussionist, a saxophone player and a singer. It had a little more of a house sound. We travelled all around Australia and it was well received. The band name came about combining ‘The Rock Steady Crew’ and ‘Electric Boogaloo.’ The B-BOY in me always comes out in the end...(Laugh)

 

BEN: What are you up to these days?

 

ABEL: I’m a proud dad, my daughter is a teenager now and she’s smashing it at school and works at Taronga Zoo. I’m back in the studio producing some new material. Watch this space.

BEN: What are some of your spiritual and moral beliefs?

 

ABEL: Spiritual beliefs: I believe in the universal language, that we are all equal, we are all the same, whether you are black or white it doesn’t matter. I believe in the Mother Earth and in the laws of nature. Treat others as you wish to be treated.

 

BEN: You mentioned The Collective Unconscious by Dr. Carl Yung?

 

ABEL: Yes, I believe in a bit of Buddhism and there are bits I draw from all religions I guess. The bits that work for me.

 

BEN: How do you think you will be remembered in years to come when you die?

 

ABEL: I’ve been told I cook a really mean big breakfast. So I want to be remembered for, ‘El Toro’s Big Breakfast!’ (both laughing)

 

BEN: And what legacy do you hope to leave?

 

ABEL: Music man. Music lives forever. 

Abel El ’Toro with Sydney Rave History reporter Benjamin Sullivan, 2014

Photo credits:

 

i  Photo by Paul Blamire

ii  Photo by Benjamin Sullivan

iii  Photo courtesy of Abel El ’Toro

LINKS

 

abeltoro.com.au 

Abel's Wiki page

Green Acres free mixtape download (Side A, Side B)

Happy Valley pictures and flyers

 

CREDITS

 

Editing and web design by Brenden Brain, Phil Booth and Jeremy Thompson of Sydney Rave History. Thanks to Jasmine Georgevic, Tony Papworth, Paul Blamire and Adrian Gover for their contributions.

Main story by Benjamin Sullivan and many thanks to Abel El 'Toro

 

Article ©2015 SRH and Benjamin Sullivan

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