Pummelling 808 rhythms, laser zaps, caustic synth basslines and cybernetic sound effects are all vital parts of International Chrome’s blueprint. Cue up a release on the label run by Jensen Interceptor, Assembler Code and Teamy Kankkunen, and you’ll mostly find dance tracks built to obliterate underground clubs. Though electro appears to be the uniting genre, listen closer, and you’ll detect influences from across the spectrum. “That classic electro sound was driving it from the beginning,” says Assembler Code (real name Brendan Zacharias). “But you can’t do that forever, you’ve got to grow and develop.”
Since its inception, International Chrome has amassed a hefty discography, spanning everything from stomping industrial EBM to popping Miami bass and baile funk, eerie IDM, and leftfield hip-hop and drum & bass. While Berlin artist Luz1e’s ‘Surge’ will please electro acolytes, with its serrated analogue riffs, relentless drums and space-age chords, ‘Tigrão’ by Venezuela-born Dagga taps into the Brazilian funk carioca sound, mixing evil low-end with big-cat growls and crowd-hyping raps. Then there’s the astral-plane electronica of The Thousand Order’s ‘Access Point’, or the 4/4 pump, jungle breaks and vocal samples of Frenquency’s ‘Neva Been’, all contributing to the label’s eclectic catalogue.
There’s a sweat-soaked, club-geared drive to much of International Chrome’s output — a vibe you can witness if you check out Jensen Interceptor’s recent set at DJ Mag HQ on YouTube — and also a willingness to experiment and step outside the limiting constrictions of genre. “There’s elements from everything we love,” says Jensen Interceptor (real name Mikey Melas). “Brendan and Teamy also love wave music, they love hip-hop, all these different types of music. It is all connected, and so it’s only natural for us to evolve as a label. When we get stuff that helps us tie these links together in such an amazing way, that’s incredible.”
Zacharias and Melas were already entrenched in the Sydney dance scene when they were introduced to each other by Jon Convex (formerly of Instra:mental), who was touring Australia at the time. Melas had been gigging for years on the Sydney DJ circuit, but he was frustrated with playing commercial clubs and wanted to concentrate on his love for underground electro; Zacharias was working as a mixing and mastering engineer.
“I was like, ‘Where is your studio at?’” Melas says. “And he said, ‘In Maroubra’. Then it got real weird, because that’s where I grew up. It’s very working class, one of the poorer suburbs on the south side of Sydney. I seldom met anyone from my neighbourhood that worked directly in the same scene as me. That blew my mind. When we linked up, the chemistry was instant.”
Melas introduced his new friend to electro, and they began to collaborate frequently, putting out records together on labels like CPU, Private Persons and Cultivated Electronics. The next step was a label of their own; International Chrome began in 2018 with the punishing EBM beats of ‘Trigger Zone’, a collaborative EP between French electro maven The Hacker and Jensen Interceptor. “The three tracks we wrote in one afternoon at Brendan’s place,” Melas says. “We were on a tear. We had the tracks, and then I turned to Brendan and said, ‘Why don’t we do this label together?’ We thought, ‘Let’s create an outlet for both of us to release our music’. But suddenly we started getting so many demos, that the idea of releasing music by people we looked up to, heroes of ours, became so much more attractive.”
Two EPs followed by Irish producer Matthew Flanagan, under his DeFeKT and Electronic Speech System monikers, filled with the kind of serrated synth patterns and funked-up drums that defined the label’s early sound. DeFeKT had been something of a mentor to Melas when he was refining his electro sound, and releasing Flanagan’s music felt like returning the favour. Melas moved from Sydney to Berlin, but then the pandemic hit, and the label entered a new phase. Launched in May 2020, the International Chromies series invited producers to contribute club edits, with all proceeds donated to charity.
“We felt like we were waking up to a new social crisis every day in 2020,” Melas says. “Between the start of the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, then events in Syria and Lebanon, there were all these things happening, and I saw this as an opportunity to do something, like, ‘OK, we have all our friends around us, incredibly talented people who are spewing out so much music, and then we have all these social issues’. I thought, ‘Let’s just combine these two things together’, so I started reaching out to people and saying, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of starting a charity series, where every month we can do a release to go towards these charities, would you be interested in donating a track?’ The response was incredible, it really took off.”
It was the International Chromies series that first broadened the remit of the label. The second volume, Dagga’s 2020 release ‘House Of Flying Daggers’, introduced the Colombia-based artist’s perspective on electro, taking in various flavours of Miami bass, funk carioca, rap and ghettotech, with the track ‘Trick’ featuring DJ Fuckoff a particularly explosive club heater. As someone who had been a fan of Latin American dance styles for many years, especially baile funk, Melas was excited to get Dagga on board. “I love to see that finally Latino artists are on the map and getting visibility,” says Melas. “For us to have the privilege to be able to release that music, and have that a part of Chrome and to be a home for them, is so incredible.”
The series has been so popular that many artists now approach the label with demos specifically aimed at International Chromies. As time has gone on, the focus has moved away from edits to original tracks — but the charity element remains key. For Melas, a social conscience is vital for anyone they choose to work with.
“The key things when it comes to artists we work with, is that genuine passion for the music, but also having similar views to us,” he says. “We do live in a very politically charged time, and we want to be working with people that see things the way we see things. Why are we releasing this music, investing time with these people, establishing a connection, relationships? I’m at a point in my life now where there’s emotion attached to everything I do, and it needs to be worth my time.”
Though International Chrome has continued to sonically expand, releasing the hip-hop influenced club tracks of Amadeezy, Viikatory’s sci-fi sounds, and grisly electro grooves by Djedjotronic, there’s a cohesion to the label’s sound that goes beyond genre; the kicks and snares always hit with a satisfying crunch, designed to get hesitant heads on the floor. That’s down to the way the label is run, with Zacharias often assisting with mixdowns and mastering of artists’ tracks. In this way, the label takes on something of a mentoring role, advising upcoming producers and helping them to realise their vision, while maintaining the quality control International Chrome has become known for.
“Developing artists is a big thing for us, because that’s what keeps people coming back to the same label as opposed to leapfrogging onto different labels, as we’ve seen happen with other people,” Zacharias says. “I’m an engineer by trade, and I bring that skillset to the table. Mikey is very particular about his mixdowns and obviously so am I, so we’re coming at it from two sides of the same coin. I’m seeing it from the technical side, he’s seeing it from the functional side. Sometimes he’ll say, ‘We’ve got this great EP, but we’ll need to fully mix and master it’.”
In addition to International Chromies, another string to the label’s bow is the Data Planet cassette series — album length releases that explore deeper styles. Everything from the off-world sound design of Lord Jalapeños to The Thousand Order’s braindance-influenced melodies finds an outlet here, while the latest in the series, Ten Years Lost’s ‘Last Local Hero’, is a mystical gem. “We were being sent so much stuff that wasn’t necessarily club-heavy or peak-time banging stuff, but we still love all that, especially when it’s done so well,” Melas says.
One of the label’s latest releases represents another change. $ombi’s ‘Wellen’ is a downtempo hip-hop track with lyrics in German, and lush, spacey production — there are remixes from dBridge and Yazzus to keep the club appeal, but Melas, Zacharias and Kankkunen want to continue in this unexpected vein. “The first thing that all three of us said was ‘Wellen’ is a line in the sand, where we’re like, ‘This is what we’re gonna be doing from now on’,” Kankkunen says.
International Chrome’s recent release from Mathis Ruffing & Tamila mixes IDM influences with speedy club electro and rap, and features remixes from Sinistarr and a donk/jungle fusion from DJ Fucks Himself, and there are more exciting EPs to come from Venezuela’s raptor house pioneer DJ Babatr, Mexico’s DJ Fucci, and a collaboration between Moodrich and NYC ballroom rapper Darius the Barbarian.
A delight in how all these forms of music connect remains a driving force for International Chrome. “I hope people can look at the whole catalogue and see the links in the chain,” concludes Melas, “see that it makes sense, and see all those influences coming together.”
Ten Year Lost 'daftys (Bustaz)'
Manao 'Rebe Flip'
The Thousand Order 'TELEPATHIC INTELLIGENCE'
Amadeezy & Arm Record 'Bass Beat Bang'
Lord Jalapeños 'Quasar (Ten Years Lost Remix)'
Exzakt 'Hotel Hialeah'
DJ Babatr 'Soundmind'
Clementaum x Rattlesnake 'AIII'
Wavzim 'Passinho Bolado'
Dj Fucci 'The Way'
POUCH ENVY 'AZZBACK'
Assembler Code 'Get Right'
Nina Sky 'Move Your Body Girl (Jensen interceptor's Movin' Edit)'
New Jeans 'ETA (Virgo Devil Club Mix)'
Benny Benassi X Rosalía 'Pale Satisfaction (Jensen Interceptor's Pushin Mashup)'
Gaiola das Popozudas 'Ô Darcy (Jensen Interceptor's Y3K Edit)'
$ombi 'Wellen (Yazzus Remix)'
DJ Sosa RD 'Risk Management'
Dagga 'Back it Up'
LUNY 'LOCO's theme'
Frenquency 'BAD MAN'
Darius The Barbarian & Moodrich '030 to the 305'
Mathis Ruffing & Tamila 'Miss Tamila'
Volruptus 'Bassssalína Yeee'