For ten whole days each summer, the usually cozy and reserved city of Ghent becomes the backdrop for a marathon of heavy drinking, wild dancing and troops of people looking for fun. While the streets are chock-full of the stalls, street performers and beer stands that make up the Gentse Feesten, one of Europe’s finest electronic music festivals is taking place simultaneously in the safe haven of Vooruit. We sat down with 10 Days Off‘s Jeroen Delodder to talk to us about the goings on behind a lineup that never fails to get the crowds going.
How did you get involved with 10 Days Off?
I turned 31 this year, so the early days of the festival were before my time, unfortunately. Originally, I was on the board of 5voor12 which is the umbrella organisation behind 10 Days Off, Antwerp’s music club Petrol and Superdiesel, and as a 5voor12 member, I’m involved in all these projects.
Who decides the festival lineup?
There are two of us responsible for the substantive decisions. First and foremost, there’s Philip De Liser, who founded the festival 19 years ago and who’s still the main man today. I’ve been on board for five years now and have been involved in the programming since three of four years.
How did you develop your scouting skills?
I’ve been into electronic music for as long as I can remember. As the radio host of Studio Brussel‘s Switch I’m surrounded by it every day and I keep a close eye on what new tracks are getting released, what records are coming out and which artists are doing well. Of course it’s easy to know who you find interesting personally, but by being so very much involved in the whole scene, you develop a nose for potential by looking at the label on which an artist is releasing his stuff or the clubs they’re hitting. You can kind tell who’s going to make it big or what labels you should watch closely. I get promotional material sent to me, but apart from that I keep myself informed by visiting records stores, checking out artists or labels’ websites and their newsletters. Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and Mixcloud are great channels for what’s new and fresh out there, too.
By being so very much involved in the whole scene, you develop a nose for potential
Does programming a festival like 10 Days Off allow for a great deal of personal input?
And do you ever select artists because you know they’ll bring in the crowds?
There are definitely a few crowd favourites who are or have been part of 10 Days Off; Richie Hawtin for example. Of the 19 times the festival has taken place, Hawtin played for us over ten times. And then you’ve got those artists who have boomed simultaneously with the evolution of 10 Days Off. Take David Guetta; he was a guest of the festival during its early days and will now be playing Tomorrowland for the fifth or sixth time in a row.
Is he someone you would still consider booking?
Financially we wouldn’t be able to anymore. But even if the means were there, I don’t think we’d still go for him because of the popstar DJ status he’s acquired over the years. Regardless of the lovely guy he is and how much respect I’ve got for what he’s doing right now, with 10 Days Off we try to go for a very particular sound and identity. I guess you could say we explore the niches of progressive and qualitative electronic music, which is a good stand to take at a time when dance festivals are popping up like crazy.
We explore the niches of progressive and qualitative electronic music, which is a good stand to take in a time where dance festivals are popping up like crazy
Speaking of which, how does 10 Days Off compare with Tomorrowland?
I think it’s great that so many thousands of people can experience a wonderful weekend at the festival, so I am certainly not going to throw any mud at Tomorrowland, but there’s no way of comparing the two. Whereas Tomorrowland is all about a weekend of fun and joy, we at 10 Days Off put the music above all else and that’s something that doesn’t require super famous pop star DJs. 10 Days Off also distinguishes itself from Tomorrowland in terms of setting and decoration. The festival is hosted at Vooruit which implies a club setting instead of an outdoor festival with tens of thousands of attendees. In terms of decoration, we choose to keep it simple because the music that needs to prevail at all times. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t put effort into our artwork. We’ve been nominated and rewarded nationally and internationally for 10 Days Off’s graphic design.
What kind of reputation has the festival got abroad?
Every year, the festival can rely on press attention from Brazil to France and from Italy to Australia. Same goes for the ticket sales, we’ve got people coming over from all those countries and more. In terms of industry recognition, there’s 5 Days Off, our twin sister in The Netherlands that was based on our festival. Ever since I started working at 5voor12, 10 Days Off has been included in Resident Advisor‘s top ten list of best festivals all over Europe and beyond, too. I think we’ve got third or fourth place this year, side by side with the major, groundbreaking festivals in the UK and Germany.
How has the festival evolved over the years?
There were times when 10 Days Off took up three different rooms of the Vooruit venue. In recent years it’s been cut back to the one room, for financial reasons. Because of the economical malaise, we’ve lost some government subsidies and quite a few sponsors have dropped out. Electronic music has experienced a massive surge in popularity over the past few years as well, which resulted in artists – and not only the popstars, but those who take our fancy as well – charging much higher fees. That said, we ourselves are quite fond of the small scale and intimate setting. Those ten club nights in a row with about a thousand people every night, that petit comité feeling to it, to me, is unrivalled.
Which acts are you particularly happy with in this year’s lineup?
Jon Hopkins is definitely one of them. In my opinion, he made one of the best albums of the year. The guy has worked with Brian Eno as well as Coldplay, but has been producing electronic music for years. I’m very happy with Hudson Mohawke and people like Bicep and Dusky or George FitzGerald who represent that entirely new house sound from the UK.
Any Belgian acts you would recommend looking out for?
We’ve got Vuurwerk coming over, a Brussels-based trio that are doing particularly well for themselves and who have an amazing sound. And then there’s LTGL, a guy from Limburg who’s about 19 years old and produces a very characteristic mix of dubstep, hip hop and swag. A kid to keep an eye on, I’d say.
What’s been the highlight of your tenure on the board of 10 Days Off?
For the ten days of the festival, I’m generally the last man standing so I rent a studio in Ghent for the duration. My personal highlight would be the bike ride home in the morning with my sunglasses on while the city wakes up, the cleaning teams are sweeping the streets, marketers are preparing their stalls for the day and a few lost souls are doddering on their way home. After a whole night of beats, that moment of returning to the real world and feeling the sun on your back is priceless.