Talks, tips and thoughts on Brussels (part 1)

One of the overriding ambitions with The Word Radio, which we launched just over two months ago now, was to be a uniting force for the country’s often-disparate music scenes. Indeed, it seemed as though musicians, DJs, producers, label heads and music programer from Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Liège, Leuven, Charleroi and the likes never really got the chance to actually meet, conversate and, who knows, collaborate. It’s that age-old, very Belgian dilemma: everybody’s busy at it in their own little universe, rarely looking up to see who or what’s coming up around them. So a radio studio, based in Brussels, was a good opportunity to bring some of the country’s most active and adventurous forces in music to town. Here, in part one of a series of interviews we’ve conducted with some of our radio hosts who come to Brussels on a monthly basis to record their shows,  we speak with three out-of-towners and discuss what they’ve discovered about Brussels since coming through to the radio.

Vincent Wilms

“The art and music scene in Brussels is one of the most interesting and promising at the moment.”

Seen from a distance, what is your perception of Brussels?

In my opinion, Brussels is the main capital of Belgium and Europe. I’m proud to be a Belgian and glad that Brussels exists. For me it’s the only good representation of what Belgium is (French, Dutch parts united) and even what Europe is. What’s more, the “art and music scene” in Brussels is one of the most interesting and promising at this moment.

If you had to describe Brussels using three adjectives, what would they be?

Hip, international, social

How does Brussels compare to the city you are based in today?

Brussels has a real city character, while Antwerp is very small and feels like a village. There are many more spots for music in Brussels. I have the feeling that music is part of Brussels.

When you come to Brussels, what are the pit stops you make, the essential places you have to visit?

Food-wise Chez Martin in Vlaamse steenweg, Le Pré Salé (the best moules frites), Knee the Knife and Café le Coq. As far as music is concerned, I gravitate towards Ancienne Belgique, Bonnefooi, Recyclart, and of course The Word Radio.

What is specific to Brussels that you’d like to see in your hometown?

I’d like to see more places for concerts.

In what way, if any, has hosting a residency on The Word Radio strengthened your bond to Brussels?

It’s given me a wider network.

In what way, if any, do you expect The Word Radio to bring you closer to “the Brussels scene”?

The Word Radio and their crew have an extensive knowledge and understanding of the Brussels’ scene. I think that if there are any opportunities in Brussels they can definitely make the connection and help us with the appropriate contacts. Working with The Word Radio has already helped us to find other places to perform in Brussels.

Vincent (1978) is based in Antwerp and is in charge of performing arts at deSingel as well as the owner at booking agency Cloudshaper.

Paola Laforgia

“It’s a perfect example of what Europe is and should be: a place where different people meet, different cultures coexist.”

Seen from a distance, what is your perception of Brussels?

Despite friends of mine, from back home, living in Brussels, I didn’t really know what the city was about before visiting for the first time in January. Most of the time when you hear about Brussels it concerns the European Union and politics, so I assumed it was mostly focused on that. However, now that I’ve visited for myself, I have discovered a different side to Brussels. It’s younger and more vibrant than I expected.

If you had to describe Brussels using three adjectives, what would they be?

Liveable, friendly, and, of course, ‘European’ – and not just because of the European institutions. But, because it’s a perfect example of what Europe is and should be: a place where different people meet, different cultures coexist, and everyone uses at least three different languages in their daily life.

How does Brussels compare to the city you are based in today?

I had the impression Brussels has a higher quality of life than London. London can be too fast-paced and stressful at times. Brussels is smaller and calmer but still a capital, meaning there’s a lot going on and an interesting mix of people. It has really left a good impression on me. I also love the fact that other exciting cities such as Ghent and Antwerp, or even Amsterdam, are only a short train ride away. The only downside, as a Southern European I am afraid I could never get used to Brussels’ weather. I thought London was bad but Brussels seems to be even worse.

When you come to Brussels, what are the pit stops you make, the essential places you have to visit?

This was my first time in Brussels and I had little clue about where to go, what to see and what to do. But, now I feel I have a better idea. I know that next time I’m definitely checking out Crevette Records, I’ll eat again at Nuetnigenough for the amazing traditional Belgian food, and then, I would pop by The Word Radio HQ and listen to whatever great music they’re playing at the moment.

What is specific to Brussels that you’d like to see in your hometown?

Seeing people speaking so many languages fluently and switching effortlessly from one to the other.

In what way, if any, has hosting a guest slot on The Word Radio strengthened your bond to Brussels?

I feel more connected to the city. For an hour I was an active player and not just an outside observer. I am really honoured to have been given this opportunity.

In what way, if any, do you expect The Word Radio to bring you closer to “the Brussels scene”?

Just five minutes on The Word Radio website and I already discovered three Belgian labels I’d never heard of, ten new musicians I need to check out, and, thanks to a bit of social media hopping, a couple of venues I have to go to next time I am in Brussels.

Paola (1993) is an Italian, NTS-affiliate who is currently based in London, helping the pioneering online radio on production and merchandising.

Allon Kaye

“Brussels is a little wilder in a way. It’s more sprawling and there’s just more, which means that there’s variety.”

Seen from a distance, what is your perception of Brussels

Well I guess that over time it’s the big city. I mean I come here fairly often but not that regularly. I’ve been coming to Belgium from a young age – to Antwerp more specifically. I had something of an Antwerp thing. As a child, I never really went anywhere. But I had a thing for Antwerp. I just kept on going and inevitably moved here. So Brussels, for me, is a kind of companion city. The city has evolved quite a bit since the first time I was there, although I don’t really have a profoundly intimate knowledge of it. So I’ve come to know it through friends and a little bit of personal discovery. At first, I thought it was a bit like Frankfurt, boring. But it’s nothing like Frankfurt and it’s not boring.

If you had to describe Brussels using three adjectives, what would they be?

Bigger, more diverse and wilder. Bigger than Antwerp, obviously. More diverse in comparison to Antwerp, which tends to be a little insular and mono-cultural, at least in the parts that I know. And wilder because it’s more sprawling and there’s just more, which means that there’s variety.

How does Brussels compare to the city you are based in today?

I’d go as far as saying that Brussels is closer to London than it is to Antwerp. London is the big gritty city, and I find Brussels to be my local London in that sense. There’s more here, more to do. It’s a capital city and everything that comes with it. Antwerp is often described as being a village, and I get that. I think you can quite easily max out in Antwerp if you’re not nomadic enough and always hanging out with the same people and going to the same places.

What is specific to Brussels that you’d like to see in your hometown?

I guess the main thing that I find strange about life in Antwerp is how homogenous it is. I mean it seems like a very clean, small affluent white city.  You keep on walking by people who are just like you.It’s been rare for me to be in a place in Antwerp where it is truly mixed, and I don’t feel that way about Brussels.

In what way, if any, has hosting a residency on The Word Radio strengthened your bond to Brussels?

Well it’s obviously an incentive for me to come to Brussels more often. I could have insisted that I just want to do it from the comfort of my home, send a mix in and it would be what it would be. But actually the temptation was far greater. The fact that I could come here, find out that it is properly set up and actually just really nice. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was a bit more basic. But to find that they’ve built a studio which is run properly was certainly a pleasant surprise. So now that I know that I’ll be in Brussels once a month, I can plan ahead, think of places to check out. All in all, the radio has allowed me to put think of Brussels more often, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up spending more time here as I get to know it better.

In what way, if any, do you expect The Word Radio to bring you closer to “the Brussels scene”?

As I see it, the radio will give me a reason to be here in the first place. And since I’ll be in the studio more regularly, and it’s a comfortable spot, I now have 3 or 4 hours either end that I can use. So I think it will encourage me to stay. Brussels is a little more mysterious to me. But, bottom line, you listen to a show, you’re all in a small room and obviously you all have the same agenda. So inevitably you talk and someone says “next time let’s go here”, or someone gives you a flyer. So, I think it’s quite a good incubator, which is the point of all radio in a greater sense. But here specifically because it’s not commercial radio. I think this way of meeting new people and getting in to what they do is quite straightforward. The alternative would just have been a name and send a mix and you would simply never meet anyone here. So, I think it’s quite ideal.

Allon (1974) is the founder of record label Entr’acte