In the space of just a few years, Ostend-based Nosedrip – real name Ziggy Devriendt – has gone from somewhat of a now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t presence on the fringe electronic scene to a firm fixture on Belgium’s burgeoning leftfield landscape, albeit one that revels in his outsider status, thanks in no small part to his work with pioneering platform Stroom.tv, a unique mixture of oddball playlists and distinctive aesthetics, his staggering mixcloud following, an NTS show and, more recently, a label imprint with considerable, if not slightly tongue -in-cheek, ambitions. We speak to the self-effacing founding figure about everything from debuts and difficult music to how his shows are “like my period, I have to get them out of my system every once in a while.”
ON HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Ziggy’s conquest of digital spheres started nine years ago, after a surgery left him toothless. Instead of going to school or skate outside with his friends in Ostend, young Ziggy was confined to the indoors, using savings and a little help from his grandmother to buy two turntables. Shortly after, he made his first attempt at a mixtape for a mix series run by beat sorcerer Dynooo (Today based in London), who owned the now-defunct record store McFly in Ghent where Ziggy bought the hip hop music he was into at the time. Dynooo told him he could do better than the mono-style mix he’d made, and from there things just started to click. “I was home alone one night, stoned and angry at the world, and decided I’d make a mixtape with all the records I had lying around. It seemed so obvious to just use all the different stuff I liked, but at the time, it was hard to break that barrier in my head. That was the birth of my radio show.”
I somehow see the label as a classic fashion brand: seasons are really important.
Nosedrip took things to streaming service Mixcloud, where his show kind of exploded – today, he boasts a loyal following of about 30,000 listeners from around the globe. In May 2016, the show got a monthly slot on NTS (with another Ostend-based talent, Lucien, handling hypnotic artwork duties) the all-conquering online radio based in Dalston, London born out of founder Femi Adeyemi’s frustration with commercial radio. “NTS provides the structure I need,” Ziggy explains. “Those shows are like my period, I have to get them out of my system every once in a while.” Alongside his Mixcloud and NTS endeavours, he’s also, since 2012, sporadically been running a show on Amsterdam-based Red Light Radio, another disruptive force in radio world. Ziggy’s bread and butter however comes from working in iconic Ghent record store Music Mania, as well as fronting as a club DJ known for his dark, sinister yet comforting sets. “People recently got better at contextualising me, they understand that a guy who plays dance music in a club can also make ambient radio shows. Before, promotors would ask me if I had other mixes besides my radio show, because it wasn’t dance music.”
Over the years, Nosedrip evolved from scene kid to all-round record nerd, his focus shifting from contemporary beat music to, essentially, older stuff. “Older DJs started in record shops, but my generation came up within a different playing field: the internet, blogs, YouTube, playlists from other people… I combine them both. And I tend to go deep. That’s when you can decontextualise stuff and give it a new context. I do that a lot, the surprise factor is very important for me.” Ziggy’s record collection now counts a few thousand records and he’s constantly trying to keep it alive and moving, continuously buying new records and selling stuff that he doesn’t listen to anymore. Case in point: “I just managed to get my hands on the Sister Irene O’Connor LP, a record made by two Australian nuns using drum machines. It’s been my Holy Grail for years, I thought I would never find it and that I would have no purpose in life if I didn’t. But the minute I got it, I forgot about it,” he laughs.
ON STROOM.TV AND THE PEOPLE INSTRUMENTAL TO IT
Three and a half years ago, Ziggy mounted online multimedia platform Stroom.tv with two of his friends, computer wizard Tommy and Fre, with whom he was running the Nachtlawaai parties. Nana Esi, a graphic designer and Ziggy’s girlfriend, also came on board. “We started the exact same day I started working at Music Mania,” Ziggy says. “I always dreamt of having my own platform as I have a strong need to put everything I come across in context. I already had a place for the difficult music, my radio show, but I’m also a big fan of radio-friendly music, like Radio 1. Stroom.tv was perfect, it combined both.”
Older DJs started in record shops, but my generation came up within a different playing field: the internet, blogs, Youtube, playlists from other people… I combine them both, and I tend to go deep.
The name Stroom refers to the constant stream of content, although he now admits that he wouldn’t choose it again. “It’s impossible for non-Dutch speakers to pronounce. And in Flanders, the name has a bit of a coffee bar vibe to it, because the last couple of years the Dutch-name-thing got a bit out of control. But internationally it stands out very well, so it’s all good,” he says. Instrumental to Stroom.tv’s popularity and success were the strong aesthetics of Nana, who assumed responsibility for the platform’s visual identity. “For me personally, the platform was an outlet for images and footage I had been collecting online for ages,” she recounts. “Stroom enabled me to take on an alter ego and visually translate stuff to the outside world, mostly through abstract or absurd collages. You know, when I was studying graphic design, I thought I’d fill my days in my room, working with my hands. But Stroom was the opposite, something would happen in the news, like Lou Reed dying for instance, or we’d have guests on Stroom.tv and they’d need visuals, and I’d have to come up with something real fast. The program we worked with had many technical restrictions too, it wasn’t Photoshop where you can draw whatever you want. But those restrictions instigated a lot of creativity. I learned a lot back then.” Under the influence of friend and long time member Brecht Van Dingenen, one of the other main focuses of Stroom.tv became Belgium’s considerable musical heritage. “Old YouTube clips, forgotten children TV shows,” Ziggy says. “Not that there’s no good new stuff, but there is so much crap. It’s just easier to avoid that when you’re looking at the past.” And although it seems rather contradictory for an online platform with a big international following to focus on Belgian heritage, it makes total sense to Ziggy. “Online platforms are not related to borders, that’s not the point of the internet. And while some people try to outshine each other with obscure exotic content, we do the opposite: we make ourselves exotic to the rest of the world. We use what we know best, and put it in a context.” Recently though, with Stroom’s network expanding, the focus has been less exclusively on Belgian heritage and people from everywhere come up with content for the platform. “We had a special on Polish animated movies with stuff we got sent, and a friend from Amsterdam did a show about Japanese music boxes,” he continues by way of attesting to the platform’s shift in focus.
ON STROOM THE LABEL
The interest in heritage is one of the main reasons Stroom evolved into a label. “Little over a year ago, I had an evaluation at Music Mania,” Ziggy giggles. “My bosses told me that they saw me keeping busy with a lot of different stuff, but that I wasn’t really doing anything more than my shift in the shop. They wanted me to put more of myself into it, and they dropped the L-word. I had already been talking to Alain Pierre after I saw the Jan Zonder Vrees movie with Nana one night, and I was busy working my way through Alain Neffe’s archive. All of a sudden, they offered me a framework in which I could work with that stuff, so I went for it, and do reissues now. Still heritage in a way but just in another box.” To concentrate on the label, Ziggy took a step back from the online platform – “I’m on the committee now,” he says, “supervising” – and left the daily routine to IJf, who hosts the studio with all the necessary technical equipment in his house in Ghent. IJf also took over 85% of visual duties from Nana, who now focuses on the label’s aesthetics as well as her work with Atelier Brenda, a design studio she runs with two other girls. “I mainly built everything up with my best friend Sophie Keij. We saw ourselves as creative directors, assuming different roles. Sometimes we’d make visual content, sometimes we’d make installations and scenographies. Now our main focus has shifted towards graphic design. Amélie Bakker joined us recently and we’re now working on the new visual identity for Beursschouwburg for instance.”
I already had a place for difficult music, my radio show, but I’m also a big fan of radio friendly music, like Radio 1. Stroom.tv was perfect, it combined both.
Nana is also responsible for the Stroom merchandise, which she sees as corporate gifts. So far, items have included a mousepad, slipmats, USB sticks and, more recently, a power adapter for mobile phones. Tongue-in cheek, remember? “The nice thing is that Stroom is a whole team by now, with members in Brussels, Ghent, Ostend, Rotterdam and even Moeskroen,” Ziggy explains. “It’s like having an allotment: I just have to look through the window to see what I can use. Everyone can do some aspect of the work: IJf runs the platform, Nana does the artwork and the merchandise, Mathieu the remastering, Johannes writes the liner notes and someone else will correct and translate them. My life is easy.” Since its launch, the record label has done pretty well. The first 500 copies of its first release, the Jan Zonder Vrees soundtrack, sold out in four days. The second batch of 500 and the second release, a compilation centred around Belgian DIY figure Alain Neffe, are all sold out too. Both releases achieved international acclaim, reaching several important end of year charts. “Number 26 and 32 in Boomkat’s top 100 of 2016 which is pretty insane! But you have to put things in perspective. Alain Pierre worked with Ennio Morricone and visited George Lucas at his ranch. He doesn’t care about Boomkat or the whole niche thing we’re doing.” The next two releases on Stroom are a compilation and a 12” by NSRD, an art collective that lived and made music in the middle of nowhere in Latvia during the 80’s and 90’s. “IJf found out about them when he was travelling with his ex girlfriend,” Ziggy recalls. “He brought the files and played them to me on my lunch break, and right away it was clear that it was 200% Stroom material: beautiful music, outsider aesthetics and approach, personal, emotional. Everything is almost ready, but there’s one slight problem. I somehow see the label as a classic fashion brand: seasons are really important. And because the compilation is not at all suited for spring or summer, it’ll only come out next winter. The 12” might be ready for summer though.” The NSRD 12” will be preceded by the fifth release, a compilation with music by Belgian architect Jan Van Den Broeke, the man behind June 11, Absent Music and The Misz. “I first heard his music when EETapes, a label from Sint-Niklaas, released an Absent Music 7” in 2012, that found its way to Music Mania. Until now the Monkey house track is probably my all time favourite Belgian song. Eriek Van Havere, the man behind the label, put me in touch with Jan, and we just went on from there. And although it might seem like just another eighties wave compilation, it’s a totally different and very honest, personal release.” “After Jan Van Den Broeke and the NSRD 12”, we’ll release a record by a Dutch musician,” Ziggy continues, “followed by a compilation around Vazz, an eighties postpunk/wavey/modern classical/ambient project from Glasgow. It’s a collaboration with the fellow behind Forced Nostalgia, Belgium’s most underrated label from the last ten years. He also runs the record shop Morbus Gravis, and he already released a split LP with Vazz a couple of years ago. That was a very important record to me as a DJ, it was one of the first times I realised that music that’s not really considered dance music could be played in a club at peak time and make total sense. The guy still had lots of crazy Vazz tracks lying around, so I made a career-spanning compilation with them. That’ll be coming out in September, after which we’ll also release a follow-up to the Alain Neffe compilation.”
ON STROOM’S APPROACH
Ziggy found all of the musicians online, and asked if they wanted to meet. “Most record labels just go after the copyrights, buy them, and then reissue the record. But for me, the social contact is too important. I want to tell a story that involves the artists.” Most of them are pretty surprised when Ziggy approaches them with a cassette that was released long before he was even born, but they enthusiastically join the project. “Even though they rarely fully get what I’m doing,” Ziggy admits. “They’re too far away from that whole record business and reissue culture. It can also clash aesthetically. One of the artists wanted to have coloured vinyl, for instance. That’s an absolute no-go. Within the story I’m trying to tell, it’s important that stuff is not miles away from how it was at the time.” His method is reflected in Nana’s approach for the record sleeve. “I always study the context and look for extra information”, she explains. “But at a certain point I stop, or I’d just end up copying. Fact is, there’s a thin line between being nerdy and getting lost. Alain Neffe’s xerox-printed cassettes have inspired me for instance, but I did my own thing with it. It shouldn’t look like it’s a cool thing that could’ve been made 30 years ago.” And Nana got the hang of it: with Brenda she recently started making covers for other labels, such as Lullabies For Insomniacs and Onderstroom Records. Meanwhile, Ziggy is on a quest for more source material. So far he only failed to convince one or two musicians. “One of those two is potentially the craziest release we’d ever do, but he’s not up for it. A sneaky label dude would wait until the guy dies and then tell his wife he wants to do a tribute, but I’m not like that. At least not yet.” He chuckles.stroom.tv