The House Hundred

Portraits of a scene's past, present and future greats

We’re teaming up with Bulldog to select 100 essential people, places and projects in Belgian house music. From producers and DJs to record labels and festivals, these are the forces driving the homegrown house scene forward, one BPM at a time.

Adema

Adema

Aïssa Ben, DJ and promoter

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I was introduced to music at an early age as I started playing the piano at the conservatory when I was five. I carried on for the next twelve years and was then introduced to electronic music. After a few years, I started playing in Belgian clubs such as La Rocca, H2oClub, Fuse and also around Europe. Today, next to my solo project, I am also part of a trio called Varkan and I organise Full Scale parties with Roman, better known under his DJ name Rorson.

How has where you come from shaped who you are?

Because I have a classical music background, I am constantly looking for a certain symphony through harmony and dynamic.Besides that, I also find a lot of inspiration in jazz and funk music. But the truth is, electronic music doesn’t offer the range and dynamic that classical music does. So my aspiration is to get the best out of these two worlds and connect them. Let me explain: in techno, you find more or less two distinctive subgenres: raw music on a  4 by 4 beat, and a more groovy, melodious genre. What I’m trying to achieve with my music is to create authentic electronic sounds that are so pure that they almost feel like acoustic instruments. Imagine a bass line that sounds like it comes out of a bass or contrabass and a melody inspired by copper instruments or a piano.

In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?

To me, it has a lot to do with the freedom of expression we can enjoy here, and the clubbing culture that made our country famous starting back in the late 80s as explained in the Sound of Belgium. You can’t compare Belgium, its energy and its scene to France’s or Germany’s. At the end of the day, their cities offer far more impressive line-ups and have much more clubs and parties, yet Belgian people will party just as hard, if not harder.

Can you talk to us about your home base’s nightlife scene and its main players?

Well I was born in Lille, a city located in the centre of Europe and at the crossroads of major hotspots. In its early years, our electronic scene was mainly driven by Art Point M when they launched the NAME Festival. This paved the way for clubs to open their doors and invite international high profile artists, pioneering labels such as ODT Records and active collectives like Gaazol and Silence.

To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?

I wouldn’t talk about specific clubs, although some of them offer incredible sound systems and give promoters the tools to be who they are today (for instance Zodiak, which we regularly work with for our Full Scale events, gives the opportunity to young organisers to showcase what they are capable of). But I would rather give props to promoters and labels like Lessizmore, Deep In House with C12, Labyrinth, Brüxsel Jardin and many more who have really been pushing the scene forward.

Because I have a classical music background, I am constantly looking for a certain symphony through harmony and dynamic.

What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?

Belgium has a lot to offer but what we really miss is topicality. You rarely have a weekend where you can choose between four or five killer line-ups like it is the case in Amsterdam, Paris or Berlin.

What can politicians do to better support our nightlife? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?

Authorities should diversify and allocate resources to give a chance to new promoters because every summer, we see the same people organising festivals and open-air events. In an ideal world, they should try and help all motivated and innovative organisers.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?

First we need a good sound system and a setting that’s calibrated and adapted. Lightings and video jockeys should be there to accompany the music without being too aggressive. Then of course we need good DJs who tell the audience a story with an evolution; it’s the music that should transport you, not the other way around. And last but not least, the public should be educated and aware, able to handle their drugs without falling over each other.

If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, what would they be and why?

In the past couple of years, one of the Belgian labels I have really fallen for is Basic Moves. Their tracks are banging and technical so I’d say all their releases are definitely worth checking out.

EATING Records is also another label worth listening to; the guy who handles it knows his music and I’d recommend the iO (Mulen) or Jaffa Sufra.

SOUS :SOL Records is probably the third I’d mention. Undoubtedly worth a look.

If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?

Jacques Brel ! More seriously, my dream line-ups are the ones we put together for Full Scale. I mean the perks of promoting parties is to be able to bring your dream line-ups to life by both inviting international artists and supporting your friends.

Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.

I had the best time at Sunwaves and Mioritmic, simply because they have a sick line-up with innovators, incredible music, a unique place and unbeatable prices. That’s it.

What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?

In the coming months I’ll be focusing on the evolution of Full Scale as we’re exporting our concept to London and Paris while exploring the opportunities of an agency and looking into collaborations with other promoters. Besides that, we’re also working on a new live act with Varkan (Desciz, Magav and myself).