Describe yourself, your background and what you do today. How has where you come from shaped who you are?
After having studied marketing in Ghent, I got involved into nightlife working as a manager at Culture Club. After a couple of years, I decided to start my own clubs – Kitsch Club in Knokke, Magic in Antwerp, Club 69 in Ghent and even WECANDANCE, the electronic beach festival in Zeebrugge – all together with John Noseda. Then, in 2016, Wim Van der Borght and I created Atmosphere Architects which is a holding that owns and organises festivals such as Fire Is Gold, Elrow Town Antwerp, WECANDANCE and Laundry Day. Alongside all this, I also co-own a plant-based food concept that is called Essence Cuisine (eat-in experience) and Essence Express (grab and go) in London.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
Every moment, person and experience helped me get to where I am now and where I’m going next.
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?
Proximity, talent and good, quality drugs in the 90s.
I often hear people go on about how great Amsterdam and Berlin are – and they are – but they’re great because travelling to another country to party with or without friends will always be more intense than going to a party in Antwerp if you live in Wilrijk.
What to you makes Belgium’s nightlife scene so unique?
I live in London every weekend from Friday to Monday so I’m getting used to explaining what makes Belgium so unique. We have so many clubs, parties, promotors, festivals and everyone’s really close, even though people here still think that Brussels and Ghent are worlds apart. When I’d still go out clubbing a lot, we’d drive 700 kms on a weekend just to party, in clubs both big and small. The after hour thing worked well for me as you’d always see the same people rave up until the wee hours of the morning, and those small, intimate vibes really allowed for people to connect with each other.
To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
Impossible to answer because we have such a rich nightlife culture. I’d compare it to food: sometimes you want to go to a 3-star Michelin restaurant and sometimes you want junk food. My biggest personal inspirations in Belgium remain Eskimo, party in Ghent, and Belmondo, a party in a museum, as they both balanced different styles of music, a cool venue and an incredible vibe just perfectly. These parties weren’t too mainstream and attracted people that would dress up to party. Everybody – myself included – is always talking about “experience” nowadays, but those were concepts that already revolved around that back in the days – we just go deeper in details and people expect more today.
What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?
Licenses for daytime clubs where kids can dance, clubs with a decent sound system, but also a neighbourhood that allows it. Besides that I think that we have a really good club culture here in Belgium. I often hear people go on about how great Amsterdam and Berlin are – and they are – but they’re great because travelling to another country to party with or without friends will always be more intense than going to a party in Antwerp if you live in Wilrijk.
What can politicians do to better support the homegrown nightlife scene?
Following up on my previous answer: be smart about licenses and restrictions. Legalising party drugs, for example. At the moment, drugs are these uncontrolled substances that can hurt kids because half of them don’t know what they’re using. Point is, they’re going to use them anyway so what’s the point in criminalising them any longer ? In my almost 15-year career I have only had four serious drug incidents during parties or festivals. The number of alcohol incidents would be impossible to count as I’m not that smart and, frankly, lost a few braincells in after hour clubs. By ignoring the fact that it happens nothing will change and criminal organisations will make mistakes and produce stuff that will harm people’s health.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
Sex, drugs and rock and roll.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, which one would they be?
Max Berlin – Elle et Moi
Luc Van Acker – Zanna
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
Soulwax, Stavroz, Romeo Elvis, Claire Laffut and Stromae – all amazing live acts !
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad?
Let’s say I have a few, good and bad. A funny one was how I discovered Tulum. I was at BPM festival in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico in 2011 and I ha dlaready been going for a while. So I escaped from a Richie Hawtin party at 3 am and was waiting outside to take a taxi. Then, a stuning girl came out asked me for a smoke – we started to talk and she asked me if I wanted to go to a party in Tulum… I did not know what or where it was but I asked who was playing and she said Magda and Pachanga Boys so without any doubts I jumped into a taxi and we drove 90 minutes to the venue which was impossible to find, but we did. The 300 person party was next level as we needed to go through the jungle and were not sober in the least. I remember it being really dark but I felt I was close to the ocean. At sunrise I suddenly saw where I was… the most beautiful beach ever seen with Maya temple ruins in the background. It was one of those parties that you wished would never end. Around noon I saw the girl who I took a taxi with again and she was reading a book upside down which pretyy much was my cue to go back to my hotel and rest. We did, however, become friends and still are to this day.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Opening more restaurants, launching a new brand and a boxing fight for charity.