Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
Ben: Fuzz is an online media platform which covers the news in electronic music, with a certain focus on the Belgian scene. Next to that, I have a daytime job as the communications officer at music venue Nosta as well as at youth venue Nijdrop, in a rural place called Opwijk.
Jeroen: We started our online magazine in 2011, when we were students. At the time, there wasn’t a real magazine or blog that covered the more niche genres of electronic music. Something we didn’t quite understand, especially when you consider Belgium’s rich electronic music culture and history. Alongisde my activities at Fuzz, I also work as an online marketeer in a Belgian digital agency called Yappa. And, thanks to Fuzz, I ended up in the digital part of marketing, and not in print/offline or other traditional communication or advertising industries.
How do you see your platform compare to more established medias, and how did what you studied bring you to where you are today?
Ben: Traditional paths and big media are nice, but you can’t rely on them. If you want something, you have to do it yourself. It isn’t impossible, with a little help from your friends. In fact, we launched a platform, which evolved over the years, which allowed Belgian artists, labels, venues or festivals to get their stuff out there. Truth is, such a platform wasn’t there before, or at least not in this wholesome kind of way. Props to Studio Brussel and Red Bull Elektropedia for example, their impact is way bigger than ours. But they’re more limited in what they do. In the end though, I’m really glad I put all the effort in it, and never listened to people telling me I was wasting my time and not making any money off it. To see what Fuzz (and I) have become today, brings along some sort of recognition which every human being would enjoy. We did it, we established Fuzz.
“Make something new, don’t copy anything. Dive into the blue. Influences galore, but not predominant.”
Jeroen: The initial idea was quite simple. We wanted to write about electronic music. The blogosphere was growing a lot. None of us had any experience with starting an online blog, or writing online articles. You had the technical side of the whole thing. How do we run a stable platform? How do we create a user-friendly environment for readers, but also for editors? We made it clear from the beginning that every editor/volunteer had to be able to write their own articles in the back-end of our content management system, so they could decide themselves what their article would eventually look like. No unnecessary intermediate steps. The tasks of a webmaster, an editor, or an editor-in-chief, are things we had to learn along the way. On a more personal basis, I learned how to connect data and analytics to readership figures and what type of content does or does not work. With Google Analytics we had a good view on which types of content were read a lot or not. From the beginning I always tried to motivate the editors with that kind of information, to be able to produce the best content possible. This was the start of my online marketing story, as it made taking a decision to start working in an e-commerce environment and later on at a digital agency easier.
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?
Ben: I think the absence of a dominating scene, even though we’re surrounded by bigger scenes coming from Germany, the Netherlands, France or even the US. In our country it created some kind of freedom in which our artists, clubs and labels could explore a distinct sound. Make something new, don’t copy anything. Dive into the blue. Influences galore, but not predominant.
Jeroen: I do think that the solid clubbing scene from the early nineties developed a very strong culture. And, thanks to that culture, a lot of youngsters and people from that generation decided to start producing some next level and distinct sounds. Lagoa, La Bush, Boccaccio, Zillion, Atmoz, Balmoral, Extreme, Montini, Illusion, Carat, Cirao, At The Villa, Cherry Moon, La Rocca, Café d’Anvers, Fuse. All these clubs formed a subculture of their own, without really knowing it. That clubbing vibe created an atmosphere for which foreigners would jump in their car and drive hours and hours to have a good time. Those clubs gave people and future producers inspiration to experiment with new sounds and pretty much made the sound of today.
Can you talk to us about your home base’s nightlife scene? What makes it special, who are its main players?
Jeroen: My home base is Limburg. During my teenage years, Pukkelpop had a very big influence on me. I couldn’t wait to know which DJ’s or artists would be playing Dance Hall or Boiler Room. And I would go in as early as I could to experience the very first set of the day. Next to Pukkelpop, Muziekodroom & Forty Five are also a strong force in Limburg’s nightlife. They’ve found a way to organise their own events and festivals in a manner that every electronic music lover feels engaged. Extrema Outdoor Belgium started off well in 2011. Year after year I noticed it became a more professional and unique festival to visit. The location in Houthalen-Helchteren is ridiculously beautiful by the way. XOBE also picks their musical partners very wisely, which in the end forms a nice whole. And then we have the whole FloorFiller movement. A very vibrant organisation which knows how to party. Their communication, line-ups and organisation of events/festivals is quite unique and provides a refreshing touch to our nightlife here. I would also like to mention Play’house in Sint-Truiden. Throughout the years I’ve experienced some great house music there. House beats from international and national dj’s which are not always the most obvious choice to book. And yes, old school Chicago house is still my favourite kind of house music.
To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
Ben: Brussels, because you’ve got everything over there. From producers to decent record shops to clubs – in and for every genre.
Jeroen: Same. Brussels, because of the diversity in (electronic) genres and clubbing life.
What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?
Ben: I guess a flagship kind of label, which does more internationally-wise than in its own country – speaking in terms of showcasing Belgian music and getting exposure. Like Dekmantel in Holland for example. N.E.W.S. tries to stir some things up with Eskimo Recordings and such, but in fact there isn’t much Belgian music on these releases.
Jeroen: Back in the days there were a lot of smaller parties and rather unprofessional events, with the most ridiculous event names. In my home town, I’ve noticed that those smaller parties mostly disappeared and there are no new initiatives which replaced them. As a teenager each weekend there was a Chiro-party and small events which just booked one or two local DJ’s to have a blast. It was great, you’d meet new people, discover new DJs and music. But sadly, this spirit has left Limburg. Now, it has to be big from the beginning, or at least that’s the impression I often get. However, I have a lot of great memories of parties which were in a basement or youth club. That type of connectedness, non-digital, small-scale spirit almost disappeared in our region.
What can politicians do to better support the homegrown scene/nightlife? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?
Ben: A little financial support can mean the world to beginning projects. It’s the difference between risking something or regretting something. Nightlife economy is neglected too often.
In the case of Fuzz for example, we present and promote loads of young artists who will someday play on the biggest festivals, or sometimes just quit after a while. I believe our role is important for these emerging artists, events and labels but there simply isn’t a place to go to find some funding. We aren’t financed by anyone, just by ourselves. It would be a big difference if just one or two guys of our crew could make Fuzz their daytime job. Now it’s all unsalaried/unpaid, in our free time
Jeroen: I truly believe in social cohesion and inclusion and the important role of culture in both of them. Music is universal, no matter what background or religion you have. It makes me sad that nightlife culture does not get the right amount of political attention and respect. Beautiful stories could happen if cities and politicians would support event organisations, clubs and media. We’ve now existed for eight years, and I truly cannot understand that we’ve never received a call or just an e-mail from a cabinet employee (Department of Culture) about what we do and how we do it.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
Ben: A real connection between musician, DJ, artist and the crowd, an impeccable sound system and decent beer
Jeroen: We’ve seen it happen: big names on a line-up, but the event itself fails eventually. Sometimes a DJ misreads the atmosphere in a club. Or he or she plays the right records but not at the right time. It’s essential to have a connection with your audience, only and only then you can create a moment that will not be forgotten.
Ben: A tune which gets stuck in your head for a week. A humble feeling being part of something – to not stand out or being alienated.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, which one would they be? Please also provide YouTube links.
Outlander – The Vamp
Aeroplane – We Can’t Fly
FCL – It’s You
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
Ben: For a House night: San Soda, Aeroplane and Innershades. For other kind of nights: Soulwax, Lefto, Funky Bompa and Jonas Lion.
Jeroen: Soulwax, Raoul Belmans, Locked Groove, Innershades, Red D, Spacid, Kill Frenzy, Dr. Lektroluv, Goose & The Subs.
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.
Ben: San Soda at Horst Festival 2017, Job Jobse & Hunee in Ampere and Aeroplane at Dour 2011.
Jeroen: Detroit Swindle at Play’house in 2014, Justice @ Pukkelpop (2007?), several Ed&Kim DJ sets, over & out Stand Your Ground.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Jeroen: All the festivals are gearing up. That means a lot of line-ups to announce but also some nice content collaborations with those event organisations. Besides that we’re also looking at organising our own stage or event, together with a strong and relevant partner which believes in the same musical ideas.
Learning and writing are important skills in our team. That’s why this year we also decided to accept the first journalism interns. We have an online sandbox, our magazine, in which different things can be tested. We encourage our own editors, and interns, to experiment. We don’t have a money mission, we don’t have certain stakeholders to obey, so that gives even more freedom to do what we want.
Ben: Get rich or die trying.