Describe yourselves, your backgrounds and what you do today.
Guillaume: I studied communication and creative media studies, and worked as a radio journalist for a few years. Although I spend most of my time today assisting contemporary visual artist Ann Veronica Janssens in her studio, music and parties are also an important part of my life. I mean, I’ve been active in the Brussels scene for over 15 years now, so hopefully that speaks for itself.
Diego: I was born in Luxemburg and moved to Brussels seven years ago. I’ve been a hairdresser for over ten years now, and that’s something I want to keep doing. My career in the nightlife industry really took off when I became a resident DJ for Catclub, and I now get to co-organise my own parties, Gay Haze, together with Guillaume.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
Guillaume: I grew up in a pretty unstable environment, which probably explains why I feel more comfortable in chaos than routine and often feel the need to accumulate multiple activities, from fun undertakings to heavy responsibilities.
Diego: There wasn’t much happening back in Luxemburg, so I decided to move to Brussels at the age of 19. The people I’ve met since have really inspired me, and even shaped the person I’ve become today.
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?
Guillaume: A big part of our dance music scene, New Beat to be more specific, is now recognised as “the sound of Belgium”, thanks to Jozef Devillé’s fantastic documentary. However, I’m not sure we can still speak of a specific Belgian sound today: the current confluence of various styles makes the Belgian scene extremely rich, but also hard to categorise.
Diego: I totally agree with Guillaume on this point, but just because we don’t have a defined sound doesn’t mean Belgian labels should be underestimated. We need more recognition.
What, to you, characterises the country’s unique nightlife?
Guillaume: Historically, Belgium’s nightlife is connected to a wider territory that goes beyond the country’s borders, so it has been nourished by a mix of cultures. Moreover, everybody knows we’re a great audience with a good sense of celebration and tolerance.
More specifically, can you talk to us about your home base’s nightlife scene? What makes it special and who are its main players?
Guillaume: Brussels’ nightlife is constantly going up and down, with projects popping up and others dying out… I remember spending fantastic summer nights outside with Le Gazon, Darko’s Statik Dancin’ parties also had a strong impact on my musical tastes. Luckily, other promoters withstand the test of time like Brüxsel Jardin, credited to their vision on public space and how it can be reclaimed as a playground; and Deep in House for blowing a breath of fresh air into large-scale events.
“Nowadays, the scene finds its strength in the appropriation of spaces.”
To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
Guillaume: It could be a theatre, a station, a church, or even a parking lot – as long as it wasn’t built with the intention to organise parties in it. Nowadays, the scene finds its strength in the appropriation of spaces, so we want to be able to party anywhere.
In your opinion, what is missing in Belgium in terms of nightlife?
Guillaume: Brussels, and Belgium as a whole I guess, needs more venues where both small- and large-scale events can be organised. The issue here is not that there’s a lack of space, but rather a lack of communication between owners, authorities and locals.
What can politicians do to better support the nightlife? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?
Guillaume: I’m in favour of the idea, though I don’t think that this role should be politicised as such. I would rather appoint a coordinator whose role would be to provide an institutional space where the voices of promoters would be heard, and the complex reality of the nightlife understood. We need to keep in mind that the nightlife industry is not only about parties; a lot of actors would benefit from this sector if it were better organised. And most importantly, it’s high time our government acknowledged the benefits it’s generating in terms of tourism and cultural diversity.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
Guillaume: The audience should always feel welcome and never have the feeling they’re treated like cattle. The venue should be settled with care: a good sound system, no thunderous volume, and a well-thought lighting of the space allowing an intimate atmosphere and visible fun.
Diego: All you need are a good sound system and a mixed crowd, where everyone feels comfortable without being judged for who they are and what they do. In other words, a place where you can get lost in time and space.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, what would they be?
Lawrence Le Doux – Pollution (2015)
Walrus – Full of Feeling (2017)
Petra & Co – Just Let Go (1989) (no option to embed)
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.
Guillaume: When I turned 16, my friends took me out to MAD CLUB on a Wednesday night. I don’t even know if I was old enough to get in, but there I was. The party took place in a small basement in downtown Brussels and it was the first time I was in such an overwhelming place. I remember I went to school straight from the club, with a strong feeling that I had discovered something new and beautiful.
Diego: I still remember that one Document party where the atmosphere was super intimate and made Brussels feel like home to me. Twelve hours felt like one.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Guillaume: We’re expanding Gay Haze to other cities, and working on new collaborations in Belgium and abroad.