Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to?
I make music and perform it. Everything I do has something to do with music. I grew up in the ‘Zurenborg’ area of town and still live there, but I record and compose my music at Studio Palermo in the city centre. It’s Sven Raeyen’s and Ti’s private tattoo studio, as well as the head office for our label Palermo Records. Since I’ve lived in Antwerp my whole life, I know people from many different scenes and there are many streets all over town that are linked to my family history. For example, my auntie Jeanne used to live in the Schuttershofstraat. Her dying wish was to see Antwerp from the sky, so when she was 96 the family took her on an helicopter trip. My grandfather Domien Swolfs used to own the ‘Tokyo’ movie theatre in the 30s, and after the war he owned (amongst others) the Astrid movie theatre and one of the first car parks in Antwerp. He said ‘car parks are the future’. I guess he was right. Every time I walk through those streets it puts a smile on my face.
How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?
I believe that we’re very spoiled here in Antwerp: exhibitions, concerts and so on, there are so many things to see and do all of the time. There’s a good alternative scene. A fact that also turns us into a critical audience, people here aren’t easy to impress. It’s often said that people from Antwerp are arrogant, but I think sincere would be a more fitting term. We do have a specific sense of humour that might come off a little blunt at times.
My auntie Jeanne used to live in the Schuttershofstraat. Her dying wish was to see Antwerp from the sky, so when she was 96 the family took her on an helicopter trip.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?
You can be whoever you want to be here, but you have to work hard , because you are surrounded by so many great artists and you learn to look at yourself in that context. It helps give you more discipline and learns you to be self-critical. There’s inspiration everywhere, you can share music, books, or a movie with other artists and have a good conversation with like-minded individuals or heavy discussions with people you don’t agree with. Maybe that’s typical for Antwerp, you don’t avoid confrontations.
How would you say has Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
Well, I wasn’t really aware of it until my girlfriend, who grew up in a village, said so, but I am a typical city boy who takes all the beauty for granted. At first I was upset when she said that, but then I had to admit she was right and it made me appreciate everything so much more. Everywhere I go I meet people I know, I built solid relations with people that go way back, so it’s easier to call up someone and ask for help or advice. My last record was very much inspired by the city, especially by the Sinksenfoor. There is a strong collegiality between artists here and collaboration can grow in an organic way or can develop while you’re having a drink with someone. For instance, a few days ago I wanted a female voice for a song and I just called Martha Mahieu (blackie and the oohoos) and the next day we were recording it. Or Eva ( Orphan Fairytale) and me decided to play together because we had to perform at the same event. It gives me confidence to know you can count on people here.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
More concerts in people’s apartments and in bars.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
A bar called Witzli Poetzli, that’s been in the the cathedral’s shadow for the past 30 years. You won’t run into many tourists, despite its location, and it oozes Antwerp’s spirit. Many artists, including myself, performed there for the bar’s 30th birthday. I’d also take them to the ‘Kegelkluis’, the oldest ‘Kegelbaan’ still in existence in Antwerp, because I still haven’t been there and every time I wanted to go something else came up.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?
Musti, he’s the supervisor of the Dageraadplaats, a boxer turned poetry writer. When I was nine years old I was playing on the square with my friends and we invented a game: put little ‘bommekes (firecrackers) in a bag of fries’ and let it explode. Musti got so angry that every time I see him, my knees still start shaking. I never played that game again after that day.www.hantrax.com