Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
It all started 10 years ago with the founding of our Play Label collective: we were a bunch of friends making music and excited to launch parties in unusual places. Since then we’ve thrown more than 400 parties and invited many artists to Brussels and elsewhere. We’ve also always wanted to produce our own music and develop our sound through a recording label too though, even if we were heeding our time. The right moment finally came in 2014, and we launched Play Label Records, releasing both Belgian and international artists.
The music we produce and play today is the result of a long musical evolution that we started a decade ago. During that time, we tried out many different concepts and genres. It’s through this research that we finally came to “real” house music, which is definitely the sound that suits us the most. We always aim for groove – clearly it’s the essence of our musical universe. However, our releases also reflect our own personal preferences which obviously vary quite a bit. This is the reason why we have two catalogue references: on the one hand, you have the regular releases (now ranging from PLR01 to PLR013) which are all different and illustrate our musical evolution mentioned above. On the other, our La Parenthèse House project focusses on the various forms of house music and stresses both emerging and established talents.
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?
It’s always hard to define the originality of a musical genre. Having said that, we believe that two main factors can be stressed when talking about Belgium’s house music. Firstly, Belgium has quite an extraordinary history of electronic music. In fact, we used to be the avant-garde country in the 80s and 90s for electronic music, especially with the New Beat explosion which definitely implanted electronic music into our DNA and created a solid ground for a new generation of producers. Secondly, Belgium is ideally located in between some of the most prominent electronic scenes in the world: France, UK, Germany and the Netherlands. This obviously generates a huge flow of influences, interactions, discussions and discoveries upon which Belgium was able to create its underground scene.
What, to you, characterises the country’s unique nightlife? More specifically, can you talk to us about your home base’s nightlife scene? What makes it special, who are its main players?
Our nightlife is as rich as it is poor: with little to no political support, more and more venues are closing down which at first sight would imply an impoverished scene. However, this absence of choice regarding party locations has forced local promoters to think out of the box, to play the system and find unique party spots, which has only made the scene better. In these last few years alone, Brussels has lost several electronic music clubs. By lost, we mean that either the venues were forced to shut down or that they were bought up in order to create your typical EDM, we play the Star Wars theme song whenever you buy a bottle-type of club. And this triggered, as mentioned already, a new wave of parties in industrial spots and surprising open-air locations where promoters and artists could express themselves.
There are so many names to mention when thinking about the electronic music scene in Brussels today, that it’s impossible to list them all. Just off the top of our head: Brüxsel Jardin, Deep in House, Under My Garage and FTRSND are all doing an impressive job of keeping Brussels alive. And you can’t speak about Brussels’ nightlife without mentioning our main temple Fuse, the force behind Belgium’s club culture for over two decades. Finally, we’d like to underline two new fantastic initiatives that we hope will make Belgium and Brussels’ nightlife shine across the borders: Listen! and the Brussels Electronic Marathon. Both projects focus on underground and avant-garde electronic music, yet in entirely different ways. If you want to discover what Brussels is really all about, it’s a good way to start your journey.
In your opinion, what is missing in terms of Belgium nightlife? What can politicians do to better support the homegrown scene/nightlife? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?
Our relationship to politicians is a rather strange one: on one hand, strong political support is clearly lacking. Electronic music is far from being recognised as being a form of culture in itself, accompanied by all the consequences that such a qualification implies, from the economy to employment and tourism – something which plenty of other capital city governments are realising. Meanwhile, our festival culture is keenly supported by the political class (to varying degrees, but that’s another story), and several politicians and institutions have made personal initiatives to improve Belgium’s festival economy. A nightlife mayor would be a great move, especially after seeing the tremendous good it did for Amsterdam and Paris. On the other hand, it appears that change is slowly taking place as of last year, as many discussions are taking place between Brussels’ players in a bid to create an initiative destined to raise political awareness about what we do and what we ultimately represent.
More affordable venues and locations would also be a plus. Brussels does have some incredible spots, but they tend to be either too expensive or simply out of bounds to electronic music. Finally, increased cooperation between event promoters could have a significantly positive impact on the national scene. At least for Brussels, we need to reunite together as a scene – from that point on, anything and everything is possible. Let’s say – and hope – that the best if yet to come.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
Being a music label, a good night obviously starts with an impeccable line-up and sound system. Beyond that, you also need to provide an excellent service with a friendly staff – think bar efficiency, a large cloakroom, plenty of toilets. Furthermore, we try to keep our entrance, food and drink prices as low as possible. We also make sure to have both dancing and relaxation spaces within the venue in order to offer the best possible party conditions. But in the end, what truly makes a night magical are the vibes and the crowd’s reaction. That’s the thing about house music, it just has this tremendous groove and funkiness that makes people go bananas.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, what would they be and why?
Cherry Moon Trax – House of House
A true anthem on the legendary Bonzai Records, before they moved on to trance music.
Outlander – Vamp
It’s impossible to talk about Belgian house without at least mentioning R&S Records, and this is easily one of their cult releases.
Joey Beltram – Energy Flash
Once again, another huge classic from R&S which helped to put Belgium on the map.
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
It’s hard to say, since we actually never focus our bookings based on geography or nationality. We generally invite our current or soon-to-be artists, or artists that we would love to sign. But if we were to book an exclusively Belgian line-up, we would go for San Soda, Tour-Maubourg, Red D, Latence and Max Telaer.
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.
“Disclaimer: no vinyls were harmed during the making of this event.”
Some years back, we invited our friends La Minimalerie linked to the Parisian nightclub Badaboum to play at The Wood. We were quite many altogether, so we split the crew up, with one half on the hunt for local beers while the other headed to the hotel to sort out the check-in. We left our luggage cases full of vinyls unaccompanied in a car parked in front of the hotel for just a couple of minutes – and yet in less 30 seconds, they were all stolen. Needless to say, this was an absolute nightmare: not only would the night would have to be cancelled, but more importantly a vinyl collection worth years of digging was lost in one go. With very little hope, we split up once again to wander the neighbouring streets looking for the stolen goods. Most of us headed back to the hotel empty-handed and defeated 20 minutes later – but then, a miracle. We see Aurélien, one of the Badaboum bosses arrive with all the cases, a bit of blood dripping from his fists. He tells us to quickly jump in the cars and start driving. In turned out that he saw a bunch of guys stepping inside a house with the bags in question – he followed them in and then had to fight his way through a narrow corridor, scaring the shit out of the local thieves before finally managing to run away with all the goods. That night, we celebrated a true hero. Disclaimer: no vinyls were harmed during the making of this event.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Regarding the label, a 4-track cut from Italian producer Broke One will be released in March, with remixes from Strip Steve and Latence. We’re also working on our third Parenthèse House release which will feature some really cool names from today’s European house scene. Finally, we’re planning several wax-only releases during and after the summer. As for our events, we’ll be hosting several small and big open-air events, as we do every summer. We will also, once again, open up our rooftop for a sunny and groovy season. Furthermore, we’re planning some nice collaborative projects and host a stage at Paradise City Festival on 29th of June.