The House Hundred

Portraits of a scene's past, present and future greats

We’re teaming up with Bulldog to select 100 essential people, places and projects in Belgian house music. From producers and DJs to record labels and festivals, these are the forces driving the homegrown house scene forward, one BPM at a time.

Thé Dansant

Thé Dansant

Kjell Materman, Tijl Materman and Didier Dos Santos, co-founders

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

Kjell: I started listening to electronic music when I was 12 years old, back in 1996. My older brother, DJ Caspar, got me into it and my parents were more or less hippies so I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles as well as as well jazz and what you’d call world music. I’d listen to the radio for hours, tuning in to all these DJ sets broadcasted live from clubs around Belgium. I really was drawn to the energy of electronic music, which I found fascinating.

How has where you come from shaped who you are?

Kjell: I’d say that going to Extreme on Mondays circa 2000, when I was just barely 16, was definitely formative to me. Seeing their resident, DJ Phi Phi, playing live with UK legend John Digweed was something I’ll never forget. I mean, together with Marko from La Rocca, DJ Phi Phi really is a pioneer in terms of deeper, progressive sounds, and both of them are big influences on me as an electronic music lover in Belgium. Marko, especially, could play for hours in La Rocca on Sundays, shifting smoothly between techno, deep house, progressive, minimal and even disco and 80s – legendary! Another shape-shifting experience was visiting Circo Loco in DC10 a few years later which left a huge impact on me for their minimal sound and open minded mentality. I also lived in Berlin for a year between 2006 and 2007, and going twice weekly to Berghain Panorama Bar really inspired us in launching Ketaloco which celebrates 11 years in nightlife this year, with Thé Dansant going for nine.

In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?

Tijl: Everyone who went out in the 90s and in my case beginning of the 2000s in Belgium knows the rich musical heritage and club scene we have here in Belgium. When I started to listen to electronic music, trance was still not a commercial style and lots of very talented producers came from Belgium. Since we had quite a few pioneers in Belgium,e specially in techno, you’d have people from neighbouring countries drive to Belgium just to go out in Boccaccio, Extreme, Illusion, La Rocca and the likes. In a way, you could definitely say partying and enjoying life is something that has run through our veins for centuries!

What, to you, characterizes 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?

Didier: My homebase used to be Leuven, where I lived until I was 19 years old, and Silo was of course a huge favourite of mines – spent quite a few memorable nights there listening to countless international DJs. Then, I went to Brussels to study, and started going out to Fuse before organising, a few years later, the Ketaloco parties there. We’ve also run Ketaloco nights in a few other locations around Brussels, places such as the Brussels Event Brewery, Salle de la Madeleine, Mirano, Vaudeville Theatre, Steelgate and, more recently, Spirito. Fuse is of course still very important in Brussels, but you have countless different promoters now really adding to the scene’s vitality, pleople such as Play Label and Deep In House. Woodstrasse in The Wood used to be very good and, more recently, Edge in Quay01 as well as VIEF (known from Zodiak) and Electronical Reeds, two organisations we invited with Ketaloco.

To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?

Kjell: It’s difficult to just name one place in Belgium when you have so many legendary clubs and locations for parties to choose from. When you say electronic music in Brussels, I think right away of FUSE with resident DJ Pierre who for me always will be one of my favourite Belgian Djs. The again, Belgium is so much more than Brussels alone. Ghent and Antwerp each have a big nightlife scene too, with several smaller and bigger clubs.

In a way, you could definitely say partying and enjoying life is something that has run through our veins for centuries!

What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?

Tijl: I don’t think we can complain in Belgium to be honest, especially when you consider that some of the world’s best DJs come to our small little country every weekend. Actually, as a clubber, you often have to choose between going to a night in Antwerp, Ghent or Brussels all with killer line-ups. One thing we’ll never be able to change though is the weather. There’s nothing like partying in a tropical climate, something I once did in Brazil, at the Warung Beach Club and Green Valley, and there’s really nothing comparable to dancing outside whilst the sun’s rising.

What can politicians do to better support the homegrown scene/nightlife? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?

Didier: With Ketaloco and Thé Dansant we’ve organised a lot of parties in different parts of the country and we did notice a shift with politicians. Thing is, whereas in the past we were afraid to tell them that we were actually organising techno parties out of fear of not getting persmission, nowadays electronic music is more known and generally accepted and not only associated to drugs. Some communities have now general procedures to apply for an event and getting permissions isn’t that difficult in the end if you foresee safety measures. I think it’s important for politicians to realise that nightlife creates a bond between people and can boost the economy with, for instance, people from neighbouring countries coming to Belgium and spending time and money here. 

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?

Kjell: Good DJs – music is the key that connects us. A good soundsystem is crucial too. Then, and I’d tend to say this is the most important, a good crowd. Open-minded mentalities, no macho culture, with everyone welcome and equal. Black, white, gay, straight – it doesn’t matter in our house! I will always remember some legendary parties for the music that was played, but also because of who I was there with to share those moments.

If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, which one would they be and why?

Peyote – Alcatraz

One of the many Belgian classics of the 90s which reminds me of the golden years of Belgian clubs such as Extreme, La Rocca, Illusion, At the villa and others.

Push – Unibversal Nation

Shortly after it was released in 1999, Paul Oakenfold played this Belgian track on the Creamfields stage at Pukkelpop, and people went absolutely crazy – a Belgian classic was truly born.

2 Belgen – Lena 

80s classic that Marko would play early on Monday mornings at La Rocca. An inspiration for me to always respect the founders of our beloved music style and not take life or yourself too seriously!

If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?

We always put together the line-up of our dreams with Thé Dansant and Ketaloco and have always made it a point to support Belgian artists. Why invite an expensive international DJ when you have so much talent in Belgium itself?

Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad?

One was definitely the re-opening of the Tresor club in Berlin. Sven Väth was booked and it had been years since he had played in Berlin where underground reigns and some in the scene believed that Sven had sold his soul for money and VIP nights in Ibiza. He ended up doing a four hour set on the night of the opening, and he pretty much showed everyone that he was and still is the techno king – papa Väth!

What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?

We’ll be celebrating Ketaloco’s 11th anniversary in one of Brussels’ most beautiful nightclubs, Spirito, complete with a Funktion One soundsystem! We’ve also been invited with Ketaloco, in May, at Bar Belle Vie a cosy open air concept near Ghent. Then in June we’ll be hosting a stage at Paradise City Festival. In July, we’ll be running our stage at Tomorrowland for the tenth year running and in August we’re very excited to host for the first year a Ketaloco stage at our friends’ festival Aftrsun – good vibes assure