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.

Kristof Claes

Kristof Claes

DJ, promoter and radio host

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

As a kid, I used to listen to the old tapes my brother brought back home from legendary clubs like Boccaccio, Baccardi’s and Carat. Back then I already knew I wanted to do something with electronic music, clubs and parties. I bought my first records at the age of 14, riding my bike to MVC Record Store in Beringen every Wednesday afternoon. The same year I started playing at bars in Leopoldsburg every weekend. Then one thing led to another and I started to throw my own parties called Enigmatic Events in Leuven and Hasselt. Much later I met Kurt Bosmans and we founded Rave Our Souls, a tribute to the good old rave music from the early 90s. This project grew a little out of hand and for five years we organised massive raves all over Belgium where we played dressed like smiley popes. Meanwhile I started working as a booker at Muziekodroom and in 2012, we founded club Forty Five next-door. This whole time, I kept DJing as Goldfox and today I have my own weekly radio show at Studio Brussel on Saturday night.

How has where you come from shaped who you are?

My birthplace Beringen was pretty dear to me because I could cycle to the then legendary record store MVC. For the anecdote, it was actually Glenn Keteleer who sold me my very first vinyl. Their collection and new arrivals were on point so I discovered tons of music genres. Moreover, neighbouring town Leopoldsburg had a vibrant nightlife where I was able to play those records. One day, we even hosted a festival called Putrock at the old coalmine site of Beringen where I booked legends like The Hacker and Kevin Saunderson right in my backyard.

In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music?

Belgium is of course famous for its groundbreaking New Beat scene, but we also played a major role in the European trance wave. I’m a nineties kid so I grew up in the midst of the Bonzai and trance craze and I had to discover the early New Beat and raves later on. I think Belgium has always had a progressive view on music production and clubbing, with probably the highest concentration of clubs per square meter. These clubs inspired producers, who then made music that filled the clubs. The whole music scene was balanced so we didn’t need to book foreign artists. Today things have changed but we still greatly contribute to the international techno scene with clubs like Fuse, labels like R&S and artists like Charlotte, Amelie, Marco Bailey and many more.

“We’ve all seen the headliners too many times now; it’s time to go underground again.”

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?

I grew up in the countryside so we had to drive to go to clubs. In Limburg there’s always been a quality club scene with Montini, Boccaccio, Baccardi’s as well as a friendly and open-minded crowd, which you feel on our dance floors. Hasselt was the only main city without an alternative club, which is why we saw the opportunity to open Forty Five. Today Hasselt is booming thanks to Labyrinth and its excellent programming. We have always struggled a bit more then the main cities like Brussels and Antwerp so everybody tends to help each other out.

In your view, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?

Fuse might be the most iconic club in the world, even more than Berghain in Berlin because it has always kept one step ahead. When techno wasn’t as popular, they survived by focusing on house and electro until the next techno wave hit us. Every artist in the world wants to play in Fuse.

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

At the moment we simply have too many clubs where everybody is trying to do book the same artists and attract for the same crowd. That’s not really healthy. We need more small and edgy venues; let’s throw illegal raves again, somewhere in field, a forest or a cave. We’ve all seen the headliners too many times now; it’s time to go underground again.

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

Amsterdam is the perfect example of how to manage a city’s nightlife. Having a dedicated mayor is a must because most politicians have no clue about the scene’s reality. The good thing is that cities are more and more inclined to allow pop-up events in vacant buildings, which is needed.

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

A good night revolves much more around the crowd than the artist playing. A local bedroom DJ can create the perfect vibe on the dance floor if the crowd is receptive and the other way around. Forget about VIP areas, the wannabe’s, big spenders and influencers and bring in more people willing to discover music. I played at Zodiak in Brussels a little while ago and nobody knew who I was so they didn’t really know what to expect. I ended up having such a memorable experience with a great connexion with the crowd. Totally unexpected.

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

Transformer 2 ‎– Pacific Symphony

This track was produced by Jeff Vanbockryck & Johan Gielen in 1992. It was the midst of the UK rave but there’s something trancy about it. This record isn’t quite efficient on the dancefloor but it’s a masterpiece when it comes to symphonies and production.

T99 – Anasthasia

This record produced by Olivier Abbeloos in 1991 simply embodies rave culture together with Altern8’s Full On Masked Hysteria album. It was groundbreaking at the time and is still relevant today.

Kiani & His Legion – I Can Take You There (If You Let Me Take You)

This new track was produced by Thomas Neyens in 2017. Kiani is one of the best producers in Belgium but he always stayed a bit off the grid.

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

I would put together a 100% Limburg line-up:

  • Kiani because he is one of the best DJs I know, his sets and productions are detailed masterpieces that tell a story;
  • Beton is the new anonymous project of an old friend. He’s the most technically-skilled DJ I know and the energy of  his sets turns every dancefloor into a pool of joy;
  • Cellini is a young upcoming techno talent who thinks, produces and plays pure trips of darkness;
  • Myself simply because I wouldn’t want to miss this night
  • Roit is the jungle alterego of my old Rave Our Souls colleague Kurt Bosmans, perfect to close the night.

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

I probably don’t remember all of them, however one night stuck with me. In the early 2000s there were a lot of illegal parties thrown in the Marl caves near Kanne. All we had a was a huge sound system, some lights and a small crowd of people who knew the event’s location. You could easily get lost on the dark maze of tunnels while dancing to pure techno, jungle and drum and bass. Those were the days.

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

I will keep hosting my radio show at Studio Brussel and I have exciting gigs coming up like Dour, Voltage Festival, Cirque Magique and Tomorrowland. Besides that, as I’ve been managing Forty Five for five years, it is time for a new challenge, which you will hear about next summer.