Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
It all started when I was a kid in the 70s and bought the album Computer World by Kraftwerk and kept listening to Pink Floyd over and over. I like all types of music but electronic music has been the common thread of my life. In 1987, back when Brussels clubs weren’t into house or New Beat yet, I decided to throw parties with my friends Jos et Olivier Gosseries in a youth house called De Schakel in the middle of a park. Soon these events turned into the first Brussels rave parties. 15 years later, same story: I didn’t find anything exciting and clubs were only playing commercial house music straight from Ibiza, so I launched Dirty Dancing with Renaud Deru in 2003, a club with one ambition: share new music without boundaries. Today, I am mainly busy with Listen Festival, which just celebrated its third edition, and I also re-started Libertine Supersport together with the guys from Under My Garage.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
Brussels is a city where a lot of different cultures and nationalities come together. It’s a capital city, however it feels small. It is stuck between two regions and two languages and lacks national policy that would help it compete with other capital cities. All these factors explain why, when you’re born in Brussels, you feel the need to undertake something. As I like new, unknown and challenging ideas and I’m curious and determine, I like to confront this issue, which might be discouraging, but can also serve as a driving source. On top of that, I believe in a collaborative future because I love to share experiences to build new stories.
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?
Belgium is one of the pioneers of electronic music and saw many artists and movements blow up. Think popcorn, EBM, New Beat, acid house, techno, electro clash, EDM, hip-hop… Belgium had something fresh to offer to each of them. So to me, Belgium doesn’t have one sound, but several; and the same goes for our country: there’s not one Belgium, but several.
What, to you, characterises your home base’s unique nightlife?
Like any city, Brussels goes through well-structured and chaotic times. At the moment, I think we’re going through an unstructured period; from the outside Brussels looks sad and inanimate, but when you have a closer look at our city, it’s not. Surely we only have a few main players and clubs, but on the other hand, thousands of people go out every weekend in bars and parties with the same vision, and local collectives organise events as soon as they can find a decent venue. So we end up with a melting pot of genres and cultures with no leading forces or policies, which mirrors our country quite well.
In your view, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
I don’t think there’s one place that could sum up the way we party in Belgium. We don’t party the same way in cities like Ghent and Antwerp as we do in Liège or Brussels; that’s exactly what makes Belgium special.
What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?
Every part of Belgium has different needs. In Brussels, unfortunately nightlife is often seen as a source of troubles and disturbance, especially this election year. Nightlife is not considered (yet) as a proper scene; a driving industry for creation, identity, culture, tourism and economy. There’s no political or financial support for the scene. And I’m not talking about people selling beers and lemonade to a crowd looking for fun; I’m talking about the ones who want to build a strong cultural scene that can compete on the local and global markets and worthily represent the capital of Europe. For these reasons, the City of Brussels and the Brussels-Capital region need to get advice from experts in order to develop a global policy and support local projects that are subject to grow internationally. Look at Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin for instance… I remember back in the Dirty Dancing days in the mid-2000s, a lot of Parisians used to come and party in Brussels because they weren’t happy with what they had home. Those days are far-gone; Paris and Amsterdam are bustling with interesting projects, and so is Antwerp. A rich nightlife also gives the city a modern, innovative and attractive image for young people looking for creative activities. If we don’t keep Brussels vibrant, our younger generations will leave because they feel like the grass is greener in neighbouring capital cities.
What do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?
Appointing a nightlife mayor won’t solve everything. Surely we should have an attentive leader, but what we need even more is a group of experts able to build a 10-year plan with a vision and a policy with specific targets. In order to achieve that, we need to have the political will and the financial means, rather than relying on the young generation like opportunists and let them work for little or nothing in the hope of keeping Brussels alive.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
It’s a tough question because, obviously, partying is no exact science, however there’s a few variables that should be taken into account in my opinion: the scenography of the venue, its location, its lightening, a friendly service with a nice beverage offer, an efficient and tolerant selection at the door, a good balance between women and men, a high-end sound system (not too loud but warm, heavy and neat), and DJs who take risks to draw the audience into a long journey. If you have all these ingredients, the magic can happen, or not. The only way to find out is when the crowd becomes one, like a single individual sharing the same experience for one night.
If you had to pick five essential Belgian house music releases, what would they be?
Telex – Moscow disco
Front 242 – U-Men
Public Relations – Public Relation
Soulwax – NY Excuse
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
A line-up is not about putting together a top 5 on a flyer; it is about creating a coherent and rich programme that matches the target audience’s expectations.
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.
I’ve had too many… But let’s say the latest ones I’ve had were at Primavera Sound in Barcelona in June 2017 and at Lux club in Lisbon four years ago.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Listen Festival 2019, Libertine Under My Garage, looking for partners for various musical projects in Brussels and elsewhere, and I also work as a consultant for brands and event agencies.