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.

Nico Morano

Nico Morano

DJ and producer

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I grew up in the days when clubs in Belgium were full every weekend as soon as their door opened ; the days when you didn’t need big names to fill up a dance floor because the crowd came for the residents. When I was 19, I started DJing as a resident at Club Illusion in Liere, one of Belgium’s main house clubs at the time. I spent 10 years of my life spinning there every weekend. Today, things have changed a lot. People don’t go out every weekend anymore ; they tend to only go out in trendy occasional events. The good thing is I had the chance to experience the transition and I learnt how to adapt. That’s why, in 2012, I changed my DJ name and started playing at different locations every weekend. After a while I was signed by Atmosphere Agency and my career took off in Belgium and accross the borders.

 

How has where you come from shaped who you are?

Going out of my comfort zone and playing in a new setting every weekend was a huge challenge for me because every crowd, venue and sound system is different, so you have to adapt to make the best out of it. This factor really shaped the artist I have become today.

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

To be honest I don’t think there’s such thing as a Belgian sound. But what we do have is a musical history and leading artists we can be proud of. However, it is true that we used to have a unique nightlife with clubs on every corner and a huge house culture. We created a big demand for Djs and record labels, which probably explains why labels like R&S, Bonzai and News made it beyond the frontiers.

“I’d really like to see daytime clubs open in Belgium so that we could avoid that horrible morning-after feeling.”

What, to you, characterises the country’s unique nightlife and its main players?

Clubs have to face a lot of competition with the increase of festivals and pop-up events so a lot of them have closed down over the past five years. However, the ones that stay true to their identity and keep investing in the future will persist and get stronger. Think Fuse; for 25 years it’s been true to its style while embracing new ways to attract the audience. Then you have Club Vaag, a new kid in town that’s already proven itself in only just two years and I believe in their long-term vision.

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

When it comes to clubbing, Fuse is the way to go; and as far as festivals are concerned, I’d say Tomorrowland, Extrema Outdoor and Paradise City.

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

I’d really like to see daytime clubs open in Belgium so that we could avoid that horrible morning-after feeling.

 

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

Unfortunately, clubs are forced to impose high door and drink prices to cover their costs and taxes, so a lot of people can’t afford to go out every weekend. Think taxes on alcohol, Sabam… The list goes on. I’m afraid this financial environment doesn’t encourage entrepreneurs to created new concepts or start new clubs. So we end up in a vicious circle: fewer clubs → less people going out → less consumption → less taxes → less income for the country. So, all we need to do is turn it around and make people want to go out again.

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

What you need is a good sound system combined with proper melodic tunes accompanied by a light jockey who feels the music. I don’t think the location matters that much; you can party anywhere.

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

Pitch & Hold – Maillot Jaune (2007)

This track defined my style in my early days and I keep listening to it over and over. Pure  bliss.

Michael Forzza – Kahana (2005)

This track was released 13 years ago, yet it could have been me making it yesterday. Timeless.

Compuphonic – Sunset (2012)

This tune’s summer vibe reminds me of all the good moments I had at festivals in 2012.

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

On Friday June 26 at about 19.00, I received a phone call: “Nico, can you please replace Kölsch tonight at Fuse? He won’t make it because his flight got cancelled.” On the one hand you’re super excited, but on the other hand, you know the event was almost sold-out and people were expecting the man with the black hat, not me. Anyway, I accepted the challenge. When I arrived, the club was packed and as soon as I played the first record, I knew it was going to be a legendary night. None asked after Kölsch, the vibe was epic and I ended my 4-hour set with one of his track.

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

I will spend a lot of time in the studio working on new releases and I can’t wait for the festival season to begin as I’ll be playing at Tomorrowland, Paradise City, but also in Ibiza, Tunisia and Dubai.