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.

Nicolas Kerstens

Nicolas Kerstens

DJ, promoter and co-founder at Drrrip Radio

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

It all started when Thomas (known as DJ FBQ) and I decided to start a DJ duo under the moniker FlatFish at the age of 16. Years after, we played at numerous parties and festivals and together with a bunch of friends, we created Lucid Festival. Later on, I started a non-profit company called De Fabriek gathering several cultural events like Warm, How I Work, Het_Eiland, a design market called Ieder Zenne Meug and my new baby Drrrip Radio located in an abandoned monastery in Antwerp.

 

How has the scene shaped who you are?

My vision changed a lot trough the past few years. I realised how tough and risky the world of promoting events is: sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. So you learn from your mistakes and it only makes you stronger.

How would you describe Belgium’s contribution to global house music?

I think our underground house music scene is fairly small compared to other countries. Only a few labels and artists successfully run their business in Belgium. However I truly admire the work of We Play House Recordings, a label that’s been around for about 20 years and is still releasing numerous Belgian artists. Besides that, I think Kong and Gratts’ Ensemble label is really promising and will release numerous good productions in the coming years.

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?

When we started promoting festivals and parties, the only club with a good programme was Café d’Anvers. In the past 10 years we went from one to five or six clubs in Antwerp and the “cheesy” house took over a bit. But to me, Sunday Matinee is Antwerp’s house music key player. The concept is pretty straightforward: they bring a power generator, a Rodec mixer and two turntables at a beautiful location in Antwerp, and they let the crowd bring their own beers and everybody who could play is welcome behind the decks.

 “I realised how tough and risky the world of promoting events is: sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.”

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

Definitely Brussels, because compared to Antwerp, the crowd is much more passionate about music. You can go to a party in Brussels at 12pm and even with only ten guests in the room, the party has already started. In Antwerp you have to wait until someone dares to dance first and then everybody joins. I think Brussels’ party mind-set is pure and essential for our country.

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

We need a place like Trouw in Amsterdam and I would love to see Klub Goud reopen, which used to be run by the one and only Bert Vanlommel.

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

Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor is one thing, but if you look at their mayor Eberhard Van Der Laan (who passed away last year), he was really part of the scene, inaugurating club Trouw’s 24-hour license and receiving odes from the underground scene when he died. It’s unbelievable. Our Mayor Bart De Wever celebrating a club’s license sounds totally absurd. It would be a good thing to have a mayor supporting the scene in Belgium, but unfortunately the authorities still don’t see our nightlife as a cultural thing, and I don’t have the feeling it is going to happen.

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

Besides a good line-up, all you need is the sound is on point and be surrounded with likeminded people.

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

Technotronic – Pump Up The Jam

This sound is still unique after 28 years. They shaped the scene worldwide.

Magnus – Summer’s Here

Magnus, Tom Barman and Cj Bolland, was a hige inspiration for me and definitely shaped my tastes in house music. Their project Magnus is something we have to be proud of.

Supreems – Us Together

I’ve known Xavier from Supreems for a really long time now as we grew up in the same town and used to compete against each other at DJ contests when we were really young. Xavierhas always been true to his style and that’s what led him to release this track on Lobster Theremin.

 

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

  • Placebo aka Marc Moulin
because he’s a hero in the down tempo genre and he produces music you can listen to over and over without ever growing weary.
  • Soulwax: the Dewaele brothers are probably Belgium’s biggest export product. Each one of their albums is completely different and their promoting style is unique. Genius.
  • Peter Van Hoesen because he is by far the most quality underground techno artist Belgium has to offer.
  • Dominique Lawalree: his album First Meeting is full of incredible piano tracks. I discovered him after checking the Meakusma Festival line-up and it’s another Belgian artist we can be really proud of.
  • Sven Van Hees: even though I’m not a fan anymore, I you can’t deny his early work and especially his album Exotica.

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

I will never forget Awakenings Festival 2011, my first techno and house festival. I was so hooked that I came back the year after with a bus full of friends.

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

Besides music, I have a passion coffee and I work as a barista for Coffeelabs Antwerp. They are expanding their business and we are re-launching our How I Work in April talks so that’s something to look forward to. And last but not least, I will keep working on Drrrip Radio and we will soon open the doors of our monastery to organise events.