Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
Vernon: I started DJing and producing at the end of the 90s and I’ve had the chance to play in a lot of countries like Spain, the UK, Russia and Germany to name a few. Massimo and I have known each other for about 20 years now, and we have a lot of sleepless nights to come.
Massimo: I started going out at around 15 and I immediately fell for electronic music. Three years later, I bought my first decks and got the chance to meet people who introduced me to the scene and guided me. I started playing and producing together with Vernon 18 years ago, and today we have released more than a hundred records on labels in the likes of Innervisions and Defected, played around Europe and been residents at clubs such as Labyrinth, Café d’Anvers and H2O.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
Vernon: I have a hip-hop background and I only discovered house and techno in the 90s. I think our eclectic influences can be felt in our music.
Massimo: Vernon was much more into techno and synthetic vibes whereas I was playing a lot of soulful house music from Chicago and New York. As a result, we learned a lot from our each other’s musical backgrounds and personalities.
“Thanks to the hard work of promoters and club owners, we can enjoy great line-ups every weekend.”
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music? What “makes” our sound what it is?
Vernon: Our country has always had very good electronic clubs, which made it very easy for Belgians to stay curious and discover new music.
Massimo: Belgium, and more specifically Brussels, is in the centre of Europe so we have a lot of diverse cultural influences, which probably have an impact on our sound. Besides that, our clubbing scene from the 80s was so unique that it certainly still influences Belgian artists today.
What, to you, characterises the country’s unique nightlife?
Vernon: The first characteristics that come to mind are our old clubbing culture, our permissive policies and our geographic location.
Massimo: Belgium is very small country where everyone knows each other and thanks to the hard work of promoters and club owners, we can enjoy great line-ups every weekend. You could easily go see a local artist you like in a small venue and then jump in your car to party at a big event with international DJs.
To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
Vernon: We have the chance to have a lot of good clubs like Labyrinth, Club Vaag, Ampere, Kompass and Fuse as well as well-thought events such as Thé Dansant.
Massimo: Café d’Anvers, Club Vaag and Ampere are doing an amazing job, but if I had to pick one place, I’d say Labyrinth Club without hesitation. Not only because we are residents there, but mainly because it is a professional organisation driven by Ugur Akkus and David Gorez who are true music lover.
What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?
Vernon: Until recently we did not have any French-speaking media specialised in electronic music and our clubbing culture. Luckily, a few friends of mine launched a new website called www.backstage-mag.be which I believe could really help the scene, especially in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
What can politicians do to better support the homegrown scene? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?
Massimo: In Wallonia, politicians should support promoters. And I’m not even talking about subsidies here, all we need is a simplification of the system so that organisers can throw parties more easily. A lot of my friends get their requests denied and, as a result, Wallonia’s electronic scene is really poor.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
Massimo: It is all about booking the right artist in the right venue.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, what would they be and why?
Vernon & Massimo:
FCL – It’s You (San Soda’s Panorama Bar Acca Version)
This track simply proves Belgians can make house music.
Mackenzie Feat Jessy – I Am Free
This is of the best trance classics of all time. The breakdown is insane.
Fabrice Lig – Meet u in Brooklyn
Fabrice is a really close friend of us and he’s always been an inspiration. He released that tune back in 2005 on well-respect German label Playhouse. This is striking example of how you can be labelled as a techno producer and still deliver an amazing deep house tune.
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
Vernon & Massimo :
- Stavroz because they’re the perfect warm-up act, injecting an overall ethnic, acoustic and organic vibe to electronic music.
- DkA, our partner in crime at Labyrinth, creates sets that will take you on a deep, intense journey.
- Tofke is a long-time friend of ours and he’s among the few who have been active for years now.
- Charlotte De Witte will bring the party to the next level with strong tunes and tight mixing skills. She knows how to handle a peak-time set.
- Amelie Lens is the perfect way to end a night with her unique performance skills. She knows how to make the crowd go insane.
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.
Vernon: I must say we’ve been having a really good time lately. We recently discovered a great club in Warsaw called Smolna. We were there to play with Pete Tong and the atmosphere was very unique. A few hours later, we were closing Joris Voorn’s night at Café d’Anvers. A tiring, but satisfying weekend.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Massimo: At the moment we are mainly focusing our project “Raw District” and our main goal is to finalise our first album this year. Besides that we also look forward to the festival season as we have gigs planned at Extrema Outdoor Belgium and Holland, WECANDANCE, Tomorrowland and the second edition of LABO Festival in Croatia.