Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
I started collecting music from an early age and I occasionally played at weddings and block parties. I organised my first parties in 1992 which all turned out to be a big success. This paved the way in setting up the club Cirao when I was only 17. The club was short-lived but is still remembered as one of the legendary and trendsetting clubs in Belgium. In 1994, I founded Funky Green Aliens, also known as FGA, a party and booking agency promoting groundbreaking music and arts and introducing international artists to the Belgian scene. These were creative times. By 1997, my name started popping up in all the major Belgian clubs and events. I was mostly playing techno and acid back then. Then, in 2001 I started working in Ghent’s most prominent record store: Music Man. As a member of the purchasing team, I handled the more experimental leftfield releases. In 2003 I founded the record label Radius Records. The label’s goal was to seek and explore the foundations of the electronic influences of the 70’s and 80’s Italo disco. This brought in a lot of gigs all over Europe. Since 2006 I’ve worked as a self-employed promoter and programmer for various famous parties and today I’m a resident DJ and programmer at Kozzmozz and Retro Acid. Oh, and I’m also involved in Voltage and Cirque Magique.
What would you describe as being your first influences?
My first influences were synthesizer greats (Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and the likes) and new wave club classics (Front 242, Depeche Mode, etc). Later, Belgium’s pre New Beat craze and early Chicago house came into the picture.
In your view, what explains Belgium’s considerable contribution to global house music?
We have a beautiful background that is still a big source of inspiration for many international artists. Now and then our 90s sound is reinvented by someone else. The return of more EBM-oriented sounds is definitely fueled by Belgium’s history. This pre New Beat sound finds its way in trendsetting labels such as Correspondant, La dame Noir Records, Astro Lab and countless others. Our 90s rave sounds also keep finding new souls to entertain. This is all thanks to international artists like Nina Kraviz for instance. It’s mainly our musical heritage that inspires people, but unfortunately it does not push boundaries enough. Belgium has become a country of DJs and they tend to imitate instead of innovating.
What “makes” our sound what it is?
Does Belgium have a sound? I personally think it does not have one. We have artists who are doing a very good job, but I don’t think they represent a specific and consistent sound as it was the case in the 90s.
What, to you, characterizes 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?
Ghent has always had a solid electronic music scene as far as I can remember. I personally think we do lack a bit of diversity though. Techno rules the floors. I would like to see more genres flourish instead of just one, but we cannot really complain. We do have very qualitative parties that are respected and visited by people from Ghent as well as people who live far outside the city.
Belgium has become a country of DJs and they tend to imitate instead of innovating.
To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
Belgians are very communicative on the dance floor.This means that if we like what we hear, we will express this very clearly by partying hard and creating a good vibe on the dance floor. Our hands go up in the air when we like what the artist delivers. This works both ways as if we do not like it, the atmosphere will be cold. These are very clear signals that a DJ can use and take advantage of. Many international DJs love that because they do not have such a clear indication in other countries. We are pretty spoiled in Belgium in that respect.
What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?
What we really miss is smaller, qualitative venues where you can introduce new sounds or try out experimental concepts without incurring too high of a cost.
What can politicians do to better support the homegrown scene/nightlife? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?
Politicians and local authorities see the electronic nightlife as a threat instead of an opportunity. They tend to give promoters a hard time by regulating too much, which hinders creativity. Few mayors support the nightlife in Belgium, although cities like London, Berlin and Amsterdam prove that this can be done. A good nightlife makes citizens happy and attracts tourists and many young people to the cities – And young people are the city’s future. Bad policies make the youth go away and fill up other cities. Bread and circuses – even the Romans had it figured out.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
A nice audience who knows a thing or two about music, good artists, good DJs and a very good sound system make a night for me.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, what would they be and why?
I don’t really think in terms of Belgium to be honest. Good music knows no borders and I don’t really care too much about where good music comes from. That being said, I will share a few tracks with you from my early days that were very important, definitely shaped me and have stood the test of time.
A split second – Flesh (33 rpm)
Because I abused many copies of that record.
Front 242 – Masterhit
Because Front was the first band I was a fan of.
Snowy Red – Euroshima (Wardance)
Because some things cannot be forgotten.
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
I do not dream of that, because I put line-ups together for a living. So let me give you five Belgian artists that I think are currently doing well, in an undetermined order: Peter van Hoesen, DkA, Lawrence Le Doux, Hiele and Locked Groove.
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad?
That’s a difficult question. There are too many nights that are etched in my memory. But the first thing that comes to mind is my first big party back in 1995, Mobilotopia, an illegal gig in Antwerp South railway station, which was dilapidated back then. Five thousand people were inside the building and another thousand tried to get in. A politician kept the police outside. The atmosphere was sweltering and epic. This party marked the beginning of electronic parties that were not hosted in clubs. The graffiti on the walls ‘the world is ours’ said it all.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Loads of DJ gigs and some nice parties