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.

Timmerman

Timmerman

Toon Timmerman, DJ

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today?

A fresh face on the scene, wearing a pink cap, playing house music all over Belgium.

How has where you come from shaped who you are?

First of all, my hometown is where my interest in nightlife and electronic music all started. Hasselt had an eclectic nightlife scene when I first started going out, from Breakdown in Muziekodroom to the notorious club nights at The Zoo, as well as the legendary Kontrast parties at Chaoz in Kermt, and a bunch of other concepts which all contributed to what I’m doing today. Secondly, I eventually started DJing in Hasselt myself, mostly at small and local gigs. Another great thing for Hasselt’s nightlife and DJ scene is the biennial DJ-Mania contest. I won last year’s edition and it’s been a great push in my DJ career. In and around Hasselt there are also a lot of festivals being held, Pukkelpop being the major one. Lots of exciting things, as you can see – but on the other hand I have to say Hasselt is also the city that made me realise that I’m actually more comfortable in a slightly bigger town both musically and personally, which is why I moved to Ghent.

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

I think we owe our sound of Belgium to the national pioneers who were simply not afraid of doing something new and revolutionary at the time. Due to its dark, raw and eccentric sound, the first New Beat was genuinely shocking and revolting for the average listener, which is exactly why I think it became so successful.Of course, there are new genres continuously being born and “created” today, but nothing comes close to the fresh and unconventional sound of Belgium in the late 80s. Even now this typical Belgian sound is very present in the music I play, or better yet, in house music in general. There’s just too many important musicians to name from that era, so I think it’s safe to say that party people and music lovers in Belgium, both back then and today, are absolutely spoiled with this wide range of talented people in our tiny country.

What characterises the country’s unique nightlife? What makes it special, who are its main players?

In Hasselt, and all over Limburg in fact, I often get the feeling that people are honest and genuinely friendly, creating a peaceful yet joyful vibe on the dancefloor. As far as the “main players” are concerned, Forty Five and Labyrinth Club are the ones that come to mind first. Forty Five is part of Muziekodroom and has been around for a very long time, flying in artists such as Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills and Helena Hauff to the slowest-speaking part of Belgium. They offer a lot of opportunities to youngsters, like their DJ-Mania contest, but also by offering local talents opening slots at their club nights. Playing there is without a doubt always a laugh, especially since I’ve been a regular visitor there since I started going out. Labyrinth Club is worth a mention too, bringing top notch DJs every weekend. They haven’t been around in Hasselt for that long, but the list of artists they’ve booked already is absolutely stunning. Meanwhile the main player for R&B-oriented music would be Versuz. In fact, for a city with a meagre population of 77,000 inhabitants, Hasselt has quite the nightlife! Belgium also sports these kinds of bars which are not real clubs but at the same time not real bars. Does that make sense? Sort of bars where there’s space for dancing, but with no real club feeling nor entrance fee, some of them even programming really cool DJs. Brussels and Antwerp are swamped with places like that, and I do like that approach to nightlife. I was going to leave Leuven out, but it has to be said that their student party scene is like no other.

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

If I was born twenty years earlier, I would probably go for Popcorn or the legendary Boccaccio. But modern day-wise, I’d have to say Fuse – I can’t think of a time I had a bad night there. It’s hard to find the right words for it, but the place just has something magical. Maybe it can be best described by those “typical Fuse goose bump moments” like Nick said in the recently published Red Bull Elektropedia documentary. Other than the vibe and the overall atmosphere, the staff earns some credit too: the people behind the bar, the light-jockeys, the sound technicians… They’re the ones providing the perfect night out to thousands of dancers, every weekend. I believe all these elements are essential in creating a good nightclub, and to be at the top of their game right now is just unique. Hats off.

 Due to its dark, raw and eccentric sound, the first New Beat was genuinely shocking and revolting for the average listener, which is exactly why I think it became so successful.

In your opinion, what is missing in Belgium terms of nightlife?

More gender diverse line-ups, more LGBTQ+ parties and 24-hour licenses for nightclubs. Period.

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

One just has to look at the list of recent actions that were taken to improve nightlife (in Ghent), but failed spectacularly. The police lockdown of the beloved Overpoortstraat Ghent café in order to check and search everyone going in and out is just, well, I’ll leave that up to you… Not to mention the temporary closing of club Decadance not so long ago due to drug-related incidents and irrelevant accusations. There’s also room for change in Hasselt: last year, the Flemish Minister of Culture Sven Gatz listed all of the subsidy-funded projects and proposed a plan to “eliminate the cultural backlog in Limburg”, unabashedly stating that Limburg is culturally not on the same level as the rest of Flanders. I don’t know how familiar he is with nightlife here, but I’d like to take him on a night out in Hasselt… A nightlife mayor would (probably) be a good idea, especially if they could give some clubs a 24-hour license, like in Amsterdam!

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

It would be easy to go for “a good DJ playing on a decent sound system for a wild crowd”, but for me, a night out is successful if I feel a certain connection between me and the crowd, both as a DJ and dancer. It mostly happens when I’m in a safe party environment where there’s no room for judgement and where notions of “seeing and being seen” are left behind. Maybe that is something that can be improved in our nightlife: the feeling of being totally accepted on a dancefloor.

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

Telex – Moskow Diskow (1979)

If Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder had a baby, it would be Telex. So ahead of its time and unbelievably powerful on a dancefloor. A lot of people are actually very surprised when they discover Telex is a Brussels-based band.

Lords of Acid – I Sit On Acid (1991)

100% Belgian. Raw. Dirty. Obscure. Basically the perfect example of what Belgium stood for at that time.

The Amazing – Qu’est ce que vous voulez? (2000)

Maybe not as “Belgian-sounding” as the rest but couldn’t leave this one out, turning an old school Matthew Herbert sample into a massive club banger. Best played by Ricardo Villalobos in Fuse.

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

Trish Van Eynde: Without a doubt one of those very talented DJs whose sets always turn out to be a masterclass for newcomers in the game. Wish I could have seen her play 20 years ago…

Pierre: Go to a Lessizmore party in Fuse, stay until closing time and you will understand.

Nikkie Van Lierop (Jade 4U and Lords Of Acid): Why wouldn’t I? Just based on some footage I’ve seen, I can tell it must have been pure bliss to see her perform live.

Kr!z: The man behind Token records and loyal Kozzmozz resident. I’ve seen him do several closings, but the most memorable one was the one after Robert Hood and DVS1. A night you’d go to for the headliners, but in the end his set stood out the most by far. A Class A, no-nonsense techno DJ.

Nosedrip: Definitely one of the best “modern” DJs Belgium has on offer nowadays, with an exceptional wide range of musical knowledge. A superb DJ.

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

Well, I would have to expound my statement about Fuse earlier. I did have a bad night there – once – when I lost my pink cap on the dancefloor. I mailed them afterwards, and they wrote back that they did find a pink cap while cleaning. I asked if they could send me a picture before I went to pick it up, and it turned out to be a different one! Thank God I have a few extra at home.

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

Mostly bookings, gigs, DJ-sets and, well, bookings. There might be more on the radar, but time will tell.