Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.
I fell in love with quality electronic music when I was 18. La Rocca was my first electronic music experience: I was totally blown away the moment I stepped in and I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of the scene. I started my company Labyrinth Productions, organised events at La Rocca and Café d’Anvers and in 2011 I met the owner of Extrema Holland, which was the biggest festival in Holland at the time. He asked me if we could set up Extrema Outdoor Belgium together. This was a huge opportunity and I wanted to be the first outdoor festival with only underground house and techno. The first three years were hard, but we never lost faith in music and eight years later we have over 50.000 people visiting our festival over the weekend. My other dreams were to run my own club, a festival abroad and have Belgian artists in my agency who would travel the world… All these came true as I opened Labyrinth Club in 2014, had the first edition of Labyrinth Open festival in Croatia last year, and the cherry on my cake, our Belgian pride Amelie Lens, who’s part of our booking agency Labyrinth Bookings, is one of the fastest growing techno dj in the world.
How has where you come from shaped who you are?
I was born in Eindhoven and there was not much going on there so we used to go out every weekend in Belgian clubs like La Rocca, The Globe and Café d’Anvers. It is my passion for music that made me who I am and moving to Antwerp really launched my career.
“Today, people follow the hype and go for the big names, which is a pity because a club needs regulars to be able to give a chance to up-and-coming and local artists.”
In your view, what characterizes the country’s unique nightlife?
Belgium has a long electronic music history, which probably explains why our DJ’s, labels and promoters have specific and original music tastes today. Our crowd in clubs and festivals is musically educated and that’s why international artists love to play in Belgium. And if I’m not wrong, we’re one of the few countries with clubs existing for many years like Fuse, La Rocca and Café d’Anvers, which has been there for almost 30 years. You can feel their soul the moment you walk in these places and it’s impossible not to enjoy it. Besides that, there are also new clubs like Labyrinth and Kompass trying to bring a breath a fresh air to the clubbing scene. I think Belgium maintains a very good balance between old established clubs and newcomers. At the end of the day, we are all here to learn from each other.
To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?
It is hard to pick one as we have so many good clubs. But besides my own club, I would say Café d’Anvers is an iconic place recognised in the whole world.
What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?
The only thing we miss at the moment are loyal costumers who come to your club on a weekly basis no matter who’s playing. We had this for many years in Belgium but today, people follow the hype and go for the big names, which is a pity because a club needs regulars to be able to give a chance to up-and-coming and local artists. We do our best to support them but we realise that these nights are weaker than the ones with big international names. I hope mentalities will change so that we can keep supporting our local talents.
What can politicians do to better support the homegrown nightlife? For instance, what do you think of having a nightlife mayor?
I think every city in the world should have a nightlife mayor because nightlife is a big part of society and we need more support from our politicians. The Belgian coast is probably the most boring seaside of the world; it’s only nice for older people. There is a big market for cool beach clubs with weekly events like they do on the Dutch coast. We tried everything to get the permissions to throw parties there, but without success so far.
In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?
Good music, likeminded people and a good location are all you need.
If you had to pick three essential Belgian house music releases, which one would they be? Please also provide YouTube links.
Amelie Lens – Exhale
DkA – Anneessens
Pole Folder & CP – Appolo Vibes
If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?
I would say Amelie Lens, Farrago, Joyhauser, DkA live and Raw District. Not only because they are in our agency, but simply because I think they are the most talented acts we have in Belgium at the moment.
Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad.
One of my best nights out was Hernan Cattaneo’s act at Woodstock at the coast of Holland. This place is a super creative; the venue and Hernan’s music was a match made in heaven.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
The coming months will be all about preparing our festivals to give our visitors the best experience we can offer.