Where do you live these days and can you briefly explain your first introduction to electronic music?
I’ve been living in Ghent for about four years now but was born and raised in Ninove. My first introduction to electronic music was through watching the news on television and seeing a small item about I Love Techno back in 2005. It somehow intrigued me, and I went searching for some recordings on the internet and was immediately hooked. From that day on I only had one dream really: do something with electronic music. Be it as a Dj, producer, label owner, or organizer. It all tickled my senses.
For our readers who don’t know your influences, the Voltage Festival and/or your label Form And Function yet, how would you describe the sound and the musical universe of your projects?
It’s hard to describe a specific sound as in my opinion there isn’t something as THE Form and Function or Voltage sound. I’ve never pin holed myself or any of the projects into a particular specific sound. It’s impossible for me as I just like a lot of different styles of music. I like to bang it out, and I like to warm up a crowd, I like to go diverse and surprise a crowd, I like industrial, I like Electro, I love 90’s techno… it all depends on my mood, the situation I’m in and of course the music that is released at that time.
If it has one thing in common, it’s that the music touches me and that I believe in what the artist who is releasing on either one of the labels or is playing at the festival is trying to bring. By this very vague explanation, you can see that it’s something very personal and not some formula. You have a lot of events and labels who are known for a particular sound within the techno spectrum, but that will never work for me. I need that variation to keep it interesting.
Listening to your DJ sets, and releases from different artists on Form and Function or Voltage, it is safe to say that you already have a sonic identity. Are you interested (in the future) to translate this identity from DJ sets into the studio with your own productions?
It’s something that recently is becoming something I want to tap into again. I did produce a little bit a few years ago, but once I got a job, Ohm and Voltage started to grow I didn’t find the time anymore.
But with the task of doing A&R for Voltage and Form and Function slowly, the idea of setting up a studio is retaking form.
Do you prefer to play for a big or a small crowd, and do you adjust your sets based on the crowd and their reactions?
Big or small doesn’t matter, for me, it’s more about the distance between the first row of dancers and the DJ. I need to feel that energy, I need to be able to read the crowd.
For me DJ’ing in clubs and at parties is 100% about adjusting your set to the crowd reaction. You need to feel when you need to go a bit harder, or when they need a track or two to be able to breathe and rest a bit. When I DJ I like to play with that contrast, you can’t just bang it out from start to end, even in a headlining slot.
You can compare it to driving a car. When you drive 120km/h for an hour on end it doesn’t feel like 120km/h anymore, you get used to it. When you go from 50km/h to 120km/h, on the other hand, you’ll feel it for sure.
How do you split the time between gigs, management for Form and Function, and work for the Voltage Festival? Are you currently putting a special focus on one of those? What does your typical week usually look like?
I’m lucky to have a strong team around me for both Voltage and Form and Function as I still have a part-time day job too.
That means I work a lot and that my life is pretty much planned by the hour. My working week is from Monday till Saturday and generally from 8h in the morning till about 23h00 in the evening. I am leaving room for about 2 hours of relaxing and about 6 hours of sleep a day. It sounds rough, but I’ve been working like this for the past five years now. It’s an investment I gladly make to achieve the goals I have in life. Slowly I see the result of all these years of work.
As for dividing my time between all the projects: Fridays are always for Form and Function and the other days are all focused on Voltage. When the festival gets closer, it sometimes is hard to give Form and Function that full day of attention but I force myself into not giving it less time than that. For me, Form and Function is my hobby, and it’s something I care deeply about.
As for gigs, I’m always checking out music while working so when I have a gig in the weekend I have piled up a massive amount of music already. Then I take a couple of hours to make a selection that fits the gigs I’m playing. The music that doesn’t fit at that time I put into an archive list I have so I can recheck them in the future If I’m looking for some different stuff.
You are also the organizer of OHM, an event series combining techno artists and impressive stage and sound systems. The last event was in Kortrijk on the 24th November 2018, you end this journey on a beautiful note. But why did you stop the concept?
I felt like our story was told. Ohm lasted for about seven years, and we’ve grown from small parties in cafés to large events and stage hosting. It was the start of everything, and I’ve learned a lot and gotten a lot of opportunities, thanks to it.
But it’s not easy to bring the kind of music I like in Kortrijk or the West of Flanders. We had reached the maximum we could do there for quite some time already. And I didn’t want OHM to slowly fade away and become this “has been party” or something you take for granted. And neither did I want to bring OHM to Ghent and have to sell our soul to bring at least 1500+ people to each event.
So we decided it was the best to end on a beautiful note and to focus entirely on Voltage and Form and Function. I didn’t regret the choice for a single second so far. With the other two projects taking all my time, there’s no empty gap or black hole…
Within the electronic music landscape, techno has come to a forefront in the past few years, with the rise in the popularity of major festivals like Awakenings, Time Warp or also Tomorrowland… As Voltage Festival founder, how do you feel this has impacted the organization of the festival?
In Belgium, you need a few of the big names if you want to pull a big enough crowd for a festival. So you’re fighting against world known competitors for those names as there only are eight weekends during July and August. So the competition is extremely tough.
Luckily Voltage has built a name as a purist festival, and we’re now a festival where DJ’s want to be part of. That makes my job as a booker a lot easier. We’ve managed to compile our best line-up yet, but it was by far the most comfortable year ever to convince artists and management to include Voltage in their festival schedule.
Next to that, I believe we bring something different with our location and concept. You need to jump out today if you want to break through in the festival market. Your concept has to bring something different to the table. It’s not enough anymore to just put some tents on the field of a farmer you know. You need to think way beyond that these days.
There are certain DJs that are so highly in demand that their tour schedules never slow down, traveling from country to country every week. As an organiser, label founder and artist manager, do you think that this has an impact on their ability to do their job to the highest capacity possible?
There’s a lot of pressure from the industry on DJ’s and the fees that are being paid are ridiculous. Surely this makes some people make the wrong career choices or do things they would otherwise never do.
Then again, I think every artist can chose the path he wants. Business techno is a real thing, all jokes aside. But there’s still more then enough people who are in it for absolutely the right reasons and love for the music and who always bring the best version of themselves to the table.
As the label’s artistic director, you probably receive lots of demos. What makes you decide whether or not you sign with an artist or for a track?
For Form and Function the artist has to be born in Belgium. I want the label to be an outlet for local talent. As for the music, I try to look for artists who have their own sound and who try to bring something different. If you’re passionate about music you kind of quickly get a sense if someone tries to copy a certain sound or tries to bring one of his own. For me that’s the beginning of everything.
Before signing somebody new I always meet up and have a chat with them first. I want to know the person behind the music. What is his vision? What is his motivation? Where does he see himself in a few years? That personal connection is really important. I need to match with that person in real life too.
If he or she happens to be a dick but makes great music there’s still no chance I would sign him to the label. It’s the total package that matters.
In your opinion, who are the emerging Belgian artists we should keep an eye on?
As for Form and Function that would be Atis, the youngest member of the team. He really has something special and I’m absolutely sure he has a big musical carreer in front of him. The stories he tells through music are incredible and show an enormous talent.
Also Altinbas, who did a track on the Voltage V/A is someone that really surprised me with his talent and I’m sure you’ll see his name way more often soon.
And then there’s Kafim, one of the best DJ’s in Brussels. Next to that were currently working on his debut EP which will be released on Form and Function and I got to say he’s living up to his standards. I’m really psyched about this one.
What advice would you give to upcoming producers and dj’s?
Take your time, don’t rush things. Everyone needs to grow and mature.
What kind of music do you enjoy at home? Do you listen to a lot of techno outside of the dj-context?
Rarely, when I listen to it it’s mostly to prepare a set or to check an artist out for Voltage Festival.
I have a pretty broad taste in music. To give you an idea, my current favorite artists according to Spotify are: King Gizard & The Lizard Wizzard, Dope Lemon, Mac DeMarco, Savages, Zwangere Guy, stuff like that.
You released recently a new series of VA’s on a new label linked to Voltage Festival, can you tell us more about it?
The idea was to do something to celebrate five years of Voltage Festival. I started off with asking some befriended artists if they would like to make a track for a special compilation. After that I asked some of my all time favorite artists and to my surprise everybody was enthusiastic. Before I knew I had 16 artists and a 4 disc compilation. It was a big challenge to get everything ready in time but it was one of the coolest things I’ve done so far.
The response has been outstanding and I’m now thinking about the next step as I do want to roll out VOLTAGE as a permanent label. I think it’s the ideal way to show what VOLTAGE is about musically and It’s a perfect way to give Belgian artists worldwide exposure through the festival. So it serves a lot of purposes and I think it can be a meaningful project.
What’s coming next for you in the spring and summer, any plans or exciting projects you’d love to mention?
We’re in the final weeks towards Voltage Festival so that’s taking up all of my time right now. Next to that we’re going to change a few things for Form and Function. The label will get a new visual identity and we’re changing some things in the way we go from demo to final mastered track as SP-X is now going to be more involved in the A&R and mixing process to get the best result possible. Ive never been more excited about the future!
Parallel Circuit recorded also an exclusive podcast for InDepth. Discover his musical universe here.