Club Aura, a new club located in Antwerp’s industrial port dedicated to all kinds of electronic music from house to techno, from jungle to trance, created in order to promote alternative arts and all their expressions. 2 rooms will make you dance to different rhythms, different dynamics, common energies during Aura Nacht. This project aims to give some space to upcoming artists, new subcultures, and regenerate generations of party people. Follow the silhouette in the spectrum of Aura, look up to the lights in fusia bar, dance until the darkness disappears.
Hello Ruben and Matéo, thank you for your time. You are the founders of Club Aura in Antwerp. What made you decide to create a new club?
Ruben Ravignot : For me personally, the dream of running a club or venue goes back to my 6th birthday actually. My parents were both active in the music branche so as a kid I already grew up in backstages, around musicians and festivals. My father gave me equipment to throw a party in our garage when I turned six. My mother filled the fridge with Fanta, invited all of my classmates and we played some Tïesto and Faithless. That’s when the idea kind of sparked.
During my teenage years, I have been lucky to experience Antwerp nightlife at one of its peaks with a lot of prominent actors like Club Petrol, Café D’Anvers, the opening of Club Ampere and more cool projects. Unfortunately, many venues closed because of gentrification and conflicts with neighbors so there was a big void for the alternative scene.
During the period prior to, and during the pandemic the whole dynamic in Antwerp started failing to progress and we felt that our city’s nightlife was declining in comparison to other cities like Brussels, Amsterdam or Ghent. It kind of lost its ability to connect different audiences given the fact that the parties became more focussed on tech-house and commercial techno instead of experimenting more with other genres. We understood that there was a gap to be filled, that action was necessary, hence the idea of opening a new space.
Mateo Vigné : We’re big fans of music and electronic music. We’ve been to many different events, clubs, festivals, raves in Europe and abroad. We love this scene and wanted to give back to an environment that helped us grow as professionals but also as persons. There are values that are unique in this world and we wanted to participate in these dynamics. We believe that there is always some space for improvement in terms of diversity, inclusion, discoveries, imagination. That’s why we decided to create our concept, something that would take a bit from what we know and a bit from what we imagine the best clubbing experience would be for our audience.
For our readers who don’t yet know the club and your events, how would you describe the general direction of your line-ups?
Ruben : In one word: Innovative. We really try to bring new experiences to the city and that is kind of the core principle of our program. The perfect line-up means to us when more experienced people comment that ‘these were the djs or music we used to check out back in the days’ or ‘this is something we would never expect in Antwerp’ While the post-covid youth decide to spend their first nightlife experiences in our club, to check out not-so-common artists.
Mateo : We want Aura to become their club. We try to be as close as possible from our audience to become like a big family, a real community. So we’ll always try to give them what we believe is the best, the most exciting, the newest faces, the genres that yesterday were nice, today are fresh and tomorrow will be even better. And of course, we care a lot about the reception our line-ups procure. We have a very direct relationship with Aura’s people so every feedback is a new adaptation for it to become a rich global experience.
What’s your personal highlights in the coming months?
Ruben : Our monthly Aura Nacht aka huisfeest aka house party. Once a month we open the club to showcase what we have at our core and what kind of music or artists we feel that need some attention or what we encounter as cutting edge. We did the first Aura Nacht during our opening night with acts like Pangaea, Fais Le Beau & Vieira and Delbaen & Veebo.
For us it was an ode to what has existed and how it is evolving into the future. We really dig the current direction of house music with a lot of trancey influences and breaks. One can never do wrong with a great broken beat record. Meanwhile we had a different dynamic in Fusia Bar, our second room where intimacy was key during an amazing microhouse/minimal session. This kind of vibe is what people can expect from the coming Aura Nacht in november with Youandewan on the House side and some serious artists from Romania, France and Brussels next year . On the darker side of electronic music, my personal highlights are definitely Jacidorex, Scalameriya, GiGi FM and Subway Shamans.
Mateo : We’re developing collaborations with different organizations, local and broader. Our goal is to create an ecosystem around Aura that will help each member that is within this network. This includes artists, audience, media, promoters… I’d be satisfied if everyone that gravitates around this club finds its own benefits. If we can book artists for them to play, attract people for them to enjoy and discover new faces, give the possibility to medias to spread the word about this or that artist by producing quality interviews or podcasts, joining forces between collectives, I’d say that our mission will be achieved.
So, you host your own Club Aura nights but you also welcome other collectives. How do you select them?
Ruben : Given the fact that we put our attention to innovation and diversity, we try not to repeat the same genre every week. Obviously we have a lot of Techno and House nights to offer so we work closely with promoters or collectives that really work from a purist position. Cowboys that only care about money and fame but don’t understand the responsibilities of educating and sharing with younger audiences are all but welcome. The last few years made us realize even more that a healthy nightlife scene is precious and fragile.
Mateo : As we said, we’re trying to be as eclectic as possible because the history of this music has been made throughout chemistries, fusions, collaborations and synergies. We want to bury this idea that electronic music is divided and closed to innovative ideas. We’re trying to compose with local initiatives that have confidence in their scene and are willing to give something positive to the society. We care about the music but of course also about the message behind the collective. If you’re booking an artist because they have followers on Instagram and they played at the biggest festivals it won’t be coherent with our values. We want to develop something coherent and treat everyone the same way. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we know that this applies to small, big, famous, niche collectives. As soon as there is some space for everyone and everyone gets the respect and recognition they deserve, we’ll be open to discuss collaborations.
It seems that Club Aura is linked to the Ikon Event Space. How did you start this collaboration?
Ruben : During the aftermath of the pandemic. We started organizing outdoor raves in the city with our collective called Vossen In De Bossen (Antwerp dialect for having sex in the woods) which started out partly as a joke or satirical, it was a bit political as a counter force to the oppression to party culture and the project just exploded to the alternative scene. We managed to connect different audiences and genres, reminiscing the period before the pandemic.
A bit over one year ago, we got in touch with the people of the Ikon venue and they invited us to throw my birthday party in their Aura room. There was a glitch in the regulations that made it possible to invite up to 500 guests for private parties. The rest is history.
After several months and the reopening of nightlife, our collaboration with the venue intensified and we came to the agreement to redesign and rebrand the Aura room into Club Aura, of which we do the programming and management now. Ikon was already hosting alternative music parties on occasion so we just puzzled the whole thing into something more coherent.
In clubs, one of the key ingredients is clearly the sound system. What about Club Aura? What’s your sound system? Can you talk to us about its implementation?
Ruben : A good sound system is the starting point of everything, the fundamentals of a good party. One of the reasons we decided to use the particular space for Club Aura was definitely the already installed Funktion One sound system.
It was untouched since 2008 until last summer when we decided to start the Club Aura project. Our technicians took all the speakers out of the room, gave the system a proper update and reinstalled it more suitable for parties with a critical audience and audiophiles. We have four F221’s, four DS-15’s, four DS210’s and two Evo6H’s in the Club. Fusia Bar houses two F221’s and two RES 4’s.
We’ve talked about good sound systems, but what are the other key ingredients of a great Club Aura night?
Mateo : There are two pillars for me in terms of ingredients for a good party : the music and the people. Within the electronic music landscape, Techno and House have come to a forefront during the past few years, with the rise in the popularity of major festivals like Dekmantel or Horst and major indoor events like Possession. All these events have a real identity and focus around all these things that make an event good. I’m very happy that Aura is keeping up in terms of scenography, Fusia has a really special atmosphere that I’ve personally never witnessed anywhere else. We have a very cool and human team focused on awareness. It’s something that every club should have, a team that cares about the mood inside the club, detached from the security aspect. People who will take care of others, make sure there is no discrimination, no harasment. If people are in need of contact, help of any kind, they can have this direct talk to people that know what they are doing. We have very sociable people within the awareness team and some with medical and nursing background.
As a club programmer, how do you feel the rise in the popularity of major festivals or major indoor events has impacted the organization of small clubs?
Ruben : I am the kind of nerd that reads a lot of scientific research and investigations by journalists about the evolution of party culture and the results always show the same. People save up their time and budget for bigger raves or festivals and don’t visit the same clubs every weekend anymore like they used to. The club as a place to discover new music and meet new friends has lost that role but frankly, this has been happening since the beginning of electronic music’s history. A great example is I Love Techno which dominated Belgium’s scene for a decade and clubs were doing just fine.
Unfortunately, clubbing culture is becoming more and more niche and has lost its role as a meeting point for local communities, that’s a fact. The technological evolution and cultural changes turn a massive rave in many cases more solely as a consumer product where marketing strategies and big capital are more important than connecting individuals and enforcing local talent or bringing new ideas to the stage. On the other side you see the free party culture gaining more support as ever. Include an almost 3 years pandemic struggle and you see the result in the emerging generation where long lasting and established projects receive less attention, and it’s actually important. It is up to small clubs now to redefine the concept of a party. It is up to the club managers to re-establish the definition of a good club and its role amongst local youth or communities. It is out of the niche and counter force where innovation and talent emerges and comes to fruition.
What’s coming next for the club in the winter and spring, any plans or exciting projects you’d love to mention?
Ruben : We are currently launching our last parties for this year and we are keeping next year’s plans a bit secret for a while but we are non-stop prospecting fresh ideas and collectives while we continue to push ourselves and each other to become a stable force in the Belgian nightlife culture. An expansion in our visual artistic direction can be expected as well with more changes in our interior and by collaboration with artists from diverse disciplines.
Mateo : There is nothing confirmed yet but we’d like our community to be present also outside the walls of the club. We believe in collaborations and crosscreation, that’s why we’re inviting everyone who’s curious enough to chat with us, party with us and maybe team up for new ideas and dynamics.