16 december 2012

Carl de Keyzer's Life as a Fan

interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clark

 

Afgelopen woensdag won France Dubois de Samsung NX Masters of Photography-wedstrijd, zodat haar foto’s (zie boven) nog tot 26 december aan de muren van L’ancienne nonciature in Brussel hangen – naast die van de tweekoppige jury Carl de Keyzer en Jimmy Kets. De jonge fotografe kreeg van Samsung ook een hoop camera’s, maar daar hebt u natuurlijk niets aan. Al kun je er altijd nog zelf één proberen scoren door op jouw favoriet uit de selectie van De Keyzer en Kets te stemmen - en wel hier!


Dat alles deed er mij aan denken dat ik voor de zomer een interview met Carl de Keyzer heb gedaan voor A&Gazette #3 (naar aanleiding van de Storm Thorgerson-tentoonstelling). We spraken toen over zijn nieuwe tentoonstelling en gelijknamige boek Moments Before the Flood, over zijn favoriete fotografen, filmmakers, muzikanten, over zijn legendarische Gentse fotogalerij XYZ én over zijn plannen om – I kid you not – een ambientplaat te maken. Tast (hieronder) toe!

 

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CARL DE KEYZER: “One day I’ll make a record. Sorry about that.”

Last summer, Magnum photographer Carl de Keyzer presented his new series Moments Before the Flood in Ostend – an impressive foray into places that may one day disappear when sea levels start to rise. In other words: an excellent occasion to talk to the Belgian photographer about the groupie who lives inside of him.

 
Words: Ben Van Alboom
Portrait: Wouter Van Vaerenbergh

It was your typical Belgian Sunday morning in May when we met up with Carl de Keyzer in Ostend to talk about the artists he loves. Strong winds? Check. Rain? Of course. Frost? The jury is still out on that but quite likely. Luckily, walking into the enormous exhibition space that houses Moments Before the Flood while noticing a – all part of the show – massive boat wreck outside totally made up for the weather.

As a matter of fact: the exhibition is so imposing that it would be just rude not to at least ask where you got the idea for it?
Carl: “Some six years ago, the performing arts centre Concertgebouw in Bruges asked me to shoot some images for its upcoming season’s catalogue. They also set forward two restrictions: stick to the theme – ‘water’ – and don’t picture people. I ended up traveling up and down the Belgian coast right around the same time those reports started to surface about how sea levels would unavoidably rise and consume large parts of the world. Then it just hit me – standing on a beach in Blankenberge – how that would make for a great series. In the end, over the course of sixteen months, I photographed thousands of beaches, castles, fire towers and rocks all over Europe – imagining I would be the very last person to stand there and see them; right before the flood would erase them from memory.”

Which explains the menacing unruliness of the pictures. Is that a characteristic, which is also present in the work of your all-time favorite photographer?
interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clarkCarl: “Hardly. My all-time favorite photographer is Garry Winogrand. For me, as a young photographer, he was the first who was able to convey exactly what he was feeling in his work – and yes, I like photography that puts the photographer’s emotions and thoughts across. I want to see how a photographer feels about a certain person or situation. Does he like someone or really hate him? I want to get a sense of that through his work. Maybe that sounds easy but trust me: it isn’t. Especially not in the case of Winogrand, who had a knack for complex situations. He often created order from chaos without turning real-life situations into abstract case studies. With Winogrand, you always knew what a picture was about and how he felt about it. I definitely learned a lot from him.”

Any living photographer who inspires you?
Carl: “Quite a few actually. Take Alec Soth per example. There’s a certain minimalism to his work for which I truly admire him – the art of making the most powerful image with the least possible information. Compared to Alec, I’m much more like a painter: always adding drama to a situation.”

Is either Winogrand or Soth the author of your favorite photo book?
interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clarkCarl: “No. That would be William Klein, whose brilliant Moscow I don’t own myself – unfortunately (first edition prints of the book easily sell for over €1,000 on eBay; go fetch)! I’ve always been a huge admirer of the way Klein was able to immerse himself in the crowd and, amidst the chaos, take a picture at the exact right moment. He wasn’t like Henri Cartier-Bresson or other famous Magnum photographers who might have waited an hour to avoid the chaos so they could be certain to take the perfect picture. He just went for it – fully aware of the fact that it would be impossible for him to control every single aspect of the photo he was about to take. I have to admit though that I’ve lived in Russia for three years and I must have visited Moscow about twenty-five times in my life. So as far as the subject matter of the book is concerned, I’m a little biased.”

Let’s talk cinema!
Carl: “Yes, please! I’m a big movie buff. I used to live next to Studio Skoop in Ghent, and there were times in my life you could find me there every single night. Nowadays, I only visit cinemas when they’re playing something I have to see on the big screen. All other movies I can watch on Blu-ray in my home cinema theatre – up in the attic. Although I did check out Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows on the big screen recently. Can’t say I was very impressed: lame story, weak performances, just a terrible movie.”

Which director has yet to disappoint you?
Carl: “I used to be into Fellini, Visconti, Pasolini, … These days, I’d have to say David Lynch – probably not the most original answer but I just find his surreal realism truly fascinating.”

Talking about surrealism: any chance there’s a Storm Thorgerson album cover in your record collection?
Carl: “Of course! I’m a huge music lover and vinyl collector so obviously I own quite a few of his designs. I started working in my dad’s record story when I was eight and Beatlemania was in full swing. Then I switched to hard rock – listening to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple – before becoming addicted to Pink Floyd, Yes, Todd Rundgren and other prog rock artists. Later on, as an art student, I only listened to jazz – obviously. I had this thing for ECM (legendary German jazz label) and bought pretty much everything they put out. Only trouble was they had some six hundred releases per year. (laughs) I still have about a thousand ECM records so that actually turned out to be quite a good investment.”

What about classical music?
Carl: “That came up next – alongside opera. I even listened to nothing but classical music and opera for a couple of years, before being saved by my iPod’s shuffle. Today, I’m mostly into electronic music: Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin, Apparat. I also have my own music studio – including some fifty synthesizers; almost as many as Soulwax. One of the things on my bucket list is to make an album before I’m 65. I’m pretty sure it’ll be really bad, although I like to think I’m getting better at it every day. Every time there’s a kid in my studio twisting knobs, I learn a few new things. So let’s just wait what happens: maybe it won’t be a complete disaster after all.”

Definitely not a complete disaster was the photo gallery you and Dirk Braeckman used to run in Ghent: the legendary XYZ.
interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clarkCarl: “No, but to be brutally honest: it wasn’t a big hit either. Yes, we exhibited the work of Garry Winogrand, Ed Van der Elsken, Martin Parr, Larry Clark, but I think we sold about five pictures in seven years time – at dumping prices! You could get a Larry Clark print from us for one hundred euro and nobody wanted it! True, that was a lot of money in the eighties but you would be able to get $30,000 for it today. But it was just too soon. It was only around 1990 that art collectors started to show genuine interest in photography. We shut XYZ down in 1989. Fortunately, we never did it for the money. It was basically the only way to see the work of all these great photographers in Belgium. There were no photo museums; you had maybe one or two other photo galleries in the rest of the country. Bottom line: if we didn’t do it, nobody did.”

For the record: glad you did!

The book of Carl de Keyzer’s exhibition Moments Before the Flood is published by Lannoo. Buy it here.

23 oktober 2012

Belpop: Episode Soulwax

1.jpgOp zondag 28 oktober start op Canvas het vijfde Belpop-seizoen met een anderhalf uur durende director's cut van de aflevering over dEUS, die er vorig jaar in zat. Op maandag 29 oktober schiet de vijfde reeks dan echt uit de startblokken met Jacques Brel (dood) - gevolgd door Louis Neefs (5 november; dood), Ann Christy (12 november; dood), Toots Thielemans (19 november; negentig), Johan Verminnen (26 november; spreekbuis van Sabam en bijgevolg al jaren dementerend) en Soulwax (3 december; feest)!

 

Bij wijze van aperitief staat hieronder een reportage van The Culture Show over Stephen & David Dewally - uit het tijdperk dat Club 69 nog Suite 16 heette, de Oude Beestenmarkt nog geen make-over had gekregen en de studio van de twee er nog iets minder rommelig bij lag.

 

22 juli 2012

GOOSE vs. Storm Thorgerson

goose,interview,storm thorgerson,synrise,fort napoleon,picture disc,soulwax,oostende ostend

 

With A&Gallery's Storm Thorgerson exhibition in Ostend still underway - it runs until September 1 - I thought I'd post the interview I did with GOOSE about working with Storm on the cover for Synrise. The interview originally appeared in the third A&Gazette - still available in select locations throughout the country or here.

 

“It’s GOOSE, not Ducks.”

Meet the only Belgian band that has a shot at ever getting mentioned in some cool coffee table book called The Greatest Album Covers of All Time in the Universe. You know, the type of book you buy when you've run out of ideas on what to get your colleague at work for his birthday (or you stumble into Colette and everything else is too expensive but you feel you just HAVE to buy something). Anyway, never mind Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Genesis and The Winkies, here’s GOOSE!

In case you’ve been living on a different planet or still consider electronic music to be the work of the devil: in 2010 Belgian band GOOSE hired Storm Thorgerson to design the cover of its sophomore album Synrise. That same year, the boys took home the MIA (Music Industry Award) for Best Artwork. Now, to coincide with Storm’s exhibition in Ostend, they just released a special picture disc featuring the award-winning artwork (and an unreleased remix from Soulwax).

Yet you guys weren’t even born when Storm was already having record executives for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How did you decide upon working with him?
Mickael Karkousse: “I should probably say something like ‘he’s been on our list for years’ but the truth is that we were in the studio mixing the album and I just happened to walk by when Dave (Martijn) was checking out Storm’s website on his laptop – basically killing time. I had no idea who he was but I was immediately blown away by his work. Having said that, if I’d walked by five minutes later we might have sent Anton Corbijn an email. It all happened very spontaneously – there was no Big Plan.”

So that’s how you got Storm’s attention: you sent him an email?
Mickael: “Yeah. It was on his website. (laughs) Of course you don’t really expect to get an answer from a guy like that so an hour later we had kind of already forgotten about it. Imagine our surprise when he replied that same day! The funny thing was that he in turn didn’t expect to receive an email from us – the band. It was only when we spoke on the phone for ten minutes that he realized I wasn’t GOOSE’s manager or label boss. All of a sudden he sounded a lot more friendly. (laughs) I guess he’s been through record company hell a few times too many in his life and finds it more pleasant to talk to bands directly. Or maybe musicians just get intimidated quicker and say ‘yes’ to pretty much every crazy idea that pops up in his head – contrary to managers who probably start panicking about the budget from the moment he utters one word.”

So did you say ‘yes’ to the first crazy idea that popped up in Storm’s mind?
Mickael: “Well, no. But we knew we had to give him creative control and to not worry about the budget or what he would eventually come up with. Working with someone like Storm, you just go with it. We also felt it was the right time to do something – well – sizeable. We were used to making music in our own little studio but for Synrise we got to work in a really expensive one and all the while it felt like we were living in the ‘90s – that magical time in record company history when the sky wasn’t even the limit. We wanted the album cover to reflect that.”

You were looking for large-scale theatricality?
Mickael: “Well, what I like about his work is that he takes you on a journey. With every album cover you get to experience something different, something mysterious. Storm always leaves you with more questions than answers and that’s really what I have come to expect from great artwork. Plus: that’s precisely how we looked at Synrise. We knew it wasn’t the easiest album to get into and we wanted the artwork to convey that sense of mystique.”

Did you meet up with Storm to discuss all this?
Mickael: “We sent him a rough mix of the album, after which he asked us to come to London and have dinner with him. It was the weirdest dinner ever. It was more like ‘an interrogation with food’. He wanted to know everything about us: where we grew up, how we met, what inspires us, who does what in the band. At one point he even asked us if we considered an album cover to be a forest or just a tree. To this day, I have no idea what he meant by that."

I would have said tree. I think. Anyway, when did the pyramid come into play?
Mickael: “He quickly sent a couple of ideas our way. Some he already had lying around, others came out of our meeting – like the one with the pyramid. We’d told him the songs on the album were the result of long jam sessions, which got him thinking of jazz musicians and being in the groove. So basically the ‘landing strip’ – Dave told Storm how much he loves landing strips – represents the groove of a vinyl record and the pyramid up in the sky is actually a record player needle. We loved the idea right away but surprisingly enough it wasn’t Storm’s favourite. He liked the one with a duck in it. He thought it was hilarious: GOOSE doing something with a duck. It actually took quite some convincing to talk him out of it.” (laughs)

There’s this rumour that Storm lets people pay what they want for a cover design. Is that true?
Mickael: “Really? I guess we weren’t that lucky. How it worked was: the restaurant where we had the meeting has a number of his album covers hanging on the wall. He tells you how much each of them cost to make and then you – in order to give him an indication of your budget – pick one that’s within your range. À la carte!”

goose, interview, storm thorgerson, synrise, fort napoleon, picture disc, soulwax, oostende ostendThe album Synrise was released in 2010, the title song struck gold in 2011, why wait until now to release a picture disc with Storm’s instant legendary artwork?
Mickael: “Because it never seemed like the right time to do it. With every new album, a million ideas are put on the table but you only have time to realize a couple. Making a picture disc was one of those things put on hold – just like painting Storm’s artwork on a piano. We’re still waiting for an occasion to do the thing with the piano but the Storm exhibition in Ostend gave us the perfect excuse to do the picture disc.”

Including the much sought after Soulwax remix of Synrise.
Mickael: “Finally! For years, we’ve talked to them about doing a remix for us but there was never any – probably their worst enemy – time. Then they finally came up with this brilliant remix for Synrise, but the EP had already hit shops so we didn’t know what to do with it – until now.”

In the meantime you guys are back on the road – getting everyone excited for the new album, which will be out after the summer. Do you already have a cover for it?
Mickael: “Working on it. We’ve asked Pierre Debusschere (one of Belgium’s most talented fashion photographers) to make a live clip for every track on the new album. Chances are the cover will – in some way – reference those performances and further underline in what way playing live has become part of GOOSE’s DNA. Also the new album sounds much more like a GOOSE gig – rougher and tougher!”

 

The GOOSE x Storm Thorgerson x Soulwax picture disc is available at the Storm Thorgerson exhibition at Fort Napoleon in Ostend.

 

29 april 2012

10 Years Nightlife = Lifestyle = Nightlife

464304_10150795531429628_24978914627_9309710_1598293333_o.jpgEvery so often a nightclub stumbles upon a fleeting convergence of the invisible energy lines of fashion, music and style; subsequently assuming legendary status as the centre of a scene’, schreef het gerenommeerde designtijdschrift Frame zo’n vijf jaar geleden. ‘For the electro clash ‘80s revival, that legendary epicenter must have certainly been Culture Club.

 

De Gentse club, die onder meer 2ManyDJs, TLP en The Glimmers onder zijn residents rekende, viert maandag haar tiende verjaardag met een line-up die al lang niet meer naar electro clash riekt. Ja, tijden veranderen. Maar met A-Trak, Caspa, Sub Focus, Crookers en nieuwbakken Madonna-producer Martin Solveig blaakt Culture Club duidelijk nog altijd van gezondheid.

 

En omdat 'tien jaar' daar een uitstekende gelegenheid voor is: mijn tien Culture Club-hoogtepunten!

 

1) De opening! Nee, serieus, was meteen een goed feestje - te weten dat ze twee uur voor de deuren opengingen nog stonden te verven.

 

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2) Scissor Sisters! Hey, ooit waren die goed, oké!? Bovendien moet dit zowat het Nirvana/Democrazy-moment van Culture Club geweest zijn, met dat verschil dat de frontman van Scissor Sisters daarna geen zelfmoord heeft gepleegd (en nu al ver in een bad vol cyaankali geëlektrocuteerd moet worden om zijn plaats in de geschiedenisboeken veilig te stellen).

 

rock-en-roll-high-sleeve.jpg3) Rock'n'roll Highschool. Het origineel (en nog steeds tien keer meer legendarisch en beter dan alle veredelde scoutsfuiven die erna kwamen). Plus: die cd was fucking awesome!

 

4) De geheime VIP-kelder. Nergens zo goed tussen bakken Coca-Cola en Carlsberg zitten als daar.

 

5) Nouvelle Vague! Historisch (dronken) concert. Voor de duidelijkheid: ik was niet degene die zat was (en mogelijk die twee meisjes op het podium ook niet, want de champagne liep - in mijn herinnering - veeleer langs hun decolleté naar beneden dan via hun slokdarm).

 

6) TLP, wete! In 2008 deed ik in Switch een interview met TLP waar - om het erg zacht uit te drukken - lang niet iedereen bij Culture Club mee kon lachen. Twee dagen later dook een edit van E-Talking op met quotes uit het interview: T-Talking. Omdat ik hem nergens meer op het net terugvond, heb ik hem er zopas zelf nog eens opgegooid. Voor de duidelijkheid (en ik zeg dit nu niet omdat ik schrik heb voor represailles): TLP maakt deel uit van het DNA van Culture Club!

 

 

7) Vogels! Ik ben vergeten welk moddervet feest van Culture Club in het ICC (met 2ManyDJs) het precies was, maar ik herinner mij nog levendig hoe die vogels in het Citadelpark mij nadien, bij het buitenkomen, danig op de zenuwen werkten. Ik geloof zelfs dat ik op het punt heb gestaan om naar de flikken te bellen en te klagen over ochtendlawaai. Gelukkig heeft iemand mij toen tegengehouden (of we hadden er een maatschappelijk probleem bij).

 

8) Luna Park! Misschien had dit een paar plaatsen hoger moeten staan, maar eerlijk: ik ben er nooit geraakt. Ja, ik wéét het: 'meest legendarische feestjes ooit, bla, bla, bla!' Maar het moet dus zijn dat ik die avonden altijd iets te doen had dat gewoon nog meer legendarisch was. Mocht ik nu alleen nog weten wat.

 

9) Jigsaw Circus! Het vooralsnog enige feest dat ik ooit in Culture Club heb gegeven, was gelinkt aan het videoclipfestival Jigsaw Circus dat ik toen (2004) organiseerde. In alle bescheidenheid: de line-up was yummie, met het briljante Plaid als headliner en STIJN als - Culture Club had hem geboekt - persoonlijke ontdekking. In alle eerlijkheid: de line-up was zo duur dat er zeker achthonderd man nodig was om breakeven te draaien, en ik geloof dat we aan vijfhonderd zijn geraakt.

 

10) Bitch! Wie dacht dat ik deze kans onbenut zou laten om reclame te maken voor Bitch (nu zaterdag 5 mei) kreeg bijna (!) gelijk. Ik had al een eerste zin over dat feest van Culture Club in Cannes klaar tot ik bij mezelf dacht: 'dommerik!' Daarom, kwestie van al enigszins op de zaken vooruit te lopen: Bitch wordt het meest sexy feest aller tijden en al wie zich de moeite heeft getroost om deze blog post tot hier te lezen, verdient - eigenlijk feitelijk - een duoticket.* Gewoon een mail sturen en wachten op een al dan niet positief antwoord.

 

* zolang de voorraad strekt en jouw Facebook-profiel mij aanstaat

 

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02 november 2011

Ghent Nightlife - Since Forever

276852_242343612478254_740492401_n.jpgIn september 2009 verscheen This Book Is Elektronic, een boek vol vintage flyers dat ik voor Red Bull Elektropedia in elkaar heb gebokst (with the graphic help of Glossy en het sorteer/titanenwerk van een handvol vrijwilligers). Ik heb toen ook aan drie vrienden gevraagd om een stuk te schrijven over een bepaald hoofdstuk uit de Belgische clubgeschiedenis: Johan Faes schreef er één over het eerste jaar van Fuse, Mathieu Fonsny lichtte de (toen recente) heropleving van de Luikse party scene toe en Jonas Boel had ik gevraagd om een stuk over het Gentse nachtleven te schrijven dat zou eindigen met de opening van Culture Club - de eerste Gentse superclub, na ruim een decennium van toonaangevende party's (op diverse locaties in Gent) als Free the Funk, Kozzmozz, I Love Techno, 10 Days Off, Belmondo en uiteraard ook Eskimo.

 

En omdat die laatste nu zaterdag weer verrijst, vond ik het geen slecht idee om dat stuk nog eens af te stoffen. I hope Jonas doesn't mind.

 

GHENT REPRESENT

jonas boel, eskimo, this book is elektronic, 10 days off, culture club, club royal, belmondo, smak, soulwax, stephen, david, dewaele, mo & benoele, glimmers, glimmer twins, fucking dewaele brothers, i love techno, gent, ghent, 10 days of techno, vooruit, boccaccio, democrazy, cocteau, kuiperskaai, charlatan, soulwax, bar americain, fifty-five, lp, fash, barney'sEarly Nineties. In Kuiperskaai, an empty void stretches out for hundreds of meters. Half a block has been demolished, sucked into a black hole – together with most of Ghent nightlife. From its rubble a shopping mall will soon rise. On the eastern outskirts of the city, the legendary Boccaccio nightclub has turned into a silent, mythical place. Nightlife in the city of the three towers is in poor shape. Right at that time my adolescent blood wants to crawl where it shouldn’t. All charged up and no place to go.

This foray into my hometown’s club scene begins where it all ended: Bar American, the last twitching spasm of what once was the beating heart of its vibrant nightlife. It is there – in that street called Kuiperskaai – where I got introduced to the divine rhythms of the night.


Kuiperskaai used to be lined with bars and clubs of all kinds, before urban developers unveiled other plans for what is commonly called the ‘South’ area. In the late 19th century this part of town was already a concentration of cinemas, cabarets, dance halls, concert venues and rowdy bars. As time went by modernization or decay chewed up most of these places, but one street - Kuiperskaai - kept its reputation as the ultimate party destination, well into the new century. Clubs such as Fifty-Five, LP, Fash and Barney’s held nightly marathons of debauchery, supervised by the most versatile deejays who kept in tune with the latest sounds. For us – born in the late seventies – it was the stuff of legends; hearsay from an older brother or mom confessing a wild streak from the past.

In the early nineties, Bar Americain was the only witness left of this thriving scene. American Graffiti-like décor, baby-foot on the mezzanine, elevated dance floor on the ground floor - nothing fancy, but it held a great vibe. Mo & Benoelie (later The Glimmers) were regular fixtures on the wheels of steel. The action at Bar Americain ended very sudden – one night doors were kept closed without further notice. Trouble with the landlord, a manager on the run for debt collectors, whatever.

jonas boel, eskimo, this book is elektronic, 10 days off, culture club, club royal, belmondo, smak, soulwax, stephen, david, dewaele, mo & benoele, glimmers, glimmer twins, fucking dewaele brothers, i love techno, gent, ghent, 10 days of techno, vooruit, boccaccio, democrazy, cocteau, kuiperskaai, charlatan, soulwax, bar americain, fifty-five, lp, fash, barney'sThere was of course life after Kuiperskaai. I can tell you about parties, in a wooden lodge on the recreation grounds Blaarmeersen, where a defunct smoke machine filled the room with a toxic mist that chased everybody out into the moonlight. Or in a roller skating rink, where slumber bags were rolled out on the dance floor at dawn. Places such as Cocteau (a gay bar), Democrazy (an underground music venue) or Voorhuid (a garage-shaped backroom) flourished briefly as party locations du jour. At Vlasmarkt, art students, outcasts and other socially challenged misfits gathered at café Charlatan. The staff played anything from reggae and pop music to some old disco and funk tunes. Across the street, longhaired rocker types and groupies congregated in the pintsized bar Stax. Around the corner there was Atlantic, another traditional dive with a soundtrack of AC/DC and busy chatter around the stained pool table. Upstairs a local band, Soulwax, had its practice space.

In brief: there were plenty of weekend refuges in Ghent. Some oversized bars, the occasional squat building, a rundown industrial site – but no genuine nightclub, no licensed discotheque with a proper light and sound system. To experience the ‘real’ nightclub sensation, one with long queues, renowned guest DJs and dress codes, we had to go city trippin’ to Antwerp or Brussels. It wasn’t always like this.

During the latter part of the eighties Ghent – Destelbergen, really, but who’s counting (five) kilometres – was home to Boccaccio, a legendary club whose name and fame became synonymous with New Beat; a new musical genre that took the Belgian clubs and charts by storm. Boccaccio, a 1000-capacity venue, was founded in 1972 but only after a spectacular makeover in 1987 it drew clubbers from all over Europe. A giant concrete box on the outside, plush interior and diamond shaped dance floor on the inside. Neon lights and lasers everywhere, a massive PA system and resident DJ’s with groundbreaking set lists.

Boccaccio was an early ambassador for house music. Each weekend hundreds of punters practised their robotized, synchronised moves far beyond daybreak. In 1993 the city counsel pulled the plug. Health and safety violations, overdue licences, drug busts, the works. Those who witnessed the weekly mayhem still talk about it today, and it took years for another club of that calibre to come along. But change was coming.

While the nineties slowly dragged along, new musical genres were emerging and promoters seeked out new exclusive locations. Club culture was now a force to be reckoned with and as the late Hunter S. Thompson once said: when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

jonas boel, eskimo, this book is elektronic, 10 days off, culture club, club royal, belmondo, smak, soulwax, stephen, david, dewaele, mo & benoele, glimmers, glimmer twins, fucking dewaele brothers, i love techno, gent, ghent, 10 days of techno, vooruit, boccaccio, democrazy, cocteau, kuiperskaai, charlatan, soulwax, bar americain, fifty-five, lp, fash, barney'sFree The Funk was one of the first concept nights to emerge on the scene. Location: Vooruit Arts Centre. A monumental socialist stronghold in the city centre, build between 1910 and 1918. The antique concert venue with its gold-foiled arches proved to be a perfect backdrop for these parties aimed at the young and the well coiffed. Among the regular spinners were – again – Mo & Benoelie. Over the years, this DJ-duo had mastered their craft and steadily grown into the undisputed darlings of the local scene. The music at Free The Funk was an eclectic mix of the new (triphop, house, techno) and the old (funk, soul, disco) - a trademark sound in Ghent and much different than the house-orientated scene in Antwerp and the techno favouring clubs in Brussels. But techno warriors and house kittens were no strangers to Ghent - thanks to 10 Days Of Techno.

10 Days Of Techno was launched in the margin of the Gentse Feesten, a yearly 10-day street festival in July that had been going for as long as anyone can remember. The first edition had some big names on offer: among others, Juan Atkins, Mark Broom, DJ Food and Luke Slater were included in the line-up. Nowadays, the roll call of 10 Days Off (the ‘techno’ suffix now dropped) still reads like a genre crossing who’s who of modern dance music. Although only a yearly phenomenon it proved – as did its big brother I Love Techno - hugely influential in establishing Ghent as a solid clubbing destination.

Meanwhile, the hunt for bigger and bolder locations was still on, and when it came to size the former factory grounds of Eskimo (a local brand of quality underwear) was cream of the crop. On these industrial premises the definite blueprint for Ghent nightlife was laid out. Three rooms, each one tuned into a different musical flavour. Fans of house, hip hop and drum’n’bass flocking together under one roof, a marvellous feat. One nation under many grooves, Eskimo was the momentum we had all been waiting for. Thousands got crazy over the French touch of Dimitri From Paris and Super Discount, the disco-inspired turntable antics of DJ Harvey and Idjut Boys or the heavy duty bass assaults of Ed Rush and Optical. When St. Germain performed his now classic Tourist album live on stage he was baffled by the thunderous reception. But it was the local crew who received the biggest kudos: Mo & Benoelie (under a new moniker: The Glimmer Twins), but also Stephen & David Dewaele (AKA The Fucking Dewaele Brothers AKA 2ManyDJs) from the band Soulwax, who re-invented themselves as a boundary breaking DJ combo. In the hip hop arena TLP was the ultimate master of ceremonies - a one-man hurricane blowing all competition, domestic or foreign, out of the water. For years they had honed their skills on the local DIY party circuit and now they were running with the best. 

jonas boel, eskimo, this book is elektronic, 10 days off, culture club, club royal, belmondo, smak, soulwax, stephen, david, dewaele, mo & benoele, glimmers, glimmer twins, fucking dewaele brothers, i love techno, gent, ghent, 10 days of techno, vooruit, boccaccio, democrazy, cocteau, kuiperskaai, charlatan, soulwax, bar americain, fifty-five, lp, fash, barney'sTurn of the century and more to come. The massive Eskimo parties ended at their peak, but the promoters took their new-found philosophy (mix and match musical styles, think big but cosy, support local talent) to yet another level. Their new home: S.M.A.K, the recently refurbished Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art. In cooperation with the curator, they cooked up a new concept – Belmondo - changing the clubbing experience quite literally into an art form. Style was the keyword. The pristine museum walls, the cool atmosphere, the whole distinguished grandness of its location - picture perfect! On a Belmondo night the air inside S.M.A.K was heavy with a sense of glamour. Visiting DJs (among them Basement Jaxx and a pre-superstar deejay Erol Alkan) couldn't help feeling impressed. Still, Belmondo was only a temporary sensation. A tri-monthly high, experienced on borrowed turf. We still had no permanent house of fun, no local tribe. Yet.  
 
And so it came that near the end of 2001 Ghent got what it needed: Club Royal, a shady hideaway near the harbour, was revamped into Culture Club - ‘from the makers of Eskimo and Belmondo’. Inspired by infamous hot spots such as Lux in Lisbon, it oozed both elegance and decadence. And who were on tha helm? Indeed, the hometown beat jugglers Mo & Benoelie, the Dewaele Brothers and TLP. Playing every week for a fashionable but frantic crowd. Soon, international glossies would proclaim it 'the coolest place on earth'. Ghent was finally represent. But that's a whole new chapter...