For us, this year's Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) will be one of teamwork and unity. We've joined forces with our friends
L.A.N. (Local Area Network) is the campaign we initiated in 2015 to map out and commend the range of local (underground) music scenes that make the bigger picture possible. Whether it’s putting on shows, releasing records, listening to each others music or filming one another, they inspire each other through artistic independence and a contagious energy. It happens worldwide, and for this years ADE festivities, together with De Brakke Grond we’ve lined up refreshing and heartening music from Brussels. To shed some light on what’s happening across the border, we fired some questions at Brussels-based collectives Slagwerk and HE4RTBROKEN.
‘We wanted music that would narrate a heartfelt story.’
In many cases, musical collectives are hatched out of a growing frustration with the lack of an adequate club scene; ‘Miel Audenaert (graphic designer) and Otis Dehaes (dj) were 15 and 16 when the first Slagwerk party took place. It started really lowkey in a small city where nothing was really happening. After a few years we got picked-up in Brussels and continued our events there. During the years a few friends (dj’s, producers) joined and so we became the collective we are today. The label (if I could call it that) is the most recent development within Slagwerk.’
Liyo Gong, founder of HE4RTBROKEN, shares a similar story to why she began organizing events with her friend Stef, ‘When we started HE4RTBROKEN it was really just a small friendly thing, we just wanted to be free to play whatever tracks we wanted in a club setting and be unapologetically emotional about it. We wanted music that would narrate a heartfelt story, and in order to do that we needed to be freed from the conventional dance music genres limitations’.
‘To be honest I really think we have the best crowd: open minded and fun.’
Both collectives seem to be thriving on their own turfs. Music is a way of bringing people together and communicating, and what’s being expressed will determine the kind of crowd that’s drawn. ‘Obviously our activities are not unique within the Belgian scene, but maybe our approach is more inclusive than other collectives. Where most initiatives might be specified in a more defined field, we try to bridge anything between ambient and hardcore so to speak in the music we release, sets we play and acts we program. Slagwerk has gone through a lot of musical phases because we started it at a very young age, and this versatility will allow us to exist for many more years as we never committed to one genre or movement.’
Finding the right setting can be a task in itself and independent promoters are imperative to the scene. When collective and artists, location and crowd are in tune with one another, inspiration runs high and new concepts may arise, ‘I’ve been told many cute stories about how new friends, lovers but also collectives and artists got to meet at HE4RTBROKEN nights and then started things on their own as well. I think we really succeeded in gathering a small but strong community around our events, and to be honest I really think we have the best crowd: open minded and fun. All in all I’m very happy that we’ve been able to provide this I.R.L. platform to all these people.’
How does it all pan out in a place like Brussels – Is there much interaction between collectives in the Belgian or specifically Brussels scene? ‘Belgium and moreover Brussels are so small, we don’t have big pressure from let’s say the music industry or press like in bigger cities, so things are pretty easy going and friendly, we all know each others and collectives and artists interact very easily. I think musically there really has been a lot of emulation lately in Belgium and it’s gonna keep growing, I see new artists and new collectives popping out regularly and connecting to the existing scene in Belgium and abroad, it’s really exciting,’ Liyo explains.
‘I really think our local scene is blooming with interesting things.’
What about the hardships? ‘The downside of everything being small here is that it’s hard to make a living out of it for everyone. It’s not a problem that is limited to the « club scene », it’s the same problem for any precarious creative worker confronted to a climate of competition for resources that we live in today. But as I said, I think in Belgium we are pretty lucky compared to a lot of other places, and in spite of my individual struggles I hope we can keep the sense of solidarity we have here in Brussels,’ she continues.
Breaking it down the shifts in attitudes in the club scene, Slagwerk render it hard to tell, ‘The scene has obviously grown and more people are receptive for experimental music, yet it’s difficult to reach a lot of people through our events and we are far away from the point where we can rely on a fixed public that returns every time…’
When faced with the question of what she’d like to see more from the local scene, Liyo responds with assurance, ‘I think right now our local scene is doing pretty OK compared to a lot of other cities in Europe, even the bigger ones. When I see initiatives like the Bledarte collective having a much deserved success in Brussels, I really think our local scene is blooming with interesting things.’
Together with De Brakke Grond, we’re throwing a L.A.N. BXL edition at Garage Noord in Amsterdam on Sunday, 21 October. Come catch Slagwerk and HE4RTBROKEN among other players in Belgium’s music scene.