When two Belgian techno giants join forces: a Rave Rebels interview

Pictures by Tars Labarque & Simon Leloup


Ever wondered what those legendary raves in the early 90s would have felt like? On Saturday October 12, you can find out for yourself. Two of Belgium's most prominent names in the club scene, Kompass and Fuse, will team up for an epic 14-hour-long rave at Brussels’ Palais 12. With Solomun, Adana Twins, Joris Voorn, Maceo Plex, Pan-Pot, Maxim Lany and Lola Haro on the lineup, it looks like we're in for a treat. Add a massive sound system and an overwhelming lighting system to the mix, and you have the recipe for a night for the books. As we stretch our dancing feet, we called up the two masterminds behind Rave Rebels, Fuse’s Nick Ramoudt and Kompass’ Jens Grieten, and begged them for a little taste of what’s to come.

Nick, let’s start with you. How was the Fuse 25th birthday party at Palais 12 back in April?

Nick: It was great! We had a little bit of doubt beforehand. A few years earlier, we organised events at Tour & Taxis in multiple rooms, so we didn't know if we were taking a step back with just one stage or not. In the end, we just went for it, and we gave it all we had. Now, we have put all our budget in one big room instead of three. That played out pretty well. 

Where did the idea to collaborate with Kompass come from?

Jens: We were already working and going out together regularly, and we're good friends, so it was just a logical next step. We were waiting for a big project to come along. Now that it’s here, we can work together as one strong team. Both of us have a competitive mindset, which is crucial if you’re going to cooperate.

Nick: Yes, exactly. But we are not competitors, we are complementary, and the cooperation between us feels intuitive. When you want to pull off a spectacular show, you need a big budget. So realising a project like this becomes a lot more feasible when you have two organisations who are willing to go for it. Nightlife can be like a team sport: you can only win if the whole squad delivers. If everyone trusts each other, that will rub off on your event, and people will notice that. An event has got to have ‘soul’. To give you an example: Tomorrowland has a lot of critics, but you can’t deny it has got a soul. That’s why it keeps working so well. That is what convinces people to buy a ticket and dance until the end.

As two of Belgium’s biggest house and techno clubs, are you coordinating your schedules throughout the year to avoid date clashes?

Nick: That's wishful thinking I'm afraid. If you really want to go for a particular artist, you probably don't have a lot of options for dates. Sometimes we clash, but that's ok. Our clubs are far apart. If anything, an environment with multiple strong clubs only strengthens the scene. One big club would never be able to support a whole country of music fans. Take Berlin, for example. People go there because the club scene as a whole is incredibly strong.

We are not competitors, we are complementary, and the cooperation between us feels intuitive.

So does that mean more Fuse x Kompass collaborations are coming throughout the year?

Nick: If you would like to know if we’re going to start a ‘Fompass’, I’m going to have to disappoint you (laughs).

How do you try to keep the intimacy of a nightclub when you’re dealing with a massive venue like Palais 12?

Jens: I don’t know if that’s what we want, to be honest. It’s because we have such an impressive venue at our disposal that we will go all out for once. Rave Rebels has a different identity than those of Kompass or Fuse. There are limits to what you can do in our nightclubs, so that's why we take it a few steps further here. We have teamed up with some foreign production firms that have done crazy things in the past. That's what we want. That night has to be a completely mind-blowing experience from start to finish.

Why Palais 12 and not another like-sized venue?

Jens: It was essential for us to do this in Brussels, you can't beat that central location in Belgium. Compared to other venues of this size, Palais 12 have treated their acoustics well. That's something you can hear clearly.

Nick: Everything in that venue is just right. D&B Audiotechnik have recently launched a new KSL line array system with active reverb killing functions on the mid and high tones. Usually, you're going to have some reverb when you suddenly kill the audio in a big room like that. But that's not going to happen with this new system. You can hear the difference; there is simply no reverb, nor echoes. That's something I haven't seen in other places all that much. Jens and I are dancefloor people. We have both seen a lot of events in the world, good and bad. It's a shame when you visit a massive rave, and they haven't fixed their acoustics. That's when I think, "get your basics right".

What about Rave Rebels’ lineup. What’s the motivation behind these choices?

Jens: A lot of people think rave techno only deals with tempo’s above 145 bpm. We couldn’t disagree more. That’s why we are rave rebels. When you look back to the beginning of rave, 145 bpm techno wasn’t a thing yet. We want to push the many different sides of rave music instead.

Nick: Rave started in a time where the division between different genres wasn't clear at all. The offer of music just wasn't as big as it is now, so the DJ gave almost everything available in the record stores a chance: breakbeat, trance, etc. That's where we want to go, starting over with a clean slate. We're not just techno.

Jens: True. You can see that even within the techno scene. Guys like Marcel Dettmann play a lot of EBM, for example. That proves that we can finally leave this compartmentalisation. Rave should be a utopia of the weekend where you can escape segregation and embrace diversity.

When you look back to the beginning of rave, 145 bpm techno wasn’t a thing yet. We want to push the many different sides of rave music instead.

Which artists on this lineup are your personal favourites?

Nick: Maceo Plex. He is a true craftsman in his profession. He has a broad taste, and he can make the people dance without the need to prove he can go deep. After every set he played in Fuse, he asks me if I liked it. That's the kind of mentality I want.

Jens: For me, that has to be Maxim Lany. This local artist has worked so hard over the last couple of years, and the results speak for themselves. Big up!