The concept of a web-radio dedicated to alternative music has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. One only has to look at the success of international examples like Rinse FM, NTS or Red Light Radio to see how much of an impact these seemingly small stations can have on local and cross-national music scenes. With the exception of stroom.tv - which was unique in many ways, and which became primarily preoccupied with releasing records – Belgium didn’t have such an institution, until two weeks ago. Without being aware of the other’s plans, both Antwerp and Brussels saw their very first independent radio broadcasts in the first week of November. Kiosk Radio in the capital has already received their chance in our spotlights, but Drrrip Radio still deserves your attention for multiple reasons. Let’s see what they are all about.
It’s a cold and dark Thursday evening when we’re meeting Nicolas Kerstens, Laura Helmer and Robin François, the founding members of Drrrip Radio, in a backstreet behind the Zoo of Antwerp. Nothing about this huge run-down building suggests it houses a DIY radio station. As we’re walking up the stairs, Nicolas tells us this used to be a 14th century monastery, and that before it will be rebuilt into a social housing project, the non-profit organization Studio Start has allowed local artists, sculptors, painters, graphic designers, writers to occupy the rooms for creative purposes for a minimal fee, for a limited time. How limited? “For now we’re allowed to stay here for 2 years”, he replies. “We’ll see what happens afterwards”.
Nicolas and Laura, a lovely couple that co-runs the Warm house nights in Antwerp, as well as the former polyvalent creative space Het Eiland, already founded Drrrip a while ago. “First it just used to be a record fair we organized every now and then”, explains Laura. “But while we were running Het Eiland, we realized it would be nice to host weekly livestreams of DJs and artists every Sunday evening. Robin shared the same ideas and from that point it snowballed into what Drrrip Radio has become today”.
So what is Drrrip Radio today? As with most DIY initiatives that solely rely on the blood and sweat of volunteers, it’s not feasible to broadcast around the clock. For now, this station will transmit live music each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 7PM until 10PM. “But our aim is to build a fully furnished studio and broadcast on a daily basis in the near future”, adds Nicolas.
At this point in the interview, local vinyl digger Désir has just finished his exceptionally complex techno trip and is getting ready to make room for Matts Brouns, another low-key DJ on the deeper side of all things techno. “We try to be a platform for artists that haven’t been in the spotlights for too many times. There are so many DJs that are crazy skilled, but who barely get to play anywhere”, says Nicolas. “You see a lot of the same DJs at parties around here nowadays. We want to make sure we can offer an alternative”. “But on the other hand, we don’t want to be an isolated island”, Laura explains. “We try to involve many different people, artists and concepts, so we’re open for enquiries from all sorts of different people”. “Although we will do some sort of curation, of course”, adds Nicolas. So what does that curated roster look like right now? “It’s a conscious decision not to have any fixed shows. This allows us to make space for new people that do a show for the first time. In terms of the music, we are not limited to any genre. Ambient, techno, house, African, live sessions, etc. There is something for everyone”.
When asked where the team found inspiration for Drrrip Radio, the answer - quite surprisingly - wasn’t any of the usual suspects. Instead, the Lille-based Stick To The Groove Radio and German stations Fluid Soul Radio and Radio Love Love were acclaimed for their subtle curation and laid-back approach. “Plus, we love the way NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts get artists to perform small, acoustic live sessions”, adds Robin. “There’s definitely a place for that kind of stuff on this radio too”. Nicolas chips in, “exactly, we want to offer beginning bands a chance to showcase their performance”. With their history of hosting open and accessible panel discussions and lectures at How I Work, Laura and Nicolas confirm there will be room for talk shows as well. “We’ve invited the HORST guys for a little conversation soon, but other than that we can’t tell you much, I’m afraid”, says Nicolas with a massive grin.
Now, it goes without saying that accidentally starting a web radio like this on the exact same week as Kiosk Radio in Brussels is not very desirable. But Nicolas has an explanation; “we were totally unaware of their moves, so the timing is unlucky, but in the end it’s all good because we don’t really consider them as competitors. They organize their station and roster in a completely different way than we do. In the end, all of us are doing it for the love. Maybe we can even collaborate in the future, who knows”. We must say, we admire that attitude.
Before we conclude our visit, Robin takes us to the roof of the building: a huge platform that overlooks the giraffe and zebra enclosures of Antwerp’s Zoo, as well as a massive garden that’s part of the former monastery. “When it gets warmer, we can do sessions here too”, he says. “Actually, Drrrip Radio could be broadcasted from anywhere, so we’re going to host shows from a whole range of different cool places”. Wherever they may stream from, open-minded listeners with an adventurous heart can tune in from anywhere to discover new talent. “Sharing good music from talented artists and DJs is basically what it’s all about”. Amen to that!