The 23-year-old Bonzai classic’s gold record is a confirmation of what we knew all along; this is one of the biggest dance classics of all time. We spoke to Push and Bonzai Records about the news.
There are classics, and then there are anthems that mark a generation of electronic music fans. When the Antwerp-based Bonzai Records released Universal Nation in 1998 (originally as a B-side), little did they know they were about to change history. Alas, for a multitude of technical reasons, the record never reached the gold status – until today, 23 years after its inception. The rerelease by Bonzai Records in 2019 and the growing interest in classic dance music certainly helped the track finally sell over half a million copies worldwide.
l"It's still crazy to realize I wrote this as a B-side and that it still gets recognition, so long after its release", says Mike ‘Push’ Dierickx. “A lot of contemporary DJs like Charlotte de Witte, Carl Cox or Adam Beyer are pushing those trance sounds again, so when they started playing Universal Nation again, the track got a lot of attention from a whole new generation of techno fans". Dierickx still makes new music regularly, but his number one hit still dominates his notifications every day. "I don't mind that, to be honest. I'm still very proud of my contribution to the electronic music scene, and seeing this record still doing well humbles me”.
Universal Nation didn’t only do well for Dierickx. The track quickly became one of – if not the – most iconic tune in the entire Bonzai Records catalogue, ushering in a period of global domination for the Antwerp-based record label. Fast forward to 2021, and Bonzai material is once again in high demand. We spoke to one of Bonzai’s managers Marnik Braeckevelt to check why it’s happening all over again.
I’ve got to admit this new hype around Bonzai Records started happening quite unexpectedly.
The demand for Bonzai vinyl has skyrocketed again - and you're doing large runs of represses again. Glad to see the business back on track?
“I’ve got to admit this new hype started happening quite unexpectedly. About two years ago, we decided to release a 7-inch repress of ‘Thunderball’ (perhaps the only other track that can compete for the number one Bonzai track of all time, ed.) for Record Store Day. The record sold out, and the reactions were overwhelming. That’s why we decided to rerelease Universal Nation (with a Bart Skils remix in collaboration with Filth On Acid) a few months later. This increased the interest in our extensive catalogue even more. Several well-known names in the global dance scene, such as Thomas Schumacher, Umek, Reinier Zonneveld, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Joyhauser have been knocking on our door, asking us to release remixes too. I think that the renewed interest in Bonzai vinyl has come from a combination of all these things. Of course, this was also made possible by our distributor N.E.W.S., who do a fantastic job. They helped us get back to being one of the best-selling labels out there”.
Do you think this is part of the hype for retro material? Or is (dance) vinyl’s position in the market stable again?
"I think vinyl, in general, has become more popular every year. Anything vintage will always hold a certain appeal, so I understand the hype around the classics. Some tracks reel in new fans who may dig deeper and discover a whole world of amazing records, and many artists and labels are now reissuing old gems using modern mastering techniques. Hopefully, all this will produce a new generation of vinyl DJs".
We take reissuing our classics very seriously; it's not just the music that gets a polish but also the complete package.
© Mike P.U.S.H. in 1998, holding the original pressing of Universal Nation.
“In the past year, many people have discovered the exclusive appeal of vinyl again, compared to a digital mp3 file. We're answering that demand by rereleasing our vinyl with top-of-the-line mastering, in different colours and limited numbers. Obviously, there's a lot of nostalgia involved, but a lot of the original vinyl pressings are full of cracks, have broken sleeves or simply won't sound good on a proper sound system anymore".
Your primary focus seems to be on reissuing tracks from your back-catalogue now. How are you looking at the future?
“Despite the current issues (the surge in demand has created a bottleneck problem at vinyl pressing plants, ed.), we still try to release records with a certain regularity. We focus on all kinds of formats: 7-inch records, 10-inch records, 12-inch records, cassettes and even CDs. You can always expect professional remastering and a redesigned artwork that takes cues from the original design. Alec Ven, who's been our designer from the very beginning, is still involved in the process. So yes, we take reissuing our classics very seriously; it's not just the music that gets a polish but also the complete package. I think we'll be busy in the coming years doing these represses since our back-catalogue is enormous. We’ll also start a series of new releases that capture the sound of today with the vibe of the 90s. Additionally, keep in mind Bonzai will become 30 years old next year”.