When you say Café d’Anvers, you immediately think about DJ Smos. This legendary resident can be considered part of the furniture. Saturday April 15, Smos is turning 50 years old and it’s also time to celebrate his 25 years as a resident at the legendary club in Antwerp. That's two reasons to build an epic party together with his long time DJ partner Baby Bee, Silicon Soul and Sherø aka D’Steph. And those are definitely good reasons to have an interview with the man of the hour.
Your career as a resident DJ at Café d’Anvers started in 1993. Meanwhile, you probably saw a lot of change in Belgian nightlife. How would you compare the current scene to that of the 90s?
"Of course, there’s so much that has changed over the years. In the early days, if you wanted to hear electronic music, you had to go to special parties or one of the few clubs that would play it. Café d'Anvers was a pioneer in the electronic music scene, especially when it came to house music. Electronic music had no place on commercial radio and to find good records, you could only go to a few specialized shops. Together with my former DJ partner DJ Baby Bee, we would travel Europe in search of the best records. When we started as resident DJs in CDA, I was already working in ‘USA Import’, the best record shop in Belgium, so I always had first access to some of the most exclusive releases.
Nowadays, you can hear a lot of electronic music on the radio and everyone has access to all kinds of music thanks to the internet. In order to bring something exclusive to the table, you really need to do your best, so you can draw a crowd, because the competition is so high. Most clubs are booking lineups with top-notch artists, but on Saturdays, Café d’Anvers still books its residents and that’s unique. On Fridays and special themed nights, you can still see ace artists from around the world. Hypes and trends come and go every year, but Café d’Anvers is still standing like a rock in the house scene, while also taking account of trends in their own way."
Can you name a positive and negative trend that occurred during those 25 years?
"The digitization is of course ubiquitous. Together with Baby Bee we used to rock eight hour sets in Café d’Anvers with six cases of vinyl. Nowadays, I just take my USB-stick and I have more music with me than I used to. I still think this has been one of the best changes in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, I still have all my 20,000 records and when something can’t be found online, I’ll digitize it. Thanks to my collection of vinyl I can still play tracks which can’t be found. In the beginning, there often was a distinction between a DJ and a producer and you didn’t need to produce to make it as a DJ. This is increasingly the case. Now, young DJs who want to break through, are putting their focus on getting their tracks on hype labels and afterwards they’ll look at DJ-ing. "
You're not just known as a resident in Antwerp, but also in Brussels (Fuse 2000-2003) and Ghent (Eskimo parties). Do you recognize differences in the audience’s reaction?
"Indeed, we’ve been residents in the Motion Room at Fuse with the late DJ Saint-Dic. The style we played there, was quite a bit different from the Café d’Anvers sound. It was more tech-house orientated, without denying our funky roots. The Eskimo parties were really big and the audience was very open minded. We would play very eclectic sets ranging from disco to funk to old-school acid house and 80s electro."
In 25 years, you gather a lot of music. How do you keep your collection in check?
"As I said earlier we have a very diverse collection of 20,000 vinyls. We’re always happy to play an eclectic set, because there is no lack of interest in genres! On top, there’s our digital collection, which is quite varied too. If you’re into different genres, you end up buying very varied music. I must admit that Baby Bee’s collection is more orderly than mine. But there’s something exciting to not immediately finding a record. You have to dig in your collection and you end up discovering new stuff again and again."
Obligatory question: Can you name some moments which you’ll never forget and that are indicative for your career?
"Without a doubt: The first time we played Café d’Anvers. That was unforgettable because it was a dream which became reality. We immediately felt at home at the club. We can’t forget about Tomorrowland, because I’ve played at every single edition. The first time we had this kind of improvised stage, which was super cosy and we had Carl Craig as a headliner. The atmosphere was so intense and the Café d’Anvers stage kept on growing together with Tomorrowland. It’s still one of the best stages to me."
It might seem impossible, but try to list three key tracks that were important during those 25 years.
1. Flow – Another Time (Bottom Line Records)
"A very special track to us. Very deep house with tribal elements. You hardly could play this anywhere outside of Café d’Anvers, because of its deep underground sound. When Baby Bee will be opening my party, she will be playing this for sure."
2. Bobby Konders – Nervous Acid (Nu Groove records)
"This is an irresistible acid house track which still makes the dancefloor explode. It’s part of the House Rhythms EP, which was a milestone in the house scene, because the EP contained six tracks that are incredible and it was an exception. 12”s often had only one great track and the rest were fillers."
3. Q-Burns Abstract Message – Mess Of Afros (Glenn Underground remix) (SSR Records)
"This ultra-funky track with a Kool & The Gang sample never left our record crate. Every time everybody went through the roof, not only in Café d’Anvers, but at any event and club where we would play."
There’s no doubt about it that your trajectory has been impressive, but there are still things on your bucket list?
"For sure, but I do want to keep those for myself. I want to live up to them, before I talk about it."