“The Antwerp scene has never been as strong as right now”, explains Bert Vanlommel before we start the interview. Vanlommel, former manager of Klub Goud, has joined forces with Kurious’ Jochem Peeters to launch a new nightlife concept that brings together four clubs in the Diamond City. Ampere, Café d’Anvers, Club Vaag and Bar Helder will all open their doors on November 10, under one banner: ‘Full Circle’. One ticket will allow you to enter all four of these venues, each with a strictly Belgian lineup and DJs that will take care of the music from start to finish. More than enough reasons to visit these two gentlemen and ask a thing or two about the current state of the nightlife scene, real DJ qualities and their own exciting new event.
Initiatives like these aren’t very common in Belgium anymore. Do you feel like the city was lacking this kind of cooperative events?
B: "Since a few years, the Antwerp club scene has picked up its pace. For a long time this scene has been like a kaleidoscope of underground initiatives, constantly moving from one venue to another. The actual clubs were usually for tourists and lost dancers. Things have changed for the better. New clubs have popped up and older clubs have reinvented themselves. Respectable concepts now find their way to the club scene with a corresponding growth in quality and service towards their crowds. This boosts the image of Antwerp as a creative hub with a heart for the underground."
Didn’t you run a club (Klub Goud), that just closed their doors?
J: "Klub Goud was always a temporary club. But, yes, others like Magic or Petrol have unfortunately closed down. Then again, take the example of Café d’Anvers: it has had its ups and downs, but in the end they have been going for 28 years straight. Clubs come and go, but there’s always new stuff, like Bar Helder, Contrair, Ampere, etc."
B: "Exactly. And that’s what I like about Antwerp. The city caters to the needs of all the different kind of nightlife people – from alternative to a little more upscale. The good thing about the current scene is that the alternative crowd doesn’t mind going to ‘the club’ anymore. It shows that clubs are more open to different kind of promoters and music."
J: "Club managers have realized that you don’t always need big international headliners to fill up your club. Belgian DJs can do the trick too, as long as the concept they represent is strong."
How is this going to be different from similar concepts like Antwerp Is Burning or Over Tijd?
J: "We’re not particularly looking to be any different, we just see things from another point of view. Everything came together spontaneously. Bert and me are both active in the nightlife scene with our own projects, but we realized that we could join forces to throw something else we haven’t done before. The basic concept may be the similar to what’s been done before, but we’re giving it a fresh 2017 update."
Was it easy to get all the clubs aboard?
J: "That went surprisingly easy. We prepared for a lot more hassle, but everyone was convinced after our first pitch."
B: "We wanted them to show everybody that they can reach out and work together on this night, instead of competing with each other. They were all super down for it."
You are booking a strictly Belgian lineup - and almost every DJ or crew plays an all-nighter. Was that a conscious decision?
J: "As I said before, club nights used to revolve solely around a big international DJ. Personally, I have never really gone down that road. Telling a story is just as important. Throwing a proper night with a good, Belgian DJ – in some cases joined by a foreign one – is all you need for a good party. In this way this local DJ can build his or her own fan base. This was the case for Faisal’s or Konna’s own nights at Klub Goud, both of which drew in large numbers of dedicated party people. It’s this vibe we want to highlight with Full Circle."
B: "I think 60 minute DJ-slots just don’t make much sense. Let these guys play for a while longer and you’ll get a completely different vibe. Everything is allowed, nothing is obligated. This way there’s no more hiding: a DJ is being put on the spot. His true skills as a selector are exposed as he or she can’t hide behind the obvious hits anymore. And us Belgians do this better. We strongly believe in the quality of our scene, so we carefully selected one artist to match every club."
Was it a difficult process to choose who plays in which club?
J: "Well, it was all quite clear for us from the start. We've got darker techno vibes that fit the club space at Café d’Anvers like a glove, more urban vibes in Ampere, tech house at Club Vaag and at Bar Helder - the new kid in this class - a lot of funky stuff with some disco drizzled on top. The actual lineup will be announced very soon!"