Some have already obtained small successes, spending years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to shine and others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn heads. With this feature, we shine a light on some of the most exciting new musical talents our tiny country has to offer.
On Sunday November 10, the ravers at Full Circle take over 12 different
locations in Antwerp (including MAS, M HKA, Ampere, Club Vaag, De Studio and
Pekfabriek). That’s 12 different parties with just one ticket. For the
occasion, we have selected not one, not two, but three young artists that grace
the Full Circle lineup, each of which well underway to become a household name
in their respective scenes. After living in Barcelona and Brighton, house and
techno producer OTON has gone back to his Brussels roots to solely focus on
playing live. The youngest of the bunch, Kestified, is a 19-year-old eclectic
DJ from Kortrijk that's been catapulted into the hip hop circuit in just a few
months. Lastly, Limburg's Klaps has increasingly been showing dancefloors
across the nation the acid side of techno. All three have a unique music taste,
all three have a bright future ahead of them, and all three are as fresh as
Hi guys. Let’s start with you, OTON. Can you tell us how you got started making music?
OTON: I started by playing the drums and guitar in a rock band, but I soon discovered electronic music and Ableton. It was love at first sight. Electronic music allowed me to make music anywhere and anytime without being dependent on the rest of the group.
Most artists keep it at DJ-sets, but you only play live. Why?
OTON: I never really saw DJ-sets as something doable for me. I was used to playing music with live instruments, and I needed to feel and touch these to create sound. So I wasn't going to stop doing that when I switched to electronic music. It's just the way I see the elements in front of me. I must be free to play around with my music on the spot.
Ok, let’s go to you, Kestified. It seems ridiculous that someone of your age actually has been DJ-ing for a couple of years. Tell us your story.
Kestified: I’ve been playing music since I was 12 years old. Me and my dad used to be a DJ duo that played weddings and private events. He taught me everything I need to know. Around my 18th birthday, I realized I wanted to take DJ-ing one step further. I developed a taste for hip hop, jazz, funk, R&B and all that kind of stuff.
Finding unlikely combinations and mixing these smoothly is where I can unleash my creativity. - Kestified
Klaps, you got picked up after a DJ-contest, right?
Klaps: True. I was already playing around with music, but when I saw they were looking for participants for DJ-Mania (a former DJ-contest in Limburg, ed.) I started taking it a bit more seriously. I knew I had to stand out from the rest, so I hooked up an old drum computer to incorporate a couple of live elements into my DJ-set. In hindsight, that set isn’t the work I’m proudest of, but it did the trick! I ended up in the final round, and that's where some guys from Floorfiller (a renowned techno event, ed.) scouted me. From there, I was able to play their events, and that's how everything took off.
All three of you have a very versatile approach to playing music. Why is diversity within your sets so important?
OTON: With a wide variety of music you can find all around you, it's really difficult to stick to one particular style or bpm. I don't want to put myself in just one tiny corner during my entire career.
Kestified: For me, continually
switching things up is incredibly important because I'm always full of energy.
Even after 5 minutes in the same vibe, I already feel like I need to drop a
track that changes the whole mood. Sometimes I'll go from 90 bpm to 150 bpm in
the space of just 20 minutes. Finding unlikely combinations and mixing these
smoothly is where I can unleash my creativity. More so, hip hop primarily draws
a lot of influence from other genres like funk, disco and house. Playing around
with those original versions, remixes and edits is just so much fun, and having
fun is essential.
Klaps: Changing the vibe as drastically as you is not something I’d do. My DJ-sets do tend to become harder and harder as I progress, with a surprise track at the very end. That could be a goatrance or disco tune, depending on the venue.
So what do you do when you have to play an opening slot? You can't play 135 bpm techno for a half-empty room.
Klaps: That’s something I struggled with in the beginning. Just a couple of months ago, I played my first all-nighter. As you’re the only DJ, there’s no hiding on a party like that, so you’re forced to dig deep and play stuff you wouldn’t play otherwise. That’s how I learned it. I’m a lot more versatile now.
OTON, does playing live not hinder you from changing the vibe when the situation demands it?
OTON: Yes, it does. You can't
really adapt your live set too much in realtime. You're more grounded to your
own live set than DJ's. That doesn't scare me, though. I never played the same
live set twice. Each time I analyze the situation beforehand and I try to adapt
my set to the audience, the vibe, etc. Moreover, when I'm booked, it's usually
because promoters know what to expect. In the end, if people are dancing and
having fun, that's what counts.
You can't hide if you're the only DJ playing all night. You’re forced to dig deep and play stuff you wouldn’t play otherwise. That's how I became more versatile. - Klaps
Talking about having fun, all three of you are incredibly lively and enthusiastic in the DJ-booth. Do you think this is necessary to deliver a good performance?
OTON: At first, some people thought and told me I was dancing too much. But to be fair, I couldn't do it differently. That would go against my nature. When people dance to my music, this energy transmits to me, and I get even more excited. I always want to give it 100%. If I don't, I'll have the feeling I wasted my time and the audience's time. All these people have paid to see you perform. Maybe they have gone through a rough week, and now they want to dance, so it's your responsibility to omit positive energy. That said, dancing around like a madman isn't something we calculate beforehand. You have a few drinks, and there are friends around you; how are you not going to end up dancing? Especially when a track you've made gets a good reaction from the crowd.
Klaps, does playing your own tracks compare to playing other people’s music?
Klaps: Whenever I think a new production I’ve made will work well, it usually doesn’t - and the other way around. Look at how many Bonzai B-sides became the rave classics, while the A-sides are forgotten. But yeah, that feeling when the crowd digs a track you just made is hard to beat.
Kestified, I think most people know you as that DJ that’s always going apeshit behind the decks.
Kestified: I don’t know why! I always get so excited! Even if it's a small venue, as long as the crowd's with me, nothing can stop me. I also prefer small clubs where you're in direct contact with your audience. I'd rather have 100 people that party than a 1000 that don't move.
OTON: I second that. On big stages, the space between the crowd and the DJ can create a disconnection. It feels less personal.
We're not living in the golden era of discotheques anymore. We have to do more with less, so in a way that makes everyone closer to each other. - OTON
So, how is the Belgian scene currently doing? From the perspective of beginning DJ’s, do you have the feeling that you receive enough support?
Klaps: I’m lucky to have received support from a lot of organizations like Club Vaag and Floorfiller early on, which allowed me to build my own platform. That said, you see clubs closing their doors all over Belgium, like Café d’Anvers for example. That often makes me wonder if opportunities around us are shrinking, especially for beginning DJ’s that don’t have many references yet.
Kestified: In the hip hop scene in which I operate, the support mainly comes from particular individuals. For me personally, it was people like Black Frank, Black Mamba and Eagl who have given me chances to prove myself. I’m just a kid from Kortrijk. That doesn’t sound very appealing to a promoter from a big city. It makes linking up with the right people who are willing to give you a shot crucial.
OTON: Yes, we're not living in the golden era of discotheques anymore. We have to do more with less, so in a way that makes everyone closer to each other. I can only speak for Brussels, but I feel like there is a lot of collegiality amongst all the artists and promoters across different scenes. Everyone is opening up a bit, learning from each other and collaborating. That's how scenes are made. It provides a healthy environment for music to grow in. Belgium is a small country, so we can't afford to be so divided. Every DJ, artist and promoter needs to talk to each other, share experiences and ideas, even if they're not playing the same music as you.