Some have already spent years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment - 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 a lot of heads. With this feature we shine a light on some of the most interesting emerging new talents our tiny country has to offer.
When a relatively unknown DJ pops up on the Pukkelpop and HORST lineups, you can be sure there has to be something that makes him special. In what has been a spectacular year with few but stellar gigs, Toon Roebben aka Bjeor has quickly made a name for himself in the house-minded nightlife audience. When he’s not hosting the weekly Mind Warp radio show on Radio Scorpio (alongside Exalt), he can be found digging around for new gems to play in his vinyl sets. Before we go any further we figured it’s best to let the Leuven-based DJ do the talking.
Where did the love for music come from?
"As a teenager, I was already interested in music. When I was thirteen years old I did DJ-courses for two years at Vleugel F - a youth organisation in Leuven. It’s at this place I met my first contacts in the local music scene. Two years later, I set my first footsteps in Silo at parties like Silenced, Sheer and Sunnyside Up, seeing my personal heroes like Kerri Chandler and Prosumer in real life for the very first time."
How wide is your taste in music?
"Throughout the years I’ve educated myself in the house and techno scene, but eventually that led to being interested in different genres too: disco, italo, 80s, synth, etc. Being in regular contact with other like-minded people and going out often definitely strengthened the wide approach to music I now have. As a DJ, I believe it’s important not to focus on just one style."
Great to see a young DJ pulling out vinyl again on so many occasions. What reasons keep you convinced to the record's cause, and don't make you go all-out on digital?
"This attitude grew from the fact that I abolsutely wanted to own a lot of records that weren’t available digitally. That led to a growing vinyl collection, which kind of went out of hand. Obviously, as a vinyl DJ, your chances of encountering technical issues at gigs are a lot higher, so I always have a backup USB stick with me."
Which DJ did you learned the most from?
"That’s a tough question, because there is not a single right answer. There are usual suspects like Floating Points, Antal, Ron Trent, Maurice Fulton, I-F, etc – but on the other hand, I learned a lot from watching Belgian DJs do their thing when I went out: San Soda, Gratts, Jensen, Exalt, Eklektiker, Kiani & His Legion, etc. As you see these guys perform on multiple occasions, it was interesting to see how they knew how to keep me hooked with completely different sets each time. Lastly, I'd like to mention Aroh, bmom and Rhythm Mind: four young guys that never fail to find the new gems, which only encourages me to dig deeper."
Bookings at Pukkelpop and Horst - seems like those shows have been quite the ride, no?
"For me, these are two of the best festivals in Belgium because they give a platform to alternative acts. Both attract a lot of people in my circles every year, so I had a full squad of friends to support me at each show. Additionally, it’s very cool to see your name next to all those big artists!"
We haven't heard much news about the nightlife scene in Leuven these last few years. Do you think it will get better soon?
"It is certainly correct that the nightlife scene around here has been quiet recent years. I used to co-organize the ‘Home’ parties alongside Metrobox, Preachermann, Triad and Johannes, and this was proof that there is in fact a genuine interest in underground house music in this city. After the closure of Silo, we were left with zero clubs to supply this demand; although that hasn’t stopped creative concepts like Onkruid, Fabrik, Moodprint Invites, Habitat Festival and others to bring quality to the table. Let’s just hope for new venues so that we’ll be able to go out clubbing again all night sooner than later."
Ever thought about making your own beats?
"I have definitely been toying with that idea, but I only want to give this a go when I feel I’m ready for that. In the past, I’ve been playing around making beats, but I never had the impression that these results were the music I wanted to put out. So I have let it slide for the moment. That said, whenever I get that itchy feeling, I’m ready to give it another shot. We’ll see where that leads me to."
What's next for you?
"After a really busy summer, I’m resetting my focus on other projects like Mind Warp (my weekly show on Radio Scorpio I co-host with the Exalt guys) and finding new music. That said, there are some cool gigs to look forward to, like Kurabu in Mechelen on November 11, and a B2B session with Kiani & His Legion at Clubstuk in Leuven on November 25!"