Keeping it real with Antwerp’s favourite DJ’s DJ: Raphael.

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Hypes come and go, but there will always be DJs that seem to be unaffected by whatever genre, party or style is trending at the moment. As far as Antwerp goes, this is the case for Raphael. Making a name for himself since the early Scheldapen days in the late 90s, this natural born selector has probably done more sets in more different venues than any other DJ in the city. With a carefree attitude that’s in sharp contrast with today’s general restlessness in the music industry, Raphael is happy to spend his time digging for vinyl gems and working on his own projects in relative silence. 

Meatpack, Antwerp’s newest music venue, has invited this DJ’s DJ on Saturday, February 17, for an all-night set that promises to take you along for a ride through unknown masterpieces, infectious rhythms and stone-cold classics. We had a little word with the man in anticipation.

After a while of relative radio silence, your name seems to pop up on event flyers more and more. Have you decided to put in the work again? Or did you never stop working in the first place?

"I never stopped spinning records in the first place! But I always preferred to keep it on the low: small parties for music lovers in small venues, private parties or the occasional warm-up or B2B-session with friends or with my brother Stijn (who has a rich music career under the same name, red). There are so much more ways to move about as a DJ than just playing big clubs and events. One of the projects that has been going on for quite some time now is ‘Soundscore for a Sculpture’, where me and an ever-changing pool of friends look for the happy accidents on an open platform that allows artists to plug in and jam all together. We often host this in special architectural environments that have specific acoustics, which enriches the exchange of energy from the audience and the participants."

Vinyl seems like the format that really works for you. Can you describe the size and scope of your vinyl collection?

"I could, but I won’t (laughs). It’s large to some, but never enough for me. Some call me a vinyl junky for a good reason. It’s the hands-on black magic plastic that will outlive the cloud!"

How do you find new additions to your collection?

"By looking for records in local record stores and by visiting my favorite record-dealers in Rotterdam: Clone Records. I prefer to physically find a record and listen to it in the shop, just like in the old days. The club, your best friend’s house and the record store are where you get to know new tunes. For me, it's a sport to hunt for records. It’s a time consuming and a social activity that brings people together, closer than one might dream of."

From the perspective of a DJ who has been playing out since a very long time, how has the nightlife scene in Antwerp changed in recent years?

"It really wasn't so long ago that you couldn’t find any place where we could party until the break of dawn. After Scheldapen closed down, I believe Het Bos is still one of the most interesting places right now. The sound improvements over the recent years made it my favorite local venue where open-minded people who are hungry for quality come together. Additionally, I have to say that the nightlife scene in Antwerp is more alive than ever and new clubs pop up like mushrooms. Hallelujah!"

What tips can you give to DJ’s who are now at the beginning of their career?

"Come outside to play. Set your goal and stay true to your intuition. Don't believe the hype. Believe your ears and pick your own style. It’s not about the skills, it's about the music. Never forget you are out there to guide people through the night - it's about the people and the exchange of energy and good vibes. Only during the best moments, the crowd and you can become one. Dancing is the best cure to escape the drag of everyday-life. It really is like going to church. As a DJ you have a responsibility that takes more than just putting all the effort in a beat-mix or a fade-slide, actions that most people don't even notice when done perfectly. Take your audience by surprise and keep them hungry for more."

What can we expect to hear on your upcoming night at Meatpack?

"Well, I always tend to keep my sets eclectic. Both the past, the present and the future will echo in a blend that curves from late 70's boogie and funk, over 80's electro and disco - and all the accelerated versions that have a label of house, techno and acid: electronic dance music will be the leading storyline. Honestly, I haven’t picked my records yet, so part of what will happen will depend on how I will feel that day! What I like about all-nighters is the ability to really tell a story and take your time to let the music speak for itself."

Want to hear the local legend in full action? Antwerp’s Meatpack has invited Raphael for an all-night DJ-set on Friday February 17th. RSVP right here.