“A bit of Berlin at the Lys” is what De Morgen called it, last year on its first anniversary. Meanwhile, adding another year to that, this industrial club at Ghent’s Ghelamco Arena (the local football team's stadium, ed.) has been gaining on reputation and production on an international level. With praises from performing artists like Chris Liebing, Renaat Vandepapeliere, Charlotte de Witte and a recent visit by the Boiler Room crew, it seems this machine is on a steady collision course with greatness. With Kompass’ second anniversary in mind, we sat down for a chat with owner and artistic director Jens Grieten.
Kompass… What a ride it has been. Right?
"Yes! It has definitely been a crazy rollercoaster, with a lot of ups and downs. But we are very proud to be where we are today, with this great team that helped shape Kompass over the last two years."
For the people that don’t know: how did it all start?
"It all started 4 years ago, with a concept that we did at different locations in Ghent, called Kowboys and Indians. Back in those days, it was nearly impossible for young entrepreneurs like us to organise events in the well-known event places, or we needed to collaborate with other big players on the market, under their conditions. Of course, this was something we didn’t want to do. We had our own vision, which was very different from the others, and just kept finding ways to make this vision happen, on our own terms."
So it’s how many years now?
"We are celebrating our second anniversary at the Ottergemsesteenweg-Zuid, but before that, we opened the first Kompass pop-up venue at Dampoort for 3 months, the year before."
How did you even come up with that location anyway? It’s not the most obvious place to look for a venue.
"After the pop-up Kompass closed, we were obsessed with the search for a new location. We had some very specific conditions that needed to be fulfilled, which led to a very intense year of looking for the right building. Preferably, it had to be an old industrial warehouse, although we did explore other options as well. When we came across our current venue, we immediately knew ‘this is it, it’s now or never’."
Any radical changes coming up that we should know about?
"We like to keep our changes a secret, so it’s a constant surprise when you guys come over. (winks)"
What was the worst moment in Kompass history?
"Two months after our opening, we got sued by a third party. The purpose was to totally destroy us. This was one of the most scary moments of our lives, since we invested everything we had in the club. Things haven’t always been easy, but receiving this letter was a heavy moment. After all our hard work, everything was at stake and no-one knew how it would end, we felt powerless."
Obviously, following the previous question: what was the best moment in Kompass history?
"Winning the lawsuit! It was a big relief, and a huge burden that fell of our shoulders. It gave us back the feeling that there was justice in this world. Another personal highlight was without doubt Chris Liebing saying he played the best gig of his career at Kompass. Things always move so fast that you don’t always have the time to realize what’s happening, but reading those words made everyone so proud, it was a very magical moment."
How do you look at current state of nightlife in Ghent?
"We believe nightlife in Ghent is flourishing, and hope it will continue to grow."
"Our goal is to put Belgium on the international map. You have a lot of great clubs like Fuse, Labyrinth, Vaag, … we’re not doing bad at all for such a small country, and it’s definitely going in the right direction."
The outdoor events seem to work like a charm aswel. Are you planning more of those coming summer?
"Yes! The beauty of Kompass is the combination of our rough, industrial inside areas and playful outside garden. It’s just perfect to combine our events in the garden with nights in the warehouse. It gives us a whole other dimension to be creative with. This we have to thank to our head deco builder Gilles Demeyer."
Where would you like to be with your project, let's say, five years from now?
"We still have lots of ideas that we just didn’t find the time for yet. Of course, we would love to see Kompass still be a home for our family that has been growing over the past couple of years. So many friendships were born on the dancefloor. And for our clubbers, staff, artists,… Kompass feels like coming home every weekend, this vibe is something truly special. It would mean a lot if in 5 years, we would be doing the exact same thing with like minded-people, who just share the same vision and passion."
The anniversary night is without a doubt something to look forward to. What and who can we expect?
"This time, we’re keeping it intimate and limited. We composed a quality lineup with names such as Amelie Lens, Renaat, Bjarki, Terence Fixmer and Yotam Avni."
Last question: will there be cake?
"(laughs) Maybe, but you really need to watch out with cake. Who knows, suddenly Steve Aoki might pop up?"
Go RSVP and get your tickets for part 1 of Kompass' 2 years celebration on April 28 by heading over to this link. Follow its Facebook page for updates on proper raves and lovely outdoor get-togethers.