Something’s happening in our capital: wherever you turn your head, an interesting party, an intriguing record label or new production talent seems to bubble up. The latest of names to catch our attention is Midlife: a collective of artists that makes music, hosts events and brings releases. They do a particularly good job at the latter, as internet music magazine Dummy counted them amongst their 10 favourite indie labels of 2017: the year in which they released an excitingly hybrid compilation and 3 solid EP’s of artists whose music couldn’t possibly be categorized – but for those who have absolutely no clue: let’s call it avant-garde and experimental club music for now. The most recent of these releases, the debut EP of local talent Golin, was particularly well-received across the board. Enough reasons to see what Midlife is all about. We sat down with Gavin Vanaelst (aka DJ Charme) and Luca Derom (aka Samuelspaniel, who released his superb ‘Sirocco EP’ on this label last year - listen below) to find out what causes our capital to be such a fertile ground for alternative club music subculture.
Hi guys, how is life right now?
Gavin: "Things are always changing, but that's what keeps it interesting. Life is good, I guess."
Luca: "Spring’s coming, it smells like the end of hibernation. I’m excited about what’s to come!"
What were the reactions on the Golin EP? This was probably your most prominent release on the label so far.
Gavin: "Everyone seems to be as excited about her album as we are. This is the first album that we promoted in a more professional way. We had features and premieres in respected magazines, a release-party in the beautiful Beursschouwburg in Brussels, ... The whole package. We've had our difficulties with the vinyl, though. They delivered 300 copies at our doorstep a couple of months ago, all with the right artwork and details on the label and disc - but when we listened, it became clear it was not Golin's music. Instead, it was a random drum 'n bass album."
Luca: "In the end, we are so happy with this release. I feel we all learned a lot working on it and we are grateful for all the great feedback we received."
With crews like yours, Heartbroken, Slagwerk, Mind over Matter and many more doing great things - it seems that Belgium is finally catching up in this hard to define scene of - by lack of a better definition - 'alternative club music'. Are you happy with the way things are going?
Gavin: "A lot of events are happening, and many interesting artists rise up, especially in Brussels. It’s the first time we feel a strong sense of community, the feeling of being part of a big crew with a shared vision. There is still a lot of place to move around and the scene is still young, so we are looking at the future in a most positive way. Everyone is doing great work. However, I feel we shouldn't forget that Belgium has been a force to be reckoned with within the electronic music world for decades."
Luca: "There are so many things happening these days. We see a lot of respect and good vibes between everybody, so we should be proud of it. I remember Liyo from Heartbroken telling me at a Mind over Matter party in Antwerp that if a bomb should explode right there, there wouldn’t much left of our scene…!"
With Golin, Buga and yourselves, it seems like we’ve tapped in to this local pool of talent that’s ready to bring something new to the table. Is this a new generation of artists that don't like to be put in categories?
Gavin: "I think that the ‘genre’ is less important than the actual power and emotion of music - and most people we meet share this opinion. If you listen to one of our DJ-sets or radio shows, you will hear a lot of different types of music, but somehow it all fits together. Just like that local pool of talent you’re talking about. Everyone has different backgrounds, both in life and in music, but we all connect very intensely."
Luca: "Yes, for me it’s important to meet people in real life to share your music and ideas with. That’s what happened with Golin and Buga for example, we all met at parties and started to share from there. This feeling of support and mutual presence are healthy and I think it helps all of us even music wise. After all, we are all making our own music but we feel close somehow."
What’s your balance between DJ-ing and making beats / playing live? Do you prefer one over the other?
Gavin: "I have always seen myself more as a creator than a performer. For this reason, I decided not to play as much DJ-sets or live sets as before. If I feel the need to be more social in my creative process, so I try to work for vocalists and rappers more. I do like to make mixes for radio shows occasionally."
Luca: "Both are cool for me. Although, I feel I haven’t found my way to properly express myself performing live yet. I like this part of “risk” when I’m DJ-ing. The fact to adapt myself constantly during my sets brings a kind of tension that makes me connected to the audience. Something “live” happens. So I want to feel this if I should perform my own music. That’s what I’m working on these days."
You guys are also throwing events. So far there was a successful Crisis party in June. What are the plans from here?
Luca: "Yes, organizing parties is super stimulating for us. We host events when we feel it’s consistent with something like a release of ours, for instance. As Gavin said, things are always changing, so let’s see if we still feel like doing more of that in the near future."
Gavin: "Yes, like Golin's release party, for example. In my opinion that was the best party of 2017."
Anything else in the pipeline we need to know about?
Luca: "Next big thing is DJ Charme’s new album coming in april. Also Golin will be playing some gigs in Belgium and abroad in the next months."
Gavin: "It’s true. I have been working on a new album, which will be released on Midlife early April. The first single 'Beauty Dies Before Me' (click to listen) is out now, and I feel it is being well recieved. After having released my latest albums on AMEN and Slam City Jams, it was time to come back home. Here, I can really tell my story without compromises. The whole team is going hard; this is only the start."
Buy ‘Golin - Momo EP’ on Midlife right here.