Long gone are the days where people said drum & bass was dead. Surely, hypes come and go, but if there has been one constant factor throughout the breakbeat scene in Belgium in the last 2 decades, it’s Hans Machiels aka DJ Murdock. This legend needs no introduction, but in case you have been out of touch or you happen to take a sudden interest in fast paced breakbeats these days: he is the man behind those Rampage posters you see all over the country. For eight years straight, this party has been what you can call a massive audio-visual drum & bass orgy. Taking place for he fourth time in one of Belgium’s biggest concert venues, Antwerp's Sportpaleis – where normally only Drake or Beyoncé set foot – this party has in effect become the biggest event of its kind in the whole wide world. That alone should be a reason big enough to hit Machiels up for a lil chat.
Let’s start at the beginning: when did you host the first Rampage night and how did it grow from there?
"The first night took place at Trix, in 2009. It had Sub Focus and Danny Byrd headlining, and gathered about a 1000 people for a mix of all things drum bass. Highlights after that include the Netsky album release party, the Hospitality collaboration and the double weekender with Chase & Status at Petrol and DJ Marky at Trix."
Filling up the Sportpaleis with 15.000 ravers is something not many promoters can do - especially considering you’re not booking massive international acts. I’m sure a lot of people cannot believe that's even possible. So, do tell us, how is that possible?
"First of all, we do have massive international acts. The funny thing is that people outside of the drum & bass and dubstep scene are just not aware of how massive these acts really are. Regular promotors like big festivals, and the agents that are selling them headliners, are still stuck on the same artists that have been doing the rounds for years and might be attractive in a mainstream situation, but don’t really interest the young drum & bass and dubstep crowd. At Rampage, we combine the hot new guys with classic, big headliners (Chase & Status, Modestep, Sub Focus) and the next big things. For example, we had Sigma headline the event two years ago and look where they are now! This year some of the main acts on the bill are surely Noisia, with their Outer Edges show, Modestep, Mefjus and Doctor P. On the other hand, the fact that it’s such a big gathering of like-minded people has proven to be a major draw, and the arena-factor cannot be overestimated either. There is just something goosebumps-inducing about being surrounded by this many people that share the same vibe."
Right now, as far as I know, no other party, anywhere in the world, comes even close to 15.000 people.
Are you really the biggest drum & bass and dubstep event in the world? What are your criteria and who are your closest competitors?
"We always say we are the biggest drum & bass and dubstep party in the world, as 'event' is a bit too general, and there’s a big summer festival in the Czech Republic (Let It Roll) that runs for three days, across six stages and draws over 20.000 people. We only have one stage, on one night and it’s indoor, which constitutes a party, not a festival. Four years ago, UKF hosted a big night at Alexandra Palace in London, drawing 10.000 or so people, and the Pirate Station events in Russia used to be huge as well, but they have been downscaled a lot in recent years. Right now, as far as I know, no other party, anywhere in the world, comes even close to 15.000 people."
Many have claimed that drum & bass has died a couple of times already in the past decades. We guess Rampage proves them wrong?
"All those people are usually people in music journalism that need something new to write about every six months. The amount of new young people that constantly flood into the bass music scene don’t care about those people’s opinions, and don’t read the newspapers and magazines they write for. Drum & bass and dubstep have each had their own highlights in terms of mainstream success and underground creativity over the past decade(s). To some people, a peak in commercial success is a highlight, while other consider it to be the death of the music - and vice versa. I think it’s fair to say that both drum & bass and dubstep have matured over the past years, in a way that they both now have a somewhat formulaic backbone that make it instantly recognisable, similar to what has happened to e.g. techno decades ago."
Do you still get many seasoned junglists over?
"In general, the average age at the event is a bit higher than at most other drum & bass parties, and that is because a bunch of people that don’t go out as much as they’re used to, like to come out once again for a night like Rampage. However, the great majority is 18 and 19 years old. Last year, when we had Caspa & Rusko and Roni Size & his Full Cycle crew on the lineup, you could tell some people came out especially for them."
Belgian ravers aside, where do the other visitors come from?
"Most of the foreigners came from our neighbouring countries: Netherlands, France, Germany and the U.K. Other high numbers come from Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Romania and Estonia. But there are also tickets sold in the USA, Brazil, The Emirates, Canada, New-Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore and more!"
What has to be the craziest Rampage story you can tell us after all these years of experience?
"Well, as you can imagine, at parties there’s a kind of a code, like ‘what happens at Rampage, stays at Rampage’. That being said, we had a guest DJ over at one of the earlier events that got so drunk during and after his set, he thought it would be great fun to sling a huge chunk of rock through the front window of the artist hotel. Luckily he was dissuaded just in time! Getting the notoriously shy James from KOAN Sound a birthday cake and then having him stagedive was pretty exceptional too. But the most incredible story has to be about the two highly spaced out lovebirds getting at it during the party -XXX-style- high in the stands at Sportpaleis. They were so out of it and caught up in their love making, they didn’t notice people filming them and security nudging them. Days later it made the papers in France, Spain, Portugal, U.K. and too many more countries to mention."
When you host parties at Sportpaleis, what could possibly be the next step for a promoter like you?
"There doesn’t need to be a next step. Most things happen organically, like the size Rampage has these days. There is still a lot we can do with Rampage that hasn’t been done yet and I’m working on making that happen. I don’t like to talk about it before it actually happens, but one thing that is really looking great is the Rampage compilation album with about ten exclusive tracks by the likes of Doctor P, Mind Vortex, Macky Gee, Funtcase, SaSaSaS, James Marvel, Hypoxia, Doctrine and myself, and lots of other goodies, set to drop sometime in January."
Last but not least: are there any scoops you can give us?
"Yep! We’ve already announced that Mind Vortex, Loadstar and DC Breaks are playing at Rampage this year, and I can now tell you that they will be playing a three-way b2b2b set with Daxta MC on the mic. It’s a world-exclusive RAM Records showcase that might never happen again after February 18!"
Great news! Expect us on the front row. Junglist Massive!
Rampage takes place at Sportpaleis Antwerpen on February 18. All info and tickets can be found here.
Full lineup: NOISIA (Outer Edges) + A.M.C. + ANDROMEDIK + DC BREAKS + DJ GUV + DOCTOR P + DOCTRINE + EPTIC + FEINT + FOX STEVENSON + FUNTCASE + GENTLEMEN'S CLUB ft 50 CARROT, COFFI & SOLOMAN + HYPOXIA + JAMES MARVEL + LOADSTAR + MC MOTA + MEFJUS + MIND VORTEX + MODESTEP (dj-set) + MURDOCK + SASASAS ft MACKY GEE & DJ PHANTASY, SKIBADEE, HARRY SHOTTA, SHABBA D, STORMIN + T & SUGAH
Header by Fille Roelants
Pictures in article by Philippe Wuyts