The story behind Champion Sound’s unexpected samples, by Harde Smart


Traditional Flemish and Dutch songs from the 60s-80s are hardly something that can be considered ‘cool’ in today’s electronic music scene. But, then again, Harde Smart really doesn’t care about what people think. This eclectic Ghent-based duo has made countless mixtapes with hard-to-find tracks we can guarantee that you won’t know – but we bet your uncle and aunt do. Most of the tunes are unavailable anywhere else on the internet, which is quite remarkable given the fact that these are sometimes engraved in the collective memory of our culture.

“It is what it is. We dig for what we think is good music, just as so many other vinyl freaks do. We just happen to have arrived in an era wherein we focus on the crates with traditional Dutch spoken music from the 60s, 70s and 80s.”, explain Richy & Micha from Harde Smart. “Apart from the ninety percent utter crap tunes we come across, we find enough raw breaks, dope sounds and crazy, spaced-out wordplay to combine and chop up the best parts for our mixtape series”.

“We really have the feeling that we're exploring an undiscovered world, from a hip hop perspective. We're contributing to the scene by introducing all this music to a whole new audience. That's what really motivates us in the course of making our mixtapes. Generation after generation has been ignoring this music and overlooking a big, delicious plate of sample food. Every time we are out there digging, it feels like looking for a needle in a haystack. What if we've reached the bottom already? Until then we try to push it to a whole new level”. That’s some next level real talk if you ask us.

In order to spice things up on the next Champion Sound beat battle (read our recent interview with the promoters in order to learn more about this amazing initiative here, red.), taking place on February 25 in Trix (Antwerp), the sixteen contestants have to work with samples, carefully selected by Harde Smart. Each cut has its own story, which is honestly something a lot more exciting than the millionth Brandy or Aaliyah sample in a Soundcloud beat. 

Let’s go over the selection together, shall we?

Magenta (Magenta, 1974) - Het Onzichtbare Oog

“We found this self-titled album in a second hand record shop in Ghent. Magenta was a band from the Antwerp area in the 70s and released two records. Although Magenta was never able to establish a solid career, they were considered very refreshing with a combination of progressive rock and Belgian chanson (aka 'Kleinkunst'). We like to refer to Magenta as the ‘Belgian Eagles’. In terms of making beats, this track has it all; a nice break with clean drum sounds, a bassline and some trippy soundscapes. Lots of other good tracks on this album. Just listen to it if you can get your hands on a copy.”

Jacques Brel (Jef, 1964) – Au Suivant

“Jacques Brel needs no introduction. I grew up with this, so shout out to all the moms playing quality tunes at home. This track may sound simple, but it goes pretty deep. I sampled this myself in the 90s but really curious how this next generation will handle it. Next!”

Wim De Craene (Brussel, 1973) – Rozane

“This album is hard to find on vinyl, nevertheless we copped it at a flea market in Antwerp. The song Rozane is a real anthem in the history of Belgian music, so it will sound familiar to a lot of you. Although it's not the most obvious choice for a beatmaking contest, we just want to hear how the producers are going to flip that smooth guitar groove that goes throughout the track.”

Jimmy Frey (Jimmy Frey, 1970) – Kniel

“Jimmy Frey is a famous Belgian crooner known for classic cult songs like Rozen voor Sandra or Saragossa. But in 1970 he released his self-titled album with the Belgian soul duo Jess & James and their JJ Band. These Portuguese brothers moved to Belgium when they were kids and got inspired by soul music in the 60s, resulting in one hell of a band. They made a couple of albums in the late 60s and early 70s, one of them with the song Changing Face as sampled by OC for his track Jewelz. Listen to Jimmy Frey sounding like a boss on this raw, slow epical break.”

André Van der Veken (Maar zo is't, 1978) – Jimmy

“We discovered this one in a second hand record shop in Antwerp. Just check out the badass sleeve which is a copy of the singer's ID. It reminded us of Ol' Dirty Bastard's album cover for his first solo album (Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version). Luckily enough the song called “Jimmy” contains a hard-hitting-90s-hip-hop-break. There's some other good stuff on it and Placebo-drummer Jean-Pierre Onraed is taking care of some of the drum parts. Back home, we googled André Van der Veken and the only info we could find was his file in the white pages. He still lives in the same house in the same street in Ninove as he did in 1978. On top of that, via Andy Free we found out that he is the brain behind the old school disco classic ‘Disco Train’ by Dance Reaction.”

The Champion Sound Beat Battle will take place in Trix (Antwerp) on Saturday, February 25. All information and tickets can be on the Facebook event page.

*Pictures by Tini Cleemput

Harde Smart