Gratts

Where does your creativity and passion for music originate from?

As with most people, my passion for music started in my early teens. When I was 10, a kid in the early 90s, I was heavily into those Top Hits and Hit Box compilations, buying the cassettes first until CDs took over. While a lot of the music on there was pretty trashy Eurobeat, each of them would also have a place for tracks like “The Bomb” by Bucketheads or “Techno Cat” by Tom Wilson.

At the time, I had no idea that these were house or techno tunes, but already I was hooked on more repetitive and quirky tracks. It wasn’t until around ’98, via a classmate’s older brother, that I first got exposed to electronic music properly – acts like Coldcut, The Prodigy, Orbital, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and the like. I was blown away. Where did these sounds come from? ’99 Orbital album “The Middle Of Nowhere” and Luke Slater’s electro album “Wireless” were portals into new dimensions. I didn’t understand the music, but decided I wouldn’t stop listening until I did. I must have heard those albums a 1000 times and then it clicked.

Just after that came the discovery of jungle / drum ‘n bass. I can still feel the the sheer excitement of those fast breakbeats and those deep basslines, which still excite me to this day.

I can safely say that for the last 20 years, my life has been all about music. It’s my obsession but it’s what keeps me sane at the same time. Talking about creativity, my mother has always written stories, and so have I – I studied journalism. But
music still moves me the most.

After dj’ing and becoming a little more patient, I moved onto the technical side of it. I first opened a sequencer in around 2000 (Sony Acid at the time) and fucked around a little bit. However, I was too restless to to put the time in, I was too busy playing records and trying to understand the world.

What motivates you to create music?

Although I’ve released quite a few bits of music here and there, I would never actually call myself a producer. “An ideas man”, maybe, to quote a certain Aussie movie.
Most of my output has happened through collaboration. Hence a plethora of aliases! I do hope to have the chance to invest more time and effort into some strong solo material at some point though, there’s a fair few tracks there but they’re safely stored on my hard-drive for now.

When it comes to making music, I’m very much result driven. Unfortunately the time doesn’t allow me to endless noodling around in the studio to try a million things.  I do hope I’ll be able to jam a bit more at some point and enjoy being in the moment. The collaboration between my friend Toby Tobias and I happened exactly like that. Just a moment in time in his London studio and some machines.

Even more so I like to think outside the box, there are no rules when it comes to music creation – genres, sounds, anything can work as long as it works for me. The gear doesn’t matter. Ideas come first. You can do anything with pretty much anything.

However, there are a lot of projects and a lot of things happening. There’s Ca$hminus, mine and my partner’s project which turned into a label for our own music as well as friends music too. There’s Icarus Traxx, a project with a friend from Sweden and two vocalists. There was a cheeky Fuifnummers release on OYE, which wasn’t my own music, just edits so I didn’t want to put my name on it, you know? There’s Het Collectief Deruyter aka De Ambassade, my project with my Belgian pal Nicolas. When I moved to Berlin and started promoting parties, I didn’t have a name to use, so I used De Ambassade for that. I even have a few dj alter egos, but I’ll spare you the details.

So it does get a bit complicated sometimes, but at the same time I realize there is a lot of crossover. There’s a little bit of me in all of those things. My partner sometimes calls me a busy body. After which I started a new digital label called exactly that. In all honesty, it’s probably a curse and a blessing in disguise using all those different names. It might
have been better for my profile if I’d put the same stamp on everything but I like this hodgepodge of projects.

When and why did you start creating parties?

The first parties I was involved with back in my home town Leuven in Belgium were called Touché in the early noughties. I’d just discovered house music and would go out raving at local club Silo, where the Food parties took place. I’d sneak out and go and see DJ Sneak and the likes, which blew me away. They were working records and I was intrigued by what was coming out of the speakers. There was still a big element of mystery about it back then. There was no Boiler Room and Youtube dj’ing. I wanted to know how they did what they did, and began spending every moment trying
to figure it out. I already had a small record collection at the time, mostly d&b, but quickly started collecting other things. The sales at Wally’s Groove World were big deal. I would skip classes and go and buy piles of records. Some of which I still play today.

The Touché started throwing events just around the time Food Club called it quits. They were a lovely bunch of older guys (I was 17 and they were a good 10 years older) and one day they got in touch and asked if I wanted to be a resident and help them putting on the nights. Then came Moodclub, of which I was a part for a long time.

When I moved to Berlin six years ago, I didn’t have any plan (you can take that quite literally). Much like most people who move here, I think. Lost souls. But after a while it started itching again to bring people together. The reason I started to create parties has always been the same: to meet people, have a chat, share music, have a good time. It’s a party, you know. It still makes me happy to get a party going. I can’t help it. Although it’s quite different now that I have a one and a half year old to take care of the next day (apart from myself!).

Does creativity ever help with your mental health?

Absolutely. Creativity helps me keep my generally very busy brain focused. I love the feeling of losing track of time when I’m concentrated; music sucks me in like that. Suddenly it’s three hours later and you feel like you’ve been on a different planet. A better place. Even the ancient Greeks divided time between chronos and kairos. The former was how they described the quantitative, real time while the latter meant moments of qualitative nature.

How does making music/djing/putting on parties make you feel? what do you personally get out of it?

To create moments of escape and happiness for myself and others. A bit of healthy hedonism, I suppose. Escape the mundane, everyday life. Ah, being a promoter – surely the most glamourous of all jobs, isn’t it? I still have the same amount of money in the bank as I had when I started (I wish that was funny). Does that make it better or worse than gambling? At least it’s kept me busy. Haha.

Could you share some of the events you’ve organised?

After I was old enough to take dj’ing out of my bedroom, I started throwing parties. Rarely alone, mostly as a part of a crew with others. Some of the nights were successful, some of them quite the opposite. Some of them were fun, some were crap.

Apart from electronic music, I’ve organized concerts in bars all over Brussels for a few years, from 2009. I would transport the rig in my Citroën station car twice a week too, but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Below, I’ve gone back and sought out 20 remarkable events (whether good or bad). Quite a good laugh to go through some old memories I’d nearly forgotten about. I also attempted to find the original artwork.

Here goes, in chronological order (scroll down for all the artwork):

1
Oct 22nd, 2003: Babysitting (Rumba & Co, Leuven)
I think this was the first ever “real” party I promoted, with two friends. Rumba & Co was a local disco in the center of my home town Leuven where I must have played hundreds of times throughout the years. Musically, our crew agreed to have a varied lineup with a range of djs playing different genres: house, techno, electro and (nu-)breaks. It’s me on the artwork actually, holding a doll. Now I have a real baby. The live vox didn’t work out because the mixer didn’t have a mic in.

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2
April 29th 2004: Touché Keeps On Moving (Esperanca, Leuven)
Leuven was a vibrant student town during the week, but the music was rarely of importance. During the weekend, you had clubs like Silo pushing proper house and techno music. Being a local, I was in the middle of these two worlds: I studied there but also went clubbing during the weekend. That’s why I we started promoting house music on weekdays. This little party took place at Esperanca, a small room on the first floor of Alegria, a bar where I played some of my first dj-sets. Later on a few other people understood that there was a market for electronic music during the week and other initiatives popped up.

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3
Oct 15th 2004: The Carnival (Silo, Leuven)
On my birthday, 15 years ago, a few friends and I threw a queer night at Silo. We did two editions of it and that was all.

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4
Dec 2nd 2005: Touché with Diz & John Larner (Silo, Leuven)
You may know Diz, together with Joshua, as Iz & Diz. John Larner was a legendary US midwest rave dj known as Cyberjive. A great house night at Silo. Ben & Nolle were the other residents of Touché. We did regular parties with the likes of Inland Knights, Jamie Thinnes, etc. At some point, Panhandle’s Records’ Jonéné from SF was in town. I can’t remember where the party took place, but I remember we had to leave as the venue was shut down. A crew of about 40 punters walked around town, trying to find a spot to continue the night. We ended up at Café Giraffe on the old market square, playing records on a single belt driven turntable, our back to the crowd.

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5
March 11th 2006: Night-Live Sessions with Red D (Rumba & Co, Leuven)
The second club night we did with the radio show I hosted on local Radio Scorpio. We invited We Play House Recordings’ Red D from Ghent / Deinze for what I believe was his very first gig in town.

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6
Nov 17 2007 – Tyree Cooper (Café Apero, Leuven)
For Apero’s 19th birthday, we booked house music legend Tyree in this 100 pax capacity room. Until the very night itself, one of the owners refused to believe the real Tyree would actually turn up. But he did and he killed it, giving lots of cool mic intermezzos too.

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7
March 13th 2008 – Moodclub with Kenny Hawkes (Silo, Leuven)
Moodclub were a big part of my time in Leuven before leaving to Brussels. My friend Pierre De La Riviere was the brains behind it and asked me to become a resident and co-booker. They usually took place on Thursday night, again aiming to bring quality underground sounds to the student population. But a lot of older punters always showed up for a dance as well. For this one, we invited house music royalty Kenny Hawkes (RIP). We all ended up at some horrible student afterparty on the other side of the harbour. Pierre and I kicked off the label Moodclub Music label later as well.

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8
Nov 14th 2009 – clubSTUK with San Soda (STUK, Leuven)
STUK was the arts center where our local Radio Scorpio eventually found its permanent location. The bar manager at the time, Thomas, who was a regular at the Moodclub nights, asked if we could curate nights there. This was one of the first ones we did.

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9
Sept 15th 2011: Club Brussel presents Antal (Bonnefooi, Brussels)
This was just before ensemble started and Kong and I were hosting nights here and there in Brussels in small venues. Antal drove all the way from Amsterdam to Brussels with stacks of records for this one. He and a friend slept in Kong’s bed. Opposite the club. With Kong. Our friend Jazzneversleeps from Brussels was responsible for the cool artwork.

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10
October 25th 2012 – Kroketten & Kutdisco (Doornroosje, Nijmegen)
As a part of an artist residence in Nijmegen, Holland under our guise Het Collectief Deruyter, San Soda and I threw a party where all djs (Nosedrip, Red D, etc) brought self made croquettes. The crowd then decided who made the best ones. Also included: poetry readings and an art performance by Steven De Peven aka Awanto 3. This became the start of a series of events, of which also “Kroketten & Kuthouse” were a part.

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11
Dec 14th 2012 : ensemble avec Xosar (live) et Moomin (Windows, Brussels)
Due to noise complaints our original venue Beursschouwburg forced us to change location very last minute. My ensemble partner Kong couldn’t make it that night because of work. Just before giving up, we managed to convince the owner of small underground (literally) hideout Windows to let us host the party there. The sound system we rented was massive, way too big for the space. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when we dragged it in. But the combo of intimate basement with massive rig proved to be amazing and it was one of our most fun nights.

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12
March 2nd 2014 – ensemble presents Dimensions Launch Party (Fuse, Brussels)
For this collab with Dimensions Festival, we booked Seven Davis Jr. just before he broke through. lost quite some money. A few weeks after, he was everywhere. Boo Williams was also on the bill. We also ended up inviting Seven over for an in store at OYE in Prenz’lberg around the same time. It was jam packed.

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13
Oct 4th, 2014 – AUTUMN BREAK 2014 with Andras Fox (About Blank, Berlin)
Andras Fox came over for this bash in the Blank Lobby. The Get Deep gang hosted a mini second room upstairs (end of the corridor, left hand side) that’s normally in use as a backstage area. They invited Jan Brauer (Brandt Brauer Frick) to jam along and things got pretty epic.

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14
Dec 14th 2014 – Beyond The Clouds VS Deep In House (Chalet, Berlin)
Beyond The Clouds were the name of my house nights at Chalet. Later my friend Tom Lally joined in. We booked artists like Charles Webster, Karizma, Mike Huckaby, Jane Fitz, Toby Tobias, Telephones, J.G. Wilkes and Rick Wade to Berlin. For this night we invited the Deep In House crew to Berlin for the first time, with whom we worked in Brussels a lot. (They’re now running the amazing C12 space in Brussels.)

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15
May 16th, 2015: The Sound Of Belgium with Sven van Hees & Eric Powa B (Renate, Berlin)
Invited some Belgian legends to play at Renate after the screening of this ace documentary at ELSE. Eric Powa B (RIP) and Sven Van Hees both played super well.
Me in 2015: “When was the last time you played in Berlin Sven?” Sven Van Hees: “Hmmm, at the Love Parade in 1992 I guess. Here’s a pic of Sven Väth dancing in front of the booth while I was dj’ing.”

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16
June 25th 2015: A Thursday with Jamie 3:26 (Berghain Kantine, Berlin)
Part of the “A Thursday with” series. This was a collab with the Lustgarten mates. It was pretty wild. Jamie wouldn’t leave to get his flight, drinking tequila until I literally had to push him into a cab. A few weeks later, we invited Telephones & Wolf Müller at Griessmuehle. Not a bad lineup for a Thursday, right?

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17
July 16th 2015: A Thursday with Andras & Oscar (live) (Sameheads, Berlin)
Another Donnerstag. This time a live appearance Andras Fox & Oscar Key Sung, a little while after they released their amazing debut ‘Cafe Romantica’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Sameheads basement as buzzing as that night.

18
March 19th, 2016: Belgians in a Basement with Bafana & Tritri (Die Apotheken Bar, Berlin)
Forgot to put the date on the artwork. No one came.

19
July 29th 2017: De Ambassade invites Kwaitour w/ DJ Okapi (OHM, Berlin)
South African music all night long at OHM Berlin, with djs Pierre-Estienne, Okapi and Paul Waxon. One of the best musical nights I’ve had. Hunee and Jamie Tiller came down to listen. The last Kwaitour night with Lakuti last summer was also killer.

20
May 8th 2019: Alex From Tokyo & Gratts all Night Long (Farbfernseher, Berlin)
Farbfernseher will always hold a very special place in my heart. It’s where I played my very first Berlin gig ever (with the We Play House gang), when San Soda and I ended up dj’ing downstairs in the cloakroom for hours, with people banging the ceiling. I later promoted lots of events in this little neighbourhood venue on Skalitzer. Sadly it closed down recently – luckily Eluize and I were able to play a set on the very last day of its opening. This Saturday night with my friend Alex From Tokyo was the last night I promoted there.

What was the last party you put on?
The last party I hosted was at Zur Klappe, a stones throw away from our house. It was just after my 35th birthday so I ended up inviting loads of friends over into this former public toilet slash cruising spot. Emma and I played under our Ca$hminus guise and we invited Pletnev from Vilnius over. It was loads of fun and got a bit messy.

 

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– Tristan Jong AKA Gratts

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