'Discophilia Belgica' is a wonderful collection of next-door-disco and local spacemusic from Belgium made between 1975 and 1987. It was released last week on SDBAN records and dives into a scene of Belgian music that before today was rather undiscovered. It was probably not even a scene. In fact, most of the bands on the compilation have probably never performed live.
The 30 tracks on the compilation are the result of a decade of crate digging in flea markets, charity shops, and vinyl trades. Responsible for all this cherry picking are full-time crate diggers Dutchman Rard Laudy and Belgian Gerd de Wilde also known by their monikers Loud E & The Wild. We had a chat with both of them about Discophilia Belgica, on a Monday evening in Molenbeek at Gerd’s place with Rard on speakerphone.
Hi Gerd, Rard, you specifically don’t want to promote this compilation as a reflection of an actual scene. Can you explain why?
Gerd: Probably there was some kind of a scene, there were plenty of artists who touched the disco genre in Belgium such as Telex or Two man sound, but this compilation does not want to try to be a testimony of that. The time frame 1975 till 1987 is just random because that’s when the oldest and youngest record on the compilation were made. These are all tracks that were made in Belgium and that we believe deserve to be heard, but to say this was an actual scene is a statement we don’t feel entitled to make.
Can you tell us a bit more about the artists on the compilation?
Rard: Most of the artists were all people who were working during the week, pretty ordinary folk. The times were rough back in the seventies and eighties and weekend was the time to recharge the batteries, to go dancing to music and enjoy themselves. Another pivotal fact is that for the first time people were able to buy gear and set up a studio at home. So there was an abundance of small studios, where people could make music without the support of a big record company. They often just made single tracks instead of full albums. These were easy to produce, with plenty of pressing plants all over the country.
Gerd: That’s probably the common thread here: we compiled a lot of 45 singles that were mostly pressed in small quantities. Some of the records were not even meant to be listened to as such. The Joymaker by Patrik for example is a test record for a shop that sold electronic hardware and synthesizers. Dj Bert & Eagle was kind of like a joke by a few producers in a studio, just to pass time. And Venus was a band that was touring with aerobics shows all over the country and on television.
Rard: A few of the artists did play concerts though. Roland Delys for example sure has done quite some gigs. The region where he is from, Verviers, was known for a good network of small stages, clubs, bars, outdoor events, … where artists like Roland would perform with different bands. Some of them would even try their luck in Holland or Germany. Touring would make some easy money, although they weren’t very famous.
Gerd: It would be super interesting to dive deeper into some of these stories.
Rard: It already took us so long to make this compilation, imagine we would have also written a book about it, it would have taken us until 2025.
Explain us a bit how long it took to prepare the compilation?
Gerd: About two years from the moment we had our longlist ready.
Rard: It’s a long process indeed. First of all you need to find out who it is you need permission from. It can takes months to find the owners of the rights. That’s what SDBAN Records did for us.
Gerd: It’s so nice but also pretty weird to see it being released now, we had to wait two years, it already feels like old to me.
Rard: What struck me is that not all of them were in it for the same reasons. Some of the artists or producers were very professional and mostly in it for the money. To deal with them is pretty easy but rather business-driven. While an the other side of the spectrum you have quite a lot of artists who were only in it for the music, very artistically and experimental. They are stunned that 30 years later we are giving their music a second life. They just ask for a few copies of the compilation and that’s it.
Who came up with the idea to make this compilation?
Gerd: Ten years ago I already wanted to make a compilation about Belgian funk, but the project ran aground on administration and licensing issues. But my research into Belgian music history did continue and I met a few key players such as Ralph Benatar, John Sluzny, Alan Ward, Marc Moulin’s manager, Dan Lacksman, André Brasseur, … over the years. When SDBAN released their Funky Chicken compilation in 2014 I sent over my regards to label boss Stefaan Vandenberghe and told him that if ever he wanted to do a compilation on Belgian disco music, I would be all ears. His answer was positive so I called Rard and the result is what you hold in your hands.
Rard, as a Dutchman, what is your relationship to Belgian music?
Rard: I was raised in in the Dutch province of Limburg and my parents used to take me to a lot of festivals when I was a kid. My parents were friends with with Pinkpop organiser Jan Smeets who also was the manager of Urbanus and I remember seeing bands such as TC Matic at young age. When I started digging for records I often went to Belgium where digging was much nicer than in The Netherlands. Belgian records and mostly the ones that were not too professional, made in the outside of a scene, still happen to be my favorite finds.
Get the compilation in your favorite record store or on the website of SDBAN Records.
Read our Collectors interview with Gerd de Wilde.