This is real gangsta shit, pure drive-by. You can front on this. You can drive through the hood, slowly, with the speakers blaring and the windows rolled down.
Interview Koen Galle (translated by Jill Mathieu)
Photographs Thomas Sweertvaegher
While Richard De Muijnck places Will Tura’s song ‘Voorbij’ on the record player, his imagination is taking wild leaps. “This is real gangsta shit, pure drive-by. You can front on this. You can drive through the hood, slowly, with the speakers blaring and the windows rolled down. This is pure Wu Tang!” His enthusiasm is rather endearing, yet, truth be told: the song does sound pretty bad-ass. De Muijnck realised the potential of Dutch-spoken music a few years ago, when on a trip that had everything to do with mushroom picking (yes, that kind) and music by Boudewijn De Groot. That day resulted in a major hangover and the idea to create a mixtape containing only Dutch songs, a compilation that was to be called Harde Smart. Meanwhile we’ve ran out of fingers to count the sequels, with number twelve having been released just recently.
There’s plenty more where that came from, luckily. Every week, De Muijnck digs up new discoveries on his round of Ghent’s flea markets and record stores. Michy, his partner in crime, does the trek up to the Netherlands every month to scavenge for Dutch folk, funk and soul. “In the end, it’s music from these parts just as well, even though it’s been overlooked for so many years”, De Muijnck says. “In a way, it doesn’t really make sense to scour every inch of Belgium in search of American imports, while there was so much good stuff made here, too. And all those records are dirt cheap. I really get a kick out of finding those quaint records and spot-on samples.”
In addition to the mixtapes, a very first Harde Smart vinyl compilation is about to be released. De Muijnck has laboured at this project for the past two years and oozes pride over its imminent existence. He was inspired by the legendary Breakbeat Lou’s Ultimate Beats & Breaks compilations, a series that consists of 25 episodes and which from 1986 to 1991 strung together impressive drum breaks from the 60s, 70s and 80s. A whole generation of hip-hop producers have fed off this series. De Muijnck hopes to create similar waves with his own selection. “I want to reach a larger audience and show them what awesomeness has been made here. Who knows, other countries might even get excited about Dutch-spoken music. That’s why we’re writing the liner notes in English.”
De Muijnck feeds the needle another Harde Smart classic. A guitar shreds its way through the speakers, playing leapfrog with a deafening beat. Anderhalve Onsje Weed by Bert De Coninck & Fran sounds like something by Dj Premier, RZA of MF Doom. For De Muijnck, hip-hop is where it all started, back in the 80s. He would listen to The Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill so often, his mother was relieved when the band came out with a successor. Same goes for A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, which he listened to while graffiti’ing his bedroom walls — hence the faint coat of paint on the vinyl. Clearly, De Muijnck’s inclination for redecorating by means of a spray can doesn’t always do justice to his collection. “In 1995, I couldn’t buy records for a whole year. I had a major fine to pay after I’d been caught graphing illegally. That year is still a visible hiatus in my collection. Back then, I was known as DHL, a tag I used both for graphs and for DJ sets. In the end, I didn’t dare take on any more DJ gigs, for fear of being caught for my acts of vandalism. On the other hand, music was a much safer hobby. At least when I was playing records, I wasn’t getting into any trouble.”
As part of the NRC hip-hop collective, next to Studio Brussel host Gus, 15-year-old De Muijnck ended up on the Democrazy stage in Ghent. At the end of the 90s, he laid the ground work for launching the Brick9000 label, which released about 15 records, mostly maxis with instrumentals. It was tough, though. “We’d designed these gorgeous quadri-colour print sleeves, along with stickers, T-shirts, … The works. We had ideas by the hundreds. For instance, we made a soundtrack for a comic. You had to read it at the speed of 37 seconds per page. We were all caught up into it and forgot to think about sales. The result was a a financial hangover and a stock of stuff so inexhaustible I’m still handing out T-shirts to just about anyone. I don’t regret it, though, it’s taught me a lot.”
One of these Brique9000 records contains a Jacques Brel sample, a small reminder that De Muijnck’s love of local talent has been present since day one. The tricks and routines he picked up as a DJ in the 90s have proved handy in cutting folk breaks into mixtapes. Next to hip-hop, De Muijnck cultivated a love of funk, soul and jazz — much of which has served as a basis for his hip-hop heroes. After that, he immersed himself in reggae and dub, b-boy electro and dubstep. One constant remains throughout the years, though: drum breaks. The man knows his shit. In fact, if you’d ever wondered whose fast fingers were responsible for Vicky & Marcel’s set at Kamping Kitsch, look no further.
De Muijnck works as a technical operator at Ghent’s Kinepolis cinema, a job which gives him the security needed to spend every free minute on music. He lives in a cosy flat with his girl and their two children, Miles and Otis. Miles will be spinning records at Charlatan next week and spends many an hour practicing on a DJ booth that’s been improvised on an ironing board. “If you think Miles is into Justin Bieber, think again. He really likes everything from the 80s. Michael Jackson, Carly Simon… Last Summer, he spun a few records at the Vlasmarkt square during the Gentse Feesten. I was so proud I had to swallow a few tears.”
Name: Richard De Muijnck | Occupation: Technical support Kinepolis | Age: 41 | Where: Ghent | #records: +- 10000 | Genres: Hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, disco, boogie, electro, Miami bass, dubstep, jungle, French, Harde Smart… | DJ aliases: No Sleep Richy | Favourite record store: Music Mania & Vinyl Kitchen Ghent, flea markets | Equipment: 2x Technics SL1210mkII, Pioneer DJM800, Tannoy reveal active studio monitor & Proel 400 active speaker | Classification: by genre / label and alphabetically | First ever record: Walter Murphy - Themes From E.T. | Digitized: very large part, for edits and Serato usage | Collection listed on Discogs.com: nope, need an intern | Favourite record sleeve: the Futura2000 design for the back cover of 5 maxis on Celluloid who form a whole when spread out