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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

Shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail

Looks like this one’s here to stay.

Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs Diederik Decroix

Meet Pim Thomas, CEO of Crevette Records for about eight months now. His cosy shop is just a stone’s throw from the famous Vossenplein in Brussel’s Marolles neighbourhood. Having been a DJ at the Fuse for years, this is Pim’s home turf, blending your regular crate-diggers with the hood’s own characters. Seated next to me at the bar is an octogenarian who could easily be mistaken for Leonard Cohen: smart suit and a matching hat. He comes here every day for a cup of coffee after his stroll through the flea market and usually goes home with a record.

The Crevette Records logo, designed by tattoo artist Lea Nahon.

To Pim, his relationship with the neighbourhood is very important. Apart from DJs, a lot of passers-by pop in, attracted by the genres that branch out far beyond electro. You’ll find disco here, but also world music and African grooves — not that much of a stretch, considering many DJs sample loops and grooves from a wide array of genres. To get the mix just right, Pim works with six people who each specialise in one genre, meaning Crevette Records has a steady supply of high quality on the shelves.

Piling the stacks higher and higher
When setting up his store, Pim laid out the design based on what he knew from the many record stores he’d visited both here and abroad, looking for that one tasty track. A practical mind has clearly been at work here. Pim’s main concern is that customers can listen to every record, hence the four Technics pick-ups with headphones at your service. The fact that there’s a bar mostly has to do with diggers roaming in two’s: having some drinks provides the better half with entertainment as well. Nice details: there’s a coat hanger so you can comfortably put your stuff away and be unencumbered while going through the stacks.

When we were first here, just after the shop had opened its doors, the back room featured a cosy bar and reading room. While the bar is still there, the sofa and the coffee table have had to move due to more vinyl stacking up. Thanks to some smart reshuffling, the number of records is about three times as high today as it was just eight short months ago. That’s about the time it’s taken Crevette Records to became a fixture in the Brussels vinyl scene. Looks like this one’s here to stay.

First up: Vitesse
Crevette Records’ first release has hit the shelves on May 13th. Next to being one of the shop’s trusted selectors, Guillaume Kohn is a DJ and a close friend of Pim’s. Together with Pieter Polspoel, Guillaume has started Vitesse, a project that had them secretly working on some tunes. As soon as Pim caught wind of it and heard their first makings, he was sold on the project. He took on the whole production process, picking the right partners for mastering and pressing. He even convinced Guillaume’s girlfriend to design the sleeve, which now holds a freshly pressed record containing three tracks with a Club Med 80s feel.

Disco distro
This won’t be a one-off though. Pim is handling the distribution of the record as well. Not just for his own label though, Pim has decided to take on about thirty other Belgian labels. Yes, thirty, among which we should mention Basic Moves, Lexi Disques, Knotwilg, Different Fountains, Activities, Bepotel, Form & Function and Norite. Once again, Pim rounded up his friends to help him out, asking an architect friend to set up the basement as a stock space that would hold 20.000 records.

The fact that so many labels will now be distributed by one and the same partner is a big step up for the Belgian music scene.

The fact that so many labels will now be distributed by one and the same partner is a big step up for the Belgian music scene. Pim: “Some labels were already doing well, but were often not recognised as being Belgian. This way, we can come forward as one strong united front, flying the Crevette flag.” With Vitesse, Pim immediately plays the Belgian trump card, one that he doesn’t hesitate to flaunt, from the coffee he pours at the bar to the beers on draft. Vive La Belgique, Vive La Crevette!