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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

The Vinyl Frontier Live: Geert Sermon

The Vinyl Frontier Live: Geert Sermon

Listen Festival and Red Bull Belgium proudly present ‘The Vinyl Frontier live’: a series of 6 live interviews with vinyl lovers conducted during the Pre-Listen evenings at the ING Art Center in Brussels between March 16 and March 25 2017.

Interview Sam De Brabander/Bianca Boselli
Photographs Clotilde Peeters

Geert Sermon is the owner of Doctor Vinyl, a well-respected record store in the center of Brussels. He has been witnessing electronic music and its evolution in Belgium for many years now. His uncle was a disco DJ and although his father was a true music lover, he hated vinyl and thought music should be free for everyone. As a consquence he didn’t allow his son to buy vinyl for many years. That Geert nevertheless became a record seller is quite remarkable.

Geert is known for liking and selling the unknown, tracks that people don’t notice. He only takes records he loves, no matter what other people think. it’s the first impression that really matters to him.

He has worked on the team that created The Sound of Belgium, and that still impacts his shop and his customers. He sees a lot of foreigners coming to his shop, looking for the « house of The Sound of Belgium ». Youngsters have found an interest in his records too, discovering that the sounds they like are originally from Belgium.

RECORDS:

HNO3 - Doughnut Dollies:

This song is extremely connected to The Sound of Belgium, it was made by Eric Beysens in the late 80s. Eric was my mentor, he’s responsible for a lot of good things that have happened in my life. He was a surreal guy, he lived as if there were 48 hours in a day. He was always going on about « la Belgitude », and after a while he became it.

I first heard the track in 1988 in the club Boccaccio, most probably the day he made it. It is a massive record for me, something I still remember years and years on. But the irony is that Eric hated it, he wouldn’t understand what I heard in this record that was worthy nor why I made it into one of the key tunes of The Sound of Belgium.

Wim Mertens - The Aural Trick (Foro Italico):

Wim Mertens is a classical composer of minimal music. For six years at school, my music teacher would put this record on every time it was the last day of school before vacation. So I heard this record a whole lot of times. There was this track that I thought I could play, it sounded easy to reproduce. Later on, I bought myself a keyboard and realized I couldn't do it except when I programmed it.

This is a very Belgian record. It was something very bombastic, very repetitive. But when you listen closely, you start to notice some small changes. And after a few times, you hear different things. That’s what I love about it. It’s the basics of all trance records, a hypnotic loop that goes up and down. Wim hates dance music, but in a way he was a precursor to it. He just forgot to put the beats in there.

Wim really made me want to make music myself and not many people know that I’m also a producer. I like to call myself a ghost producer. There are always people behind the production, and people in front of it. It’s the ones in front who really make the record, they’re the ones playing it and carrying it. At that time I didn’t have anyone in front. I was just making tracks.

Rufus & Chaka Khan - Ain't Nobody (Hallucinogenic Version):

I was about 19 when I first went to New York with friends. We went to a club, hoping to see Frankie Knuckles. But we didn’t, because we ended up in the wrong club. Where we were, there was Mark Kamins playing all of these weird tracks. At the end of the night, he played this ecstatic version of house music. And that’s where I discovered this tripped out rework of Rufus & Chaka Khan, during Mark’s set. He was the one who discovered Madonna, and would play things like The B52’s right next to disco tracks in his DJ sets. Seeing a DJ finally making tracks out of music influenced me majorly. He would play non dance music and turned it into danceable music.

Pas De Deux - Lits Jumeaux:

Pas De Deux is especially known for representing Belgium at the 1983 Eurovision contest, although everyone was looking at them like aliens. This song is actually composed by Walter Verdin, he did a lot of electronic experiments. He came from theater, so he was someone with a different view on music. This vinyl was one of the first I owned. When I was nine, I entered all the contests on all the radios I found to win some vinyls. It took me quite a lot of time, and then one day I finally heard on the radio that a record had been won by me. My father took me to the shop where I had to pick it up and I thought I would be given something like Michael Jackson. But I couldn’t choose the record I wanted, they had already decided. And they gave me this one by Pas De Deux. I played this record to death on my turntable, and it became the soundtrack of when I was nine, ten years old. It’s not an obvious soundtrack for kids that age but it was one of the only records I owned at that time.

Selecting and playing records that aren’t very popular have become my trademark. I don’t do it on purpose, but I just happen to like these more. When I was a DJ, I was known as the Dj who played the B2 tracks.

Walter Hus & Lhasa - The Attic:

When we were making The Sound of Belgium, the idea to work with Walter Hus had been out there for a long time. Walter was the only composer who worked for Decap Organs, and you can see it in the movie. We wanted to end the movie with something big, and we had already picked Push - Universal Nation. It was a trance tune and Walter made it into an organ version. Everyone loved it but he took it a step further and created a classical version for it. Philip Glass even said it was one of the most beautiful arrangements he had ever heard.

But The Attic is actually from the Boccaccio period, it’s one of my favorite. During that time we convinced Walter to make a different arrangement of the song. And he was very pleased with it, commenting: “this is a beautiful arrangement for a trance producer”.

Azymuth - Jazz Carnaval (Space Jazz Mix):

This track is linked to the Fuse, a club in Brussels. The upstairs room used to be controlled by St-Dic, he worked for me and he was one of the first DJ’s who really understood that kind of techno/house mix -at that time the trademark sound of my shop- that I also loved. The original version of this song is a timeless jazz funk / disco tune that summed up everything that was great about 70's dance music. With this remix Global communication followed the same formula, by mixing up everything that was great about mid 90's dance music. Resulting in a magical hybrid between house, techno and progressive it still sounds fantastic twenty years later.

TZ 7 - Spanish Fly:

This track is made by Maarten Van Der Vleuten, he’s a Dutch guy but lives so close to the border that for me he belongs to Belgium. At the time we made it a game to sample whatever we found in flea markets and turn it into something completely different. Maarten found some kind of Spanish thing and put it in the sampler and started detuning heavily. After a lot of studio trickery it came out sounding like this : pure dance floor ectasy instead of an obvious bacalao flamenco party. This track brings me back to my Holland period, when I spent my time at the Roxy club. This club was quite unique, it was the first club in Holland where house music was played to the fullest.