Red Bull

Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

TLP

I tried to make the compilation as personal as possible

Interview Koen Galle
Photographs Thomas Sweertvaegher

30 years in the business, that’s how long TLP has been at it. After all these years, the first letters of the place he grew up, Tielt, his last name and his first name still form his dj name. And it has to be said, the name is used more often than his real name. At first, he wanted a cool long name, like his heroes Grandmaster Melle Mel or Kool Moe Dee. That’s why, at the very start of his career, he called himself Mister Funkyfresh TLP.

The American show ‘The Kids From Fame’ got a young TLP hooked on breakdance. And when he discovered H.I.P.H.O.P., a Sunday show on French television, the music followed. Together with his father he pillaged flea market after flea market, returning home with loads of vinyl. “The first record I ever bought was a colored vinyl of Rappers Delight by The Sugarhill Gang. We visited flea markets in all of Belgium and even some in France. I bought, and sometimes even stole, heaps of records. The vendors didn’t care. The cd was coming up, and vinyl was as good as dead. Most of the time, I didn’t even know what I bought. I only discovered some of the gems later on.”

The first show TLP ever did was for a breakdance act. He was 14 and got payed 3000 Belgian Francs (about 75 euro). Later, he was put on a train to Cologne for the recording of a video about breakdance for German school television. “I got payed 6000 Belgian Francs and spent it all on vi-nyl. At the time, there was some kind of vinyl supermarket in Cologne. Something like Mediamarkt now, but only vinyl. It was heaven.”

Now, 30 years later, TLP celebrates his career as a dj with a spectacular party at Vooruit in Ghent and a compilation record on cd and vinyl. The idea behind the record is simple. Music, old and new, that is befitting of him as a dj as well as a person. The tracklist is to die for: Bill Withers, The Roots, Q-Tip, Jill Scott, Earth, Wind & Fire and ofcourse some TLP signature tracks, such as SpottieOt-tieDopaliscious by OutKast, a track you often hear at the end of his sets. “That track works like cra-zy on the dance floor, but is also totally me. ‘Funny how one moment you can freak with the booty club, the next moment you’re with somebody else having your own children’ raps André 3000. My wife used to be a stripper, so i can relate. Also the Trap genre has that track to thank for its name, with André 3000 rapping ‘now you’re caught in a trap’. I tried to make the compilation as personal as possible. ‘Pack'd My Bags’ by Rufus and Chaka Khan is another splendid example. Chaka sings ‘me and my baby will be fine while you’re gone’, giving her husband permission to be absent to go play music. That lyric screams my name.” The original version of every song can be found in TLP’s record collection. Almost every song, because some of them were never released on vinyl. Until now. “‘Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens’ by Anthony Hamilton does not exist on vinyl. That’s why I put it on mine. It’s a beautiful track, sampled by Ben Pearce on the house track ‘What I Might Do’. You immediately recognize the vocal. It’s my own way of giving back, of contributing.”

TLP still buys vinyl, but only to listen to at home. Live he uses Serrato, dragging 1.3 TB of music to every gig. But don’t label him as a digital freak. In his car he still listens to casettes. The switch to digital was inevitable though. “I remember the exact moment I realised I had to stop spinning vinyl. I bought ‘Swagga Like us’ by Jay Z in Paris and I just knew it was the last Def Jam record I was ever going to buy on vinyl. And I was right. The music I wanted to play just wasn’t being released on vinyl anymore.”

Today, TLP’s enormous vinyl collection is spread all over his house. You can find the LP’s in the living room, close at hand, while the singles gather dust in the attic. Most of them still in the boxes he used to drag them from club to club. Still, the last months some of them ended up on the record player again. “This summer, I was asked to play a vinyl only set. Not something I was looking for-ward to, I threw some of the boxes in my car and drove off to the party. I was barely prepared, but ended up having so much fun. I really have to do this more often. Nothing beats the sound of vinyl and the feel of the sleeve. It’s something I will cherish forever.”

After 30 years, TLP has become somewhat of a godfather in the Belgian dj scene. But still, he too had to learn his trade. It all started when he moved to Ghent to study and got to know dj Mo & Benoelie through his breakdancing contacts. When he saw Benoelie spinbacking, mixing two iden-tical records with only the crossfader and thus creating a new song, he was flabbergasted. Also, the interviews with dj’s Norman Jay and Gilles Peterson, legends in the British groove scene, in post order magazines inspired him. To know what records to buy, he spent hours going through paper-back catalogues of British vinyl shops. “They were almost like the yellow pages, filled with artists, titles and prices. I remembered which records were expensive in Britain and bought them for cheap in Belgium. I bought ‘Heaven right here on earth’ by The Natural Four for 20 Belgian Francs at Mu-sic Man in Ghent, while it was being sold for 50 pounds in England. I was spending a lot of money. I bought up to 50 records a week and found in dj Grazzhoppa the perfect partner in crime. We were in our twenties, played together and built up an impressive collection. Bummer when we got into a fight and had to split our collection. Luckily, we’re friends again now.”

Missing in TLP’s home? A dj booth with speakers and two decks. You can find some older Tech-nics though, from the time pitch control was a mere idea. No coincidence apparently. “I love buying older models. It reminds me of simpler times, the days of Grandmaster Flash and Frankie Knuck-les. If you can play those, you’re a real dj.” But TLP doesn’t have time to mix at home. He spends too much time spinning at parties or hosting his radioshow. He’s thinking to install a dj booth though. “I have so much music I want to share in mixtapes, I will make room for a dj booth eventually. And to teach my kids how to dj ofcourse.”

Zin om te luisteren? Koop de plaat hier!