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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

VFA17: we’ve talked to the jury (again)

VFA17: we’ve talked to the jury (again)

A talk with Michael Ilegems, Mathieu Fonsny and Wouter Mattelin!

Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs Various

Meanwhile, the votes have been counted. Votes? What votes? The votes for Red Bull Belgium’s Vinyl Frontier election, of course, the one date that’s circled in your agenda (April 12th, just in case you forgot). Only last week, we had a chat with three jury members. It was so much fun we decided to ask three different ones. Say hi to Michael Ilegems, music coordinator at KnackFocus, Mathieu Fonsny, co-programmer at Dour Festival and Wouter Mattelin, programmer and host at Radio 1 and over at Trefpunt vzw. Some looking back was done, some looking ahead too. One thing’s for sure, though: black is still the new black.

Being in the VFA17 jury requires a bit of a hoarder’s attitude. Because to know good vinyl, one has to know all vinyl. What do these gentlemen spend their modest fortunes on? Michael: “I buy a lot of vinyl”, Michael concedes, straight off the bat. “I’ve bought many records I heard playing in shops, even when I didn’t know them. I bought Black Flower’s Artifacts that way and I Bambini Di Basilisco by Elko B. I also bought everything by Mauro: Evil Superstars reissues as well as Maurits Pauwels. I sometimes buy records just based on the sleeve, too. Cocaine Piss’s Cosmic Bullshit is an example, featuring Dennis Tyfus artwork. I have no idea how many records I own, but I saw a picture of Soulwax’s collection this week, so now that’s my goal,” he laughs, although we have reason to believe he’s serious.

Mathieu, on the other hand, is full of good intentions to kick his bad habits. “I still buy a lot of vinyl, yes, but it’s not a weekly thing anymore. It’s still a great feeling to find an old record that I’ve been looking for. As a DJ, I’m always hunting for new music out there. I don’t have a bucket list, though, I like to be surprised. I am a big fan of the Vlek label, because of their out-of-the-ordinary artwork. I am still buying a lot R&S releases as well. I am still impressed by what they do, even after all those years. And then there’s a lot of white label stuff. Wiebe 'Tonic' Loccufier from The Subs did a special series of disco edits. And last but not least, I bought the Sound of Belgium collection. All of it!”

“I mostly buy records from the 60s, 70s and 80s”, Wouter says. “I used to buy more, but I’ve run out of stocking space, so most of the new stuff I listen to online. Mostly though I’m more into old Tom Waits or Wilson Pickett. I did get all the Wizards of Ooze reissues as well.”

Some trends were spotted, too

When scouring the Belgian market, all three members of the jury tend to see different trends. “Jazz keeps on doing well”, Michael says. “And there’s Hip Hop, fronted by Romeo Elvis, or Glints, who have blended in some R&B. Meanwhile, noise bands are right up there as well, just look at Hypochristmutreefuzz, Cocaine Piss, Oathbreaker and Brutus — all well deserved, too.”

To Wouter, it’s all about reissues of records that were once impossible to find, or never before released material. “The Belgian Vaults series on Starman Records is packed with rare tracks. There was the Alain Pierre soundtrack for Jan Zonder Vrees, which was a vinyl first, and the reissue of Jean Hoyoux’s cult album Planètes. Sdban Records is planning a sequel to the Funky Chicken series too and René Costy’s recent release confirm this trend, which makes me rather giddy, really.”

Whereas new releases are concerned, Wouter has a personal note to add. “Melodium Rag by Tiny Legs Tim really jumps out, as well as the gorgeous yet very sad record by Pieter-Jan Van Campenhout ‎titled Tragic Magic Man, a posthumous release exactly three years after his death. My own highlight though is that, as a member of Ansatz Der Maschine, I’ll be releasing my first vinyl album this year.”

Your place or mine?

Record collectors are creatures of habit. Michael: “I always go buy my stash of magazines and newspapers at the International Magazine Store before climbing the stairs to Tune Up for some records. Carlo Tune Up Andriani offers a great selection and there are lots of gigs and other events. I had a legendary night there at the Herman Selleslags Zappa exhibition when Mauro plugged in his smartphone and and did a short concert.”

Mathieu’s all time favourite is Doctor Vinyl. “I’ve known Geert, the owner, since I was a kid and I’ve just kept on going there. This guy knows so much about music. I really feel at home there. Crevette Records, also in Brussels, is my favorite place to go on Sundays.”

Wouter sticks to a different type of hunting grounds. “Recycling shops are the best. I always dig for old treasures there. I used to be a fixture in the legendary music and book store De Kaft in Gent, but unfortunately, they’ve closed up shop. I think the most expensive record I own is the German Schwalbe Raymond van het Groenewoud once made. Not that it’s any good, really, much to the contrary. But it’s so hard to find, so it’s still kind of nice to have.”

But how much are they really looking forward to RSD?

“I’m definitely counting down”, says Michael. “Traditionally, Tune Up hosts some in-stores. I rarely buy online, because I think that bond with your local record seller matters. Even though Antwerp still has a thing or two to learn from Ghent in this area. After Tune Up, I’m off to Me & My Monkey, the new shop owned by Red Bugs drummer Noah Melis, which focuses on psychedelic indie rock. After that, it’s Ghent-bound where I’ll have trouble choosing between Music Mania, Vynilla, Consouling and Wool-E shop.”

“I joined RSD in Paris for the last two years, where the atmosphere is just as great at in Belgium”, Mathieu looks back. “Besides buying vinyl, RSD is about the social aspect of hanging out in a record store, which has always been very important to me. When I was young, I didn’t have a lot of money and I just spent the whole afternoon at Doctor Vinyl listening and looking at what others bought. It was a lot of fun. Hell, it still is!”

But sometimes, life just interferes. Wouter: “For the past twelve years, I’ve been hosting a radio show on Saturday. So I’ve followed every RSD from the shadows of the VRT broadcasting tower. Because I’m a fan, I always invite a band that’s playing in several stores or interview an artist who’s releasing something out of the ordinary.”