If you can remember all the way back to episode 025, FCL were the duo responsible for that little masterpiece, and a couple of years on we’re still following the guys almost religiously, as they (Red D & San Soda) and their We Play House label continue to set the tempo in house circles in Europe and around the globe.
Bart Van Neste is approaching 5 strong years at the helm of We Play House, a label that has become one of the most exciting and respected outlets for house in Belgium, and an imprint we’re continually rushing back to thanks to the quality and catchy house music of San Soda and FCL. We’ve also gotten to know a handful of new artists through WPH which Bart ever so carefully introduces to the label, artists like Luv Jam, Maxim Lany and Humandrone have become not just new names but new additions to the WPH family, following the close nit label philosophy forged in the very beginning.
Bart is also one of the more outspoken characters in the industry, never afraid to share his two sense on the net following a controversial issue, and he’s generally spot on with his assessments, just check his rant on the whole SYNC function debate to see what we mean. At the end of it all though, Red D is a DJ number one, and his mixes are constantly pushing the boundaries, blending the latest house and techno records with classic and rare cuts of the past, and you guessed it, all on vinyl.
So Bart, we know you’re quite a busy boy! What has been taking up most of your time recently? Where have you been and what have you been working on?
Sounds like my dad talking… :-p This season I have been mostly doing music. From DJ’ing every weekend in Belgium and abroad, to running We Play House Recordings (including all the red tape, events and various label nights, it’s still a one man operation), to dabbling in my own studio more and more (results will be heard in 2013), to selecting the new vinyl for the ‘dance’ department in Ghent’s Music Mania record store (the official physical WPH store), to making podcasts for you lot…
Next to that I’m still doing some freelance copywriting for advertising agencies and some other clients, a remnant from my ‘real’ career.
You guys have had an eventful year with We Play House, releasing some massively talked about records, maybe none bigger than the extremely limited ‘It’s You’. What has been your take on that record now seeking the crazy prices it is on discogs, and even a facebook page being dedicated to the record..?
Well, it’s one of those WPH things that gets decided in a split second, and then takes on a life of its own. (trust me, almost everything we do happens like that) It was always my intention to one day make a cover version of E.S.P.’s ‘It’s You’, because that’s a track that I have been playing as part of Red D feat Lady Linn (I DJ, she sings live on top, from classics to edits to our stuff) for 10 years or so. I always thought the original was perfect, but Lady Linn a way better singer. So when we were recording the vocals for FCL’s ‘Used To Be’ (WPH 015) I asked Linn on the spot to do ‘It’s You’. Took her about 15 minutes I think… One week later we had Gustaph in the studio to record vocals for San Soda’s ‘See More Days’, and we asked him to do some backings for Linn’s take on ‘It’s You’. When he left we started listening to just the vocals, and we both had the idea it would be an ace DJ tool to have just the acapella with a clap and some minor arrangement.
We left it at that, but three weeks later San Soda surprised me during our set in Panorama Bar on a Saturday morning by playing just the version we were talking about in the studio. The place went crazy, and on the spot I told him I was gonna press up 150 copies of that one, one-sided, vinyl only, next to the ‘full’ cover version. Mind you, that was the summer of 2011. Again we left it at that, but then somewhere in the spring of this year the track finally got fine-tuned and finished, and when the first videos of us playing it started popping up it kinda went viral. But I stuck to the plan and pressed 150 copies, some 20 of which we handed out, 35 to 40 got sold at Music Mania (had it exclusively for three weeks) and then the remainder got sold through the website, in 35 mins… I received some 1800 unique page views that morning, so it was kinda clear this could be big.
Later on Prosumer, Joy Orbison and The Magician started playing it (they or friends of theirs had the vinyl) and then things really got outta control. It’s now come to the point where I know a Belgian DJ has paid 30 euro for a WAV rip to some guy on Discogs selling the vinyl… So as a little scoop for you guys, I can tell you that we are coming to the point where we will release it digitally, because once people start making money from a vinyl rip… One thing though: there will never ever be another vinyl of it through us. That we owe to the people that have bought it.
You’re known to be quite vocal when it comes to subjects that you’re clearly passionate about, we loved your take on the whole SYNC function debate this year.. What sparked that passionate response, and how was the feedback that resulted from it?
Well, Theo Parrish has summed it up perfectly a while ago: I’m not comfortable when convenience replaces artistry. And so far, every single ‘revolution’ or ‘new’ way of DJ’ing has been about convenience, never about creativity. Sure, you can be very creative with loads of digital DJ equipment, but apart from maybe someone like Richie Hawtin, I don’t see anybody doing anything that’s even remotely interesting. 99% of the time you’ll get the argument “Oh, but it’s easier.” Or “I don’t have to carry bags.” Or “You can’t play vinyl in a club.” Or the worst one “You have to move with the time.” It’s simply about laziness, and that whole ‘early adopter’-mentality that I thoroughly loathe. I don’t have a GPS and I don’t own a smartphone, and yet I’m always on time and I never get lost and everybody who needs to find me can reach me. Why? Because I don’t mind making an effort and using the one thing that matters: common sense.
The feedback on my SYNC blog post was kinda divided, as you can expect.. One response I got sent gave me the chills however. Some guy asking me why I spoke my mind like that, because “Your label is doing good and you have success.” So when you have some sort of success, you need to shut up or what? Good luck to that guy’s wife when she makes a career…
Tell us about the evolution of We Play House, we know you started the label a few years back mainly as a vehicle to release San Soda’s music.. Is that still the main focus now, or what would you say is the main aim of the label these days?
In May 2013 I’ll have been at it for 5 years! I indeed started it as an outlet for San Soda’s music. I always wanted to do a label, but not with artists people already knew. I wanted something different, and that something was Nicolas. Naturally it evolved, we started FCL together, and like-minded people found their way to us. WPH still revolves around a small group of people making the music that I love, but who are also very much people that share our views and ideas. It’s cliché, but we really are a small family, and we try to bring that idea along with us wherever we are and whatever we do.
Hence why I don’t accept demos, although two people on the label did find their way to WPH via a demo, but in their very own specific way. (Tip: a download or soundcloud link alone doesn’t do it.) So the main aim today is still the same as 5 years ago: releasing music I love and which I think it deserves to be heard and played. Funny thing is that this year was our least productive year, and yet a month ago we were voted ‘Best Electronic Music Label’ in Belgium during the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards, kinda the Belgian dance music Oscars.
What are you feelings about the ‘scene’ in Belgium at the moment, I managed to get over to Brussels a few months back and all the signs were quite positive in terms of up-for-it crowds and vibe, do you find that is most often the case with your gigs in your home country?
I’ve always loved the scene in Belgium, and over the last 22 years that I’ve been in it (half of that time as a punter really) there have been great things going on constantly. Every generation has it Music Box or Paradise Garage. I hate it when people say “it used to be better”, because it wasn’t. When I see young kids coming up to me saying they just ‘discovered’ house and WPH, I can feel the very same excitement I had when I first heard and bought new beat back in the 80ies. Discovering the music you love will always lead to new things happening. So yes, the Belgian scene is great, with loads of young crews setting up nights and parties.
What can you tell us about this mix? Is there any main theme behind the mix? Any artists that feature which you’d like to make a special mention to?
I’m not really into themes for mixes. I usually take 5 mins to select 20 to 30 records, I pick the first one and off we go, one take vinyl only, like all my mixes. Mind you, when finished some mixes can have a certain feeling or theme to them. The one I finished just now starts of Dixon style and moves into rough angular Levon Vincent madness. Two DJ’s I admire a lot, and who always do it for me. But beware: the mix is 100% Red D!
What do you have coming up with FCL, as well as with your own productions? And what can we be expecting next from We Play House?
With FCL at the moment we are figuring out what to do with ‘It’s You’, and after that we will work on the follow-up called ‘Can We Try’, again with Lady Linn on vocals. Best lyrics I’ve ever written for me, and the main melody San Soda came up with is my stuff of dreams, so I’m curious to see where we will end up with that one. As for my own productions, I’ve got three or four tracks nearly finished, but no idea yet where they will end up. Probably not on WPH, because that would be all too easy!
On WPH you can expect new stuff from Luv Jam and Humandrone, or Wales vs Japan, and I’m working on a big project that will focus on the old Belgian music style called ‘new beat’. For that project old and new artists will make new tracks inspired by new beat. Very excited about that one, and I’ve got some big names from all across the board joining in. Other than that I don’t plan too far ahead, and I don’t have a defined release schedule. I just see what comes my way and then act on it if my gut feeling is there.
Rachel Row – Follow The Step
To Rococo Rot – He Loves Me (Four Tet Remix)
Rone – Parade (Dominic Eulberg Remix)
Karmom – When Dark Becomes Light
Outboxx – Take Me Through The Night
Soul Capsule – Overcome
Herbert – It’s Only (DJ Koze Remix)
STL – Lost In Brown Eyes
Alex Israel – Habitation Micturation
Redshape – Robot
Paul Mac – Hotel Insomnia
DJ Hell – My Definition Of House Music