Is there anything Charlotte de Witte can't do? Ahead of a jam-packed festival calendar, fresh off an EP release and two years after the launch of her record label KNTXT de Witte continues to help shape and showcase the very best in electronic music, this time through her brand new project, Époque.
Époque is an archive birthed by the team behind KNTXT with a mission to highlight Belgium’s golden age of clubbing. Through merchandise, long-lost photographs, anecdotes and stories, flyers, and other memoirs, Époque collates the memories of Belgium’s ‘80s and ‘90s clubgoers and packs them into a series paying homage to the unruly age of the Belgian club scene. With its first focus on Cherry Moon, a Ghent-based nightclub which permanently closed its doors in 2013, Époque celebrates the iconic venue’s 30th anniversary with a new collection dedicated to the raucous techno venue.
We stopped in for a chat with Charlotte de Witte ahead of the launch of Époque’s first venture, as well as the brains behind the project, curator Michiel Claus and co-founder Victor Luyckx.
Listen to Charlotte de Witte’s hour-long Cherry Moon-inspired mix and read their Q&A’s below.
Charlotte de Witte:
What were your first memories of clubbing in Belgium?
My first clubbing experience took place when I switched schools to Ghent. That’s where I first got in touch with its club culture and electronic music - my first experiences were in Make Up Club and Decadance. Make Up Club was a basement club where people often used to wear eccentric clothes, while Decadance had been an institution for many years and I spent many, many weekends in that place. It truly was my second home. Sadly, neither venues exist anymore.
What does Belgian club culture look like now in comparison to that golden age? What direction has it moved in?
I can’t speak of the golden age as someone who was part of it, but I can say that I’ve seen many clubs disappear over the years - the golden age is over and clubs are in decline. It feels as if clubs are slowly becoming a rarity which saddens me. Without club culture, I would’ve never aspired to be a DJ and I think this is the same for many of my colleagues.
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You were born in the early '90s - why do you take interest in ‘80s and ‘90s club culture? Is it a way to reconnect with that time?
It's true that I wasn’t even born when this all took place. If I was, I was way too young to realise any of this. But even though it's brought to you by someone who wasn’t physically there, it's my way of showing the utmost respect to my country and its musical heritage. That’s what Époque is, trying to capture the spirit and nostalgia of our bygone discotheque culture out of love for the clubs you wish you could’ve visited.
You’ve previously said that as a club, Cherry Moon inspires you. Could you expand on that?
In that era, it seemed like there was more ‘danger’ to the scene, it was the pioneering days of our modern-day club culture. I also feel like music back then was, even more, an expression of freedom. I can’t even start to imagine how epic those mega dancefloors must have been in those times, it really fascinates me.
You’ve got a line of merchandise on its way as part of the new project, too. What can fans expect from the t-shirt drop?
Every release is limited and available for 4 weeks containing the shirt, index card & sticker pack. The apparel is designed in Belgium by young designers that we want to give the opportunity to create their interpretation of the archive.
What is Époque to you? What’s the importance behind it?
For me, Époque is a homage to Belgium’s rich club history. It’s a breathing document out of love for the clubs which we wish we could’ve visited as well as out of respect for the pioneers of Belgian electronic music. Therefore, I feel it’s important we build this archive because we’re all surfing on the waves of our predecessors and it’s important to respect the ones who paved the way and to know where we come from.
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Can you tell us about your Cherry Moon-inspired mix?
With this mix, I tried to honour the Belgian club culture and heritage by bringing forward the heart and soul of an era that is long gone but not forgotten. The mix consists of the classics that have written musical history, combined with some contemporary tracks. I tried to channel the nostalgic vibe out of the rich musical history with a modern-day interpretation.
Curator at Époque, Michiel Claus:
Cherry Moon has a huge legacy in Belgium, what was the general sound and aesthetic of the club?
I'm not old enough to experience the legacy, and in the years that I started clubbing, the hardstyle or ‘jumpstyle' sound was not my thing. But, I listened to a lot of mixtapes and stories from the first years the club was open told by close friends, and I must say that I'm impressed by the open-mindedness of DJs and ravers. My friend DJ Deg played a lot at the Rave Explosion parties and told me that you could play a Basic Channel record (Berlin dub techno institute, now Hardwax) next to a Bonzai record and people would go nuts. The music must have had a reverb feeling and it didn't matter what scene or label it came from. Check out this compilation to get a feeling of the early rave Cherry Moon days.
Why did you choose to research this particular club first?
Cherry Moon recently celebrated their 30th birthday, so it just made sense. Also Rudy - Pincé AKA The Originator AKA Papa Cherry - was one of the first people we interviewed for the Époque project and it clicked instantly. During the 2 hours of conversation, we had so much material that it had to be the first drop.
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Can you tell us what else you’ll be researching on this project?
We decided to keep a little surprise element in the project, so I won't tell too much. But the second drop will be another huge legacy Belgian club and the third will be a globally famous record shop and distributor celebrating its 50th anniversary next year. We’ve got to be proud of this ‘Rave Little Belgium’!
Co-founder of Époque, Victor Luyckx:
What was the influence behind Époque?
The initial idea behind Époque was to reissue merchandise from old clubs from the rave era in Belgium. The designs are very edgy, colourful and timeless. When we visited the people behind the clubs, previous owners or resident DJs, we discovered a very rich archive of flyers, shirts, gadgets and stories. We immediately felt we had to do something with it, we archive these relics by scanning and recording the anecdotes.
The shirts are like a cut and paste work of elements in the archive - the bootleg is a written story about the club, its visitors and its aesthetics. This bootlegging approach keeps it very fun and surprising for the whole team.
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What are you hoping to achieve with the Époque project? How do you want your audiences to react to the archive?
We want to honour our Belgium nightlife heritage by archiving the clubs, their designs and their stories in our interpretation. We’re not aiming to achieve a fully complete archive, the result is very much our own interpretation of the club’s story. It has a lot of funny jumps and is kind of all over the place. In the future, it would be nice to see the archive grow into a collaborative online space where people can upload their relics and share their stories.
You’re collating photographs, anecdotes, and memoirs from Belgium’s golden age for this project, what else can we expect to see?
We will also focus on audio fragments: reissuing old mixes or inviting current DJs to work with the back catalogue of a certain label or tracks linked to a club. We aim to create a sort of digital museum that takes you back to the golden age of Belgium nightlife.
Listen to an exclusive mix from Charlotte de Witte below, going live on Wednesday, June 15 via Apple Music.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter
Distorted Dreams - 6 am (Original Mix)
Cherrymoon Trax - Conflictation (Original Mix)
Carat Trax II by Zolex - The Message (Original Mix)
Cherrymoon Trax - Needle Destruction (Original Mix)
Commander Tom - Are Am Eye? (Original Mix)
Bountyhunter - Woops (Original Remastered)
Robert Armani - Hit Hard (Original Mix)
Trancescape - Producelast (Original Remastered)
Jones & Stephenson - The First Rebirth (Original Remastered)