Belgium has always played a key role in the development of dance music. From the country’s new beat fusion of the late 80s and its influence on the acid house movement right the way forward to the insane proportions of EDM monolith Tomorrowland, the landlocked country has had a heavy stamp on international rave culture.
Much more specifically; the country has played a historic role in the development of drum & bass. Many of the breakbeats first bubbling in the early 90s hardcore melting pot came from Belgium. Meanwhile records such as Magic Butterfly and The Tape by Frank De Wulf set a benchmark at how dark the music could get and would regularly appear in sets of pioneers such as Fabio, Grooverider, Randall, A Sides or Doc Scott.
While the country danced to more of a techno and trance based national anthem during the 90s and early 2000s, the last 10 years has seen it develop forefront status in D&B with world class artists and events excelling in all directions. From Netsky to Bredren, Star Warz to Rampage, Belgium is up there with Austria and The Netherlands for its intense D&B proliferation right now.
And then there’s Murdock. A man neck deep in the Belgian scene in every way; as the founder of Radar Records, he’s released many of fellow countrymen’s records and supported them at their nascent stage. As the man behind the premier league Rampage raves, he’s booked many local acts and ensured Belgium’s stamp on the dancefloor is still just as strong as it was 30 years ago. He’s also a sharp DJ and producer himself.
After emerging as a DJ in the late 90s, the last 10 years has seen him develop a handsome discography on the likes of his own Radar and Rampage Records labels and also the high profile likes of V Recordings, Hospital Records and Viper. In fact Viper have been heavily supportive of his peaktime designs over the last few years…. Including the recent single Different Way in which he teams up with stone cold reggae legend Errol Dunkley who’s resung his vocals for 1972 classic A Little Way Different. We called him up to find out more…
Let’s kick off with a big up for Belgium… From Bredren to Spaow, everyone is killing it from all angles.
Absolutely man. Bredren in particular just blow me away. They have such a sound. On a superficial level it sounds very minimal and laid back but when you play it in a club it’s like a cage rattling sound. It’s incredible. But there are so many more. I’m very proud of what’s coming out of Belgium right now.
Your label Radar has released a great deal of Belgium acts and played a role in this…
I hope so. I wanted to set it up as a solid stepping stone for acts from Belgium. My ethos has been that even if I wouldn’t play the tune myself out of personal choice because it doesn’t fit my style, if they’re passionate about what they’re doing, they’re doing it with authenticity and really hungry for it then they belong on Radar. That’s what I wanted to do.
What was the Belgian scene like when you started?
Very different. D&B was very thing on the ground here. I got really into jungle and there were a few guys going over to London to buy records every month. People like Wontime, Dago and One87 were doing parties. They were the pioneers of the D&B scene in Belgium.
One87 does Star Warz, right?
He does. The others left the scene but he’s stuck in there and has developed Star Warz to being one of the leading parties in that sound in the world. The scale of those shows for that underground sound is pretty rare. He’s done an incredible job, it’s such a sick party.
Do all promoters work together in Belgium? I know in The Netherlands there’s a shared calendar so people know who’s got what dates etc…
I guess we did for a while but a few events grew to a point where there’s no competition any more. Like Star Warz; no one is booking those acts at that level in that size venue so if you wanted to do something like that you’d have to ask when he’s doing something. And then don’t do what he does. Same with Invaderz. Jump up was so big here, we had jump up parties every weekend. Maybe two or three a week. But Invaderz and a few other nights became the biggest nights and the other events don’t compete on that level.
That’s got to be the same with Rampage. That must have taken you out of the studio for a long time… Events take over your life, don’t they?
Mentally they do for sure. It’s always on my mind. How can we improve? Who should I book? Who’s hot? Who’s going to blow up? I’m always thinking of something Rampage related. But now it’s got as big as it is, I’ve got more time. I was doing two or three events per month six years ago but now it’s just the one. With one annual one, well two now with our new summer festival, it’s given me a clearer focus. So Rampage becoming bigger gave me time and focus a bit more on writing music.
Interesting you mentioned the jungle influence earlier. You could hear that on the V release last year and now on your jungle mix of Different Way.
Yeah I love that sound. It got me doing what I do now. It never really left in my sets and sound. It’s great to see it come back and be relevant again.
How did the Erol Dunkley vocal come about? He’s a reggae don, did you do it in the studio or online? Was he aware of you and what you do?
I don’t know how much detail he knows about my music. He was enthusiastic about the project and happy to be involved. I’m not sure how much he knows about jungle but he’s travelled the world many times and he seems very aware of what’s going on. It’s such a classic vocal and I told him how it’s been sampled on a lot of old records and I got the idea that he’d been told this before. But just being in the room and making an original recording of it was amazing. He’s super cool. Sixty five years old. Proper suit, bandana, top hat, smoking ganja non stop. A real gentleman gangster.
Sick. You must have gone to him, Erol doesn’t come to you, right?
He actually did! I was so lucky! He was in Belgium doing a show, I got in touch with the promoter, we got to meet and then did the studio thing the next day. He was only here for a few days so we went in on it.
Beautiful… Is anyone else on your vocal bucket list?
Bounty killer would be so good. I’ve got a huge loe for 90s hip hop, I’d love to do a track with Redman. Roni Size did a track with him way back in 1998 on his Doc’s Da Name album. He’s got wicked bars and is a funny guy, I’d love to work with him.
Bounty Killer to Redman. You like your contrasts. You can hear that in your singles. The last few releases have had two very different vibes across the tunes…
I love doing that. The Viper guys do too; having Final Frontier as the b-side to Make Me Stronger and now Rock Hard as the b-side to Different Way. I’ve always liked releases where you don’t have to choose between two tracks. If you have a release where the two tracks are similar you end up picking one and kinda ignoring the other. So if the tracks are completely different you might end up playing both.
Are you doing the Rampage anthem again this year?
Yes, it’s always myself and Doctrine that do the anthem. For the first time we’ve got someone on vocals, too. MC Mota. I love it. We’re not sure how we’re going to release it. We might give it the first spin at the event and release it afterwards. The breakdown and lead up to the drop is in the trailer and teasers so people are familiar with that bit… But when we play it at the event they’ll hear how it morphs into something very different! I’m very excited to see the reactions…