Popperola Presents: Dr. Poppers’ 9th Birthday Party. Raoul Belmans (B.) interview

Can you feel it? It’s the anticipation rising!

Only three weeks until Popperola presents a birthday party in Leuven. On February 29th, Stefan Goldmann from Berlin will play with Raoul Belmans – I dare say a local as well as personal hero. Belmans has been around for more than twenty years now and may be called one of the spearheads of Belgium’s house scene. We asked him a few questions, to learn what he has been up to lately…

Raoul, recently in some bar we were discussing the fact that several of the people at parties that you play might be exactly half your age. Last year you also celebrated the twentieth anniversary of your dj career. Evidently the scene has changed (as well as the industry, which isn’t always the same). So what about the audience, specifically? In what ways has the public changed compared to ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago – for better or for worse?

Raoul Belmans: “The public has changed significantly during the last decade(s). First, the older generation is split up in two camps: you have the ones that used to go out a lot but now only go out once in a while, when their partners allow them to step out of the door so to speak. On the other hand there are those that still go out almost every week(end). I get a lot of people nagging to me that it used to be better back in the days and I don’t blame them. In general, there are less parties and tons of music is inferior in quality.”

“Still, the people that go out more are apparently really up-to-date and they appreciate newer sounds. They appreciate it even more that you mix that up with stuff from previous decades. They are well aware that there is good music around now and there was good music around back then.”

“The new generation is split up into youngsters on the one hand who don’t have a fucking clue what I am doing or have done already… And they usually don’t care either; ask me to play dubstep and such. But to my joy there’s also a part of this generation that is very open-minded and embraces all things new and old with a passion that I recognise from the beginning days of my career… And frankly, that gives me tons of energy and hope. House music is here to stay after twenty years, there’s no doubt about that.”

In general, what did house music do for you? What place does it take in your personal history?

RB: “House music has always been a big part of my life. I’m passionate about doing the job I do and it already took me all over the world spreading the vibe. I feel blessed that I was able to do this and it made me realise that you have to chase your dreams in life – no matter what. Life is too short.”

A few years ago, you adopted the alias Raoul Lambert. Could you explain shortly how that persona differs from Raoul Belmans? And suppose you’re playing as Raoul Belmans, does this Lambert character often whisper suggestions in your ear and vice versa? Do you tend to follow those?

RB: “The Raoul Lambert alter ego surfaced around 2002 because I had the urge to play long nights where I’d be able to go much broader than the house music territory usually allowed at parties. It was my mission to explore the roots of house music and pass this on to the crowd. At the same time, I wanted to put a big ‘fun-factor’ into the game as well as a personal challenge. After a few years a lot of the disco-heads now are turning back to house – mostly old school sounding so in a way both my alter egos fuel each other a little now, I must admit. But I love it when these boundaries dissolve.”

During the last few years you have mainly been producing solo. How is that working out for you? How do you yourself evaluate your newer productions?

RB: “The adventure of going solo is one I had to take on in order to develop myself as a producer. Of course it’s different than when I was spending time daily in the Swirl People studio. In a way, it’s harder but I’ve learned a lot in that short period of time. The only disadvantage is that I work much longer on a project because no is around to tell me when a track is finished and to tell me whether it’s good or not. I’ve got to work on that part a little more.”

Lastly, you played at my birthday already in 2000 – that was my sixth. I recall you put down a long deep house set. What are your own memories about that one party, as far as you can remember it?

RB: “I remember it being a hell of a party in the middle of the week with all people into what I was playing, an amazing underground vibe that I haven’t felt so much yet in my life (this was in a small squatted garage annex storage depot in Leuven, as an edition of a series of parties called Oase de Pleasure, organised between 1997 and 2002 by a group of freaks including myself, ed.). We should do this again on the coming 29th!”

Happy birthday Dr. Poppers!

Thanks man!

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