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INSIDE TECHNO


Escaut

 

Today I am on my way to a little town near Antwerp. For our next interview I've invited a duo. They go way back and both with a huge passion for music. Even when they’ve walked a different path in their music careers they have been able to understand each other completely. 

Industrial, underground, atmospheric sounds with tones that hypnotize you, is how you could describe their style of techno.

Enjoy this one and let me present to you: Escaut.

 

Who are you and where are you from?

We are Brian and Joeri, we use the name "Escaut" as our stage name. We are from Antwerp, Belgium and are also 2 childhood friends from high school.

Was it hard to come up with this name?

Joeri: Not really. It is French for Schelde and our city is located by this river.

Brian: I was living on the left side of the river at the time, Joeri on the right side and what is the aorta of the city? The Schelde. My wife is partly french so the language is not so strange to us.

Joeri: What I liked is that some people couldn't make the link right away, even residents of Antwerp itself. When you see the look on their face when you tell them, it’s so great (laughs). They are really surprised afterwards.

 

Let’s go back to the beginning. Was this immediately intended as a duo?

Brian: As a duo this actually started in 2016, but separately this had been going on for some time. We discussed this on Christmas Eve and we even started officially on January the first of 2016 (laughs).

Joeri: I didn't know that anymore, I don't even know what I ate last week (laughs).

You don't collaborate with everyone and it doesn't always run smoothly, how was this with you guys?

Brian: One day isn't natural the next it is. Sometimes you just have to be able to put things into perspective. In the end that 'one' record is not worth the trouble. If it fits and the other party is happy with it, so be it. You can of course give your input or a proposal, rather than an unnecessary discussion. The creativity also comes from a moment and a feeling. Ultimately, Joeri is the one who is most involved with this creative process because he is on the hardware.

Joeri: Only because of the current situation that prevails in the world does the creative process go a bit less fluent than usual, I must admit. You also come out less and therefore I get fewer triggers. This is different for each person in the end but I do notice this anyway. The inspiration is also less than before.

How long have you been working on music and what was the reason for choosing music?

Brian: The passion for music was certainly there from the beginning, maybe not in the sense of producing but still. Coincidence or not, Joeri and I always had the same taste in music, that never hurts. In the beginning I was mainly playing basketball. I often sat at my computer as well, this was my second hobby you could say.

At the time I had a cracked version of FL Studio and I was mainly busy copying the beats that I liked, just for fun. But over the years the software also got better and better, so this has evolved while I was working on it. Around 2011, I started to explore Ableton on a deeper level and still continue to do so. Still growing and learning everyday.

Joeri: Music comes a long way with me, the passion was always there. But it didn't really run in the family. Only my brother was a DJ but on a totally different level. Producing started pretty quick for me actually, I think around 1999. I started as a DJ back then and frequently bought records so I could play or listen to. A year later I was taking my first steps in producing with Reason. I’ve also tried out Fl Studio for a while but then I bought my first drum machine, a groovebox 303 and some extra gear to jam on. 

I rarely used the PC besides Reason. I even used a tape recorder for a while, so that I could record something on cassette (laughs). I didn't have any CDs at the time so this was the only option left. Put the cassette in the mixer deck and recorded everything on 1 track. But the music back then was, how can I say? Maybe experimental, let's say that. Couldn't make anything out of it actually (laughs).

Was a certain role discussed in advance or did this come naturally?

Brian: This was certainly not done consciously. Deejaying also came a bit later for me, for example. I got a vinyl player when I was 4 years old. My cousin was playing on it at the time, so he gave it to me and I had it for a while actually.

As a result, I kept playing old records for quite a long time and I have also kept these tracks. Financially it was also a lot less back then so I thought buying records was a luxury product, so to speak. Afterwards I wanted to buy more but that did not happen. Joeri has always continued to do this and still does. I played Pump Up The Jam by Technotronic like crazy (laughs).

Joeri: I used to work a lot with hardware so I learned most of it myself. I didn't have a PC at the time, I didn't have anything else either, so most of it had to come from myself. Afterwards when we started with Escaut I learned more about software and DAW’s. Before that I was not concerned about software, it did not interest me in the beginning. I thought analog hardware was good enough. Ultimately, this wasn’t good enough anymore at this time. (laughs)

Would you recommend beginners to use software?

Brian: Certainly for home production. Now, Daw’s gives everyone the luxury of being able to split up a project and start mixing properly. You can also do better post-processing which improves the quality. Of course you can also get those large mixing consoles, but sometimes these are prices that are not feasible for everyone or you have to earn all your living with them.

Joeri: Yeah, I didn't know anything about software, so that was the big step for me to start. And this was the other way around when it comes to hardware. But in this way we have been able to teach each other a lot.

 

You have both followed a different learning path when it comes to music, do you both pay attention to different things in a record because of this?

Brian: Also because of certain terms that one of us uses but we still know from each other what we mean. In the beginning this may have been a bit uncomfortable, but this has grown quite quickly actually.

When did you know you could put your songs online or have it listened by people for example?

Joeri: We don't actually send our records to people enough to be honest.

Brian: This happens less with us, usually we let our tracks listen when someone visits us. Sometimes to 1 or 2 people, maybe 3. Lukas Pfirtzer, Zico, I also sent them my records to ask for feedback.

 

Can you remember the first booking for Escaut?

Brian: The first booking with Escaut was for Floorfiller.

Joeri: Was that Floorfiller? Ow yeah in Limburg (Belgium), that was very pleasant at the time (laughs).

Brian: Good organization and the backstage was also well organized. They even had lobster and ribs all you can eat. If you needed a drink you immediately got a bottle in your hands, if this one was finished you immediately got a new one. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not into music to get these sorts of things. We weren't used to this so it was great to experience this for once. (laughs)

And how did it go with bookings after this?

Joeri: Shortly afterwards in the summer we had a booking in Cafe d’Anvers. After that it remained a bit quieter.

Brian: They were looking for another DJ to open at an event. We decided to send a slightly more "approved" version and not that much later we got a call. We had the booking but she still told us that we would not open the event and play later in the evening. Apparently we played a bit harder than the other artists of that night (laughs).

What advice would you give beginning artists if you look back to all of this?.
Brian: If you do not have a room or it has not been acoustically treated at all, it may be advisable to look at good headphones. Especially if you are very young and you do not want to disturb too many people (laughs). The disadvantage of this is that it is more difficult to get feedback from what is left or right. In some areas this can be a pitfall. But with a computer, a DAW and a headphone, it can already teach you a lot. 

Test the plugins and see what they do or how they work. Especially if you still want to discover whether this is completely your thing or not. If you are allowed to play somewhere, also make sure to check who is on the line up and who is the headliner, for example. That way you can avoid playing one of his tracks.

Joeri: Being able to read your audience and seeing how they react to your tracks is also important, because they indicate what the vibe is like around your set. And always remember that music is freedom.
 

Let’s go back to the present. Do you still play DJ sets or more live sets now?

Joeri: We still play DJ sets, sure. I usually still play with vinyl. We have not made any agreements such as changing every 15 minutes, for example, this is more based on our feelings.

Brian: I regularly play digital vinyl, I do get stuck with the digital a bit. The problem if you play with vinyl is that the gear you’ll have to play with in clubs can be wrecked or messed up a bit sometimes. Needles that no longer work properly, a record player that is gone or that the sound suddenly disappears from 1 side for example. People
notice these things, not pleasant at all. We now have the advantage that we can create a digital set, but not everyone can do this of course.

 

Who are your idols or artists you look up to?
Brian: Can't name a favorite right away, my choices go quite wide and there is so much fine music to find.

Joeri: I don’t have to think twice about naming a couple of nice Dj’s. The ones I used to look up to were "Coupe and Maniac". These are 2 hidden gems and many people can learn a lot from these guys.

You used to see them playing regularly, but in these times they unfortunately receive too little attention, I think.

Their skills are so good. I shouldn't think too much about names, they and Paul Damage from the UK, also a very good DJ. I think Keith Carnal is a good producer, especially the first records he released had such a good sound.

In the meantime you played in clubs and events such as Untz Untz, Cafe d’Anvers, Club Vaag, Ampere, just to name a few. Released a couple records as well, these are things you can be proud of, which one has stayed with you the most?

Brian: For me personally, this was when we had to close in Club Vaag. With the track ‘Mister Gasmask - Pipes of Pain’. Actually, the lights were already on cause that’s what they do to end the club night. But then I looked back over my shoulder and I saw the owner approving to play one more track. Joeri went to his record bag and took that track out. Drop it on the record player with the slider completely open, like you would do at home. Just dry from start to finish, like at home exactly.

Joeri: Everybody went crazy then. We played at a techno event but ended with an acid core track, things like that should be possible at that moment. We played that night from 4 to 6 am, that's the "graveyard" shift (laughs). At those hours it is an "art" to have as many people as possible dance there until the end. We’ve completed that task (laughs).

 

What has ‘Escaut’ been doing lately?

Brian: We did a live stream for Untz Untz. Very happy that we were allowed to do this. But it’s quite different without an audience. There are cameras pointed at you and this was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. It was a new and fun experience. Joeri: In April 2021 we played another set at War Records in Antwerp for their 3 year anniversary. And new tracks can be expected of course.

Author: Techno 24/7

Pic: Jimmy Wellder

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