From Belgium, Raoul Belmans of Swirl People (facebook, twitter, soundcloud) has cut more than 70 EPs under a variety of crazy aliases, including Cosy Creatures, Dandruff Truckers, Different Noodles and his disco alter ego, Raoul Lambert. Celebrating his 20th anniversary as a DJ, Raoul is releasing a string of EPs called Porcelain with a world tour to follow…
Swirl People is listed as a collaboration between you and Dimitri Dewever, but I’ve noticed you’ve been doing a lot of the releases solo and touring on your own for awhile. Are you still together?
Oh yes. Dimitri is currently doing familial stuff – he’s a dad and that’s his priority at the moment. I’ve been producing on my own for awhile and taking care of the business. We also have a lot of Swirl People stuff still lying around.
I’ve always been more of the guy in the studio and kind of the “heavyweight” from the start because I was always a DJ, so I was making the big decisions and stuff. We sort of did a 50/50 split in production because we were complimentary – my ideas came from DJing, his ideas came more from listening to different kinds of music.
You came through Chicago and LA on tour a few months ago. I’m curious to hear your opinion on the House Music scene you saw here, since you don’t live in it day-to-day and also have something to compare it with back in Europe.
I’ve been coming to the US since 2002 and I have noticed some changes. It was a little bit smaller in my opinion.
How is it different from where you’re at in Belgium? Some folks might see part of the scene here as “big”, but it’s more of the David Guetta-style of music.
Belgium has always been a bit more avant-garde. Like Dubstep is already over here, or going down – it was really big for the last two years – whereas it still seems to be on the way up over in the United States. But we have national radio stations that still play our stuff. Guetta and that type of music has their part of the scene. And of course Techno is big since we’re just over the border from Germany.
Well, since Belgium is ahead of the curve, maybe you can read a crystal ball and tell us what our future looks like. What’s big there now?
In my opinion, there’s a big wave of Disco, and this is both in the scene and on the radio too. The DFA guys from New York – that sound may be the next big thing here. So maybe music will become more poppy, which would be okay with me because I like that kind of music.
I think a lot of people associate you with the Aroma label. Are you still releasing music under that imprint?
We actually stopped with Aroma Recordings about two years ago, though we didn’t make a big announcement or anything. There were a lot of reasons why, but one of the main ones is that Aroma was going strong for eleven years as a label that was very big on vinyl. But that started to die out, and quickly. Our Swirled Music label is digital and it’s nicer not having to worry about pressing plant stuff and all of that.
One of the things that bugs me about dance music releases is the long, 9 part artist names, like “Blah Blah featuring Blah presents Blah Blah Blah”. You, on the other hand, have always had all of these weird and funny aliases like “Cosy Creatures” or “Different Noodles” or “Dandruff Truckers”. Where do you get these names from?
I just come up with them! I might see something in a magazine or whatever. I actually have a list on my desk that has enough aliases to last me the next five years!
Can you tell me one of these names in search of a project?
You’ll have to wait the next five years to find out! I like coming up with them because the music is supposed to be light-hearted and fun and the names reflect that.
What about your “Raoul Lambert” alias? Where did that come from?
Actually it’s funny but there was a famous Belgian soccer player named “Raoul Lambert”. I was booked to play a party at a museum about, I’d say, nine years ago. It was really a great party with all these different rooms…
For whatever reason the promoters changed the names of all of the DJs and I was “Raoul Lambert”. I liked it and I like playing under it too – the whole theme of the party was to dig deeper into your crates and play older or more obscure records. I’m booked for gigs with that name from time to time and I like to play eclectic sets like that, playing old vinyl. And I produce under the name because I like making tracks that sound like that too.
Okay, let’s talk about DJing then. How big is the local scene in Belgium?
It’s somewhat similar to the US in that it’s a bit smaller than it used to be. At the end of the ’90s, House Music was huge, in the days just before the wave of Electro hit. I do think it’s coming back here and there throughout the country. I see signs though it’s still not where it used to be.
I know you had a residency at a place in Belgium called “Food” for a lot of years. Do you still play regularly on the local scene?
I play here every couple of weeks. There are five or six nice clubs, which is pretty good for such a small country – it’s smaller than the state of Florida.
When you were running Aroma, you broke a lot of artists. I mean, for some of the American artists, you broke them worldwide before they were even well-known in their own country.
Yes! They came to me, which was funny. I’m not sure why they did. With LawnChair Generals, I met them in Miami and they gave me a CD during lunch, saying “Here, this is for Aroma.” I liked it and thought it would do well in Europe, but then it did well in Europe… it did well in Australia… it did well in Japan…
But it was a lot of work. And towards the end at Aroma, I noticed we were getting poorer quality demos. It makes sense with people having studios from home and so on these days. Tracks were getting harder to find and that probably had something to do with that decision as well.
On that subject, I’m curious of your opinion of guys like Toomy Disco, who’s young and even named his album in honor of having been made in his bedroom.
It doesn’t matter at all how it’s made. I actually do know that record and I really enjoyed it. I think he’s really talented. If you do more than just sample and build a whole song around samples, but create a new sound, something fresh – why not? You can make tracks sitting in a café on your laptop now, which obviously was impossible ten years ago. I personally run all of my stuff through analog stuff because it sounds warmer, but whatever works.
What was the last record you played that you really beat the hell out of – the one that showed up in all of your sets until you wore it out?
Wow, that’s a great question. You’re asking me and I’m sitting in a room with thousands of records… Hm, I think it would probably be FCL’s “Let’s Go” on a local label here called We Play House. It just has that old Kerri Chandler sound. Wherever I go, people ask me to play that.
So tell me about your new tracks and the “Porcelain” series that you have coming out.
The Porcelain EP #1 is out now. It’s the first in a series (there will be three more).
It’s called “Porcelain” because this is my 20th anniversary of DJing, and 20 years is the “porcelain anniversary” in terms of marriage and things like that.
I’m going to have a world tour called “Porcelain” starting here in Belgium in April and then going through the rest of the world.
I also have a remix coming out on an Australian label called Sonrisa, and there’s also The Littlemen’s best of compilation coming out.
And there’s also a release under my Raoul Lambert alias, which is for Disco and kind of slower tracks I release, on We Play House.