Lowup: The Brussels Collective You Need To Know About
Meet Lowup records, a Brussels collective that has been around for ten years and is hopefully here to stay for another ten! From illegal parties to raves at Beurschouwburg and Recyclart. They became a fixture in Brussels with their own label, visual identity, weekly radioshows and memorable parties. With festivals such as Dour festival and Couleur café on their list, they have travelled the world with artists such as Max Le Daron, DJ Mellow, Gan Gah and the ever enigmatic Mr Orange. Read all about it here.
How did Lowup come to life?
It all started about 10 years ago in a loft in Anderlecht. We began throwing parties at Momo’s appartement, a friend of ours. After 3 or 4 editions there were monthly parties called: 'Lowup – Dangerous Nightclubbing'. DJ Mellow, Mr Orange & Max Le Daron started performing there. Things got collectively organised as well.
What did momo’s place look like?
It was located in a dodgy neighbourhood nearby ‘Gare Du Midi’. In Brussels there were a lot of back-to-back houses. Momo’s place was a building from the industrial era in the 20th century. There was a long hallway that lead to an old textile factory with a couple large plateaus.
The ground floor was a Brazilian church. We partied on the 1st floor and on the 3th floor you had some crazy Nigerian voodoo church. It was funny that the voodoo church and our parties would start at the same time. When we finished on Sundays by 8 am, the Brazilians would come over all dressed up for Sunday mass. It was nice to be able to peacefully co-exist with them.
How did the parties at Momo's come to an end?
Well, there is a big difference between running a semi-illegal party and running a club. If you don’t have a policy it’s bound to be a challenge. Eventually Momo got fed up of sorting everything out, things slowly started to deteriorate, cops showed up on our doorstep to shut down parties. That's when we decided to adapt and the first lowup parties at different venues took place.
Do you think you can get away with stuff like this today, for example: organising illegal raves without problems with the cops?
Yes, we think it's still possible to have a semi-illegal place if you know what you're doing. After all, a party with 200 people isn't that big. If you take care of various aspects it could still be possible today...
What about the music, has it changed? And did the vibe change at parties?
We think the music became much more accessible and the crowd got used to our sounds. Productions changed as well and afro became a thing, whereas it used to be very underground back in the days. There has been a rise of afrobeats and azonto music. Diplo picked it up as well.
Max Le Daron: Delving into music has changed too. It used to be through blogs and obscure illegal sites. Music was way less accessible. Nowadays everyone can easilly post their music on Spotify and Itunes.
What about Baile Funk? When you say Baile Funk today, people instantly think about guys like Sango or AbJo. But back in the day it was more raw 808 Brazilian stuff, right?
Yes definitely. I think the Daniel Haaksman compilations about Baile Funk were key to Lowup. We always played that stuff at our parties. Man Recordings definitely helped push the Baile Funk sound. Mad Decent & Man Recordings releases supported shaping the sound at our parties. The same goes for baltimore, grime and dancehall.
Did it change for you too, Max Le Daron? Because I think we can say you are more or less the celebrity on the label. You’ve travelled the world with your music, how long have you been doing it?
I’ve seen ups and downs, I think I’ve never been into the hype stuff. You had trends like digital cumbia and when it went ‘too mainstream’ I was already bored of it. By then I had switched to another genre. Sometimes I was able to catch the wave but it dies out quite fast. So I just make what I like and I don’t care about the hypes.
What does the word lowup mean?
The 'low' stands for the low bass and darkness within bass music. Back in the days it was all about dubstep, dark garage and nu skool breaks. Quite dark music. That brings us to the 'up', which stands for the happy vibes and festive stuff you tend to find in world music. The term lowup was invented by OnePoss Mc. Back in the days at Momo's we would have a resident Mc, he was the one who came with the name Lowup.
So the label started in 2011, how did that happen?
Back in the days you needed a label to get on Itunes and stuff. It was also helpfull to get bookings or to get known by the press. It made it ‘more official’ in a way, like a quality stamp. But we still think a label has a function today. It can work as a certain quality stamp.
We use a different approach today. We curate more but we also accompany artists. It takes about 6 months to get to that point. From demo e-mail to a finished product. Mellow has a sharp tongue when it comes to music and he's really good at coaching young producers too. It’s an evolution in how you look at things and how you produce. So we went from promoting an artist to creating a certain path for him or her we’d say.
What's coming up in the future?
It’s going to be busy! We’ve got our 10 years Lowup compilation coming up of which we hope will give us more visibility. We have a crowdfunding campaign up and running to finance the latter and the '10 years Lowup party' planned at Beursschouwburg in April. We would like to follow that up with equally good releases. Becoming more structured and planning ahead when it comes to releasing and organising is our goal.
Tim, what exactly did you do for the 10 year release?
I designed t-shirts, posters and merchandise for this 10 year release. It’s still a secret for now but I can tell you that it is very playful and it fits the music.
What are some of the other things you do for lowup?
I create a lot of artwork for the releases from our artists. I create Lowup Gifs, shirts, artwork and social banners as well. I tried to basically create a visual identity for Lowup.
Tim do you have any tips for future graphic designers? Would you recommend them finding a label or something similar to work for, to create stuff?
Yes absolutely! Of course, moneywise I don’t earn much trough Lowup. But it’s definitely a good way to get your name out there and to find new clients. For example, when I create for Lowup I already know they have a community. Thus people will see it. Just a few days ago an artist contacted me because he found my work through Lowup and now I am creating something for him.
So if you love graphic design you should just do it and try to obtain an audience. Make your own stuff, develop your own identity and people will come to you.
How do you guys imagine the next ten years in your dreams?
Mr Orange: We have been around since the beginning of Diplo’s Mad Decent label and Enchufada as well. So personally, I would like to get us to the next level. Become more professional, maybe monetise it a bit or get grants to do some cool stuff. Of course we won’t be as big as Mad Decent or Enchufada but some growth would be nice. It’s been a shift to less parties and more label stuff but I would still like to invite some people to our parties. We need a regular night every two months to invite some cool artists.
Max Le Daron: I think we would also like to host more label nights outside of Brussels, more worldwide to get this music out there. I hope we can grow a bit while getting residencies in other European cities. The nightlife in Brussels is very though, especially for 200 people parties in Brussels. I think the shut down of Recyclart is yet another proof of that.
Can you give us some spoilers regarding some artists from the 10 year compilation?
Max Le Daron & Dj Mellow ofcourse, but Gafacci and Kid Cala as well!
Mr. Orange: Gafacci is a producer from Ghana and he really mixes European club sound with African stuff, which is really nice (smiles very excited).
What is the most memorable moment of the past 10 years?
Max Le Daron: Dour Festival Lowup soundsytem! I remember making a bet with a friend once that said: ‘If you play at Dour Festival within the next ten years I'll owe you a pack of beer'. I never got that pack of beer though...
Mr Orange: We attract a very differed crowd at our parties with an open attitude towards music but also towards gender, race, age, etc.
We manage to create a beautiful vibe at our parties and that's amazing. We did parties at Recyclart, Beursschouwburg, Le Relais Tir, Le Dercle des Voyageurs, Momo's and so on. We were always able to keep this crowd. That's a nice achievement in my opinion.
Do you think you are Brussels fixture? How do you think this city has affected you as a collective and your music?
For us it is really hard imagining not being from Brussels as we were born here and raised here. It’s interwoven with our DNA, we can't imagine not being in Brussels and not being influenced by it's presence.
On a more profound level, the big difference is that Brussels is diverse with different layers we really enjoy. You can play cumbia or whatever and suddenly you'll have a bunch of Colombians coming up to you being psyched that you play this kind of music. I can't imagine that happening anywhere else. It’s nice that we get positive feedback from such a diverse crowd.
Max Le Daron: Indeed, I couldn't imagine Lowup somewhere else. Brussels is a melting pot that reflects our label. It's like the Brussels stoemp, a true melting pot!
Jabo & Gan Gah’s music is really unique. What do you call it?
We call it Moroccon Bass.
Were you the first to introduce this in Belgium?
Jabo and Gan Gah came with that stuff, we named it like that for fun. That it was a thing back then. I don’t think we invented this genre, there are certainly other producers who make it, like Acid Arab for example. Maybe we use more influences from jersey club and footwork. But we are definitely not the first to combine oriental stuff with electronics, that has been around for more than 10 years.
Do you have a need to push underground music?
No we don’t need to. But we do need to push out kids like Qwasa Qwasa and Gan Gah because they make some amazing stuff. We have a platform to do so, and we intend to use it!
We are not Man Recordings but what we can do is help youngsters and kickstart them. We never had a businessplan but I think artists like Gan Gah and Qwasa Qwasa saw a certain openness in our label. They thought it was the right moment for them to come to us. We can only offer them a platform and our knowledge and resources.
Last but definitely not least, If you would be able to sign Beyoncé would you do it?
Mr Orange: it depends on the music of course. But I prefer to believe that it would be a fine collaboration.
Max Le Daron: NO, we don’t have the power to handle Beyoncé (laughs).
Tim: Mr. Orange only says that because he likes Beyoncé! But of course, could you imagine Beyoncé on a Gang Gah production? I would like to see a top-notch pop artist on a Lowup production. So yes we would sign Beyoncé!