Bye bye paper membership cards
Maybe the name Virtual Zone doesn’t ring a bell immediately, but when you listen to his most famous tracks you’ll instantly know who this guy is. Virtual Zone released his debut single called ‘Change U Mind/Virtual Zone’ in 1998 and it blew everyone away. The intro speaks for itself and became a classic in the club scene during the peak of the trance era. Twenty years later we wanted to see what he’s still capable of and how he feels about the scene nowadays. We met with him in his apartment in De Panne where he’s enjoying life and still working on music on a daily basis.
Interview by Laura Callewaert
Photos by Celeste Mattot
I quit music for a couple of years, but it was stronger than myself so I had to start it up again
How did you get into music at the time?
I liked to party a lot when I was younger and while dancing I was always wondering why DJs composed the music the way they did. I was thinking about every little change I could make in the song and make it better. Often I was so focused that I stopped dancing and just sat in the back of the venue thinking about it. And one time I took a leap of faith and tried to make a song myself. The first song I ever made was ‘Change U Mind/Virtual Zone’, the legendary one. Then I made a second one, ‘Heaven’, that was really famous as well. I made a third popular record, but from there on the problems started with my producer. I quit music for a couple of years, but it was stronger than myself so I had to start it up again.
What does your life look like nowadays?
I still make music, actually. Not like I used to, I focus more on techno, lounge and deep house now and I make soundtracks for movies. You could say I’m a guy who just does whatever he likes. Twenty years ago I liked trance music, now I’m into other stuff. I don’t want to stay in the past, it’s not me anymore. Even though it was a wonderful period, I had to evolve. Like everyone, I guess. I’ve been living in De Panne for a couple of years now; I’ve moved around a lot in Belgium and now I’m here. There’s a lot of old people, though. But I have a little side job in a hotel couple days a week that gives me the opportunity to focus on my music.
I feel like a lot of the times it’s not about talent anymore and I find that frustrating
How do you feel the music industry has changed?
I feel like there are not enough chances for smaller artists. Music companies only want to work with artists that make big money. That wasn’t the case twenty years ago. We had CDs, vinyl, cassettes, etc. All these physical things that you could sell to the public. Now everything is digital and it doesn’t gain you as much as it used to. Plays on Spotify aren’t going to pay my bills [laughs].
Do you still follow up on music these days?
Not really. I’m not feeling inspired by what’s coming out nowadays. Last time I really liked something was probably ten years ago. I feel like a lot of the times it’s not about talent anymore and I find that frustrating. Back in the days we only did live performances and nobody was a DJ. You had to be a producer to be called an artist, you had to do more than just mix songs together.
The public goes crazy when I play, they take off their clothes and throw teddy bears at me
What do you see as the best moment from your career?
Hands down, Sportpaleis in Antwerp. I always have the best time there and the public goes crazy when I play, they take off their clothes and throw teddy bears at me. And I liked the Boccaccio and Zillion as well at the time. The things I saw there, you can’t even imagine. It was so utopian and dark. Sad that there aren’t any clubs like that anymore.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to make an orchestral version of the single ‘Virtual Zone’. And make music on a daily basis of course, and hopefully make another legendary hit.
Subbacultcha presents: Astrid Gnosis + Virtual Zone + more
12 July – Amigo, Ghent
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