Get to Know: Jonas Lion

Published on July 23rd, 2013

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We just sat down with Jonas Lion, the headlining DJ for our THIRD installment of VELOUR at Table 31! Velour goes down Saturday, August 3rd, but in the meantime you can check out Jonas’ thoughts about his first gig in the US, transforming the music scene in his home country, and using music to break up fights in the club.

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Is this your first time playing in the US? If not, what was your first experience in the States like?

I’ve been visiting the US a lot in the past few years – I recently reported to Studio Brussels, a national radio station, about my trip to the Red Bull Music Academy in NYC in May – but this is the first time I’m actually playing out over the Atlantic. I’m looking forward to see how it goes down here, in comparison to parties in Europe!

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start as a promoter and the creation of your new digital music platform, Level.01? Where you want to take it from here?

Two older friends of mine – Sim and Wim – were already throwing the Untitled! dubstep parties in Antwerp since 2007. I was a regular visitor and I rolled with them after a while. Since Untitled! was never really my own project, I always felt that I wanted to do something more. Early in 2011 there was a point where we felt that we needed a new platform to represent the newer sounds coming from the UK. Together with Sim and Wim we created Level.01. Initially it was just our second room on the Untitled! raves, with bookings like Oneman and Ben Westbeech.

Gradually, Level.01 became an independent night so that Untitled! could stay focused on dubstep. Now we have a weekly residency in a summer pop-up bar called Zomerfabriek, which is ideal to broadcast local and national DJ’s. This year has been very hectic, but after summer we want to get busy again and put more attention to the digital record label, which should also predominantly feature Belgian producers.

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How do you go about recruiting and developing local talent for the Level.01 label? Have local artists started seeking you out and asking to sign with you?

Well, the label hasn’t really got too much attention yet, it’s only had one release so far this year. Also, the Untitled! label, which had a handful of vinyl releases, kind of lingered on for a long time. But we have got stuff in the Level.01 pipeline now and there should be more releases again after the summer.

The Belgian scene is really small, so once you’re in the game a few years you get to know most people. If a new producer starts making good stuff, it doesn’t stay a secret for long. Going to different parties in the scene throughout Belgium really makes you get in touch with everyone, and that’s usually where it starts off. Or you just Soundcloud-message him and grab some beers.

Can you describe the experience of watching the music scene in your country transform over the course of just a few years?

The house, techno and dubstep/breakbeat scenes used to be really divided. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve seen a crossover of genres. I feel that people now go to different nights, where before, they would only go to their house or dubstep parties. I remember it was difficult to draw house people to the first Level.01 night in 2011 because they felt it was too close to dubstep – and most dubstep-heads there felt it was too much house. Now that has changed and I think a scene for this crossover has been developed.

This UK sound has definitely made a lot of former breakbeat-heads (like myself) into house and techno fans, which partly contributed to the recent revival of the house scene here. The massive dubstep raves like we knew them had their moment and now start to become less and less frequent. But in the end I don’t like to think of the categorization of music scenes. Now, there’s just more exciting and different stuff going on than before – whether it be house, techno, bass or hip-hop – so that’s what counts.

What has the response been like from your audience in Belgium as you start to branch out from dubstep / big room electronic music and incorporate new sounds and genres into the mix?

It was a bit hard to push these sounds at first. The Belgian crowd never really was as progressive and open-minded as in other places. Now I believe there’s a lot more initiative from people getting into the big pool of house/techno/hip-hop/whatever music. It’s great to see other promoters starting up their own stuff now too. So there’s definitely a growing market for this music now, which makes me happy.

I’ve seen that Level .01 is not only a digital music platform, you guys also have a creative visual aspect to the program. What types of documentaries do you feature at your events? Do you focus on local talent specifically, or on international filmmakers as well?

Well, from time to time we like to feature music documentaries as well. Not too long ago we screened ‘Last Shop Standing’, which addresses the unfortunate downfall of the independent records stores in the UK. I can’t say it’s the centerpiece in what we do, but we try to show interesting features if we feel like it, whether it be from a national or international filmmaker.

Had any of these big names you book (Boddika, Disclosure, Bok Bok, Skream etc.) ever played in Belgium before you brought them in?

Many of the UK artists we have booked over the years were coming to Belgium for the first time. I know that was the case for Koreless, Disclosure (DJ set), Boddika, Bondax, Leon Vynehall, etc. I think Philly-man Starkey’s first Belgium gig was Untitled! as well.

What do you foresee for the Belgium in the next few years in terms of its music scene?

I really feel that there are a lot of new producers making cool stuff here. Young people are throwing new events and some local talents are getting some attention in the UK and Germany. It can be really difficult to run a night sometimes in Belgium, but at least I think the atmosphere is positive now and new stuff gets some room to develop.

Can you tell us about some of the local talent that you’ve been working with? Give us some names that we should look out for in the near future.

There’s a lot of exciting new acts in Belgium lately! The boys from Vuurwerk (http://dandelionlotus.bandcamp.com/album/me-one-12 ) in Brussels are really making some dope beats across different tempos. Also from the capital are DJ Slow and his Pelican Fly Crew (https://soundcloud.com/pelicanfly), who have a brilliant record label with releases from Cashmere Cat and Sinjin Hawke.

Gullfisk’s label Voxed Recordings is having a great start as well with an excellent EP by Oaktree (http://voxedrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/chapters-ep). In terms of DJs, I’d like to mention Nosedrip, who’s consistently good mixtapes are always packed with random-but-tasteful records from different genres (http://nosedrip.tumblr.com/).

Give us a few of your most memorable moments from your shows. Who were, in your opinion, the standout performers?

This is a classic Untitled! story. I think it was around 2007 when we had Rusko coming over to play in the smaller venue we had back then. There were deep vibes, but a fight broke out. Rusko cut the volume and dropped DMZ’s “Anti War Dub” from the start. It was fun to see how the fight had stopped because of a fat bassline!

Our 5th Birthday party in 2012 was a full weekender over 2 big rooms, with outstanding performances from the Numbers Recordings gang and the Deep Medi crew for a sold out venue. That was the biggest one!

Give us 3 albums you’re listening to right now

I’m listening to so much stuff this summer, I’ve been catching up. These are just on the top of my mind:

Comanche – Silicon Basilica

Slow Machete – Evening Dust Choir

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Many thanks to Jonas Lion, we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us August 3rd!!

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