Faisal: the one and only!
At This Is Antwerp we are constantly writing about talented artists born, raised and/or living in our ever growing city. And you know how a lot of times these names don’t immediately ring a bell, however gifted they may be? Well, this is not one of those cases.
Meet Faisal; DJ, music producer and resident host at national radio station Studio Brussels. And if that bell still isn't ringing, it might be time to get a new one because this up and coming DJ has had a very busy summer with sets at big festivals like Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and, more locally, Borgerwood. So obviously I needed to get my interview with him before I have to literally fight off real journalists. For their safety (I wish) I hooked up with da man.
TIA: How would you describe yourself, generally?
Faisal: I’m a young guy, who just kind of rolled into the ‘music business’. I’m one of the new kids on the block, just trying to find my spot in the Belgian scene. Not sticking to one genre, just playing whatever I want.
TIA: You say you rolled into music but was there something or someone specifically who gave you the right push?
Faisal: Oh yeah, definitely. As a student I worked in a Mexican restaurant, washing dishes. I did this every Sunday night and I absolutely hated it but there was one thing that brought me comfort every week and that was the radio playing in the background. I worked late hours and on Studio Brussels (Belgian national radio channel) you had these awesome late night shows like Lefto, Duyster and Gilles Peterson. I had never heard this kind of music before so they definitely inspired me to do what I do today.
As for the ‘someone’; my father was a DJ himself in the seventies, he played a lot of disco and funk. So I definitely grew up with a lot of vinyl around me. He gave me the freedom to check out his music and have fun with it. But only after I reached a certain age of course, so he knew I wouldn’t f*ck up his records (laughs). Starting from when I was young, he didn’t push me but rather inspired me to do something with music. He bought me instruments, he taught me how to mix records, how to play the guitar. That’s where it all started basically.
TIA: So why this genre specifically? Or in your case, why no specific genre?
Faisal: I don’t really think I fit into a genre, I just play whatever I want. I have done entire sets playing only jazz or disco, whatever feels right to me. I think we’re a bit past thinking in genres. I look up to DJ’s who play whatever they want so that’s what I try to do. If I only play hip hop for example and then all of a sudden I start playing house, the crowd’s not going to like that. But if I play something else every set, people won’t know what to expect.
TIA: What is your jam at the moment?
Faisal: Oh my god there’s so many, I don’t know. Well, I’ve been playing a lot of Noo-Bap lately. It’s this guy from Montreal, Canada. He has a really unique style in-between hip hop and house. The whole Montreal scene is popping actually, I’ve been playing a lot from there.
TIA: So how did you end up in Antwerp?
Faisal: I used to live in Hasselt but as soon as I got my show on Studio Brussels it got really hard to traverse. Especially late at night since I didn’t have a driver’s license yet back then. So I moved to Antwerp, just to have a better connection travel wise. It was supposed to be temporary until I moved to Brussels but then I really started to like it here so I stuck around and now it has been three years. So when someone asks me where I’m from, I would say from Antwerp but originally from Lommel.
TIA: If you could play a set literally anywhere in Antwerp, where would it be?
Faisal: Definitely at the Zoo, I thought about it earlier actually. Wait no, considering the animals it might not be a good plan. I don’t think they like beats (laughs). Maybe on a boat, as long as it’s actually going down the river or whatever and not stuck to the pier.
TIA: What would be your dream collaboration. With which artist? Dead or Alive.
Faisal: Amongst the dead, Mozart probably. I would love to hear what he would be capable of now, using modern synthesisers and whatnot.
As for the living, Kendrick Lamar for sure. I just really want to work with him. That’s like vocal wise but maybe music wise, Quincy jones. A legend like that, just to see if I can bring him down to my level. Or better yet, he brings me up to his level.
TIA: Any specific plans for the future?
Faisal: Not really, I try to go with the flow. It’s a lot more fun like that and less stressful for sure. I do know what I don’t want to be in the future though. I don’t want to be a billboard or become a brand people will start to exploit. Because to me that’s whoring yourself out and killing the music business, that I love.
TIA: Amen to that. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us and best of luck for whatever future plans may pop up!
Things Faisal loves in Antwerp
Favourite bar in Antwerp: Bar Léon (Borgerhout)
Favourite place to eat: Antwer-Pasta
Favourite hangout: the Kaaien
Favourite word in Antwerp: Gast (=dude)
Betting on the future
So that was, in a nutshell, Faisal. At the time of this writing it might have been a new name for lots of people but I’m betting you his name is going to come up a lot more from now on. I’m not even going to make another bell joke. Just trust me, I’m Asian. People tell me I’m good at gambling, or was it the other way around? Anyway, look him up on Facebook, soundcloud, everything and just thank me later.
Witness Faisal doing his thang at Boké this week!
Text by Kevin Lau
Pics by Kevin Lau