Catching up With Belgium Producer Gratts: New Records, New Shows and a New Home in Australia
Gratts, the alias of a new face in Adelaide, Tristan … is a DJ & producer who has been based in Berlin for the last 8 years. Playing regular gigs across the city that is known for its club/party scene as well as putting out a host of releases, they have now relocated to South Australia to start a new phase of their life.
In the coming months Tristan has shows at the legendary Adelaide nightspot, Sugar. Then back to Berlin at Heideglühen and Goldengate at the start of June before an ‘All Night Long’ set at Club 77 Sydney.
I had a chat with Gratts to find out more about the recent move, some musical influences and what's next for the Belgian artist.
Tristan! How are you doing? Fresh in Adelaide this year ... how was the move and how are you enjoying your new life in Australia?
I’m well, thank you. It’s been quite a big change moving to Adelaide after 8 years in Berlin. We arrived in January and are finally getting settled a bit. I love Australia and it’s great to be here - I’ll be honest: mostly here for the food.
Your instagram really shows off an extensive record collection ... How did you get them all down to Australia and can you tell me some of the favorites you have in your collection.
I started collecting records when I was 15, so it’s been more than 20 years. I ended up with too many, so I sold a good few during the last couple of years. The gist of them will go into storage in my home country Belgium for a couple of years I’m afraid, a few hundred are following me to Australia for work.
There are many favourites as you can imagine, It’s a neverending love. I’m always pulling out records I haven’t played in a while. Here’s a few that I rediscovered that might be coming to 77:
Before we get into your music and upcoming shows, I wanted to get a bit of insight into your journey to being an artist that has released multiple records and played all over the world. How long have you been deejaying and making music and what were some of your early breakthroughs into the scene?
I got into music as a young teenager. When I was 14 I discovered electronic music through Orbital, early Coldcut, Prodigy etcetera. It very soon became an obsession and I started buying records. I think the music you hear at that age always tends to have a lasting impression on you. Via a few excursions in breakbeats and drum ‘n bass I started getting into proper house music around ‘99. I read all the dance music magazines from the UK that I could get my hands on. I discovered the Guidance imprint through a free mix cd that came with Muzik Mag, for example. There was also this amazing Belgian mag called Plastiks that would offer sampler cds with the mags. Some incredible house music came out late nineties - proper songs / anthems that would get played on the radio. An early memory is Armand Van Helden’s “You Don’t Know Me” - still a firm favourite. Soon after, aged 17 or so, I started playing in clubs, notably the legendary Silo Club in my hometown Leuven, then a bit later on out of town places like Ghent’s infamous Decadance and plenty more. A while ago I ran across a hand written calendar from those days and boy, was I busy. Apart from being very active as a DJ, I became part of a few crews, promoting nights, and started a deephouse radio show on Belgium’s oldest indie radio - Radio Scorpio in Leuven. So you could say there was a big, all consuming love for music there. Around the 2010s, I got involved with the We Play House crew as they were mates and I dj’ed under that flag sometimes.
In the meantime I had periods where I dabbled with music software, but I was usually too busy with gigs, promoting, radio etc. In 2012 I started my label Ensemble out of Brussels with my friend Kong and tried freeing some more time for studio adventures here and there. I released a bunch of records under a bunch of alter egos - Cashminus (with my partner Emma aka Eluize), Fuifnummers, Icarus Traxx (a house music group), De Ambassade (with my pal San Soda) and a few others I won’t even mention ;)
It wasn’t until the pandemic hit in 2020 that I finally had a break from gigs and found the time to lay down some ideas for solo material. I’ve been off the sauce the last two years too, which resulted in being quite productive so I’m happy to announce that a handful more records will see the light of day in the coming months. Since I still mainly play vinyl I do prefer to release my music on the format, and as you may have heard, these days it takes a while to manufacture a slab of wax, so it’s been taking time. But I’m patient.
Your recent release ‘Brighter Future' came with a great video showing off some of Berlin’s suburban streets and the iconic Tempelhof Park. Can you tell me a little more about the idea behind the clip?
The video was filmed in our neighbourhood, Kreuzberg 61, where used to live, had our record shop The Consulate (which you see at the start of the video) and our music studio. Tempelhofer Feld (as they call it here) was within walking distance and a place where I’d often end up, gazing at the clouds. It’s a very open space that gives you a bit of a beach feeling. The idea behind the clip can be summed up as “an ode to loitering”, as a Belgian magazine put it. At the same time, it’s probably also an unconscious “goodbye Berlin” letter - we filmed the video in June last year, knowing we’d depart soon.
It’s also a bit symbolic, I guess, because Robert and I’s paths actually first crossed in the streets of Kreuzberg in 2015, when he had just moved to Berlin. In a way, our collaboration was born on the street. The video was directed by Emile the Wanderer, my photographer alias documenting my wanderings - local and not so local. I recently read something about "time millionnaires”- people who recognize that life is short and aren’t interested in money but rather be "rich in time”. When I first moved to Berlin in 2013, I basically wandered around aimlessly for the first few years, exploring the city, a mindset that I can recommend to anyone. So that’s the main idea: live slowly, embrace your surroundings, be curious, speak to people that cross your path - you never know what it might lead to.
It’s a very classic sound in this track, how did you go about putting it together? Working in a DAW mostly or was it a more hardware focused approach?
I laid out the basic demo of “Brighter Future” at my in-law's kitchen table in Adelaide as we’d gotten stuck there in early 2020. So it was very much written “in the box”, first and foremost. I thought it was kind of funny when one of my mates said he found the song quite subversive in a
way, because it went against the trends - most people are releasing fast electro and techno these days and here I was, presenting a deephouse track to the world with a positive message and a saxophone.
"When I was 14 I discovered electronic music through Orbital, early Coldcut, Prodigy etcetera. It very soon became an obsession and I started buying records"
A bit more on your style now … who or what are your biggest influences when it comes to making your music? Are there any artists or labels that really motivated you to start producing?
We could talk about this for hours so I’ll try and keep it brief with 5 names that were hugely influential to me:
Chez Damier & Ron Trent
You look to have a stacked calendar in the coming months, including a brief trip back over to Europe and a run of Aussie club shows, which shows are you really looking forward to and why?
I’m very thankful to be busy doing what I love, it’s always a challenge to try and balance family life with music, being on the road, trying to work on music, etc. Honestly, I look forward to every gig as they’re all different and I very much enjoy the process of gearing up and prepping for each one. Playing in Berlin is always special of course, because the clubs are probably among the best on the planet. But Australia has quite surprised me with how good the nightlife can be.
Your latest record, ‘Music For The Moon Room Gecko’ on Flexi Cuts Italy was just released this month. How are you feeling about this release and how long has it been in the making?
This record has been in the making since mid 2020 so it’s been a long time coming. I’m still quite happy with it, mostly thanks to the remixers (PJ Principle (FKA Peej of DiY Discs fame) and Jenifa Mayanja) on the flipside, who have truly outdone themselves. I’d recommend you to go and have a listen if you have a spare few minutes.
One June 24th you will be playing an all night set at one of Sydney’s longest standing dance venues, something I am sure most DJ’s enjoy the opportunity of playing. How do you think you will pack your record bags for this one and what excites you about playing an extended set like this?
I love playing long sets so I’m very much looking forward to an extended 77 session - I’ve heard nothing but great things about the venue from people whose opinion I rate - sounds like a proper Sydney institution! Plus (as one of my old bios read): nothing beats playing records on big systems in small basements. What I mostly enjoy long ones is that I get to play really mellow
stuff early on - and possibly stretch that as long as possible, until the vibe is there and you reach that tipping point.
Finally, what’s next for Gratts … any future releases for later in the year or talks of some more touring to finish 2022? Is there anything that you want to put out there for the audience to keep an eye on?
There are a handful of records in the works that I look forward to sharing with everyone soon. In the meantime, I hope to continue playing cool shows in 2022 down under and explore more amazing places and meet new friends. Possibly return to Asia for a tour later in the year, perhaps, as it’s been a while since I’ve seen my friends there. And I’ve also started a little night in Adelaide called “Brighter Future” (yes, named after) at Sugar where I’ll be inviting some interstate / international friends, as well as some of Adelaide’s finest. Watch this space :)
Purchase 'Music For The Moon Room Gecko’ HERE
Gratts on Instagram
Watch Gratts Vinyl only set for Hör Berlin HERE
Gratts plays Boogie Dance Café at Club 77 on Friday 24th June alongside Simon Caldwell. Click HERE for full event details.