David Fourqaert’s and Mo Becha’s extensive career as The Glimmers began when they were just teenagers, spinning early-morning parties in the heart of Belgium’s electronic music scene. With their signature blend of eclectic house, breaks, disco, and electro, The Glimmers’ Eskimo parties were the center of Ghent’s dance scene. They’ve since gone on to lend that inimitable sound to their homegrown label, Eskimo Recordings, which, this month, celebrates 10 years in the industry with the release of Eskimonde: A Decade of Eskimo Recordings, an incredible 35-track collection that features hits from their label’s massive repertoire, including singles and remixes from the likes of Aeroplane, Low Motion Disco, Trentemoller, Tiga, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas, and Moonlight Matters, plus exclusive new mixes from The Glimmers themselves.
We chatted with Fourqaert about their decade-plus career, their early years in Ghent, and the Eskimo party legacy that birthed their new compilation.
You guys were only 14 and 15 when you started playing together as The Glimmers. How did you meet and decide to start playing together? How would you say your sound has benefited from so many years spent as partners and those early days playing in Ghent?
We started in a little bar for students that was open every weekday between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning, between 12:00 and 1:30 PM and between 4:30 PM and 6 PM. We were 17 and 18 when we started playing at Ghent’s most legendary club ever, called Fifty-Five—that was when we started to play all-night-long DJ sets. We started immediately with a live audience. That’s probably one of the biggest differences between DJs today and DJs from our generation—we couldn’t practice or try things out at home because a decent DJ setup was so expensive, especially for street kids like we were.
So we had to convince the owner of that little student bar to hire us, and we learned the skills with a live audience. Watching people react on mixes we did or music we chose was very interesting. Sometimes it was great, but sometimes it was annoying as well! That learning process certainly is one of our biggest benefits. We learned how to entertain a group of people with music and mixes, and that definitely influenced our way of DJing. A lot of youngsters these days practice at home and only have feedback from each other. We had feedback from an audience every time we played music. And soon we learned how to react to their reactions and like this create that oh-so-wonderful interaction between the DJ and the crowd.
Can you tell us a bit about what the Eskimo parties were like when you first started? What made them such a revelation?
We were the main DJs at all of these parties, promoted by different people and good friends of ours. They always came to us for advice or tips and they booked us every time—that was in the early ’90s. The thing that was so magical with the Eskimo parties at the end of the ’90s was that the Eskimo promoters combined all this experience into one big party; all sorts of musical scenes that normally went only to their own parties came to Eskimo and discovered a whole spectrum of fresh, new music and more importantly, new genres. Our role here was pivotal because we were DJing all these other parties as well, so we were attracting people from every scene. It was a huge success.
So, why did you choose Eskimo as the name for your label? How did the idea for the label come about, and how would you define Eskimo Recordings’ musical culture?
Because the parties were called Eskimo, NEWS, a record company based in Ghent, asked us if we could make a DJ mix based on “the sound” of the Eskimo parties, so it was quite logical to name the compilation Eskimo. We got great reactions on these mixes, nationally and internationally! The press loved them all! It was a success so compilation #2 followed soon, and then later #3, #4—and at that time Culture Club was a phenomenon as well. We felt that we could do more under the Eskimo moniker so we started to release themed DJ mixes, like our very own Serie Noire, Dark Pop and New Beat. We invited guest DJs to create mixes for us, like NYC’s Rub ‘n Tug, Glasgow’s Optimo, Ivan Smagghe, and later a few re-edits from our DJ mixes came out as 12” singles. And before we really knew, there was a record label called Eskimo Recordings! Musically, we mixed a lot of old stuff that was very much new-sounding with new stuff that sounded old and vintage. That mixture created a strange but nice vibe and it was something really fresh.
Eskimo as a culture is still known for its parties, like the recent release party for the Eskimonde set, which we heard was a big success. How have your events today, like the Eskimonde party, changed since your parties in the ’90s?
The Eskimo parties stopped in the early 2000s and then Culture Club opened its doors. We took the decks at Culture Club alongside Steph and David from Soulwax and we played every Saturday all night long for, like, three years, developing and streamlining the rough sounds that were the heart of the Eskimo parties. Since then, we traveled all over the world a few times and played in all sorts of clubs and at all sorts of festivals. The Eskimo parties faded into the background a bit and Eskimo really began to focus on the label now. When we played a few weeks ago at the Eskimonde party, it wasn’t a return to those Eskimo party days. It felt more like a music label party; everyone there was coming for the music. But then, for the music the label released over all these years. Back in the days people came for the different sorts of music released by all the other labels, genres from reggae to hip-hop to drum & bass to house to rock n roll—the Eskimo parties were very messy, very naïve, and very rock ‘n roll. The Eskimonde party had a more mature, structured feeling. It became a genre. Eskimo started as a party concept to mess things up—a reaction to what was going on—and it became a label, a musical journey based on those adventures we had.
Going back to the early days of the Eskimo parties, you’ve mentioned that it was Eskimo’s musical diversity that made it stand out from the rest of the scene in Belgium at the time. Would you say the label has retained a lot of that same diversity in its sound?
It’s more mature these days, but still more than a genre on its own. There are so many names for genres that could capture what it sounds like, but we prefer to capture a specific feeling and label it. Something can be very Eskimo and fit the label really well. Like you said, the early years were very diverse and kind of messy; we had Tiga remixing Belgian new wave icons The Neon Judgment; the Allez Allez album was reissued and now one of their tracks recently was remixed by Moonlight Matters for the Eskimonde box set; we had Princess Superstar with DJs Are Not Rockstars; we had Belgian rockers The Sexmachines remixed by Whitey. There was a lot of dirtiness in there, a lot of different genres which we tried to glue together on one label. This was really difficult. But now I think the people at NEWS and the A&R guys did a very great job to get it sounding more coherent.
I read that there is a very strong connection between Eskimo Recordings and your hometown—a relationship that you’ve said makes Eskimo “the sound or spirit of Ghent.” Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Ghent has many sounds, like every city. R&S and Boccaccio were dictating the end of the ’80s, and we were so lucky that we could experience that. It definitely inspired us a lot! There are a lot of new students every year in Belgium, so we have a young crowd who are always looking for some action. So every year there’s a new bunch of people ready to party. A lot of DJs can work from Tuesday til Sunday, feeding the people the beats. As Ghent is quite small, everyone who is doing something with music, whether it’s a drummer or a guitarist or a DJ, we all know each other. That makes it great to try things out with different people, and mix things up. As for Ghent’s sound—it’s one big mix.
How has growing up in Belgium influenced the way you understand electronic music?
We are geographically in the center of Europe. We get music from Spain, Germany, the UK, France… we all absorb these sounds, and then we shake it up and create our own version of it. Sometimes it sounds like a pastiche, sometimes it sounds great. But we’re always learning and developing, we’re very open to new things.
Let’s talk about the Eskimonde compilation. The first half is a kind of retrospective look back on your 10 years as a label. How did you decide which tracks to include? Are there any particularly fond memories associated with any of the tracks that you’d like to share?
The A&R office chose the tracks, but the selection actually depended on our mixes for the fourth and fifth CDs to ensure none of the tracks overlapped. But they made the whole selection, which is great because they know the selection so much better than we do; they are work with that material, see the feedback, see the sales figures, etc. They have a lot more information to consider when selecting the tracks, whereas we choose based solely on sound. Hundreds of tracks in all sorts of versions and remixes were on the label, so it took a while to get it all in place. But they did a great job!
The third CD is a series of new and unreleased remixes, including a highly sought-after remix of Aeroplane’s “We Can’t Fly” by Oliver. Tell us about the track—what makes it so special?
Oliver’s remix of “We Can’t Fly” is really great. It captures the sound of today so well. He did an incredible job and we’re happy that the remix is doing so well. We thought that the box set would benefit from some fresh material taken from the back catalog. Harvey’s remix of Dr. Beat’s “Mediterraneo” is amazing. We are such big fans and we’ve played together so many times in the past that it really felt great to have him on the disc. We love the Aeroplane track so much that you can even find a Glimmers remix of “We Can’t Fly” within our own mixes in the box set.
Speaking of your individual mixes, I read that you each worked on mix ideas separately, and that when you came together to share what you had been working on, they were so different yet so compatible that you decided to release both. Could each of you tell us a bit about the thinking behind your respective mixes?
There was so much music to choose from that it was hard to get through all of it! We both had the whole back catalog on a hard drive and we separately made our selection. The concept was that after we had each tried out some of our ideas, we see what worked and cut and paste everything together. But when we listened, it was obvious that we each took a different approach. Mo was selecting the more synth-based stuff while I was selecting the more guitar-based stuff. Both were compatible but not in one hour, not on one disc. So we decided to finish our mixes individually and deliver them to NEWS. They decided to include both of them, which ended up being a great idea—we’ve made over 25 CDs together, and this time, we did something completely different.
Who designed the Eskimonde box set? Why did you decide to include a complete history of Eskimo artwork? Do either of you have any favorites in terms of artwork?
The design for the box is by Linda Linko. She did a few singles in the past as well. She’s from Helsinki. You should check her website—she is on a roll! Marc Meulemans was the artwork guy in the early days, first for the Eskimo-related parties and later on for the label. He also did the As Heard on Radio Soulwax compilation artwork, and was responsible for a lot of great artwork related to our world. He liked our stuff a lot and he felt the Ghent vibes really well, too. Sadly, he passed away in 2007 so it was really an honor to include the complete history of our posters and artwork in the box right now.
What advice would you give your younger selves, if you could sit down together?
“Enjoy what you are doing because it is a privilege to do it. There’s only a small group of people that can do what you do and see the world—so go for it and enjoy it. Don’t take it too seriously.”
After celebrating such a milestone this year, what can we expect from Eskimo in the future? And if you could dream up any future project, what would it be?
A time machine would be very helpful here! We would love to release a great Ron Hardy DJ mix and do the release party at Music Box in Chicago in 1985.