Hello! Well, first I’d like to express my absolute enthusiasm for your lovely work. I have rarely encountered a label with such a Individual and innovative spirit. It will be a particular pleasure to find out a bit more about the architecture of Jj Funhouse. Please introduce yourselves briefly…
Thank you :) Jj funhouse was originally the name for a karaoke bar we were trying to set up. But time went by while dreaming about this setting, and all of a sudden Milan Warmoeskerken made this great album (as C.Young) in two weeks time. We loved it and decided to release his 10”, Daily’s. So the plan for the karaoke bar evolved into a label. :-) We saw it very widely—more like a platform for everything we like and want to give some sort of form to. So the name Jj funhouse was quite soothing. These two and a half years that we’ve existed, we can say we’re more of a record label, and we definitely enjoy being one.
What is the vibe like in Antwerp at the moment (politically or musically)?
Musically: the ‘creative’ people of our government made these million-euro trash bins in the form of a jukebox. When you put your trash in them, they sing you a song: “Hit me baby one more time”; “That’s the way, aha aha, I like it, aha aha” … It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen, and it makes me mad that money goes into this project and that less and less money goes to interesting cultural organizations.
But fieuwie! We have a lot of interesting and creative people living here, and because it is a small town, it’s easy to meet and get to know each other. I believe a lot of good and interesting music is coming from Antwerp. The last couple of years, a lot of people have been setting up shows again, which is very nice. There’s always something going on.
Antwerp seems to be a very interesting town. Tell us what’s going on!
Places we like:
Stadslimiet (translated: “city limit”, located at the river De Schelde, which divides the right from the left bank) is a very small place run by Dennis Tyfus (Ultra Eczema) and Vaast Colson. They set up really nice shows. The capacity is super tiny—20 people—and you can say it’s super crowded. Apart from shows, they also have exhibitions at their gallery, Van Steensel & De Caigny. It’s the same space, open at gallery hours, but with white walls instead of their own (all very beautiful) posters as backdrops.
Het Bos is the new location where Scheld’apen VZW is located. I must admit I truly miss the old Scheld’apen. We grew up with it in our teenage years and twenties, got to see a lot of shows, had some crazy nights there, met a lot of people. Never experienced a place like that one anywhere else, probably because we knew everyone there, shared inside jokes throughout DJ sets, and had late night dinners at their kitchen. It felt like a ‘night’ home for a lot of people, I think.
At het Bos you have The Bosbar. It’s best to go there on a Sunday when Otark is cooking you breakfast. It’s delicious and the menu is filled with recipes and ingredients you’ve never heard of before. They cook with their heart and it’s tasty. When the breakfast club is happening, David Edren, better known as DSR Lines, opens his closet shop. Go there for interesting experimental releases, tapes, printed matter, records…
For records: crate digging at Chelsea records. Lots and lots of 7”s to go through. Tune Up for your jazz and blues, Fat Kat, Coffee & Vinyl, Wally’s Groove World for your house, techno and electro, Morbus Gravis for your experimental and ambient and a very warm welcome (check opening hours before you go).
For swimming: Noordkasteel (on the right bank) or Het Galgenweel (on the left bank), although people from Switzerland refuse to swim in the lakes because they of course know better waters (and it’s actually forbidden), but we adore it. It’s the only refreshment you can get in this town on hot days, because the bathing boat, a floating swimming pool on one of the docks, sank to the bottom last year after it was open for only one year—typical…There’s also a nice swimming pond called Boekenberg, but on hot days you have to stand in line for a refreshing splash.
Bars: Witzli Poetzli has the best terrace in town, in the shadow of the cathedral. They serve very cheap Pastis, and a glass of rosé house wine is equal to three normal glasses.
De Kat is an old bar where old (and new) artists come together.
The Pianobar has lovely piano name cards, and the atmosphere is…wow.
And then we like to try some local bars. Portuguese ones, or La Boume, our new discovery on the corner of my street. So honest and on the edge, which makes it funny, but the bartender and regular customers are all so friendly and kind.
Trampoline Gallery: a lot of people we know and appreciate are part of it.
Your label follows a strong overall concept. What were your thoughts at the beginning creating the label?
We both studied graphic design and did a few projects together. These collaborations worked out very well and encouraged us to keep working as a duo. It still feels right. We almost never disagree on anything. Jj funhouse is a label where everything we like is possible as a release or a project. Every idea/release gets a catalogue number, no matter what the medium is, and gets archived. We curate, decide on the format and ‘design’ it. Jj funhouse can be a record, a tape, a book, a picture, a cake, a DVD, a shirt, socks, a place, an event, an idea, and so on…so far, it’s been a lot of music. :)
Who is responsible for what? How do you share all the different tasks?
I would say we do everything together art work-wise, sometimes even with two behind one computer screen. Or in the case of the new Milan W. album, we marble together, etc.
Other times, one starts and the other one continues. It all goes very naturally. Joke does more communication, and Jozefien keeps up with administration. The more boring tasks like going to the post office, taking care of invoices, etc. are equally divided.
Recently, Milan Warmoeskerken (Milan W., C.Young and half of Mittland och Leo, basically the one that’s responsible for a lot of what we ‘stand’ for) has been hunting for music, or especially for the people behind it. There’s an interesting release coming up.
You guys are quite active: self-organized club nights, print editions, etc.
How do you bring everything together? Is it a financial disaster or serious fun?
The club nights mostly come with a release. We are definitely not trying to be a party organization.
Tell us something about your regular shows at Extra City.
What else is going on there?
Joke: I’ve been working at Extra City Kunsthal for a year now. I do administration and assistance in communication and production. Extra City is a Kunsthal (art space) that finds inspiration in the city for depicting different visions of our future by encouraging new links between contemporary (inter)national art and artists, researchers, and city dwellers.
When JJ009 series came about, Extra City had been developing a new mission and vision, and there was no artistic director, no upcoming exhibition, and no musical program, so I put the Jj series on the table and that’s how we were able to have four nights there with Brahmen Raag, Mathieu Serruys, Floris Vanhoof, and Milan W. in the charming cinema space. It’s totally different from any other release night or celebration night we ever organized. Just one show and that was it—no party or DJs after. It was only four shows and it got a catalogue number as if it had been a release. We do not do regular shows there. And it isn’t part of their artistic program, either. American English?
Here in Zurich it’s quite hard to join forces and find a crowd for experimental music. What are your experiences in your town?
I think we grew up or started going out at Scheld’apen, which was the place for experimental music in Antwerp at the time. Dennis from Ultra Eczema set up a lot events there. Since that place is gone now, I believe a lot of people are setting up shows everywhere around town. There are a lot of experimental music events going on. Antwerp is really small, and the crowd for this sort of music definitely knows each other and follows where ‘it’ goes. But to be honest, I don’t think Jj funhouse is that experimental.
From my own experience, it’s difficult to work cost-covering in cultural projects.
Is there an official conveyor system in Antwerp for events or happenings, music, etc.?
There is but we aren’t familiar with it. And it’s the bigger festivals that get the most out of it and are super expensive at the same time. We run ourselves. It’s not always easy, but we’ll get there …
A re-release of Gust De Meyer's Casio Works is due out.
I read that he co-produced a radio program alongside Wim Mertens back in the early 80s. He was also a professor of media culture and part of the Soft Verdict project.
That’s right. I believe he is still a professor at KU Leuven. We’re super happy we can put this one out on vinyl. He just sent us the original tape. And we are working on the artwork for it.
Your record releases are quite difficult to find. Will there be upcoming re-issues (I just noticed that your Mittland Och Leo LP was repressed in 2015)?
We did a repress of that one because it sold out very fast and because Boomkat and other international shops were asking for it. Milan W. is almost sold out at the Jj stock after less than a month. Maybe we’ll do a repress, but it’s hard to say. We’ll see…
At this point, what is planned for the future?
We just released Intact by Milan W. and had the release show in Brussels. It’s always exciting to do something outside of our hometown. It was crowded. It was nice to see that people know Jj funhouse and want to hear and experience it. It was a great night.
We’re working on a small Christmas compilation tape that involves all the artists we’ve released in the past and a few new ones. Gust De Meyer is coming up, and we have a couple of other releases in the pipeline that we’d like to keep secret for the moment. :)
Interview: Marc Jauss, August 2016
soon: jj funhouse christmas compilation v/a
2 YEARS A FUNHOUSE MIX BY JOKE LEONARE