Brussels Highlights w/ DJ Athome

Supreme Rallentato. Supremely slowed down. The name of the infamous compilation series by Front De Cadeaux has now quite literally become reality for one of the band’s members Maurizio Ferrara aka DJ Athome, although not really supremely. His current state of mind is best to be described as complex. The life of a DJ and music producer isn’t always a shiny good-news-show. Nevertheless, Maurizio was kind as always to take a moment to talk to us about his favorite places in Brussels, the city where he lives and works.

Maurizio’s life was slowed down because of a recent burglary that hit the Front De Cadeaux studio space in Rome. It forced them to first find money and second to invest in alarm systems, before actually purchasing again all the hardware and instruments that were stolen and get back to music production after all. Luckily their network was so kind as to raise a budget, allowing them to slowly build up their studio again from scratch and leave behind this out of the blue nightmare. 

In the meantime, Maurizio is going through a rough period in Brussels as well. Holding a full-time position as a psychologist at Infor Drogues, the demand for his expertise has exploded over the past years. As any other medical caregiver, he feels the pressure of an overloaded and underappreciated health system. 

Music and DJing have always been important for Maurizio, but he doesn’t long for a full-time career in the spotlight, traveling every weekend around the globe to perform. Being around in the capital’s music scene since the mid nineties, Maurizio is one of the most seasoned disc jockeys whose cultural value is hard to be underestimated. His ‘We Slowly Rot’ monthly radio show at Kiosk is just one example of his unique curation of experimental music, wave, techno, industrial, acid, hip-house, new beat, electro, and dub all together; a must-listen-to show for all fans of alternative dance music.

When we ask Maurizio for his Brussels highlights, he first answers us by explaining the origins of his DJ name Athome, quite literally meaning that he enjoys staying at home and cooking food for friends. But when he does leave his house, he frequents quite a few surprising places in the city.

Nature: the canal district.     

Historically speaking the canal district has always been a vibrant area. On the borders of the city of Brussels and Molenbeek, the canal is a landmark present in the daily lives of many passersby. Maybe not intuitively seen as nature given its concrete and rather rough appearance, water streams are a vital part of our ecosystem. Maurizio enjoys taking long walks along the canal during the evening or on the weekend. 

Maurizio: ‘I sometimes feel agoraphobic in the center of Brussels, I find it hard to find places that are really quiet, often all parks are under control by loud people. I currently live along the canal at the Quai De Charbonnages, which is really like the epicenter of so much activity and noise. We’ll soon be moving to a new flat more upstream towards Vilvoorde, where I’ve heard the birds sing, giving me good hopes for the new flat. A walk along the canal has been calming me down for a while now, so I’m happy to stay close to it. And if I haven’t been able to go to the gym, walking is my best possible alternative for physical activity.’  

Food: Piola Libri

Piola Libri is an Italian bookshop in the European neighborhood in Brussels, also offering Italian lunches and apéros. It’s a well-known place among the Italian community, a hub for tasty food and culture open to all. 

Maurizio: ‘I recently played a DJ set in Piola Libri, celebrating their latest t-shirt designed by the Japanese illustrator Nico Miyakawa. I can assure you, they have really good wine. When I’m not cooking myself or eating Asian or Arabic food outdoors, I enjoy coming here.’

Music: Music City 

Maurizio has a long list of record stores in town where he enjoys going to feed his vinyl records appetite, but for this occasion he choses the less sexy but equally vital music hardware shop Music City at the Rue de Midi in Brussels. 

Maurizio: ‘The staff at Music City is very objective, they aren’t trying to sell you something as fast as possible but take time to brainstorm with you about your actual needs. They have a lot of knowledge about what they are selling, offering a great service. In the context of the burglary at our studio, we mainly buy new hardware in Italy. But Music City definitely is my go-to-place for DJ hardware in Brussels.’

Hidden gem: Cobra Jaune   

Located under the bridge of the Brussels South station, on a stone’s throw away of the Boulevard Lemonier, is the tiny concert hall and bar Cobra Jaune. Mostly unrepresented on the internet and social media, the place truly is a hidden gem. The best shot to get some information is on Facebook, where some random events give you a hint of the type of music you can enjoy at Cobra Jaune, but only half of the story is uncovered, as Maurizio explains.

Maurizio: ‘I discovered Cobra Jaune when the Italian artist and my good friend Maria Violenza told me she was coming over to Brussels to perform in the bar. I looked it up and found it hard to believe, I had no knowledge of any music venue in this area, but it appeared to be true. During the night of her performance I recognized many people I knew from going to Barlok and Magasin 4, two venues for alternative music in Brussels that unfortunately have closed down years ago. I soon realized that the post-punk scene of Brussels had found a new home in Cobra Jaune.

And it even got better. Around midnight a lot of people from the Congolese diaspora arrived and started playing Rumba music, which didn’t scare away anyone from the post-punk scene at all. Quite the contrary, the venue turned into a wild dance party and two audiences simply became one. Asking around for more information, they guaranteed me this is the weekly procedure at Cobra Jaune. I had an amazing night out.’

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