Since its inception in 2009, Belgian brand Rampage has grown to become the biggest indoor drum & bass and dubstep party in the world. Over the past decade, the events have grown from the 1,100 capacity Trix venue into two days at the legendary Sportpaleis in Antwerp, housing 20,000 bass music fans from all over the world and selling out months in advance. This year’s celebrations include sets from Excision, Andy C, Wilkinson, Sub Focus, Dion Timmer, Funtcase, Dimension, Feint, Fox Stevenson, Koven, Macky Gee, and many more. This is set to be the biggest edition yet. Rampage doesn’t just stand out for its stacked lineups, however – brand owner Murdock’s attention to detail, investment in state-of-the-art lights, LEDs, and laser shows, top-notch sound system, and all-around brand quality is what truly sets it apart from other events.
With such an inspiring rise to success in such a short period of time, we decided it was high time we have a chat with the man behind the brand, Murdock, about the history of Rampage and what to expect from this year’s event at the end of the month.
Hey Hans, great to have you with us today! How are you?
Great, thank you! I am currently in the studio working on new music to play at Rampage and to release on my forthcoming Viper Recordings album, but all the while I’m in touch with the Rampage team to iron out any details or issues that come up.
So, aside from producing under the Murdock alias, you’re also the mastermind behind the now-famous Rampage events – let’s chat about that! Where was this idea first born?
I have been doing events for 20 years. I started doing it on the one hand because I wanted to create a space for myself to play the music that I wanted to play, and on the other hand because it just was something fun to do with like-minded friends: designing, printing and handing out the flyers, setting up the soundsystem, putting up deco, taking people’s money at the entrance, even pouring drinks, acting as bouncer and cleaning up the place afterwards! I just discovered I liked everything about it and started doing it more to a point where I started to make money off the parties, even enough to live off. Rampage was an event I started in a venue called Trix in Antwerp, and which grew every edition, until my current partner in the event picked up on it and offered to get involved. We took it to Lotto Arena and now Sportpaleis, most definitely seminal, standout venues in Belgium.
What makes Rampage different from other parties?
Back when I got started I guess the artists I booked were a bit less dark sounding than what a lot of the other parties were doing, plus I mixed up drum&bass and dubstep at the events, which didn’t seem to happen much at the time. But as soon as we hit Lotto Arena, the first big venue we did - 6000 people cap - the standout element surely became the production, as we started doing stuff with LEDs, lasers and lights that just had not been done in bass music before.
How would you explain it to someone who has never heard of it before?
If you are familiar with Tomorrowland, Awakenings or EDC, then that’s kind of the production value you can expect, mixed with an absurdly vibey dose of underground drum & bass and dubstep sounds. It’s just meant to be completely mesmerizing to all the senses. Well, maybe not to touch, but definitely your eyes and ears!
You’re celebrating 10 years of the event this year at the end of the month – did you plan for this from the beginning?
No, of course not. How could I have? That Rampage is now 10 years in existence is because its popularity has grown and grown and who can predict that, let alone count on it? But it does feel like a great achievement that we’ve managed to get to this point.
And is there anything special in store for people attending this year’s event?
Nothing but! The production will be a serious step up from what people are already expecting from us. We are presenting things that have never been used at electronic music parties before, plus we’re adding crazy deco to all the areas outside the main hall to extend the Rampage-feeling to every square inch of the venue. There will be a meet-and-greet room, we have upgraded the HQ which is across the street from the venue, opens hours before the party starts and is the perfect place to hang out, regroup and grab those first drinks.
We’ve always been really curious about the logo – we’ve heard it’s anything from an ape to a skull to a robot – can you tell us a bit about the design?
The artwork is in the hands of Uber And Kosher, designers from Antwerp that are also responsible for Travis Scott’s merchandise, record sleeves for Calvin Harris, prints for Raf Simons and fashion campaigns for brands like Wrangler jeans. The main guy is a childhood friend of mine and we vibe very well when it comes to the artwork we need for Rampage. His initial designs were tribal masks and the final one from that series was a stylized baboon that we kept chipping away at till it became the most rudimental, spaced out form possible and we have been using that one for the past few years. So yes, it is a baboon, a robot and a skull!
And what about the name Rampage itself?
When I started Rampage, I also started Radar Records to release some music by Netsky and my first Jungle Music mix CD. Radar came from the idea that it should become a stepping stone, showcase-type label for young talent, that first got “on the radar.” Rampage was a word that just sounded nice next to Radar. Rampage became the name for the parties I was doing in Antwerp, and Radar was the name of the parties I did In Leuven at the now defunct, but legendary club Silo. Aside from the fact that a “rampage” is basically what I expect from a drum & bass party, these were also just two words that sounded nice next to another.
Rampage has a reputation for being the biggest indoor drum & bass and dubstep party in the world – how long did it take you to build the event into what it is today?
Well, I guess "10 years" is the obvious answer here hahaha. I think moving to Lotto Arena 6 years ago was a defining step in the Rampage history, because at that time there were no events of that size in Europe, playing dnb and dubstep. And then when the main peak of the charting drum & bass and dubstep had passed, people were heard saying the genres were dead or dying. We still moved to Sportpaleis, to bigger things and I think the fanbase felt like “Hell yes, we’re still here." It only brought us all closer together, creating a unity, a feeling of being part of the same cause.
What was the hardest lesson you learned along the way?
No matter how well you try to treat everyone, people will still make huge issues out of the smallest things.
And what has been the most rewarding aspect of it all so far?
You know, we work all year to get this event to the level of quality it is now, and we hardly notice how much it now means to people. We are so busy living our lives and just getting on with things that a lot of it passes us by. But then I go out and DJ, like last week, and a girl in the front row shows me a huge baboon tattooed across her forearm and you realize that the thing you’ve created is a huge part of people’s lives now. And honest to god, that is absolutely amazing.
Is there any advice you would offer someone looking to start up their own events?
Just do it. And do what you feel is missing in nightlife around you. Set up a night you would want to be at. Be original and be honest. Don’t do it for the money, do it because you just can’t not do it.
The event recently grew from a one night to full weekend event – was it pretty easy to add an extra day, or is it twice as much work to host a second night?
Yes, definitely twice as much work. Twice as many artists to book, twice as many tickets to sell… The stakes go up so you tend to work harder to make everything as good as possible.
What made you decide to combine dubstep with drum & bass? Are you a fan of these genres yourself?
I am a drum & bass DJ first and foremost, but I love to explore different genres, different sounds. Back when dubstep first popped up, I wasn’t feeling it too much, except for the freaky, techno-style stuff Skream and others were dropping. But when I first heard Shy FX play Doctor P’s "Sweet Shop," that got me hooked on that sound. For a while some incredible music came out of that side of the scene and I started playing it in my DJ sets. This was around the time I started doing Rampage, so naturally I invited Doctor P and the likes to play.
Rampage boasts an impressive roster of acts booked over the years – who have been your favorite to book? Has anyone ever turned down an invite to play at Rampage?
I don’t have any particular favorites to be honest. What I like the most is putting the pieces together. Build the night like a DJ set; get the different vibes and sub-genres in there, to make the picture as perfect as possible. What else is cool, is trying to lock in the next big thing. They don’t necessarily have to be "big" as such, but the right up-and-comer, the guy (or girl) that seems to become the one that other artists will be gravitating too. We had SASASAS when people hadn’t really heard of them before and they blew up from playing Rampage. Serum tipped me about starting Kings Of The Rollers and we had them before anyone else. That sort of thing is really cool.
Seems like fans had been begging to bring Excision to the event every year until now – did that influence your decision to book him for 2019?
Of course. I read every comment we get and I check all the lists. Quite often I stumble upon very interesting new acts that way. And the Excision thing: we were already in talks for while, but every year our show date conflicted with his North-American tour, so it took us a while to find a date that worked for both of us.
And can you tell us any plans for acts to book for 2020 yet?
Hell no! First we need to shell out some more crazy names for the Rampage Open Air festival, which we are doing for the first time this summer (July 26 and 27) and which will be equally crazy production-wise. And on top of that, we will have three stages to showcase even more artists and gather even more different vibes within the drum & bass and dubstep spectrum.
The other thing that really stands out about Rampage is the visual experience – the lights, lasers, and LED screens are used so creatively every year – can you tell us a bit about the team behind this? Were visuals always as important as bringing good music to the event?
The first big productions were created by Frank Verstraten, who Belgian people know as the main man behind Zillion, one of the world’s first real mega-discos, back in the nineties. Gradually, Leon from Cue Cre8ion joined the team, and he’s now doing the full stage design. Eye Supply are the VJ team that provide the content and make it work on that level. The entire productional coordination is in the hands of Rudy Vorstenbosch from 4AV and my partner Kristof Darcon plays a big part in all of that too. We are just very lucky to be able to work with so many talented people that also have lots of love for the event and the underground vibe we bring.
In addition to running these events, you also run a label under the same name – was this a natural transition from event to label management?
We’ve been doing compilation albums for years, to celebrate the event and to create some sort of calling card musically. This gradually transitioned into releasing original music for that compilation to a full-fledged record label. I work with NEWS, a Belgian company who have decades of experience in dance music and we have just signed our first exclusive artist, called Bare Up, who we will be showing off at our summer festival and other festival stages.
You’ve also announced the first ever Rampage Open Air Festival to take place this summer – can you tell us a little bit about this?
For years, people have been asking us to do a summer festival. And now the hype for the indoor edition has become so big we sell out two months in advance, we felt we could allow for some spillage into another event, and the 10th anniversary year was the perfect one for it. A summer festival, a campsite, is a so much more natural way of experiencing this music for a lot of people that come to our shows. Pitching a tent, hanging out in a summer’s breeze, and partying in the sun, is a lot more obvious to most people than booking hotels and what not which they have to do for the indoor edition, especially when they’re traveling from far away, like about 70% of our visitors do.
And what is in store next for the Rampage brand?
No idea! A part of me wishes there were no new challenges, but another part of me gets crazy excited when a new opportunity arises. So I’m sure we’ll be coming up with something ridiculous sometime soon.