HAVE YOU MET MATHIEU FONSNY?
Have you met Mathieu Fonsny? I believe we all did, maybe not face to face but surely through his work and possibly without knowing it was him.
DOUR: an easy start to talk about the man who – with his partner Alex Stevens – has been in charge of building the iconic festival’s music line-up since 2013.
Now, you could be one of the exceptional beings who have never (ever ever) heard of DOUR – which is ‘only’ one of Belgium’s most famous festivals – and that’s totally fine. You’ll find this article relevant in many ways as Mathieu’s career exemplifies what passion mixed with professionalism mixed with love for people can result in.
PS: in this article, you’ll also find out about Brussels coolest socks club (you read right, it’s a club/society and it has to do with socks but not only).
‘Spa – a city near Liège – is where I was born in the early 80s. I’ve been influenced by music from a young age, as everyone in my city was kind of a DJ; where in other cities people would play instruments like the guitar, folks in Spa operated turntables. I grew up in the aftermath of the New Beat era; club culture was strong and most people in my city would – on top of clubbing – go to the extent of collecting Event/Club flyers and posters. The youth club I hung at definitely played a role in developing my eagerness towards electronic & rap music. I started saving for my first pair of turntables at the age of 12; age at which I was already collecting records that I’d buy while visiting my father on weekends in Brussels.’
Time passed but Mathieu’s love for music remained unchanged:
‘After graduating from high school, I went on to study Journalism. It led me to an internship in Paris at Les Inrockuptibles’ – a French music magazine – where I got to start DJing on a regular basis; I would play at most of the magazine’s events. The extra income I got from playing was definitely enjoyable considering I was only an intern at the time. The internship was supposed to last 3 weeks but, long story sort, I ended up staying there for a year. That year in Paris was kind of crucial to my career as, on top of DJing from Thursday to Saturday every week, it’s at that time that I got to meet more and more people evolving in the music sector; rising talents such as Pedro Winter – Busy P: Head of the label Ed Banger – or even Justice (before the guys even became Justice). It all gave me the desire to start organizing events myself.’
‘I came back to Belgium in 2005 and set my anchor in Liège. There I developed a first concept; Forma.T: a simple, yet unseen, baseline: to mix people up. A party led to another, etc. etc. which led to exporting the concept to Brussels, Paris, Barcelona even and Forma.T became a label. Parallel to that, I worked for the festival ‘Les Francofolies de Spa’ until 2013; when Alex Stevens asked me to join DOUR’s team. The timing was right: I had been on the move, as both a DJ and a party planner, since 2005 and I wanted to settle down. Years went by and, in 2018, Alex and I decided to leave DOUR to found our own company: Kurated By.’
‘The DOUR adventure wasn’t over though, as we were immediately asked to keep taking care of the festival’s curation. Having Kurated By enabled us to accept other contracts, that’s how, for example, we took on the curation lead of the Marseille-based festival Marsatac.’
Mathieu’s career and devotion to music has kept evolving since but we’ll read about that later. Let’s see how this experienced curator sees music curation:
‘The notion of curation in music is, to us – Kurated By – essential as we see it like other – more familiar – types of curations; for museums, galleries, etc. Today, we’re more flooded with information than we’ve ever been before and it is necessary that some people filter that. That’s what we do, us curators; we bring what we think is best – the nectar – to the public. Each event has its own DNA and it’s our task to choose what fits best to it.’
‘Let’s exemplify: DOUR has a different DNA than Marsatac; at DOUR you have 7 stages during 5 days in a space where 50 000 people flow on a daily basis. Most music genres are represented there. Marsatac is dedicated to hip-hop and electronic music on top of being very geographically and historically rooted; with the diversity the city of Marseille offers. These are part of the things we have to consider.’
‘We curators study the codes and behaviors of specific communities – like sociologists would – to then translate it all in our artistic direction. The magic lies in the ability that is given to us, through festivals like DOUR, to bring forward headliners who are able to create federating moments with the public – like Angèle can – and also present exciting new groups who are unknown yet to the music scene.’
On what Mathieu is putting his time and heart at the moment:
‘Selecting and bringing forward artists is one part of the job; the rest is artist management. I’m currently working hand-in-hand with two artists: DC Salas & John Parm. I advise them on; how to develop their careers, what to or not to accept, etc.’
‘Of course, it’s a competitive sector and in most cases, there is some negotiation that has to take place. There are numerous things to which artists depend on – timeframe, fee, etc. – and we have to deal with that. Through one of the latest projects I’ve collaborated on – the Brussels-based festival Fifty Lab – we try to get rid of the competition between artists.’
‘The aspects of the work where negotiation has to happen create a lot of stress; which I’ve been under for more than 15 years. I guess also for that reason, an idea emerged – or maybe defrosted – in my mind at the beginning of the first lockdown; I wanted to keep the creative and social aspect of my work but ditch the negotiation part. On top of that, I’ve always been sensitive to fashion; I’ve documented myself on many major designers and I enjoy, from time to time, to gift myself with some designer’s clothes. I think it comes from my father: a man filled with taste for things and clothes. That led me to develop a project around socks – because I had been wanting to do something with socks for a long time – in which I could bring forward a sense of community and sharing.’
‘Socksial Club was born: a non-profit project where a pair of socks is developed on a monthly basis in collaboration with an artist (or, truthfully, just someone I met and whose work I admire), all that in a club/membership format. The socks are made by a family-owned manufacture based in France and all profits go to help BXL Refugees: a platform that comes to help refugees in Brussels. We’ve already been lucky enough to have collaborated with extraordinary creatives with unique worlds: Angèle, Jean Jullien, David Shrigley, Pomme, Hell’o Monsters, Martin Parr, Cachete Jack, Fafi, II Shy, Kit Agar, Mr Slipperz and Jean-Paul Lespargnard.
‘It was important for me to develop a project that is both creative and social; that’s Socksial Club.’
All Socksial Club socks are available to be purchased through the monthly membership or by the pair. Visit Socksial Club’s website to find out more on how you can be cool-to-the-feet and help along the style: https://socksial.club.
Now, how is Mathieu linked to Extra-Ordinaire? Hint: Jean-Paul. Let’s discover below:
WHAT’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH E-O?
‘Socksial Club just did a collab with Extra-Ordinaire, through my friend Jean-Paul, to imagine the December model. You can find the socks on our website and at Extra-Ordinaire (in-store and online).’
‘Jean-Paul and I grew up in the same region, we used to live 15 minutes away from each other. Truthfully, we’ve always helped one another. I believe a project like Extra-Ordinaire is important in Brussels (and elsewhere) as not only does it break codes, it also offers curation, which I’m sensitive to.’
WHERE DO YOU LIVE & WHERE DO YOU COME FROM ORIGINALLY?
‘I live in Brussels but I come from Spa. I’ve always been a nomad and will keep on being one. Although I’ve settled down for 4 years now, I don’t feel attached to one place. Also, I have a toddler at the moment but it’s not impossible that in the future I’ll move out of Belgium.’
NAME 1 PERSON, 1 PLACE, 1 OBJECT THAT SHAPED YOUR PAST, PRESENT AND INSPIRES YOUR FUTURE.
Person: ‘My father: he’s always been an inspiration; a person with great taste. He works in the cinema business and we share many values. Career but also life wise, he’s made little to no mistake and he’s a man of commitment.’
Place: ‘New York: I’m not particularly attached to the USA but I have crush on the city of NY. It happened during my first visit and since then I know that it’s a place where I could evolve and blossom.’
Object: ‘the sock: how you wear it, what you wear, why you wear it; all these things are part of what defines a person.’
HOW DO YOU FIND THE EXTRA IN THE ORDINARY IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
‘When, with Kurated By, we build line-ups, we act as a catalyst and each line-up has its identity, its twists. We fight against standardization. I love that we’re able to surprise people as I love, myself, to be surprised.’
WHAT MAKES E-O PHILOSOPHY SO EXTRA-ORDINARY?
‘Extra-Ordinaire’s philosophy goes against the current and what Jean-Paul does through it is fabulous; in a way, he takes us in his intimacy. Entering Extra-Ordinaire, to me, is like entering Jean-Paul’s home but a home where others have their space. Jean-Paul acts as a guide and takes us to them.’
Interview and writing done by Richaad Kindts