The summer of A$ian Rocky

© Heleen Rodiers

Benoit Do Quang aka A$ian Rocky calls himself a “creative rookie”, but now that his music videos have put Brussels’s hip-hop scene on the map, he is gradually also becoming a visual sounding board for the entire Belgian pop scene. His summer is busy, but chillaxed.

“I come to work here every day,” Benoit Do Quang says about La Jungle, an old industrial building in Sint-Gillis/Saint-Gilles that he shares with ten other creative entrepreneurs. “If and when opportunities arise, we collaborate on projects. For example, together with Robin (Smit), who makes videos with drones, I made the video for BRNS’s new single, ‘Hurts’. I have a small studio here where I can take photos, create artwork, and edit. And it’s where I meet artists to plan the music videos.”

Ulysse, the electro pop band that Do Quang runs with Julien Gathy and Arnaud Duynstee, had an underground hit with “Wounds” and also made some waves with the 2015 EP Cashmere Guns. They just released “Acid”, a new single featuring Roméo Elvis.

“The autumn is going to be hot, we need to finish our new EP and we’re busily rehearsing our new live show that will première at the Botanique at the end of September. We’ll be performing with a drummer for the first time. We used to play backing tracks, but that way we stayed too close to the studio recordings. The drummer is supposed to enhance the live show, something we took from watching concerts by artists like James Blake and Caribou.”

> Ulysse. 28/09, 19.30, Botanique, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode/Sint-Joost-ten-Node

The title of Ulysse’s next single is “Mañana”. “It sounds more exotic than our previous work. We recorded the music video in Barcelona at the end of July. Partly to be a visual reflection of the song’s southern sounds, but also because after filming ‘Acid’, I started to get the feeling that finding good places to film are getting scarce in Belgium.”

Are there still good spots to film? “Of course. One of the most cinematic places in Brussels is right around the Palais de Justice. A bit lower, the Cité Hellemans, the area with red brick apartment buildings near the flea market, is also very beautiful. When you walk around there, you feel as though you were in London or New York.”

> Between rue Blaesstraat and Hoogstraat/rue Haute

Benoit Do Quang grew up in Liège, but moved to Brussels to study communications at the IHECS. “I actually learned how to make music videos on the internet. I found loads of information on forums, and was inspired by clips like ‘L$D’ by hip, creative, and hugely talented people like the rapper A$AP Rocky – hence my own stage name."

"I am a child of the internet generation, that is where I learned everything. If I had studied to be a director, I would probably make very different music videos. Now I just do whatever I feel like doing and I don’t have to worry about all the dos and don’ts of film school. I enjoy the DIY aspect. Inventing a plot, shooting the footage myself, and editing everything."

"For the time being, I do everything on the smallest possible budget. The music video for ‘Bruxelles arrive’, which we made just before Roméo Elvis’s breakthrough, cost 20 euro – which we used to buy fake money in the Chinese supermarket on Sainte-Catherine. And we now have almost five million views!”

“Brussels is the perfect base of operations because it is easy to build bridges between the French- and Dutch-speaking communities. One week I work with Caballero and BRNS, the next with blackwave. and Glints. I am working on a live project with Vuurwerk, using footage from their shows at Werchter and Pukkelpop. And I've also been filming artists like School Is Cool, Bazart, and Oscar and the Wolf during their summer tours.”

“I do have a Spotify account, but when I have time, I like to visit vinyl shops. Balades Sonores is just opposite the Botanique. It is a small shop, but it is very cool. I like places where the owner is happy to give you some tips and knows about the things they are selling. He actually plays in a band himself, Monolithe Noir."

"You find all sorts there, jazz, world music, but also the indie rock that I grew up with: the Libertines, Fleet Foxes. I bought OKNOTOK there, the collector’s edition of Radiohead’s OK Computer, the album of my youth. They moved me to tears at Werchter.”

> Balades Sonores. Koningsstraat 173 rue Royale, Sint-Joost-ten-Node/Saint-Josse-ten-Noode

“Despite all the work, I try to take it easy in the summer,” Do Quang says. “Together with Julien and Arnaud, I sometimes spend the whole weekend at La Jungle to work on our music. We take breaks to play basketball or ping-pong in La Jungle’s courtyard, or eat pizza at Posto al Sole. They make traditional pizzas that are half a metre long. We aren’t actually sure if the chef is called Maurizio or Mohamed; we just call him Momo. We sometimes also go to Brasserie de l’Union on the Parvis. There is nothing really special about it, but the lasagne is good.”

“Whenever we go for a drink, it is often on the Parvis, or on rue du Bailli, or around Flagey. We’re a bit tired of Café Belga, though. We prefer O’Regua, a Portuguese bar at the backside of the Flagey building. A rather unremarkable café, but it is one of the few places in the area where you can dance."

"In the centre, we enjoy hanging out on the roof terrace of the Beursschouwburg. And once we’ve had a few drinks, we head to Manneken Pils. It is a dingy bar, but you can sing karaoke there until the early hours. The Beatles, Oasis, French pop hits… Everyone sings along at the top of their lungs. But I also take it easy sometimes. At the end of a work day, I often just go and sit on my balcony and chillax. I live behind the Palais de Justice, the view is incredible.”

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