Every two months we introduce you to someone connected with the orchestra, whether on stage or behind the scenes. Today we’re talking to Stijn Declercq (monitor mix).
How long have you been part of BJO?
I had to check, but apparently I am still a BJO newbie. My first concert with the BJO was on 29 January 2020, a Two Places show with Monique Harcum and DJ Grazzhoppa.
What do you do for the orchestra?
I take care of the sound on stage, the monitor mix. That means that I make a different sound mix for each musician or group of musicians. Sometimes through monitors on the floor, sometimes through in-ears or headphones. That way, every musician can hear himself in the large ensemble that is the BJO and it ensures that the whole orchestra can play or sing together in tempo and in tune... At least, that's the idea (laughs).
Why did you choose this role?
I was contacted via via because BJO wanted to play a slightly more complex project with extra musicians (Two Places), which actually only works if you add in-ears to the mix. That's quite a complex thing to do and more or less impossible to do with just the front of house engineer. That's how I came into the picture. I already knew most of the musicians involved in the project pretty well and I had toured with Mo and Grazz a long time ago, during the Zap Mama period. I was sold after day 1 and the Two Places project - of all my other projects - holds a very special place in my musical heart.
What do you do besides playing in the orchestra?
Together with 7 other colleagues, I work under the name of MONO soundteam. A group of people specialised in sound, where everyone has his own competences but supports each other 100%. With bigger and more intensive projects and tours, it's very important to have a back-up who the band can trust and this works very well with this group of 7. Recently we had to fill in a last minute request for the project with Kommil Foo in our very busy post corona agenda, but together with 3 MONO team members we were able to make it work.
We work mainly for bands and invest a lot of time in listening to live recordings of each project, trying to bring the sound to a higher level. Besides that, we regularly do PA rehearsals with our bands, in preparation of tours or big shows, because we notice that we can pimp the show a lot this way, in consultation with the bands.
With MONO we also do studio ATMOS mixes, recently for Stromae and the technical production of several festivals (such as Lokerse Feesten, Les Ardentes and Arena5).
Finally, something interesting to mention: as a 'COVID-19 project' we started a YouTube channel: MONO SOUNDLAB, where we collect tips and tricks for sound engineers. In one of the first videos on the channel I show how I use a 3D mix for the BJO's Two Places project, be sure to check it out!
I started about 20 years ago as a freelancer at a sound company in deep West-Flanders but very soon I went on tour as a monitor mixer with Flip Kowlier. From there it quickly went to longer tours with the likes of Zap Mama, Lady Linn, Gabriel Rios and Jamie Lidell, to name a few of the bigger projects.
The last couple of years I've been mainly busy with Netsky Live, Goose, Gers Pardoel, De Dolfijntjes, Oscar and the Wolf, Yong Yello, Breakbot, SX, Sebastian, Bazart and Lost Frequencies.
"I was sold after day 1 and the Two Places project holds a very special place in my musical heart."
- Stijn Declercq.
Which project are you looking forward to the most and why?
For me, that's Two Places. The combination of hip hop, jazz and soul remains a winner.
What's your favourite BJO memory?
Brosella Festival with the Two Places project. Even though a pandemic was raging, the challenge of getting such a large line-up to play at a festival in a short period of time gives a kick.
What's your connection to jazz?
My father is a very big music lover but he gave me little or no introduction to jazz music. The first semi jazzy track in my memory has to be Nina Simone's 'My Baby Just Cares for Me', which was also the opening dance at my wedding. Although real jazzmen might find that too poppy.
In my early years as a sound engineer, I remember very well being allowed to do monitors for Aka Moon in Tournai, and how impressed I was by Stéphane Galland and how I could completely immerse myself in the musical structure. But above all, I did not understand how they could not play each other completely out of tune/tempo as musicians. I found that really impressive as a young guy.
Around that time, I also started listening more to jazzy stuff and borrowed some Blue Note compilation CDs from the library, because something like streaming didn't exist back then. In the library I saw Guru's Jazzmatazz and then I was really hooked on jazzy hiphop stuff. When Music Evolution by Buckshot LeFonque came out, I also got to know the Marsalis family. And so on. So, as far as jazz goes, I'm a late bloomer.
In my later touring life, it was also great fun, for example, to play with Zap Mama in the Blue Note Jazz Club in Japan and to hear how Grazz could scratch a groovy track with a few samples. With Jamie Lidell we've also had the honour to play at some big jazz festivals like Montreux and North Sea and then it's always nice to discover new things.
What was the last CD/Spotify track/radio hit you listened to?
Recently at the Dranouter Festival, my wife had seen Coline & Toitoine: a fun discovery.
Who would you like to invite to play a production with BJO and why?
I always like it when two artists from completely different disciplines stand together on a stage, totally out of both their comfort zones. At that moment, to see, hear and feel that it matches on a stage, that's the real magic of music.
So I'd like someone I don't dare to think about or come up with right now. Something unexpected! (winks)