"I love the people and the music, and I want to do this for a long time"
Pascal Rakers and Gerard Hulshof are the creators of house and techno parties and festivals under the name of KopjeK, in and around Groningen. KopjeK became a household name in the city. Especially the crazy costume parties and the unexpected raves under viaducts, factories or in a swimming pool. We had a chance to talk to Pascal, so enjoy your reading and check out his latest projects.
Introduce yourself and tell us how long you have been involved with music and how and where and when you first got involved?
Hi guys, Pascal Rakers (37) from Groningen and I’ve been organizing parties for eleven years now. My first event was in Kolham, which is a small place just around 15km from Groningen. It was in an old farmers house where one of our girlfriends lived. Her parents weren’t at home for a whole weekend so we throwed a party for ‘some’ friends. We thought that around 50-80 people would show up, but the party went totally crazy because people were texting each other about it with their phones. 350 people eventually showed up and KopjeK was born.
Who is involved in Kopjek, how did you all come together?
The first party I organized was with Gökhan Güney, Gerard Hulshof and Arnold Nieman (the guy who did the curtains) We all knew each other from a village where we lived and played soccer together. We always visited festivals like Welcome to the Future, Awakenings and Mysteryland and we wanted to do that too! So, this is actually funny, I ordered a book called ‘how to organize a festival’ which literally told us which topics to think about. It obviously worked because after the first edition we were asked to do a hosting on a festival, and we started doing more & more events in almost all the clubs and crazy location in the city. Illegal and legal. The craziest party we did was under a bridge for three days with names like Kolsch and Coco Berlin!
What was the original idea – where did it come from, what inspired or influenced it?
The original name was KusOpJeKut which means, ‘Kiss on your vagina’. After the first illegal party when we were asked to do a hosting, we needed to change the name because a lot of clubs didn’t want such a name for an event in their club haha! So, we turned it into KopjeK! Gökhan was a dj too and he really inspired all of us with his music and that kind off made us want to do our own parties, so we did.
Who does the musical programming and what is the aim? What sort of acts do you want to represent?
Tjade is our booker. When he was 17 years old he poked me during a party ‘hey I want to dj’ after this moment he never left us! He started at the bottom with doing all the shitty jobs haha, but now he is our booker and resident! He has the biggest network in Groningen when it is about electronic artists. So cool to see how he has grown in the last years. I don’t know many people like him, who are that focused on the things they want. First, he wants to be a booker and now he is fully focused on dj-ing which works out very well! We always aim on the new dj’s and new sounds. For example, Tjade booked Barnt and Job Jobse while almost nobody in Groningen knew these two guys, but we solded out. 2500 people in an empty icehocky hall. And there are more names Tjade brings to the table and them I am ‘who?’ but I trust him blindly.
How would you define the concept of Kopjek?
Familiar. We love our visitors and personally I always say that the visitors are the most important group for us. KopjeK stands for one big family in where we let people grow till what they want to be or reach. The example I gave earlier about Tjade, I have a lot more examples. Like a film guy called Joshua Maldonado. He started making videos for us, he is now one of the best video editors from Groningen. We just let people do what they do best, and we all do this in a music
environment. Love for the people love for the music.
What are the key ingredients to make a good club, do you think?
Good Soundsystem, square, black, hardly any lights, beer and toilets to do crazy shit in. What more do you need?
Have you had many occasions where you’ve had to either fight with other promoter or had someone step on your toes? Have you had much friction with other clubs or has it been pretty smooth?
Groningen is much smaller than for example Amsterdam. We support new and talented youngsters who throw parties, for example Temple. A group of internationals who are hosting great legal and illegal parties in Groningen. We did some beers with them and we can say that we really like each other and that after the COVID’19 some cool shit is coming up between KopjeK & Temple. And besides the fact we love new and young initiatives we are aware of our competitors, but we still do what we do because we are KopjeK.
Where do you see things going? There have been quite a few ups and down particularly over the last few years. I just wanted to gauge from your perspective where you might imagine things might be going? Is there room for new clubs/venues to pop up? What’s your take?
I think that it is time to do things different. In the eleven years that I’ve been around in the ‘scene’ things really changed. It makes me feel old haha but when I started it wasn’t about the money or growing to get rich, but I’ve seen so many concepts and festivals in the last years who are doing it for the money and not for the music or to bring people together. And I believe, that after the COVID’19 things will change. People want to go back to the things that really matter and one of that is escape from reality for a night. And where can people do that? At a proper party, with a good soundsystem surrounded by people who want the same. Clubs will go bankrupt and new initiatives will pop up and especially the ones with good intention. Because when you win big you will lose big and this is the moment that the ones with good intentions will stay or will grow.
What was your first foray into the world of electronic music?
When I was around 17-18 years old, I bought a set of Technics and some soundboxes, my parents went crazy on it haha! At first, I got a few records and kept on spinning them in my room. The next step was throwing a party during my birthday in the garden of my parents. We blew up the Speakers and destroyed the garden. After this many festivals and parties followed and KopjeK started.
When did the idea of starting a club begin to take shape? Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do?
We found a perfect spot in the city Centre which was an old bar and was completely trashed and
filled with stuff. We asked the owner what he was planning on doing with it and if we can make a club of it. Capacity of 350. And so, we did for four years. We called it De Etage ‘the temporary club’. After four years we shut it down and now I’m thinking about a new club which, I believe, will come when it is the right time for it.
What is missing from the dance music scene nowadays?
Small events like with a maximum of 500 people at illegal places.
What lesson should we learn from this paralysis?
Be kinder to mother nature and the animals who are living on it. Because we people are the first ones who will be gone if mother nature decides.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Not a track but an organization which I currently really like! They are connecting techno in a LGBT vibe.
Love the sets, the Boiler Rooms the atmosphere because this is how a party should be.
What’s your favorite “save the dancefloor” song?
Gerard Hulshof, one of the guys I started KopjeK with and one of my best friends died December 2019 at an age of 36. When we went clubbing this was one of the bangers for us! We played it at his farewell ceremony. It always gives me tears and goosebumps when I hear it at the radio or in a club. It reminds me on how we did all the crazy things together and literally danced till someone turned the lights on and we had to help to clean the floor. Gerard was the guy who didn’t give a damn and who always was like ‘let’s go for it and see what happens’. Love him.
What are your future plans?
Enjoy everything I do, something I’ve learned over the past years and most of all since Gerard passed away in 2019. Is that Eleven years of parties, eleven years of connecting people, eleven years of making so many people escape daily live and I often took it for granted but now I know how I can enjoy the events I host or the dj’s we book or the young guy who steps up to me in the club ‘hey I want to be a dj’. I often took it for granted, but now I know to really enjoy it. I love it, I love the people and the music, and I want to do this for a long time. Besides that a club which is so simple that it is perfection. Already talking with some potential partners and this is happening when the moment is right.