In 2017 Bonzai celebrates 25 years… yes 25 YEARS!… a quarter of a century at the forefront of an ever changing electronic music scene. This legendary label, more like a family, has prevailed and remained consistent in its approach to encourage new talent and to nurture an exhaustive roster of world renowned stars. In 2003 Lightning Records closed its doors, but a group of like-minded, enthusiastic people continued to run Bonzai with grit and determination. That same determination remains and will continue, leaving a much loved legacy in its wake while striving to deliver more quality music to the world.
In its infancy in 1992, Bonzai’s future leader Christiaan ‘DJ Fly’ Pieters and his parents wanted a place for DJ’s to come and not only buy music, but to release their music and ultimately record their own music, which they could distribute to the world and put Belgium on the map as leaders in the rave scene. Bonzai Records was born. After a few years Bonzai’s bigger brother Lightning Records would move to larger premises and by then they had three top class, fully equipped recording studios at their disposal.
Some of the most notable tracks from the early to mid nineties include the likes of the massive Jones & Stephenson – The First Rebirth, DJ Bountyhunter – Woops, Dream Your Dream – Soushkin,Â Cherrymoon TraxÂ – The House of House, Phrenetic System – Reality, Thunderball – Bonzai Channel One and so on and so on. These artists and many more have graced the back catalogue and can lay claim to the defining of an era in the Belgian dance scene and beyond. Bonzai artists have went on to become some of the most recognisable and sought after headliners and guests in Europe. Yves Deruyter is one of those names, his first outing on Bonzai, …Animals, was well received and many more big hitters would follow including the huge Rave City. Yves along with Fly, DJ Ghost, Franky Jones, Phi Phi and a host of others would go on to dominate the club and rave scene, bringing with them this fresh new sound which they pioneered. Literally hundreds of releases followed and various other labels were formed to cater for the different genres on offer from the multitude of artists queuing up to be signed. Some big name DJ’s of today can owe some of their success to Bonzai as it was this music that set up the scenes in which they thrive.
In the second half of the nineties a new face arrived to progress the Bonzai brand, Marnik Braeckevelt joined the Bonzai Family in 1995 working as A&R and International, it was this fresh vision that would help propel Bonzai and its artists into world renowned names. During this time three of the biggest trance stars would rise, Yves Deruyter would again be a prominent figure with releases such as The Rebel and Factor-Y gaining huge support around the globe, Mike Dierickx aka Push had been an established artist in the techno acid scene and he rose to prominence with his 1998 release Universal Nation, this went on to be one of the biggest selling trance anthems of all time and is still being played and remixed to this day. The next out of the three is the awe inspiring genius Laurent VÃ©ronnez aka Airwave. Laurent has and still does produce some of the best music on the planet, he can turn his hand to any genre, trance, progressive, psy, breaks, chill out and everything in between.
The team at Bonzai used their cutting edge business acumen and took the brand global. Licensing became something they had a keen eye (and ear) for and massive tracks such as Da Hool – Meet Her At The Love Parade and Energy 52 – CafÃ© Del Mar would sell in their hundreds of thousands under the Bonzai name. A multitude of sub-labels kept the pulses racing, Bonzai Trance Progressive is hailed as a pioneering label in vocal and uplifting trance with the likes of Quadran leading the way. Before he became a superstar DJ, Tiesto released his first progressive trance record on XTC named The Tube. Then you had Green Martian, Camouflage, Bonzai Jumps, Progrez, Bonzai Limited and the list goes on. Each label carried its own signature style with diversity always being an option.
After the closure of Lightning in 2003 Banshee Worx was created while retaining the rights over the Bonzai brand. This instantly recognisable brand in electronic music attracted a host of collaborations, licensing deals, distribution and affiliation deals, some of which are still strong today. With the advent of mass digital downloads taking preference over vinyl, Bonzai decided to re-direct their distribution and marketing ideas. On the label front the focus was on Bonzai Progressive (a continuation albeit with a distinct change of sound of the legendary Bonzai Trance Progressive) as well as bringing the likes of Piston Recordings, Monog Records, CZ and We Are Trance among others, under the umbrella. The foresight and desire of the team ensure that consistently high quality sounds are presented to the world. The vast majority of releases can be found at the top of many charts, which is a testament to the talent on offer within the current Bonzai artist roster. The second decade of the new millennium has proven to be an even bigger period in the history of Bonzai. New up and coming artists as well as established greats are queuing up to get their sound released through our network of labels and distribution. New relationships were forged with various outlets and a solid partnership evolved with the mighty JOOF and its head honcho John 00 Fleming.
The Bonzai brand was pushed further and reached new heights as the team embarked on a series of hugely successful events: Bonzai Retro, Legacy Festival, Retro Beach & Retro Empire. On the mighty Tomorrowland they have hosted their own stage for the last number of years and will do so again in 2017 and beyond. The Bonzai All Stars duo of Fly and Marnik are very much in demand, they’ve appeared in countless line-ups as the headliner act bringing that much loved sound to the masses. On top of that, they are always joined by the Bonzai gang of DJ’s including Airwave, Phi Phi, Franky Kloeck, Franky Jones, Yves Deruyter, DJ Fire and Bountyhunter among others. These guys bring the noise wherever they go and live up to the legacy they’ve helped create. Our annual Retro event attracts swarms of hedonistic young ravers as well as seasoned veterans, all looking for that buzz the Bonzai sound delivers. The events have also attracted international attention with a host of legendary jocks taking to the decks, and this year we have a mega line-up that will include the best of Belgium as well as Jam El Mar (one half of Jam & Spoon), Da Hool, John 00 Fleming, Talla 2XLC and live PA’s from Push and Zolex, check out www.bonzairetro.com for more info.
âSo now itâs our 25th birthday, where do we go from here? Well, the only way is up (to quote Yazz!), more quality releases on our labels, bigger, better and longer events. New ideas are continually pursued and engagement with our fans will continue to grow. We’ve got plenty left in the tank so make sure you stay up to speed with all our goings on by checking out our online hub at www.bonzaiprogressive.com or www.facebook.com/bonzaimusic.â