Interview with Ugur Akkus about Extrema Outdoor, its beginnings and much more

2019 marks the ninth edition of Extrema Outdoor festival that has continued to flourish with every year that passes. The electronic music festival is located in Limburg, Belgium. It originates from the Netherlands where it was born in 1992 but the concept moved to Belgium in 2011. This year edition introduces huge international names such as Ben Klock, Amelie Lens, Rodhad, Richie Hawtin, Sven Vath, Tale Of Us and many others. 

Extrema Outdoor Belgium brings people together to dance to the best electronic music at the deep forest and the sunny beach of De Plas. We sat down with its head honcho, Ugur Akkus, who shared some insights from the festival. 

Hi, Ugur. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let's start at the beginning... how did Extrema first come about?

Extrema was one of the first electronic festivals in the world together with Dance Valley and was founded by my partner in Holland 25 years ago. The Dutch edition was crossover festival with big commercial acts mixed with underground music stages. I came aboard for the Belgian edition in 2011 and wanted to do something different than the Dutch edition and decided to focus on house and Techno.

What made you want to focus on electronic music? Do you have a background in the industry?

I’m a club promoter with my other brand Labyrinth for more than 15 years and was always been into electronic music. We live in an era where there are so many electronic music festivals that it’s almost impossible to follow them all.

What makes Extrema different? Why would people choose Extrema over any other similar festival?

Well, it’s hard to describe the vibe on Extrema but we try to do everything different than other festivals like a unique production, visitor experience etc but the most impressive is our crowd which is one big family. Once you enter our festival 26.000 people become one and you'll directly feel part of a big family.

Tell us about some of the highlights from its 9-year history? And your personal favourite moment?

Our exclusive campsite after parties are legendary and we used to have local DJ's playing the after party in the first 3 years. on our 4th edition, Jamie Jones was closing our main stage and seems to have a lot of fun. I just asked him randomly "are you up to playing the after party on our campsite" and he said, "yeah why not". So 5000 people on the campsite were waiting at the stage and expecting a local DJ to start when Jamie Jones came up!

This was a moment I’ll never forget as the stage explode like crazy and Jamie played one of the best sets on our festival ever. After this year it became a tradition and we had names like Nic Fanciulli, Kölsch, Seth Troxler playing the after party unannounced.

You have an incredible line-up of talent on this year's bill, is there anyone your especially looking forward to seeing?

I have a few, to be honest. Amelie Lens will be the first Belgian artist in our history closing our main stage and festival on Sunday so this will definitely be very special.

Also, the guys of Agents Of Time will play a 12 hour live set on a huge stage which was never done before so I'm really looking forward to this one too. Last but not least, Kölsch is hosting his own stage with his label IPSO and he decided to play b2b with all his guests for the whole night which will be very special.

What are some of the challenges that you've faced in the time you've been involved in the festival? Has there been any moment that you've felt like packing it all in?

The first 3 years were very hard for me financially as our goal was to give the people the best line up and a fantastic experience. Despite the fact that we were losing lots of money we never scaled down last minute to control the damage and went all in every year. It was very risky but when I look back this might be one of the reasons we became so successful.

There's a nice balance on the line-up between well-known international talent and some artists that will be new to a lot of people. Is championing new talent a big part of the ethos of the festival?

Our golden rule from day one is 50% of the line up must be Belgian locals as we always want to support them while 50% should be internationals and at least half of them have to be upcoming. We don’t want to be a festival with only headliners and therefore we always aim for people to discover new acts.

One thing that really stands out for us is the festival’s opening hours. In Slovenia (and most Ex-Yu countries), Festivals normally doesn’t end until five or six in the morning but at Extrema, you stop music at midnight. How did you manage to get people to the venues earlier during the day? That almost sounds like mission impossible.

We mainly do this to respect our neighbours and they all became friends with the festival throughout all these years. We have promoted it from day one as a day festival and from 2 pm all stages are packed. Half of our crowd are staying on our campsite and this also helps to have them on our site early of course.

A lot of people don’t really know how much work needs to be done to organize such an event. Could you tell us when do you start planning the next year’s edition? How many people are involved in the creation of the festival?

Our core team on the office is 21 people and believe it or not we already start working on the 2020 edition while this year's event still has to come. :)

Is there anything else that people can enjoy (besides a rich music program) while being at Extrema? Are there any other activities?

Our creative team is working around the clock to have many many other activities besides music like big parades, wellness area’s, food experience and fun interactive games.

Do you see a finish line for the festival? Do you think that every future Extrema festival is better than the previous one?

I think we can’t beat the last edition every year but according to the comments from our crowd on socials after the festival, we've managed to do that for the last 9 years. :)

Check out more about Extrema Outdoor festival ticket prices and accommodation HERE

By Saša, edited on 08 May 2019