It took tINI and her team a month to find a new venue. They settled on Lips, another beach bar in Playa D'en Bossa that neighbours two of Ibiza's most lavish spots, Ushuaïa and Hard Rock Hotel. This was the party's fourth relocation in five years, following spells at Ushuaïa (when it was much smaller and shabbier), Sirocco (which became Sands) and No Name. When she started the residency she was still considered an up-and-coming DJ, defined by her ties to Loco Dice and his Desolat label. These days she's a star in her own right. She's made two appearances—2012 and 2013—in RA's top 20 DJs, and she has a touring schedule and fan base to rival any of house and techno's big hitters. Despite her success, tINI And The Gang has barely changed. It's still free and intimate, the DJs are still largely unknown, and barring a few more stickers here and there, the look and atmosphere of the party is as unfussy and music-focussed today as it was in 2010.
tINI stepped out of Dice's shadow a long time ago, but earlier this year she split from the crew altogether. After seven years at Artist Alife, the management agency Dice set up with his manager, Tom Preuss, tINI switched to Backroom Entertainment, home to Dixon, Todd Terje and others. The decision, she says, was "just something new that I wanted to try. It's not that I feel more independent now, because I was independent in the old agency as well, but maybe the direction's just changed a little bit of what they are doing or what I want to do." The recent Ibiza season showed this divergence: Artist Alife's events arm, HYTE, took over Wednesday nights at Amnesia, locking down the likes of Maceo Plex, DJ Harvey and Chris Liebing for big-budget residencies. tINI, meanwhile, continued to throw free parties on the beach for a couple hundred people.
Despite the move, tINI played HYTE for Dice's birthday back in August, and she said there are "no hard feelings." She's very grateful to Dice and his team for thrusting her into the spotlight, for giving her "the freedom to explore music, to find a direction and to grow as an artist." When she first played with Dice in Munich, her hometown, in 2003, she had barely been DJing for a year. By 2005 she had her own all-night residency at a local spot called The Garden. She juggled that and the odd gig around Europe with working as a TV editor for Disney Channel. In 2008 she signed with Artist Alife, back when it was a "tiny little agency."
She spent the next three or four years touring the world, mostly with the Desolat crew. In 2011 she played with Marco Carola for a period, opening for him on his Play It Loud album tour. Her stock as a DJ was rising, and it wasn't long until she was headlining her own shows and carving out her own corner of the scene. Now, with so much experience under her belt, and with tINI And The Gang in its fifth year, it felt right for her to start a new chapter. "I have my idea of how I would create the dance scene, or music that I want to present, or music that I want tINI And The Gang to be represented by."
In the past year, tINI And The Gang has travelled the world, from Lima to Mannheim to Barcelona, but it's the Ibiza residency that means the most to its founder, and has come to best represent her personal and artistic values. She first visited the White Isle with her best friend in 2002 and says, like so many before her, she fell in love with it immediately. In 2010, the year her career really got going, she decided to move there for the season, and ended up making her debut album, Tessa, while living with Loco Dice. She's spent every summer on the island since, flying around the world on weekends but always returning for Wednesdays with the gang. She currently lives in an apartment in Marina Botafoch, Ibiza—"A very special place. I always say it brings together what's meant to be together and separates what is not supposed to stay together."
Ibiza is a famously difficult place to make a party work. I've been spending summers there for the past few years, and I'd need several hands to count the events that have come and gone in that period. tINI And The Gang, though, has remained one of the most popular. One of the reasons for this is that it's free, which sets it apart from the island's overpriced circuit. With free entry comes personal and musical freedom. Customers can come and go as they please, with none of the pressure and expectations that come with people spending upwards of €40 for entry. Venue owners and promoters can concentrate on making the party run as smoothly as possible, without the worry of hitting financial targets. And the artists aren't obligated to rock the crowd in the traditional sense. That's not to say tINI doesn't bang it out when she plays there, but you'll often hear her testing the waters with weirder records in ways that she wouldn't in a club setting. By keeping the party free, the focus is shifted away from money and back onto music, which is a balance so much of Ibiza's current club scene doesn't achieve.
"The overpacking of clubs with the big name DJs, run by promoters who see the Euro signs flashing before their eyes, makes the dance floor uncomfortable," tINI tells me at a café close to Pacha. "I'm speaking in general, but I've seen it all, and I think you should always think of the people on the dance floor first because that is who it's all for. It's their free day. This is very important for me as a DJ to keep in mind: that you're there to make those peoples' lives a bit better during those hours, and you're not there to just show off your ego—it's a get-together."
Attend any of the heavyweight Ibiza parties, especially on the big nights, and you'll likely be at a club that's over capacity. It's so commonplace these days that it's almost an accepted part of the experience. The likes of tINI And The Gang show the value in the alternative: comfortable, inclusive clubbing. Most of the staff and attendees wear stickers with the slogan "Part of the gang." There are no VIP tables. At tINI's party, the star of the show plays from a wooden shack with the crowd around her. When she's not playing, she's mingling with people, handing out flyers and stickers, or dancing. "It's like having a birthday party where you want everyone to be happy—'Have you got a drink? Are you OK? Do you like the food? Is the music too loud? Are the lights too intense?"' At tINI And The Gang, there's a level of respect between those running the party and those attending it that is generally lacking elsewhere on the island.
This approach has caught on. Solomun, Guy Gerber, Guti, Andrea Oliva, Carl Craig and Cassius have all thrown free beach parties in the last year or two, either as side gigs to their main residencies or as their principal event. That's not to say tINI And The Gang was necessarily the inspiration—after all, beach parties in Ibiza are nothing new—but it's undoubtedly the standard against which all other events of this kind are measured.
But unlike all of the DJs above, tINI has built her residency around lesser-known names, creating a booking policy that champions the music over the DJ. The reasons behind this are generally practical: a free party generates very little revenue, so the budget for bookings is small and has to stretch across an entire season. Working alongside Roberto Blach, the events manager at tINI And The Gang (and her tour manager on weekends), tINI sits down in February or March and considers who she'd like to book. On the whole, the artists she's interested in aren't established, so there's no worries about exclusivity deals or packed schedules. Some of them are DJs or live performers she's played with on her travels; warm-up acts who have stayed with her; or just close friends who have never played Ibiza before. Guests this year included Italian DJ Giammarco Orsini, Rex Club's Molly, Club Der Visionäre regular Janina and live outfit birdsmakingmachine. The night her party got busted by the cops, Romanian selector Alexandra played a wicked set of tumbling techno and house. I remember thinking that it was some of the best music I'd heard on the island.
"I think that's what tINI And The Gang is really about because Ibiza is a very difficult place to step foot on if you're not already a big DJ," tINI says. "You need to know someone who knows someone to get you in there. And I just travel around the year and discover new talents and hear new mixes and I'm just blown away, and I think it's important for everyone to show we are not stuck in the sound of last year. The music scene is changing all the time. There are new artists coming through, and it would be so sad not to shed a light on them. I meet all those people, I hear their music, I feel what they are doing or we share similar ideas about the scene. It's very important to change things up because as a raver on the dance floor I get bored from the same lineups all over again, nothing surprises me, and that wouldn't make me want to spend my money in a club if I can see the same things everywhere else. And going back to the question about why I've kept it free, it means there's zero stress involved. If we have an unknown artist and we have five people or 100 people it doesn't matter. The artist plays—if they are happy, I am happy."
As she puts it, tINI is not trying to be the "Mother Teresa of techno." She's never accepted any of the offers to transform her day party into a club night, but not because she's against the idea. (Outside of Ibiza, tINI And The Gang events charge entry.) Were the right venue to approach her at the right time, she might go for it, but that hasn't happened yet. The only club she has ties to is Underground, the cosy San Rafael spot that's home to many of the island's more low-key events. Its music policy is trippier and more unorthodox than that of its rivals. Rhadoo, for example, has a weekly residency, and London outfits Half Baked and Art Of Dark have both thrown parties there this summer. tINI has hosted three Wednesday carry-ons in 2015, and it's a club where she sees "her project understood, where the prices are affordable and the musical direction fits."
Underground, like tINI And The Gang, is where you'll hear tINI playing her deeper and loopier records. She'll take her time between tracks, employing long blends to get the most out of the mix. When she plays festivals and bigger clubs, though, she'll mix faster to keep the energy up. I saw this first hand in Ibiza the week her party got shut down, when she was warming up for Marco Carola at Music On. The Amnesia Terrace is one of the largest rooms on the island, a long, high-ceilinged, open-plan space suited to big records played by big personalities. tINI played for two hours, starting hard and groovy but controlled, before letting loose in the final 45 minutes with a fast-paced medley of percussive cuts. Just before her 4 AM finish, she dropped C-Rock's "Funky Dope Track" and the place exploded. So strong is Carola's hold over the room that warm-up DJs, whoever they are, are usually considered little more than a formality, but tINI made sure she wasn't just making up the numbers.
Away from the club, tINI has also impressed this summer. She's not usually interested in commercial mixes, believing that it's hard to capture the magic of a live DJ set in the format. But when she was approached by Cocoon for their Cocoon Ibiza: In The Mix series, she spotted an opportunity to do something different. Rather than go through the hassle of licensing released tracks, she called on friends for unreleased music, ending up with fresh material from the likes of Anthea, Kamran Sadeghi and Daniela La Luz. The result is a bold snapshot of how versatile her style can be. It's only an hour long, but she slips smoothly from dubby tech house and softer, more melody-driven tracks through to techno. The idea was to capture tINI's experience of DJing in Ibiza: playing different music to suit a variety of clubs and crowds (in 2015 alone she guested at six different parties).
tINI has always loved playing huge venues and festivals, but it's important to her that that's not all she's known for. There was a period recently that she described as "overwhelming and good," when she played more large events than usual. She had a great time, but could see her career drifting in that direction and thought she should take action. "I just felt I was going in a direction that is amazing and will bring me a lot of money and a lot of fame, but am I really happy there? I love to party with my friends, but at a certain point I would not have my friends there because they might not like where I am."
She didn't say it, but leaving Artist Alife and starting afresh feels like it was tINI's way of taking a step back from that world. She's started to focus on making music again, something she's largely neglected in the past few years. (During our interview she could hardly contain her excitement as she reeled off all the bits of gear that came with her new studio in Ibiza.) She's back working on her second album, a project that has been dormant since she started it in New York in 2012. She's also launching a label some time in the new year, the name of which remains a secret.
tINI has played with pretty much every superstar DJ in dance music, but the artist she most admires is the one she's had the least professional or personal contact with. For her, Ricardo Villalobos is proof that "you don't have to follow certain rules in the music industry, or in how you play to become a massive artist." Rather than scramble towards the top of the pile, tINI would rather take her time, do things her way and reap whatever rewards present themselves. "I've travelled the world, I've been to Japan, South America, I played Coachella—that's already so crazy. Do I really need more? I don't. I'm very happy and I would rather do what I do now, and feel satisfied and fulfilled. I know I could have taken the road up to the top, but I think I would have changed my music a little bit and I simply don't want that."