Grant, of course, is no longer all of these things: He gave up lacrosse—but not before winning a national championship in college—to try his luck as a full-time DJ. He gave up hip-hop because he fell in love with dance music. He gave up the Marines because he couldn't stand the culture. (He was merely using them to get money for school anyway.)
Grant remains a Circo Loco resident, however, after more than a half-decade on the job. And, as one of the spinners at Ibiza's most exciting—and controversial—parties, you can hardly blame him. Grant has seen the party—held when it's open most often at DC-10—grow into a phenomenon, one of the few places where the island's original combination of amazing music, outlandish costume and reasonable prices live on. And Grant has also seen Ibiza authorities do everything in their power to shut the party down. (They came close this past summer, closing DC-10 for an outstanding overcapacity violation for much of the season.)
RA's Todd L. Burns caught up with the DJ in New York before the Circo Loco night in the city to talk about the future of the party, the island and his new label, Barraca Music with many of the questions provided by Christopher Thomarios.
Some of the first places that I DJ'd were basements. I'd be the only white person there. All of my friends were African-American, but it didn't matter. It was just a totally different environment back then. I was the DJ and they all wanted to dance, that's how it started. I'd play people like Run DMC, The Beastie Boys. The usuals.
Were you doing that while you were in the Marines?
In the Marines I was more DJing soft R&B like SWV, TLC. They had these officer's clubs that I would play at.
So you were DJing for the officers?
Not necessarily for the officers. Just at places like that. Bars. There wasn't much money in it. Free drinks, pretty much. It wasn't like I was going to be a DJ someday. It was just that I had some records and I loved to do it.
When did you decide that music was it for you, then?
I realized at some point that I had this stack of records and that I was lugging these turntables everywhere I went. It was like, "What am I doing?" [laughs] Then I met this guy at school that introduced me to Twilo in New York. It was the first time that I had ever been to a professional club. (Where you would have security, you would have to pay to get in, there's a girl with the list, there's bartenders, etc.) When I saw it at that professional level and that the DJ had control over everything—Frankie Bones was the one that I first saw there, which was a DJ I had known for a while through the Baltimore scene—I knew that it was something that I wanted to do.
How did you make it over to Europe?
After college, I really wanted to make it over to Europe. I saw that all of these DJs that I loved were coming over from there, so I wanted to check it out. So I got an Irish girlfriend [laughs] and went over with her to teach at a school in England through my lacrosse connections basically.
In the first few nights that I was there, I went to Gatecrasher and started going to all sorts of bars passing out my demo CD and finally got one bar to agree to do a free party. I did that for about ten parties or so, but soon I went to Ibiza because it seemed like everything that I was interested in was happening there.
What was it like there? A former Marine in Ibiza...
It was great. There was no passport control. People were smoking joints in the airport. Freedom—everything that I didn't have in America. And so when I got there, I just started walking everywhere. I must have lost 20 pounds that first summer. I didn't have a car, I didn't eat much. Lots of partying. You know, the routine.
Sooner or later, I just started meeting people. And the more people that I met, the closer I got to DC-10. The first person that I gave my demo to suggested that I give my demo to them. When I got the gig there, I just started going there in the morning and wouldn't leave. I'd work the lights, any odd jobs they wanted, whatever.
Anything I could buy at the record store. And tons of promos. Remember, I didn't have money to buy records really. I didn't have the internet, I was walking everywhere. Every time I would scrounge up eight pesetas or so, I'd walk to the record store and buy one record to add to the collection. I was playing a tougher sound back then, though.
I didn't really have any education about dance music before DC-10 aside from rave culture and that was always some type of hard acid—even at Twilo, when we'd go see someone like Frankie Bones. The first DJs that I heard playing deep stuff at 123 BPM were Sasha and Digweed. We would drive from Baltimore up to New York to see them. So I was always on the lookout for a deeper, darker sound when I first started out in Ibiza. I was learning from people like Bill Patrick, and I started to get into a more refined techno sound after that.
How long were you on the island before Circo Loco started?
Circo Loco started in 1999 and I arrived in 2001. So, it had already been three years, but it was still very secluded by that time. There were less than 200 people. They'd open at 6 AM, and they used to close at 3 or 4 in the afternoon. It was a really close-knit family. Now, it's gotten a lot of press and the family is a lot bigger, but those same 200 people still come to the club. That's one way it stays special and keeps its heart.
How has it changed?
In the beginning for me, it just seemed like a loose party—where people would play records whenever, Sasha would show up and ask to play. It was a very loose format for a long time. Now, we have a timetable—although the times never match up anyway—so it's a tiny bit more professional. In some way, it has to be with all of the guest DJs that we bring in. Before it was just the residents, playing this West Coast house (which seemed to be the original sound of DC-10), which never really evolved so people were like, "Next genre please!" [laughs]
So now it's deep house?
This year has definitely been moving a little bit towards deeper house. And that's helped with some of the guest DJs we've brought in. I think it's still minimal-flavoured, but it's got some deeper house elements to it. I personally love what Innervisions is doing right now. Urbantorque and Jimpster too.
Tell me about this year.
This year was tough. We were open for the first two parties and then we closed because there was an existing fine. The owner of the club and a representative were going to Madrid this past week to meet the new lawyers that we have, who are some pretty powerful people. From what I'm told we're going to be open on January 1st.
Yeah. That's the thing about DC-10, though: It's a mystery for everybody. All of the people that work there, for the lawyers, the government. Nobody seems to have control over anything. The government says, "OK, we're going to shut you down. It's done." Two weeks later, we're open again. Two weeks later, it's the same thing again. It's a constant battle of uncertainty.
I mean, what's the big deal? How much money has to be made or paid for there to be no stress on either side? So that the people who want to party can party, and the people who want to bring tourists on the island can be happy. The crisis now of course is that we don't have many tourists on the island. And next year, it's probably going to be worse.
Was it that noticeable this year?
A little bit. August is always heaving. In the beginning, though, the numbers were something like 30% down from last year. Which means that it doesn't look good for anybody. DC-10, Pacha, whomever.
So what happens now?
Well, I think if you're the government, you look at it like this: If there are less people coming to the island, you need to get more out of each person. Also, you need to cut off the head of the dragon. That dragon is DC-10. If that formula continues, in ten years there will be three clubs and it will all be VIPs. Of course, many of those people won't be paying for their table service at all because they're VIPs. So it's a little backwards in my opinion.
Next year, there will be a new casino on the island and any new hotel that is being built there has to be five stars. And they're not giving up any licenses to rent your villa or apartment anymore. (Hotels are saying it's not fair for people not to use hotels when they come into Ibiza.) Driving around the island, you just see more and more hotels being built. And you have to say yourself, "If the numbers are going down, why are we building more hotels?"
Andreas and Antonio have such a wide base of contacts from this tiny club in Ibiza, it's kind of amazing. So you'll have some guy in Brazil who will say, "Hey, I love your club, what does it take to bring it here?" It's a great feeling, that people would want what we have to offer.
Most of the time we do stuff in Europe touring-wise. A lot of people from Germany or France come to DC-10, and then go back to their home and want to put something on at [Paris'] Rex, for example. Tons of people have already been there from Paris, so they'll come out and know generally what to expect.
Is there a place that you feel like you've been able to recreate that vibe successfully?
We had a great party this year at MTW in Frankfurt. We had a pre-party before we went over to the venue at this man-made island that was in the middle of a river. They've turned the place into a beachfront club, basically. But the thing about the party that was so great was that it rained all around the city…except for that island. People were going bonkers. Warung Beach in Brazil has been amazing, as well. Like any party, though, it's a partnership between the people that come, the promoter. When all of those things come together, it's a great party.
You're playing New York tonight. Circo Loco hasn't been here in a while, right?
Yeah. I'm really excited to play here. People seem to forget that New York is one of those original cities, like Chicago and Detroit. This city still has a lot of heart and soul. So many people get jaded, and they want to point fingers. New York is such a big city, it's such a big, big city. There's a lot of room for a lot of people to eat, you know? I don't think that there's quite a place like Crobar right now, for example, but there are a lot of amazing things still happening here.
Finally, I wanted to ask you about your new label, Barraca Music. It's based in Valencia where you're now living, right?
Yeah. The first release is by Danny Fiddo and Affkt, which has been getting support from people like Loco Dice and Richie Hawtin. We've got five more releases all ready to go as well. There are a number of artists in Valencia right now who are trying to create this underground movement. People are driving from Madrid and other places in Spain to Valencia for the weekend to hang out here for three days straight. That used to be the norm after the country became more democratic in the '80s. It lessened for a while, but now that spirit is coming back to the city.
At the club—which is right near the beach—we've also got some world-class DJs coming like Ricardo, Laurent Garnier, Tania Vulcano, Rhadoo and others. As for the locals, we're just trying to preach the sound of Valencia. The club's been around 43 years now, so I think it's about time we started a label to spread it around a bit further. [laughs]