Leaving the heavyweights with their own parties to one side, who have been this season's best DJs? We profile three.
Ibiza 2013: Top guest DJs
If come the end of every September you were to compile a list of the season's most successful DJs, it would be hard to look past the usual names: Cox, Carola, Hawtin. But here we focus on those armed with nothing but their records, playing without the aid of huge production budgets and Hollywood-style PR teams. These are three of the summer's top guest jocks.
Big personality, bigger beats. No artist has pushed the boundaries of his own abilities as much as Eats Everything this season. Gigs for Pete Tong and Dirtybird may not have come as a surprise, but Carl Cox, ENTER. and Cocoon? And if that wasn't enough, as just reward for all his hard work, Eats has been booked for the daddy of all finales: the Amnesia closing.
"I have had a surreal and ultimately amazing summer over in Ibiza," the DJ, real name Dan Pearce, says. "It's been pretty out of this world, to be honest. I played for and met some of my real heroes in Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin and Sven Väth, and got the opportunity to play all the clubs I have been going to since I was 17 years old, half my lifetime ago! To have played these nights and to have received the amount of positive feedback that I have is the best feeling in the world. If I had to choose a highlight from the season, I think Cocoon probably just pips it. It's the best set I've played and no one, including myself, expected the Main Room to be so rammed and going off so early. To be honest, I thought I'd be playing on my own for two hours! Being offered to play Amnesia closing is totally crazy. It is probably my favourite club in the world, not to mention my favourite of all the closing parties. I just hope I do myself, and the event, justice."
Dixon oozes class. The Innervisions boss has done the rounds in Ibiza this summer, clocking up gigs for Circoloco, Used + Abused, Cocoon, Paradise and We Love... In the process, he's opened up the public to a different type of house music, away from the pounding tech-inflected fare that dominates the island. Quietly responsible for pioneering several of the season's biggest records (Ten Walls "Gotham," Jimmy Edgar's "Strike" and Agoria's "Scala") Dixon might just be the most in-form DJ on the circuit right now.
"I have to say that Ibiza is officially not my kind of place anymore," Dixon says. "I find it extremely over-priced, too corporate, a little too hot (after all, I am still German) and totally unstylish. But I experienced two situations that already make me look forward to next season:
Just last week I went to a restaurant where for the first time ever I felt a little of that late '80s/early '90s Ibiza flair I've read so much about. After dinner, I learnt that this place had just opened. That gave me hope and confidence for the nightlife in Ibiza, that there might be a chance for some much needed changes next season.
In early August I played, in succession, on Friday in Kazantip, on Saturday at Robert Johnson in Offenbach (a 10 hours back-to-back set with Kristian from Âme), on Sunday afternoon at our Lost In A Moment Open Air in Berlin and, finally, on Sunday night another five hours at the afterparty. You can imagine that afterwards, I was dead. I was totally out of energy, perhaps like never before, and with no need for another minute of boom, boom, boom in a nightclub. However, it was only Sunday, and there was one more gig ahead of me: Circoloco at DC-10 in Ibiza. I had a 2-hour nap and flew over to the island.
When you enter DC-10 as a DJ you come in via the side entrance, passing the backstage area and through a door that leads directly into the DJ booth of the Terrace. My flight was delayed and I arrived only 15 minutes before my set, with no time to adjust to the situation. And yet, when I opened the door to the booth and saw the crowd I was hit with this huge wave of energy within a minute I was fully awake, and ready to roll. It took me less then 10 minutes to get into the groove and really enjoy the set. What is more, I think I played my best set of the whole weekend. It was then I realised: Ibiza can still be a very special place."
Throughout the summer, Eric Estornel has continued to blur the lines between his two monikers: Maetrik and Maceo Plex. While performing exclusively as the latter, Estornel's banging techno sets have been the talk of town, regularly tearing the roof of the Space Terrazza for ENTER. and across both rooms on Mondays at DC-10. An enthusiastic, expert mixer, few have been as consistent as Maceo Plex in 2013—hence why he's the only headline act invited to play both Amnesia opening and closing.
"There was a lot of change on the island this year," he says. "From my perspective ENTER. got bigger and better, as did Music On, Paradise, and Pacha launched two new nights that got me to finally pay a visit and check out the club for the first time ever. Playing every other week at DC-10 was a huge highlight for me, but it was playing the Terrazza at ENTER. which seemed to garner the most attention.
There was one track that really stood out this summer, Tale Of Us' remix of "Primitive People" by Mano Le Tough. It's a perfectly executed remix, with just the right amount of vocal taken from the original. Another one I hammered a lot was a little more obscure, but nevertheless always managed to move things in the right direction: XDB's "Frocks." At Amnesia opening I played a Maetrik-style set, for sure, and am planning to do so again at the Amnesia closing as well. Basically, Ibiza was as sweaty and hectic as always."
Sasha is one of Ibiza's original dance music superstars. He was among the island's biggest draw throughout the '90s and early '00s, but the UK DJ would be the first to admit that's not the case in 2013. Below, he reflects on the state of his career today, this summer's DC-10 debut and just how, and why, his party at Ushuaia Tower turned out completely differently from what he'd expected.
Now that the season is almost over, how do you reflect back on it?
Like any season in Ibiza there are always obstacles and hurdles you face in trying to have a successful summer. I think, on the whole, it's been a success. When I first signed up to do Ushuaia Tower, we thought we were going to be doing pool parties for 3,000 people. Last September in the big Ushuaia venue we were doing more than that—between four and five thousand people—so it wasn't that which worried me. It was more August, where there is such competition from all these huge commercial acts. I thought we'd benefit from being in the smaller venue, and felt confident of a strong season. But then we did a couple of parties downstairs at the Tower and there were problems with the licence so we had to move up to the roof. The roof wasn't really what we signed up for, but we made the best of it. We created a great vibe up there and made it work.
The party has picked up momentum as the summer has gone on, and is arguably currently one of the island's favourites. What do you think has worked so well about it?
No matter what anyone thinks about Ushuaia, the rooftop space on the Tower is a unique location. The views across Ibiza are stunning; the planes are within touching distance. Everyone made an effort in getting dressed up and I think it became a fun, relaxed place to go and enjoy a cocktail and some good music before heading out to Space or Pacha.
It's interesting that it was an accident, because, for me, all the elements of the party seemed to really complement each other: the location, the music, even the fact it was on a Sunday seemed to work. It had that winding-down feel.
Definitely. I was keen to do the Sunday night thing because Sundays have always had a history on the island, what with the Space Terrace and being able to dance in the open-air. That's the one thing Ushuaia undoubtedly has going for it: being able to party outside in the sun. I mean, for years we weren't allowed to. A lot of my friends came to check out the party this summer and they all had a great time up there. It wasn't necessarily the big event that I thought it was going to be, but it was really fun.
What I liked was that it was one of the few parties on the island that didn't feel concerned with totally banging it out. Were you deliberately trying to offer an alternative to the rinse-out affairs that saturate the island?
Everyone that came and played up there was really happy to be given the opportunity to play what they want. They weren't under the pressure of the Discoteca at Space. People came up and played some really interesting sets. And that contributed to the event's overall feel-good factor.
Were there any artists or performances from across the season that particularly stood out for you?
Matthew Dear was fantastic. Cassy absolutely rocked it. I just played back-to-back with Nick [Curly] at the last one, alongside the Dusky guys. I've been playing their music up on the roof all summer so that perfectly fit. Dimitri Nakov did a brilliant job every week of setting the tone. He was very careful to take note of who the DJ was after him and would always play the right set for the right DJ. His commitment stood out.
Have you given any time to what you might potentially do next year—more of the same or will you switch things up?
I've got some really interesting things on the table, but I can't really talk about anything now. Nothing's going to be confirmed for a while. I had an amazing time at DC-10 just recently so I'm hoping I can go back there and play again. It was my first proper set there, if you can believe that.
I think seeing your name on the Circoloco flyer surprised a lot of people. How did it go?
The soundsystem in that Main Room is just ridiculous; it's really, really fantastic. In the booth you can just feel every record coming in under your feet.
How do you feel about your own DJing this year?
I'm really enjoying it. I've probably had the busiest summer I've had since I can remember. I had a stretch in August where I did sixteen gigs in 19 days and 22 flights or something mad. It was mental, but I had such a great time.
Finally, I'm curious as to how you view your career today. You were once the biggest DJ in the world and I think you'd be the first to admit that that's no longer the case. However, I get the sense that that doesn't concern you—that you're happy in this new stage in your career. Would you agree?
Yes, it really doesn't bother me. Maybe there was a time three or four years ago when I was still chasing something, but when I was being booked into main stages of festivals, expected to play commercial dance music, I started to realise I didn't belong there any more. I'm really comfortable where I'm at. I understand where I fit in the food chain. I'd much rather be enjoying what I'm doing, working all the time, than having to go and play a load of records I don't really care about. Music is the most important thing, and with the label, the residencies and the people I'm surrounding myself with, I'm really happy with where I'm at. I could be chasing the Las Vegas dollars, but I've kind of been there and done that. I'm much happier to be playing interesting music with people I really like than stressed out about whether I'm number three or four in the DJ charts.
This week on the island
Hitting the dance floor a little after 4 AM, Carola was already well into his stride. The Neapolitan's thick, roomy grooves took to pushing and pulling the crowd this way and that, sounding fuller and housier than what's pushed by the island's other top-tier jocks (save for Jamie Jones, perhaps). Usually one for dry, stripped-back frameworks, Carola's set was infused with an overwhelming musicality, moving between jazzy licks to dreamier, progressive soundscapes. Tim Green's new single "Just People," as well as Marco Ricci's meditative "Jah People," stood out as highlights. That is, until the timeless stabs of Snap's "I Got The Power" (imbedded within Cabin Fever's "Snapped"), caused the kind of full-frontal furore only possible on the Terrace at Amnesia.
Gerd Janson followed, and while his expert mixing and accessible flavours got the people moving, the room was still a little off reaching optimum capacity. Perhaps in an attempt to tailor his sound to the big room style favoured on the island, the Running Back boss ditched his trademark disco flourishes for sterner sounds, deciding at one point upon Pryda's "RYMD." As I questioned its brilliant, if surprising inclusion, Janson simply replied, in his jovial German accent: "Hey, it's a great trance track!" Minus Axel Boman, who was ill, Studio Barnhus closed out the evening with a well-executed selection of peak-time records, including Joy O's "BRTHDTT." It might not boast the best atmosphere in Ibiza, but no party offers as strong a hit of true underground sounds as Kehakuma.
Keeping things slightly less grandiose than their performance at Cocoon ("Rej", for example, was left out), Âme trod techier terrain, raising the roof with their punchy remix of Tiga's "Plush." As Wiedemann left the stage, having eased in trippier selections in preparation for Dixon's arrival, the Berlin-based DJ took to enveloping the crowd in his usual haze of throbbing, synth-heavy house. Not for the first time this season, Agoria's "Scala" brought unbridled shouts of joy from the crowd.
Music On - Amnesia Photo Team
Kehakuma - Igor Rubnik
Used + Abused - Roberto Castaño
Cadenza Vagabundos - Shane Webber Photography
Cocoon - Phrank.net
Diynamic Neon - Elliot Walsh
All others - Tasya Menaker