This week we spend 24 hours with the Parisian trio in the lead-up to their DC-10 showcase.
A day in the life... Apollonia
“You know what the Spanish call us? Apoyonia. It's the double 'l,' they just can't get their head round it.” – Dan Ghenacia.
Spending 24 hours in the company of anyone is a trying prospect. When that anyone is a journalist, and it happens to be the day of your showcase at DC-10 in Ibiza, I'd have thought it would have been the last thing on your wish list. Not so, however, for Apollonia, the Parisian-born DJ collective of Dan Ghenacia, Shonky and Dyed Soundorom. In fact, when I first met the trio outside Ibiza Sonica radio on a baking hot Saturday afternoon, they could hardly have been more welcoming. The plan, as far as they knew, was to spin a few records on air, then head down to the beach for a spot of last-minute promo, before grabbing some dinner and making our way to DC-10. “It's going to be a long day,” grinned Ghenacia.
Despite the slight age gap (Ghenacia is pushing 40, while Soundorom and Shonky are both 32), Apollonia have been best friends for years. It's a friendship that's been cultivated by a shared passion for deep, groovy house music. Soundorom and Shonky were regulars at Ghenacia's infamous Kwality afterhours at Batofar in Paris in the late '90s, and later mainstays on his now defunct Freak n' Chic imprint, but it wasn't until the label's dissolution in 2010 that the three of them decided to club together. "We were playing back-to-back so often, and enjoying it so much, that it seemed the next logical step," Ghenacia says. When asked, Shonky and Soundorom struggle to recall their first official gig: "It was with Cassy in Panorama Bar..." Dyed shakes his head, "No we weren't called Apollonia then. It was at..." "Ah! At the afterhours for Movement Festival in Turin. That was an amazing party."
During our hour at Sonica, it wasn't so much their interaction that highlighted the strength of their bond, as just how comfortable I immediately felt in their company. Shonky is the playful one, striking a series of ridiculous poses for the camera (part Rodin's thinker, part Baywatch model), while Ghenacia acts as the spokesman for the group, waxing lyrical live on air about the party, the label and potential plans for an Apollonia album. Dyed, meanwhile, stands glued to the decks, smiling. "You know Apollonia really changed things for me," he remarks. "After so many years spent travelling alone, being in the company of your two best friends makes all the difference. If I've just played a solo gig, and I'm tired, at least I know that I'll be reunited with them in a day or two." As 5 PM approaches, there's just enough time for Dan to tell the listeners to head to Playa d'en Bossa to catch the parade. Seconds later, Shonky receives a text: "We're going to Salinas instead." Dan shakes his head, "Putain."
Riding between Dan and Dyed in the Apollonia wagon—an open-top, safari-style Jeep—I try and gain a bit of background. Dyed moved to Berlin several years ago, along with Shonky, while Dan still lives in Paris: unlike the other two, it's a city he still loves. Dan has been happily married for more than ten years to Sofia Letelier, who runs Lola-Ed, the booking and management agency that represents both Apollonia and their solo careers. Any kids? "Not yet, but that's the plan. I want to do this album first and then the tour. Sofia and I are going to move to Berlin this winter so I can spend some serious time in the studio with the guys." Dyed, meanwhile, has nodded off. After a quick sandwich stop en-route to Salinas, Sofia and the PR teams catch up with us and tell us to head back to Playa d'en Bossa for the parade. With our stomachs full and Shonky now covered in Apollonia tattoos, we pile back into the car.
The parade is another brief affair. We meet the image and promo teams on the beach behind Ushuaia, which includes Dyed's younger brother, and unfurl the Apollonia banner. After a few silly snaps with the gang, it's time to leave. "Next year I want a white Apollonia horse riding up and down Playa d'en Bossa," jokes Dan. "How about one for every letter of Apollonia?" I interject. His face lights up: "Now you're talking." Here, the trio split up: Dan goes with Sofia to find a suitable afterparty location, while Shonky and Dyed head home to relax and get their crates ready for tonight, inviting me to join. After a short but in-depth conversation with Dyed about life and relationships, during which he turned to me at one point and asked: "Are you happy?," we arrive at the Apollonia villa in Jesús.
Nestled away down a leafy, residential street, the house is as beautiful as it is understated, and felt very French. Inside, a cosy living room is divided into a couch area and turntables, with endless boxes of records lining the surrounding floorspace. Dan's brother Stephane and Zoo Project staple Evan Baggs potter about. Shonky, after giving his Italian girlfriend a quick kiss, took instantly to the decks. He looked almost worried. "Man, my record bag got lost a few weeks ago, on the way to Kazantip Festival. After two changes and delays, it never came out the other end in the Ukraine. Usually they turn up after a week, but it's been almost three now. I've got to get some records ready for tonight." I watched him as he flicked through various piles, pulling some out, giving them a spin ("This is more Panorama Bar. Whoa, and this one more Berghain. We're playing DC-10, I have to keep the vibe happy").
There wasn't much that seemed to fit the bill. "When I go to record shops, I might buy 20, 30 records at a time, but only play ten of those. As a result, I don't know the rest very well." Eventually, he came across DJ Hell's 2013 rework of Capracara's "Flashback '86" from Kern Vol. 2–The Exclusives. He seemed very taken by the intro, which loops a booming, low-slung bassline, although less so by the subsequent pads. He looked at me, "Right, time to make an edit." Returning with his laptop, I asked if making edits was a regular occurrence. "Yeah, we do it a lot. If I only like one bit of the track, I'll buy the WAV and make the track I want to make and load it onto a USB. A lot of DJs would just play the record, but given the technology available in this day and age, I don't see the point. As Apollonia, we don't like things too noisy, we like to keep things stripped-back. So if the file is out there, I'll make an edit, it takes five minutes!"
As we sipped ice-cold beers, I pondered the idea of an 'Apollonia' sound. Does it deviate much from your individual styles? "It's not so much about sound," said Dyed. "Playing with Shonky and Dan encourages me to take risks. They'll play a specific track at a specific time that might totally throw me, and I've got to follow their lead. It makes for a much more fun, spontaneous experience." And what about the whole one-record-each philosophy? "You'll see tonight man. It makes things extremely fluid. A lot of back-to-backs become competitions, but here we are constantly trying to feed into a wider message, rather than show off our own tastes." The whole time, Shonky's new edit plays on loop in the background.
Soon, Dan and Sofia return ("the afterparty is going to be great," they inform us) and after a quick shower, we get ready to head out for some food. Shonky, however, stays behind to continue his quest. Talamanca Pizza Club is the setting, clearly an old favourite with the gang. There we meet Lionel Marciano, label manager for Apollonia. After some simple, hearty Italian food and several rounds of shots, we get back on the road in the direction of Destino, where Stephane Ghenacia is spinning. Standing in the booth as Stephane thumps out tough-talking house, I hear someone ask Dan: "Did you teach him to DJ?" Dan shakes his head. "No way. You know he's a photographer by trade, a really good one, but he's just given it all up. He had an amazing flat in London and now he lives like a hippy with five others, doing nothing but make music. I thought he was mad at first, but then he sent me the tracks. They really blew me away." After a quick pit stop at the house to pick up Shonky and their record bags, Apollonia finally make their way to DC-10.
When we arrive, around 12:30 AM, it's expectedly quiet. I realise I'd hardly spoken about the party all day. How was last year? "For me," says Shonky. "It was the best party of the year. And I'm not just saying that. But yeah, it could have been more full." As the Garden stood ominously empty, the three looked a little nervous. By 2 AM, however, with Apollonia in full swing, the Main Room was heaving. Having spent all day as their peer, it felt strange seeing them up on stage, performing. The fluidity that Dyed had insisted so strongly upon was clear to see, with each record complimenting and flowing into the next. Joining them in the booth when a particular record alerted the senses, I was overwhelmed by how much of a good time they were having. As Dyed blew kisses into the crowd, Shonky lined up his next record: "Amazon" by Jamie Jones. "It's his first release from 2006, on Freak n' Chic." Closing a little after 7 AM with Herbert's remix of Moloko's "Sing It Back," the packed floor sang and danced about one last time in jubilation. As hordes of fans and followers followed the trio out of the club, it was decided we'd head back to the Apollonia villa to continue the party.
When I arrived in Jesús, Shonky was already manning the decks. Lazing about by the pool, waiting for the sun to rise, I finally managed to grab a moment with Dan. So how was it? "Ah oui, amazing. Easy, you know. This club is so good. Fabric, Panorama Bar, DC-10, they're all such a pleasure to play at." It was clear he was itching to get back on the turntables. Inside, various Ibiza faces swanned about the house in search of ice or a clean glass, stopping intermittently to have a little dance. Sadly, the police showed up and asked for the music to be turned off, threatening a €6,000 fine if they had to return. With plans of another, more proper, afterparty in the works, everyone took the opportunity to recline and relax. Throughout the experience, I was taken aback by just how open and human the three of them were. Were it not for their united, undying passion for music and mixing, you'd have no idea they were globally revered DJs. At one point, Shonky and Dyed got wind that a member of the party had, in a past life, voiced the seminal Mortal Kombat games. Dyed stood motionless, in shock, while Shonky, recapturing his earlier playful form, took to walking round the house, bellowing "FINISH HIM."
This week on the island
Keen to keep the floor as energised as possible, Wink's set incorporated a selection of audacious, quirky tracks, moving from progressive and driving to jazzy. As is custom with many of Ibiza's bigger DJs, Luciano's first record coincided with a dramatic hike in volume, enhancing the atmosphere considerably. However, rather than follow Wink's lead, he opted to set his own pace, meaning his initial, loopy selections came across a little bland. Using the timeless sway of C-Rock's "Funky Dope Track" and Lil' Mo' Yin Yang's "Reach" to add colour and character to his headline set, Luciano's overall performance nevertheless felt a little safe. The Ushuaia faithful, however, lapped it up.
Rather than play alone, this season Solomun can more often than not be found performing back-to-back with H.O.S.H.. Together, they push and pull each in unexpected ways. Tonight, they followed on from UNER's accessible fare with several boisterous, driving cuts. Down in The Basement, David August was prepping his much-lauded live set. The young German has blossomed into an island favourite this summer, spoke of in the same breath as the likes of Nicolas Jaar and James Blake. Indeed, his set was as musical as it was pumping, at one point managing to cleverly reference The Beatles' "Come Together." For what is only ever an in-house affair, Diynamic's no-frills dance aesthetic suits Sankeys and its loyal clan down to a T.
Over in the main arena, Coxy was easing into third gear, muscling his way through slice after slice of huge tribal techno. Lending his selections a real percussive, afro-swing, it's almost impossible not to feel moved by his, and the room's, thunderous roar. Back in the Terrazza and the night's headliner, Julio Bashmore, took to churning out well-worn club tracks to a significantly thinner audience. Following Disclosure might be considered a somewhat fruitless mission, but one would've thought the Bristolian could look beyond the tried and tested formulas of his own "Battle For Middle You" and Joy Orbison's "Ellipsis." By comparison, the sibling darlings of today's scene looked every bit as fresh and current as the hype machine will have you believe.
Luciano - Ushuaia
Carl Cox: The Party Unites - Nel G Photograph
Used + Abused - Roberto Castaño
ENTER. - Igor Rubnik
Carnival Cities - Charles Turner
Cocoon - Phrank.net
All others - Tasya Menaker