This week we speak with one of the island's favourite DJs, take in Rødhåd's Ibiza debut and visit Ushuaia.
For everything you need to know about the island in 2014, take a look at our comprehensive Ibiza guide.
Cassy is a hard woman to pin down. Her DJ sets reflect her approach to life: meandering, passionate and with a surprise at every turn. As she settles into another season manning the turntables at DC-10, we sat down with her over Skype to pick apart the finer points of her craft.
So I was going to start by asking you: you famously lead this very nomadic existence, where does Ibiza fit into the equation?
Well, first of all, it's a workplace. There's a practical business side to the whole thing. But then also Ibiza is a place—it's kind of a melting pot—it's a place for people who don't really want to live anywhere else. I’ve tried to live in so many different places, and then spending a summer in Ibiza last year was so great that I didn't want to leave when autumn and winter came. So I stayed there. I stayed there until January actually but then I had to go on tour for three months so I left again.
Do you remember the first time you visited the island?
The first time was not connected to parties or going out or music at all. It was to visit a friend and it was at Easter time. I was just up in the north somewhere—I can’t remember exactly. I was staying in a farmhouse and just enjoying the place for what it is.
So you had that relationship with it first.
What year was that, roughly?
That was in 1994 or '95.
And when did you first visit as a DJ?
I think that started five or six years ago. Or seven years ago. Quite late. Because I remember people always wanted to go to Ibiza for partying but I always went to Berlin. I was never interested in going to Ibiza. All the DJs and people I was hanging out with—hardly anyone of this group of people was DJing there. They found it all too commercial and too kitsch or too tourist-like.
Only later on when I saw there’s so many people here I actually know and like and really enjoy listening to. This I probably knew back then as well, but maybe because you don't really have so much money to take trips I was just happy going to Berlin for partying. I find it easier to party or go and listen to music in clubs in a city than in Ibiza. It always made such a hassle. You had to have a car. It just seemed a really tedious holiday. It's not my type of thing to do.
Have you ever experienced Ibiza as a clubber?
I think one time, yes. I was DJing already and I went there together with someone else who was DJing because I wanted to see it and hung out. I really enjoyed it and thought 'this is really great' apart from being a complete pain in the arse to get around and everything. But I really appreciated the variety of music there was. Actually, what I quite liked about it was what people really hated about Ibiza.
I don't like everything and I don't enjoy everything, but I hate it when people are elitist about music, and especially dance music because it's not nuclear science. It's not curing AIDS or anything. It's just music. So I think that's great about Ibiza. You have every sound from around the world so people in the know or with no clue can go there and enjoy themselves. I think that's quite cool.
And that's its legacy, it’s always been a place that brings in all different kinds of people looking for different things. When did the relationship with Circoloco start then?
About five years ago. I think at first I played for them somewhere in Italy and then I was eventually invited to play at DC10. I think I played four or five times that first summer for them so immediately after they made me a resident, which was nice.
Did you start on the Terrace straightaway?
Yes, I was actually.
So you were playing a sound then that really suited the room?
Actually, you know what? I was thinking about that. I played too hard for them I think. I remember they said 'yeah this is too hard.' Back then it was a bit more of the fashion to play softer. I guess everyone around me—all the younger DJs—were playing softer music but maybe they didn’t have that same techno background. I always thought it was complete nonsense that I played too hard. Something that is lacking in Ibiza—you can't hear a lot of good techno. It's only good if people hear good techno. It can never be a bad thing.
The way you hear the artists talking about Circoloco, it’s such a favourite. What is it that sets it apart from the rest?
What I like about it is that the set-up isn't too fussy. That also has its downsides, you know. Sometimes it's so unfussy that you're in the DJ booth and all of a sudden there's a million people with you. That's fucking annoying when you’re trying to concentrate and play a good set because no matter what, you still have to be as professional as possible, which is sometimes a bit difficult.
After a long weekend touring playing clubs that you perhaps don’t know as well, being back in a place you know so well, among friends, must be something to look forward to.
It's a really nice feeling to go back. I just love going back there because I love the people who run it. I love the people who work there. The security guards— after so many years there's all these familiar faces and they're so— I don't know, I just like the place. I just feel at home there.
It's nice being able to see so many artists at once. So many of your friends.
That's also really nice and you know, the other thing is, all these people that have been playing there forever like Andrew [Grant] or Tania [Vulcano]. The hardcore old crew like Clive Henry... When I met them they were so fucking adorable and nice. They never had an attitude like 'I've been here a long time and you're new so you better learn your place.' On the contrary, they're the sweetest of the sweetest. I think that's something that really felt so good because the music business or the DJ world or especially Ibiza can be extremely competitive and petty.
That's one of the defining features of the party. Seth Troxler mentioned that everyone gets paid the same, it's just a straight fee. It puts everyone on the same level.
Absolutely, yeah. And everyone also takes it really seriously, because they take everyone who is there seriously and they love and respect them. I don’t want it to sound too hippy because there's nothing hippy about it, but yeah, you just feel comfortable. You're at ease.
The other thing is that when famous DJs come, like Danny Tenaglia or Derrick Carter or Carl Cox, they're really nervous before they go on. And this I love—that these people are still nervous before they play and they're just feeling that and that's fucking brilliant. Every DJ knows that this is a really good gig and that they can't fuck it up.
As someone who plays such a variety of gigs, I imagine you must be pretty good at adapting to your surroundings quickly. What are your methods for reading the crowd and finding out what to play? What even is that whole reading the crowd thing? It's such an unwritten science. It’s never spoken about.
I ask myself that. I have no idea.
Do you think it's a definite thing?
It’s a definite thing in that you definitely have to do it. How would you define it? Or how would you define how you do it? I have no idea. I keep asking myself actually. This is an ongoing debate I have with myself while I'm DJing. Like, 'is this too hard now? Should I go there?' It all comes down to experience. You have to give yourself the time to take things to certain places and try things.
Obviously a big part of it is that people have come to see you so they're going to trust you a pretty long way.
Now, yes! At the beginning, no. People have just come to listen to someone else and you’re warming up. If you're warming up that's cool because you're warming up, but if you're also there booked to be a star or someone who has something to say but you're still not as important as the other person, then that's a very tricky spot to fill.
Do you always pay attention to the people who are playing before you?
Yes I do. That's actually a very interesting thing. You're always as good or as bad as the person before you. You can obviously do your thing and be at your best that very moment but if someone before you has played a really good set, your set is going to be so much better. Because it's all about energy in the room. If someone played a really fucking cool set and there's a good atmosphere in the room you just go ahead with that energy and you're receptive of it.
If the person before you has totally smashed it playing a very classic house sound, or whatever, will you go on and take that into consideration for your first few tracks?
That must be quite a challenge to steer it to wherever you want to go.
Absolutely, it is. You go somewhere and you listen to a person and you're like 'fuck this is so much cooler than what I'm playing right now.' Also obviously I'm like super-stupid as well, thinking 'his records are so much better than mine. Why don’t I have more records?' And then you have this battle with yourself.
You must spend a lot of time thinking about the crowd and the vibe and then you get there and someone’s playing something completely different and you're like, 'OK, well I’ll have to play something else.'
Exactly. I remember Marco Carola once said something amazing to me at Movement in Detroit. I had to play at the Beatport stage, and I had the second last set, which I was really happy about. Richie Hawtin had the last set after me. Detroit means so much to me; the music; the people; the festival. As a DJ, you want to be real and raw.
You want to touch people. It's not just about making people party, it's about really playing with all your heart as well. I was shitting myself. Marco was there because he played on the same day on the main stage and he came to listen to me. I told him I was so fucking nervous. He said, in his Italian accent: 'Don’t worry, just think about the first record, don't think about the second or the third, just think of the next record. Don't go too far ahead. Just relax and think about that record and just play that and then play the next record.' Sometimes when I'm nervous I say that to myself.
This week on the island
ANTS at Ushuaïa
It says a lot about ANTS' popularity last year that it kept its place in Ushuaia's 2014 roster. ANTS aside, the stadium-sized beach club caters exclusively to EDM and trance this season, positioning itself as Ibiza's go-to venue for those chasing the quintessential big-budget dance music experience. With no superstar to pull in the punters, ANTS instead shifts the focus onto larger-than-life production values, constructing a festival-sized world of mechanized insects, metal-clad trapeze artists and break-dancers in morph suits. There was even a guy dressed as a futuristic goth balancing three plastic chairs on his forehead. A lot of the scenes you'd more readily associate with Glastonbury, or even Burning Man, rather than Ibiza.
While all this is going on, rounded tech house booms from various weighty and impressive stacks. During the day, the vibe is a pleasant one, with revellers dotted around a raised, circular booth, dancing freely in the muggy heat. From about 9 PM, the show switches over to the main stage, which last Saturday was commandeered by Nic Fanciulli and Joris Voorn, headlining the first of two La Familia takeovers (the pair will then run four independent events on Sundays in September.) Spinning from inside a huge bronze ANT, their thumping arena fare was met with timely blasts from the flamethrowers below. The place was packed from top to bottom, showing that if you dress it up enough, house and techno can hold its own among the Aviciis and David Guettas of this world.
Just Be's birthday at Underground
The clue is in the name: Underground is one of those venues it takes a while to discover. The team behind it famously eschew the mass-market tactics of Ibiza's superclubs, preferring to remain a party spot for those in the know. It's an especially popular spot among DJs; you'll often find some of the scene's major players popping down on their night off for an impromptu set. One who loves it more than most is Just Be, AKA Bushwacka!, who has taken to hosting his birthday parties at the venue. Last Sunday's affair saw the veteran joined behind the decks by Eats Everything, Shonky and Vitalik chief Ryan O'Gorman. Carl Cox was even milling about, sporting a fetching blue shirt.
In true Underground fashion, the dance floor only really got going north of 3 AM, leaving Eats Everything to spin chunky house to considerably less people than he's used to. Shonky followed, building the room with cut after cut of his warm, heavyweight grooves. Given only an hour, he kept the mixing snappy, single-handedly taking the club from empty to full. The Apollonia man primed it perfectly for the birthday boy, who proceeded to cover the full house spectrum. There was gritty, Detroit-inspired fare (D.F.X's "Relax Your Body"), swinging New York classics (MK's remix of 4th Measure Men's "4 You") and even a slice of modern progressive (Âme's "Rej.") As you can imagine, it lent the night a joyous, celebratory feel. As for Underground, its intimacy offers a clubbing experience so divorced from the rest of the island, it's worth popping down just for the change of scenery.
Tribal Sessions at Sankeys
Throughout its history, Tribal Sessions has always been synonymous with raw, hard techno. While it isn't hard to imagine the likes of Dave Clarke and Jeff Mills taking the north of England by storm, similar happenings in Ibiza aren't as easily envisioned. Indeed, one could argue that up until now, only Cocoon has catered to that specific brand of techno. That's set to change this year though, as the likes of Marcel Fengler, Joel Mull and Rødhåd all descend on Sankeys. The latter two joined another staunch techno head, Len Faki, in The Lab on Wednesday for the sound's first run-out of the summer.
I have to admit, I had my doubts as to whether this would work. As a promoter, Ibiza isn't a place to take risks: too often are dance floors that veer from the norm left barren. However, by 2 AM Joel Mull's thumping, super-serious warm-up was inviting wolf-whistles from the body-rocking crowd. Several low-slung cuts, including Mr G's dub of Stereo MC's "Good Feeling," brought his set to a boisterous finale, leading the way for Rødhåd. As the Berghain regular took to the decks, whether accidentally or not, every light in the room turned off, transforming The Lab into a dark bunker. His set was well tailored to the occasion, made up of some of the bigger records in his repertoire (Floorplan's "Never Grow Old," Recondite's "Cleric"), which warmed the rampant crowd to him further. There was something so refreshing about those few hours. Mainly, it's rare to go out in Ibiza and have a clubbing experience that feels and sounds like nothing else.
Lead - Igor Ribnik
ANTS - Roberto Castaño
ENTER. - Igor Ribnik
Cocoon - Phrank
Carl Cox - Nel G Photography
All others - Tasya Menaker
For more information on what's happening on the island in 2014, check out our comprehensive Ibiza guide below.