This week we profile one of 2014's breakthrough talents.
For everything you need to know about the island in 2014, take a look at our comprehensive Ibiza guide.
Feature: Julian Perez
Every season in Ibiza carries with it a couple of breakthrough artists. In today's scene, the right candidate requires a healthy balance of head-turning productions and consistency behind the decks. There are those, like Patrick Topping, that manage to crack the seal almost overnight, and then there are those that take a longer, more measured road. Julian Perez, resident at Fuse and co-owner of the popular Fathers & Sons imprint, fits in the latter category.
Perez has been a fixture in Ibiza's clubbing scene since he moved to the island in 2006, but this summer felt different. On paper, it promised more than ever before: multiple gigs at Fuse and tINI and the gang, a label showcase at Sankeys and, the jewel in the crown, two slots in the Terraza for ENTER. On the dance floor, Perez excelled across all platforms. The litmus test, though, was people's reactions outside of the club. Every time I referenced Perez in conversation, my words were instantly met with wild enthusiasm and sentiments that matched my own. Right from the start of the season he had a buzz about him.
When I sat down with Perez at his beautiful, open-plan house on the San Antonio road, it didn't take long for talk to turn to this summer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he had also noticed a shift in gear. "The way I see everything is changing, I don't know how to explain it. I feel like I'm on another level when I make music, when I DJ, it feels different. More confident. This year I've done everything I wanted to. I didn't have any time to do anything else. I want to do other things, but I don't have time. That's how I can tell things have changed."
One of the main adjustments was his signing to Solid AM in December 2013, the agency that's home to Thomas Melchior, Sonja Moonear and Onur Özer ("for me, the best DJs," Perez says). Ever since then, he's been gigging Friday and Saturday every weekend, embarking on mini-tours of Japan and hosting label showcases at Kazantip. But still, it's the Ibiza dates that mean the most to him. His warm-up for Apollonia at ENTER. in July felt like a big deal, given that it was the first time he'd made that step up to one of the island's superclubs. But he was too excited to be nervous. "They gave me a big guestlist so I had all my friends from Ibiza there," he says. "It made the night really special."
His ENTER. set turned out as hard as you're ever likely to hear him play, catering to the size of the room while using cuts from the likes of Boo Williams and Makam to maintain that depth of feeling and emphasis on groove. On such a big stage, I wondered how he negotiates the balance between pleasing the crowd and staying true to his moody, dubby roots? "I think it's important for me as a DJ to always be playing different slots, and to be playing different shades of my sound, be it deeper or more big-room. But always the music I like and in the same kind of style."
His set that night oozed a quiet, impressive confidence, which goes a long way to capturing Perez's character as a whole. He's someone who takes life's big decisions in his stride, self-assured and stubborn enough to never question his instinct, even if considerable risk is involved. In 2006, following several memorable summers on the dance floors of Circoloco and Cocoon, Perez quit a stable job in advertising and moved to Ibiza. He spent several years playing anywhere he could, from odd gigs at Pacha and Heaven (now Booom!) to private parties, until he'd built up a big enough network of like-minded music lovers that he felt the time was right to start a label.
"When we launched Fathers & Sons back in 2011 we knew a lot of people, young guys, who were doing really nice music and they didn't have anywhere to release it. At that time I was also sending my music to other places and they were saying no, saying 'we can release it digitally, but not vinyl in case it doesn't sell.' So I decided to make the label vinyl-only because I really wanted to support the format."
And it worked. It was 2012 by the time FS001 saw release, followed by two more EPs later that year. All were a hit in the world of textured, trippy tech house, but there was one track in particular that shot the label's profile through the roof: Perez's stripped-back remix of Kadoc's 1995 house hit "Night Train." "That summer changed everything. It was the first time I'd made a track that everyone was playing." Around that time, Steve Lawler saw what Perez was doing, liked it and brought him on board at VIVa Music. Perez joined the crew in Berlin, Barcelona and at Sankeys Ibiza for the start of their VIVa Warriors residency, but something about it didn't feel right.
"I was just going in another direction. VIVa had their own showcases, their own lineups. And I was doing the same with Fathers & Sons. I did like 15 shows in one year. Miami, Sonar with 20 artists, Paris, Moscow. I couldn't do both at the same time." Just before the start of the 2013 season in Ibiza, VIVa offered him 15 dates across the summer. But the deal never went through and Perez was left without a single Ibiza show to his name. Then, in a twist of fate, Fuse offered him three dates at their Sankeys Ibiza party. "The first time I played for them in London on NYE was great, and I really liked the sound and how these guys were taking care of everything. It felt serious to me."
Having seen Perez at Fuse on a couple of occasions this year, he certainly looks and sounds at home. The warm punchiness of his output envelops the room, and it's an environment that he feels is open to experimentation. "At Fuse I can play as deep as I want. Really deep and slow and people will still enjoy it. Nobody will stand there and look at you weirdly." Alongside Fuse, tINI and their respective gangs, Perez is part of a second-tier scene in Ibiza that's doing its bit to keep the island's underground ideals from dying out. Free parties, strong residents and, crucially, a core following of passionate music heads is helping shape an alternative to the profit-driven mainstream circuit. "But it's slow," Perez says with a shake of the head.
As our conversation draws to a close, I finish by asking him what he's learnt from his breakthrough summer. "You have to take care of yourself. I feel like self-discipline is a very important part of my job. I have to eat well, sleep a lot. I'm 32, I've taken the next step, this is business now. It's my passion but it's business. I cannot get crazy. I have to be really focused. I have to take it seriously."
Behind The Scenes: The Zoo Project performers
Vicente, left, and Adriana backstage at The Zoo Project.
The Zoo Project does things differently. Besides the flamboyant décor, finely tuned music policy and fancy dress, there's one aspect that really separates the party from the rest of the island: its performers. From ballet and fire breathing to capoiera and breakdance, the party flips the traditional concept of the Ibiza dancer on its head. To hear more, we caught up with three team members: Vicente Calderon, Adriana Arozamena and Suzi Powell.
Can you all briefly introduce yourselves, describe your disciplines and say how long you've been working for The Zoo Project?
Vicente Calderon: I'm Vicente, I'm from Ibiza and I've been working here for four years. I do various different things, including unicycling, jumping stilts and shows with exotic animals, like snakes, lizards and tarantulas. I also do balance exercises, like slug line.
Adriana Arozamena: I'm Adriana, I'm a professional ballet dancer and I've been here for two years. The Zoo Project is a fun place to work. Coming from the world of ballet, getting to dance to electronic music en-pointe is totally different to anything I've done before. But I love being outside and being part of such a unique event.
I'm curious as to how you all ended up here. Was it mostly by chance or did you come here with the intention of wanting to join the team?
VC: I started with the snakes. It's a family business, run by my father. I'm lucky to be able to work alongside him in an environment like this, I think that's quite rare. I started off helping him out and then because I used to ride unicycles as a hobby the team approached me and asked if I wanted to become a performer, wearing a costume, putting on makeup and all that. I accepted, loved it and here I am four years later.
AA: I've been doing seasons in Ibiza for three years, coming from Bilbao, where I'm from. Last year I went to all the dancer castings and luckily I got accepted for Zoo.
Walk me through an average Saturday. What time do you start work? How does the day unfold?
VC: I get here two hours before my first shift, to leave time for hair, make-up and wardrobe. But most people get here an hour before.
Who makes the costumes?
VC: They're hand made in-house by the team. They buy little bits online or at small markets on the island. They're very creative people, with a lot of imagination.
Do you dress the same each week?
AA: Yeah we have our own fixed wardrobe.
How many shifts do you do? How long are they?
VC: It's different for each performer. Somewhere between four and six. They vary in length. In the seal pit, for example, they tend to be ten minutes as the shifts there tend to be high-energy, you're on stage in front of the DJ, facing the crowd. But with the snakes it's less strict, we just put them round our necks and walk around, letting people take photos, ask questions, stroke them. Most people have never seen animals like this. That can last up to 30 minutes.
What kind of snakes are they?
We have species from all over the world. African pythons, Madagascan boa constrictors, South American boas.
Suzi Powell performing in the Seal Pit.
Suzi, as one of the oldest members of the team, how have you seen dancing evolve over the course of your time here? What was it like when you started?
SP: It's definitely a lot bigger. There were roughly 20 people when I started, and now at the peak of summer we've got 40. It was a similar kind of thing back then, but now we've got bigger and better costumes, we've been able to bring more specialist acts in as the party and its budget expands. People from Madrid, Barcelona. We're lucky though, because most of these artists come here specifically to work with us. Our auditions are crazy. Hundreds and hundreds of people. The selection process starts in May and we fish out the best.
So the team changes year-on-year?
SP: In some cases we keep on some regulars. But then we always bring in new people. You have to keep the show fresh.
Looking at the routines: how much is prepared and how much is improvised?
AA: It depends. Because of the ballet, I perform routines that I've performed on stage but it's mostly improvisation. You need to let the music guide you. Your costume plays a part too. Sometimes I'll change a couple of times throughout the day, like every now and then I do acrobatics in the Mandala area, which is a much calmer exercise. Then for the heavier dances I'll wear black. It depends on the vibe, the DJ, everything together.
Are there any DJs you like dancing to particularly?
AA: I really love Sven Väth, but he doesn't play here [laughs].
What do you guys do once the summer is over?
AA: Up until last year I was studying, so this year I'm going to apply to some dance companies and get some winter work, so I don't have to rely solely on the summers in Ibiza. [laughs].
What's the thing you enjoy most about your job?
VC: I love being outside, in such a wide open space, amongst nature. And I love working with the animals but most of all it's the family vibe that we have here.
AA: The energy...
VC: It's not like other places. Everyone that works at Zoo feels part of something.
AA: And that transmits through to the crowd I think.
The Zoo Project takes the classic idea of Ibiza dancers and flips it on its head. But I'm interested to hear what you think about the way the other clubs and parties do it? Is it an integral part of the night or a bit outdated?
AA: There needs to be a bit of everything. Depending on the party, you have different vibes, different kinds of people with different tastes. And of course the music isn't the same. Here we're all performers, and though there are go-gos, that's a club thing. They're looking for that female figure, which people like.
This week on the island
Rumors at Beach House
New this year, Beach House has rapidly established itself as the scene's last-ditch go-to venue. In Ibiza, that's a strong position to be in—just last week Solomun and his Diynamic crew dropped by, having had Cova Santa pulled from under them at the last minute. But really it's been Guy Gerber's Rumors party that has helped build Beach House's reputation. The Sunday affair has done well, despite having had to swap the camo-netting of Plan Be for fine dining and bright-white walls. On this occasion, mainly due to the post-Grand Prix (powerboats, not racing cars) crowd that had overrun the bar's various VIP areas, there was a particularly flashy feel about the place.
Because of this dominant presence, the party's regulars took to dancing on the sand outside, finding space amongst the multitude of loungers and beds. The vibe was strong as a result, as more than 200 people moved with vigour to Gerber's weighty, late-night tech house. The sound, too, was on point, transmitting every element of the Israeli's gradual transition towards more progressive styles. At one stage, though, the sound cut completely, returning seconds later at half the volume and double the distortion. The moment the problem was fixed, a huge roar of approval reverberated around Playa d'en Bossa—a tell-tale sign of a good party.
We Love...The Warehouse Project at Space
On Sunday, Manchester's powerhouse outfit The Warehouse Project curated their first event in Ibiza, joining forces with We Love... at Space. According to founder Sam Kendel, they've “had multiple requests over the years to do events and have always respectfully declined.” They have, after all, been busy erecting a mini-empire across the UK and Croatia. Devoid of We Love...'s band of residents, the lineup on the night felt fresh, while still in keeping with the party's UK-centric MO. Inside, Nicolas Jaar played Ibiza for the first time since Destino last year, performing from a makeshift raised booth in the Discoteca.
Jaar's set largely comprised of his usual soulful, chugging fare, sprinkled with the occasional gospel vocal and dip into quicker terrain (Inner City's "Good Life"). Kerri Chandler, meanwhile, was playing a good 10 BPM faster in the Terraza, mixing with incredible dexterity. He kept the vibe at a throbbing peak throughout, though his take on contemporary house wears a little thin after a while. The same can't be said of Eats Everything and Richy Ahmed. Their four-hour back-to-back effort was the best received of the night, as the pair traded hip-house and tougher techy bits for the wall-to-wall crowd. That said, there was little remarkable about Sunday. Inside the venue, there was nothing to suggest WHP's involvement, which made it feel like just another We Love... Quite what it means for Kendel and co.'s Ibiza future I'm not sure, but this wasn't much more than a mildly entertaining pilot.
Defected In The House at Booom! Ibiza
I got a shock as I entered Booom! last Tuesday. In place of the DJ booth was a party of sharply dressed VIPs, sipping champagne. Following their gaze, the new booth crept into site, occupying the broad stage to the side of the dance floor. It took a few minutes getting used to, but ultimately its new position felt much more natural, opening the club up and making better use of its shape. The only gripe is that it's a little too high. Luke Solomon and Simon Dunmore looked comfortable in their new surroundings, smiling and grooving along to their back-to-back flow of punchy peak-time house. On the large wall behind them, crisp projections darted and flashed in time with the music.
At 2:30 PM, headline act Cajmere slunk into view, seamlessly picking up the reigns from the veteran pair. He led with several cuts of strapping Chicago house, dishing out a barrage of tumbling basslines to the energetic young crowd. As time wore on, he moved more modern, dropping Maceo Plex's ubiquitous remix of Gus Gus' "Crossfade" and the fractured pop-house of Mu's "Let Get Sick." The night's highlight came not long after, as Cajmere took off his headphones, plugged them into the mic input and performed the vocals for "Percolator" live. Whatever you make of Defected, it's hard to argue with its consistently feel-good appeal.
Music On - David Pareja
Insane - Victor Moreno
We Love... - Nel G Photography
Tribal Sessions - Luke Dyson
All others - Tasya Menaker
For more information on what's happening on the island in 2014, check out our comprehensive Ibiza guide below.
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