Our music Master this week is David Phillips. Dave has a long and lustrous history with Ibiza and he is one of our closest comrades. Here are a few words from our sponsors The Brothers Grim to set the scene before Brother Mark gets down to the nitty gritty of the interview.
Brother Mark – Dave was the first friendly face we met on our first tour of ibiza, he was the ‘resident Dj’ at the infamous Rock Bar, I say resident Dj in inverted commas because he basically had one deck set up in the corner of a very cramped bar that he was able to play one record at a time on between serving drinks to the gathered pirates in attendance. The Rock Bar back then was situated at the very very end of the port and was the last bar open in town for the last men (and women) standing. Staying open well after most respectable people had either shuffled off to bed or to Pacha, The Rock Bar was stuff of legend back in the day and fast became our regular stopping off point after working the mean streets of Ibiza Town handing out flyers and putting up posters.
Dave introduced us to his friends in low places and we spent many an evening talking music and good times together, listening to Mo Wax tracks and other obscure trip-hop bits and pieces the last two seasons at the original Rock venue.
Things change, places disappear and new ventures open new opportunities to friends and family and Dave became our full time resident at the first incarnation of We Love… Space (then called Home At Space) due in part to the eclectic selections that we had first heard him playing on that one deck all those years earlier. Very few people can claim to be able to play a truly eclectic set whilst retaining an eye for the dance floor, David Philips manages to do this incredibly well and this is why Dave is this weeks Music Master.
Brother Andrew – My first real encounters with Dave came to pass after he had left The Rock Bar and had set up shop a little further inland at the infamous Lo Cura. Dave was running Lo Cura with Duesi and Anita and for a while it became the centre of the Balearic universe. I would go there every night and stay in there much too late each time. Lo Cura was little more than a hole in the wall but somehow Dave, Duesi and Anita turned it into the best bar in the world. Lo Cura was the home of my first every DJ residency and every Saturday throughout the Winter I’d spend my evening cramped into the smallest DJ booth in the world playing and discussing music with Dave and the gang. Those years spent in that bar had a defining effect on my life in Ibiza and the time spent with Dave had a defining effect on the music that I play and listen to. He’s a top bloke and for me there are few people as deserving of the title of Music Master as David Phillips.
Brother Mark – How did you end up living in Ibiza ? What’s your background?
David Phillips – My family moved to Marbella when I was 12 and put me and my brother in one of these ‘International Schools’. It was a wacky experience, with maths teachers strumming flamenco guitar at the back of the class and Physics teachers taking the whole class to the truckers bar opposite to do the class with coffees ‘cos he was hungover. The kids were from all over the place and it being Marbella in the 80’s, from some very bizarre backgrounds so it was a very rounded education let’s say.
My best friend and his two brothers opened a bar when they left school in a funky, and slightly skanky area at the back of Marbella port. It was next to another bar called Arturo’s which was run by 3 generations of Rockabillies who all drove round crammed into a big New York taxi. It was fairly nuts down there and the guys’ bar, where we all DJ’d Rock n’ Roll in the broadest sense possible, went like wildfire. Half the school would hang out down there, including the teachers. Three years later, after an abortive attempt to make it work back in the Uk I began to realise that a normal existence there was not for me so I headed back and joined the guys who were about to open their third bar in a ski resort.
We were all just around twenty years old and were working and partying hard, things got very weird, and one freezing cold morning in the deserted off season ski village of Sierra Nevada I jumped in my car and drove back to England in one go, in a bit of a mess. I knew I couldn’t stay there so I just sold everything and went off hitching and trying to be a bit of a hippy thinking I might get a job on a boat or something. I was crap hippy and ran dry quickly so I needed a job fast. My addled brain decided it would be a good idea to head to Ibiza. After a month of fruitless searching I landed a job behind the bar at Space and my life went spinning off in another direction. I still feel like I’m on that adventure sometimes.
BM – Our paths first crossed a long time ago during my first visit to the island back in 1997 I think, you were playing records in the Rock Bar at the very end of the port in a building that is no longer there. I remember them as being good times and late nights, what do you remember?
DP – The early years coming to Ibiza I remember always coming back each year and realising how much you learn from year to year and remembering how comparatively green you were the year before. I’d been there 5 years by then, had worked 3 years in Space, opened and closed a wicked bar in Barcelona, and was now beginning to get into DJing and working for the coolest outfit in Ibiza port, so I was in a good place and knew the ropes. Ibiza was still its relatively simple old self and the seasonal working population was fairly small. Everyone knew everyone and all saw each other out partying, all the time. There were just a few ‘programmed’ nights in the clubs but apart from that you could go to any club, any night and it would be pretty damn good. You didn’t work too hard then either. Work was more like getting paid to party. Probably why I’m working now (!!!!)
BM – I remember the music you played suited the one deck approach, can you remember which labels you supported back then as you really had a different style and approach to all the other ‘Ibiza’ DJs who played the Port.
DP – Haha! I’ve had 2 parallel music educations in my life. The english one had ska, 2 tone, soul, funk, etc and the spanish one had punk, new wave, rock and some of the best and worst of european electronica. At no point was I ever necking pills in a field and dancing to …….. (insert ANY ‘back in the day’ tune). So my approach wasn’t from that experience. I didn’t like a lot of house and techno I was hearing in Space so didn’t really get the itch to start playing until I heard my friend playing stuff like Meat Beat Manifesto, Leftfield, The Aloof, and Guerrilla type stuff. My main labels were Wall of Sound, Mo’Wax, Ninja Tune, Heavenly, DC (Depth Charge), Afro Art, Warp and some freaky San Francisco labels whose names escape me now. Around the mid 90’s there was all kinds of mental tunes flying around and all I knew was what I had started off with, so I had to find a way of sticking all these mental records together so people would like it.
BM – You played and served drinks at The Rock Bar pretty much every night of the week, did you also play any club gigs back then?
DP – My first ‘gig’ here was covering for Jonathan at Sa Trincha beach bar while he slept off his gigs at Manumission. Problem was I used to go to Manumission as well so I’d go straight there, play all day and usually end up falling asleep on the DJ booth floor mid afternoon. There is pictorial evidence of this. Danny Whittle started booking me for the roof of Pacha on Ministry nights too, playing Drum n Bass and stuff, and I was getting involved with Manumission by then with The Motel and the back room at Privilege.
BM – When do you think was the golden age of clubs on Ibiza and do you have a favourite night from those times?
DP – OOfff! Ok. For me, and this is gonna sound really cynical but it was before social media and smartphones. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that. Another answer is 1998 – 2005. Because living here was still fairly cheap, workers could go in and out of most clubs without guest list nonsense, get a free drink and find a specific crew who hung out there. You could jump in a car at all hours and go from club to club with no thoughts of repercussions or getting into trouble (not cool I know, but a fact). Also clubs had got a lot better in terms of sound, lights, etc and from 2000 cheesy house was losing it’s grip to electro, rock, proper techno and filthy slow stuff for hours and hours under the sun at Dc10. My favourite night was of course, the one I was involved with. We Love. My first job in Ibiza was a barman there and now I was a resident so it was a bit special.
BM – Who has been the most consistently great ‘Ibiza’ DJ in your opinion past or present?
DP – There are loads and most of them are good friends of mine so this is a toughie. But one who always has a style of his own, which he kind of invented, and still smashes it to another level, as he did last year at our Halloween do, is Alfredo. Doris, Andy Baxter, Jonathan Sa Trincha, Ryan O’Gorman, Jonathan Tena are my immediate others but there are loads and loads of incredible DJs here.
BM – You moved through the years on Ibiza from bar man to resident DJ at one of the big four (Amnesia, Space, Pacha, Privilege) to hotelier, which of these jobs have given you most pleasure?
DP – I see them all as kind of the same job. DJing was about my urge to play stuff I liked to other people. Even as a kid I was always the guy at a house party with a cassette in his pocket, to rescue things (sometimes not required!). A good barman should share jokes, keep people on the fringes of the conversation in the know, oil the wheels of the atmosphere, translate where required and basically feel what people need and give them it before they ask (or even realise!). Same in the hotel. Many guests are newcomers here, lovely people and dying to know more about this place, so give good advice, give them a good experience and have a laugh with them. Empathy isn’t it?
Alternative answer : DJing. With bells on.
BM – Can you imagine a life away from Ibiza now or do you think it’s where you’ll stay forever, eventually growing old, sitting outside the Croissant Show telling your war stories to the younger generations?
DP – A LIFE away, not really. I’ve been here now longer than I’ve been anywhere else so I’m definitely not made of the stuff to go and try and make it in some city or something. Plus after all I’ve done none of it was a ‘proper job’ so God knows what I’d do. I’m not one to spend 12 months a year here though. Worldly as it is here I still want to see plenty of the world so this is what I want to grow old doing. I think it’s safe to say this will be my base for life though.
Croissant Show you say? I’ve already done enough mornings there.
BM – For one weekend you have the power to change shape and time travel to a musical event back in time of your choosing, where are you going and what / who are you going as?
DP – Monterey Festival ’67. Hands down. I’d like to be Jimi Hendrix’s guitar tech. That way I’d have the rest of the weekend off.
BM – What would be your ideal day / night on Ibiza and who would you spend it with?
DP – Probably a boat trip somewhere with 50 of my best mates, diving, doing whatever. Followed by a Barbecue beach party with a bunch of us DJing till God knows when.
Thanks very much to Mark and Dave for the fantastic and informative interview. Brother Mark is away looking after the Adriatic this weekend so you can catch Dave playing with Brother Andrew, Jon Woodall and Riccio at Pikes On Sundays. Come on down to eat or just to move your feet!