Paul Ibiza- as he pointed out repeatedly over the course of an hour- does not give a fuck. The OG junglist, and brains behind Jungle Splash, Ibiza Records, Limited E, MC Convention, and latterly the Jungle Dub movement, has hit his 50s, and doesn’t have time for sugar coating history. He’s been an essential part of UK rave culture from his early days of running soul parties, through house, hardcore, jungle and garage. He’s helped out a whole lot of people along the way, has got a million anecdotes, and has more than a few choice words for some well-known figures in the scene. This is one of the most candid interviews I’ve ever had in Gone to a Rave, so let’s just get straight down to it.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Muswell Hill, and I was raised between two places, I was round Finsbury Park, Tottenham. Going back to childhood, when my parents came to this country, my dad had a sound. He was called Billy the Clown at the time -when the blacks came from Jamaica to this country they had no clubs so they made their own clubs, they’d call them blues or shebeens, so that’s what I’d grown up with. When I was between 3 and 5 we had dances every week, that’s how my parents made money – you paid money at the door to come into the house. They were called blues dances.
Were they strictly reggae?
Strictly reggae, rocksteady, ska, things like that. I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs. We could hear the music from upstairs, we were kids and we just wanted to run around the house having fun. It was only when I got a bit older, when I was around 7 that I could see what was going on and start thinking about emulating my dad. My brother was a singer – Brian Chambers, he’s big on the house scene and still does it to this day. He used to sing, and I used to emulate my dad by getting a cardboard box and pretending it was a mixing console.
I know you mostly for being the driving force of Ibiza records – but I don’t know where the name comes from or how you got to that point.
OK, I don’t know if you know of a thing called The Trip that used to go on at Astoria? When I first went to The Trip and saw these people going ‘Acieed’ – this is like early ‘88 days, I was watching it from a distance and I thought, yeah this is wicked.
How old were you?
I was around 20, 21, I was driving at the time.
Was it strange to be a young Caribbean kid going to these raves full of white people?
Well, not so much because it all came out of the soul era – I’d emulated my dad, when I got to 16 I was running house parties all round Tottenham. I was kicking in doors, changing the locks, taking the ‘for sale’ signs down off houses for sale, and that was my venue sorted for the next weekend. There were no pirate stations back then, then Kiss FM came along, Kiss was the second black radio station that came along in the soul era, I’m talking the early 80s.
Am I right in thinking that Rebel MC started DJing around this time?
Yeah, he was early, early. I knew him as Beat Freak at the time. He used to do a lot of hip hop around that time. I met him around 88, what happened was, I was a local boy in Tottenham running all these soul parties, and I got in a bit of bother. I got locked up, and by the time I came out the whole landscape had changed. Soul parties had gone, and the riots hit. Broadwater Farm riots hit and the whole landscape changed.
When I spoke to Mark and James from Kemet it turned out they were both from Broadwater Farm
My dad got married twice – Patrick, Mad P from Top Buzz, is my half-brother – and my stepmum got killed in the Broad Water Riots. People were getting depressed, after that riot hit off, everyone was like, what are we gonna do now? The whole of London was on a lock down. Then suddenly some guy told me about this rave in ’88, we went there and that was it. It was all over.
What I’m trying to get at is this name Ibiza. I started off as 3dam. The first rave I ever did I did under the bracket of 3dam. It was on Stoke Newington Church St, in a warehouse. First one and the amp blew up. Some kid come up to me and said ‘Paul, you should call yourself Ibiza, man! Fuck 3dam off!’ I was like, yeah that name’s dead. I’d heard about Ibiza itself, how it was the capital of this rave thing, so I thought, OK, I’m gonna call myself Ibiza.
And at that time you’d not been to Ibiza?
No, never in my life – that’s why I called it Fantastic Ibiza, I was imagining it, it’s why I put palm trees on the flyer, I was imagining what the whole rave culture was like in Ibiza. I’d never been in my life! Never had a passport!
I love it, you were dreaming of a better place
Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing. Ibiza, I thought that was it. And it grew and grew, in the area it started to grow. Genesis were the kings of rave at the time. Sunrise and Genesis had started together, and when they split Genesis carried on keeping it more in London. So when Genesis got the old bill onto them and started getting shut down I was ready. I knew it was gonna happen, I had inside information, and I had a warehouse ready. And when they got shut down, I said, ‘come on to this’, and the crowd followed me
Where did your information come from? If you can say-
Urmmm, I suppose it was just who you know and who you don’t know, especially in the gangland world. And Genesis did go into the gangland world. When Genesis started bringing rave culture into East London, East London was controlled. And when gangsters start hearing that you’ve got 2000, 5000 kids coming to a warehouse and paying £10, of course they move in. Of course they’re gonna want some of it – they’re not gonna have some kids move onto their manor and make money without getting a piece of it. So they moved to it and took over Genesis. Poor Wayne had no say in the matter. And they weren’t doing it right, they were just doing it for the money, they had no love for it. And it was a matter of time before it got stopped.
How did you manage to avoid the gangsters?
Only because I come from Tottenham. They did try it, but when they found out who I was, due to the riot and all of that, they were like, nah fuck this. We don’t want to get involved in that. The whole concept of the riot was too much for them. I was from North so I didn’t have to deal with it. I teamed up with Phil, Phil Higgins, and he was alright. He knew all of that lot, he knew the football guys, and would say they ain’t gonna fuck with us.
Do you mean Phil 2000AD?
Yeah. Growing up in Tottenham we never had a lot of white friends. It was very hard for us to mix with people, we didn’t understand them and they didn’t understand us. I grew up in the time when it was no Irish and no blacks, so you got to understand we were breaking down social barriers, racial barriers. Black and white mixing never happened, if you were walking around with someone of the other race people would stare and be like ‘why are you with him, he’s a wrong ‘un’, and all of that. We were going through this social change. But when I met Phil, his best friend was a black guy, and he was my best friend, so he goes you two should meet up. I go, I don’t really like him, and he said, Phil’s alright, and lo and behold, Phil was alright. And to this day we’re still friends.
He knew all about this racial thing going on with the West Ham and Chelsea lot, he explained it to me and said, but they won’t come to Tottenham these boys because of who you are. We didn’t get any trouble but a lot of man did. Raves got shut down, raves got robbed, man would come in with chopper, chop up guys, guns were going off. In the early part of it, it was like this.
People often have this rose tinted view that rave bought down racial barriers
It did not! That’s all bollocks! The E broke down racial barriers, not the rave. It was hard, it was horrible. I mean come on! You were living in London and you couldn’t go into Newham. I was 17, 18 and older black guys were telling me, don’t go to Newham, they’ve got National Front there, they’ll run you out and beat you up. I was told that at an early age – don’t go to Newham, so I didn’t go to Newham.
So did the E change anything?
It did, it did. It broke down those social barriers. The E’s came and everyone was lovey dovey, and it was black and white getting along. It was peace and love – let’s paint the right picture, that broke down the social barriers completely.
You bought out the E Records – they had the massive E logo..
Well, take it how you want to take it – I used the E from the Colgate milk float, and they were limited Edition, so that’s what the E stands for. But at the same time it’s a big E, so everyone called it the E label. It was just playing games really
So who were you booking at the Ibiza parties- did you have Dem 2 play?
Dem 2 had no name, when they came to me saying they wanted to play, I said ‘what are you called?’ and they said, well we ain’t got a name, so I turned round and said, ‘well you’re gonna be called Dem 2’ and the name stuck.
What were they playing?
Well it was the right music for the time. I was buying the music as well. Where I lived at the time in Harringay I’d go down to Music Power and ask Chris or Nick, who owned the shop, ‘have you got any of this acid music that’s coming out?’ And he said, ‘yeah I’m gonna start getting it in’. So I started buying it off him. I had so much of it, I was always in the record shop behind the counter playing them, listening to them. I’d go home and play ‘em and play ‘em. A lot of it was coming out of Germany, there was a lot of Ibiza stuff, I was buying the Balearic stuff, the few Hacienda tunes coming down from Manchester, Guy Called Gerald and all of that, electro from the North as well, a few imports coming from America, from Chicago. It was a mix of electro music, British, German and American at that time.
What kicked off Ibiza Records?
I was only aspiring to be a DJ so I could play at my own raves. Then around 88-89, I was DJing in Kings Cross, with Rebel MC, who used to DJ for Ibiza, and he said he was leaving, he’d been signed up to a record company as Double Trouble – before then he’d just been known as Mike West. And Phil, at the same time, he got in a bit of bother with the old bill, he got nicked and disappeared, so the whole rave culture was all in my hands- everything was down to me now, this is late 89 in Kings Cross Goodsway. I turned round and said to myself, well who’s gonna be controlling the door, who’s gonna be controlling the money, who’s gonna be controlling the DJs? Everybody was out of their nut, so I thought, I can’t fucking have this, and I stopped taking Es that day. I started taking control of the door, the money, the DJs, and the whole thing just fell in my lap. I was already a promoter, but that got pushed onto me.
I heard that Phil 2000AD was locked up opposite Goodsway and he could see people queuing up to the rave from his cell window
That’s right! Poor Phil. The whole thing was in my lap, and I had to take over. 2000AD and Ibiza in one thing, that carried on until the old bill were onto me as well, they shut down Ibiza parties and said no more raves ra ra ra, and that’s when Ibiza Records was born. I thought, well, they can stop the warehouse parties, but they can’t stop the vinyl. And that’s when I started searching, searching, searching. The first person I asked was my mum, I asked her, ‘who’s that guy Calvin that made a record? How did he do it?’ And she said, ‘I don’t know, you’re gonna have to find him’. So I found him, and he said, go Music House. Music House at the time was not in Holloway Rd, it was in Finsbury Park, at the top where the post office is. I went and spoke to them and they told me the kit I needed to get, but I wasn’t ready. Instead, in late ‘89 I went Ibiza. I broke my leg out there and ended up staying for 3 months. It was just like I imagined it out there, the clubs were open all night, there were Es everywhere, I was just going wild. It was exactly how I’d imagined.
How did you break your leg?
On a motorbike, some man bloody run into me. So when I broke my leg, I was like, I can’t do warehouse parties now, I can’t run up and down, I can’t carry speakers, so I was like, right it’s time to do records. I had a friend who had a studio in his bedroom, so I went round there. He was more into house, he didn’t know what I was on about. I bought all these records round and said, ‘this is what I wanna do’, and he’d say ‘naahhh man this is weird…’ I done my first record which was Fantastic Ibiza, which was just me saying ‘Fantastic Ibiza’ on it.
Then a guy called Neil who was from Redskin Records heard it, and he went, ‘Paul I heard that record that you made, do you wanna buy a studio?’ I said, ‘well, how much will all that kit cost?’ And he said, ‘about 5 and a half grand’. So I said, ‘let’s go and get it’. He came to my house that day, and we drove round to Disco Village in Barnet, he didn’t have what we wanted so we went to Turnkey in Tottenham Court Road. That’s where it started, the guy in there said, ‘I know just what you need’. We bought an Atari – it had just come out- an Akai 950 sampler, a Spirit desk, a reel to reel tape and a DAT machine. I came home with it and we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing! We put it together, we didn’t know nothing… we were playing around with it, doing this, doing that. Then Neil goes, ‘I know a man, James’. This is where Noise Factory comes into play. James came round and says, I think that goes there, and that goes there, we got the Atari going, the 950 going and we started making beats. James goes ‘I think I’m gonna call myself Noise Factory’ and I said, ‘well you can run off the back of Ibiza’, cos Ibiza was a big name. We put the two together, we got the label, we got the first music, we were ready to go. If you look at the first Ibiza releases, its more housey, more hardcore-ish, from the first one, right up to Box Base, right up to Set me Free, up to Ibiza #11, it was the housey banging music. We couldn’t change the structure of it then cos rave was still happening. We stumbled on jungle on Ibiza #8. We were in the studio, me and James, I’d learnt the kit by now, and I said, ‘that sounds jungle man’, I don’t know why I said it, and he was like ‘yeah, yeah it does’ – so he sampled his voice, it’s his vocals there, saying “jungle..tekno”. He sampled his voice loads – in ‘I Bring U the Future’ that’s his vocals he’s sampled. I didn’t know James was a singer at that time. He does it all the time, but he doesn’t want people to know. He puts subliminal messages in there, saying ‘Noise Factory’ – all the Ibiza tunes up to this day, he does it, he just switches it up so you don’t know it’s him.
Box Base is often considered one of the first tunes to really bring in a reggae sub-bass.
We knew that the rave culture at that time, all the tunes I had, all the tunes that were out there, none of them had a reggae bassline.
It was more Belgian and European sounds right?
Absolutely. And because we came from a black background, we knew about these basslnes. This goes back to me being a kid and my house shaking to basslines. So when we wrote Box Base, fuck me that bass! I was like, right this will make us some money! Tell you the truth, that tune made Ibiza Records. It went straight to number one, sold out in every shop that had it. I had Mo Music wanting to license it, Grooverider playing it ‘til his dubplate was worn out – I had to get him aother one from Music House. At the end of the day we put that heavy bassline on there, cos we knew the scene had never had it before.
How many records were you pressing up in that time?
I’ve never sold records in that volume again in my life. We done about 4000. That was in London. I was giving my brother in Top Buzz dubplates, and Mikey B was playing the Ibiza stuff everywhere up and down the country. I knew it was starting to work because I was getting phone calls from people up North looking for Ibiza records. When Top Buzz grew, Ibiza grew. Ibiza #4 is called The Buzz, it’s named after them.
There was a time around then when you were recorded at a rave saying ‘hardcore junglist’ – that’s a line that’s been sampled a million times now
That’s right. It was on a tape pack, Jason Kaye, Top Buzz, got me the gig with Fantazia in some far place. It took me four hours to get there, way out in the fucking sticks. Anyway, I got to this place, done the Ibiza PA, singing, MCing whatever, a lot of people don’t know I was an MCing then. I was blurting out things, and I just started saying ‘hardcore, hardcore, hardcore junglist’. Obviously someone got hold of that Fantazia tape pack and sampled the fuck out of it. I’ll tell you a story- I was in my house in Tooting, and I’d left the telly on on a Saturday morning. The adverts were going off, and all I could hear was my voice going ‘hardcore junglism’ and I thought, what the fuck? The advert came on again and it was for a compilation album. I was really fucked off, thinking, how the fuck did they get my voice? I got the compilation from down in Green Lanes and realised it was Ian from Reinforced who’d put out the sample. Fucking Ian! I went to see him and he was like, ‘oh it wasn’t me, they sampled it off a tape pack’. We argued about it, but I didn’t get a penny from it. At that particular time no one was saying jungle.
Was there a time after the jungle pinnacle of 1994 when you felt the scene slip away?
Yeah. I felt good about it in 94, then bad about it. I was seeing my idea growing, then slipping out of my hands all at the same time, cos other people had different ideas of where it needed to go. That’s why I made Jungle Splash in ’94, I was like, nah you’re not forgetting what this is about. I needed to control it. I still say to this day, ‘it’s not yours’.
When you say ‘it’s not yours’ who are you addressing that to?
Well going back to what we said earlier about the racial tension, when I came into this rave culture scene there were white DJs and there were black DJs, and a lot of the white DJs found jungle a threat. The early drum n bass got shut down. The jungle became an inner city black culture, it was strong and vibrant and it sort of slowed down the white DJs thing. People were moaning, they were complaining about it. A lot of the white DJs were saying, ‘ahh it’s too moody, it’s too dark, I don’t like it’, but it grew so big. After ’94 the drum n bass boys fought back.
At the time there was a lot of controversy around the name drum n bass– when people started using the term drum n bass there was a feeling in some corners that this was to hide the scene’s black roots
Well, I’m glad you said that. The name drum n bass is of black origin anyway, it said on my dad’s old records “drum n bass or version” – but what we think of as drum & bass now, I hate drum & bass. It’s moody. OK, Im not gonna say I don’t like it, but… Take Rob Playford. Rob Playford used to work for me in the early Ibiza days. He was a DJ. He used to come to my house with his long straggly hair, sat down in my house and said, I want to be a DJ, so I said, come on then. Colour had stopped mattering to me by this point, so I said come on then, and I took Rob Playford under my wing. So he then started doing his own label, all the Moving Shadow stuff, calling his rave Voodoo Rave. And I said, hold on Rob, I didn’t think you liked the black culture, why are you calling you’re rave Voodoo Rave, all of that. And the minute he started making money he came out with this thing called Intelligent Drum n Bass, and I started seeing what was going on here. The scene was splitting- jungle is black and drum n bass is white, is that what you’re telling me? And that’s what was happening. It started with Moving Shadow with a record called Snow. I’m not gonna mince my words no more, I’m a 50 year old man, and I’m gonna say it how I see it. When that lot, Moving Shadow started making money they bought pro tools – pro tools cost £10K – we never had £10K to buy pro tools – and the music started to change. You can hear it developing into different things. It had this white element about it and killed the jungle. Nuff of the DJs started saying we’re gonna kill the jungle by not putting any ragga samples in there, and it just went down that round. I turned my nose up at it. When they done that and killed the jungle, most of the DJs left it for garage anyway.
What about you?
I’m not stupid, I done a few garage records myself. I knew Dreem Teem from the start, people don’t know this. When Top Buzz broke up, Mikey Bennett went into Dreem Teem. ‘94 going into ‘95, on New Years Eve I had the Rocket on Holloway Rd, so I thought, I’m not gonna do jungle, I’m gonna do garage, so I did a garage rave going into 1995. I did that for about a year. I also did a label called Main Ingredients as well. I took the same ideas I’d applied to the jungle scene and took it to garage.
All this time I stuck with the jungle though – I kept Jungle Splash in the back room – in this period, you put jungle on a flyer and the rave would get shut down. I kept it going in the back room, but didn’t talk about it too much. But then there was no new music coming, so it was hard to keep going. I knew there was a time when jungle would come back.
I ended up putting all my energy into the inner city. The inner city needed something. It’s all well and good the rave culture doing parties around the M25, what about the inner city? The reason why I started Jungle Splash in 94 is that M25 clubs and raves were stopping the black kids from experiencing the rave culture. And records like 'not tonight, your not coming in' [The Bouncer by Kicks Like A Mule] were emphasising the problem. So I made up my mind to start Jungle Splash for the black community. There where certain white promoters, I won't mention their names, who came and said I should not do it. So I asked them why and they couldn't give me a sensible answer. So I put on the first Jungle Splash rave back in 94 and charged £7 for the community. Was I wrong?
Find Paul Ibiza over on Facebook here