Phil Mison is more than a footnote in the convoluted history of 'Balearic' music. From holding down a residency at Cafe Del Mar in the early 90s to compiling the new Music for Dreams compilation, he's been involved and at the forefront for a long time. Not that he'd call it Balearic (he'll get to that later). Here he talks to one half of the superb Test Pressing, Paul Byrne, in a roving conversation taking in everything from revelations at Spectrum in the late 1980s to shattering the atmosphere of a lesbian love nest when first arriving on the White Isle.
Over to Paul and Phil...
So Phil, Balearic, when did you first become aware of it and its meaning?
I would say probably not really until... I started clubbing in about March 1988 at Discotheque, the first thing I went to was a Busbys, not the coolest thing to go to, in the end I went to The Roar and all that, they werent balearic clubs at all. Discotheque was run by Nick Trulock and it had Ben and Andy DJing and it was a lot of ironic stuff, but they played house as well. I remember them playing Black Riot - A Day In The Life and I was buying a lot of house music and groove. the whole balearic thing, I read about it a little bit in Time Out but I wasnt really sure what it was, being 17 and a bit naive from Essex Id come from the kind of more soul/house background. I think it really sunk in when I went to Spectrum in about June 88 and I went to the upstairs room and heard The Cure and INXS, Prince. My friend gave me a copy of Boys Own - Drop Acid Not Bombs and I read the whole Ibiza thing and it sunk in. Before that I was quite unaware of what it all was, I didnt know. That was it.
What records do you remember hearing at Spectrum?
Upstairs? The Cure - Close To Me, Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime, INXS - Need You Tonight, and Prince - Alphabet Street. They were there, mixed in with house actually. I guess I hadnt been to Future at that point and that WAS a balearic club. My friends Tony and Lee were going there and inviting my friend Mark and indirectly me I guess but we didnt go with them straight away.
Obviously its gone from 1988 to now, theres been a slight shift in what that term means. How do you see it now?
Its a bit of a strange one because I think in a sense balearic in its true form existed in Ibiza from 86 to 89 and then after that it was a different monster really. I think a lot of people still kept that attitude to music and I can see that in a way thats what attracted me. Even in 88, I dont know if it was very cool to read Soul Underground but it talked about the Garage and I was kind of unaware about the Paradise Garage but Id read in Soul Underground that they were playing a whole spectrum of music which appealed to me. I think, in a sense, the legacy of that has even carried on further than Alfredos legacy in a sense.
If you talk about 86-89...
I didnt go to Amnesia obviously.
How does the mellow thing filter into that? You know Jose quite well from the Cafe Del Mar, when were you aware of the mellow side of balearic?
I remember there was a chart in Time Out from about October 88, Terry Farley and Andy Weatherall used to play at Busbys - it wasnt really a 2 room club. It was a big club with a tiny room upstairs for about 100 people and there was a chart that the two of them did from upstairs. They used to play like reggae and soul and I was intrigued by that. I went out and bought every single record like Furniture, Billy Paul, a record called Red Hot Ecstasy. That was my first inkling. I didnt go to Ibiza until 1990, I went to the Cafe Del Mar just because thats what everyone did. My friend Ian that took us all had been going since 86 so he sort of knew the rounds of what to do, even though 1990 was pretty late actually, but I just loved the music there.
Was it literally like you walked in and it was Bingo?
For some reason Id been buying a lot of records in Reckless like Kitaro and Nightark and Paul Grievous, California Guitarist because I was just drawn to those records. I was never sure quite why, I just liked that kind of music.
So how did you end up meeting Jose from Cafe Del Mar?
Its a very random situation really. Obviously Id been there on holiday and then 92 was the first year that I didnt go but I made some cassettes to give to my friend Doug and I was like just give these to the guy at Cafe Del Mar. A lot of the stuff I was just playing the Milk Bar, some ambient sort of stuff, some jazzy sort of stuff. Weirdly enough the cover was an artist called Barry Flanigan, I photocopied one of his pictures. He actually live in Ibiza at the time but I didnt know.
It was meant to be, Phil.
It was! So I gave Doug the cassette because I just couldnt be arsed to go for some reason. Then I was in Tag records, my friends Steve and Simon used to own it just off Wardour Street, and this guy walked in with a leather jacket and a big eyeball ring. I thought man he looks like an Ibiza person. Who are you? Are you the guy from Cafe Del Mar? he was just like Oooooo because he didnt really speak English.
That was Jose?
That was Jose! I dont know why or how I knew it was him but I did. I kind of got it through to his head that Id given him these tapes and he was like Oh yeah! The Tapes! The Tapes! and I said I was doing the Milk Bar, did he want to come down and play a few records. He did and I gave him 15 for doing it! So blah blah blah, we became friends, and he said in February 93 Ive had an offer to go to Thailand for a month in April, do you want to go do the Cafe Del Mar? I was like of course!. I was doing the Milk Bar and he came down with his house keys and a plane ticket and I was like Shit. This is quite mad. So I got on the plane via Barcelona and did it for a month and a half. Got picked up by Pepe, one of the owners, who was less than happy to have some English moron who didnt speak Spanish. It was just a pain in the arse with him. Their relationship with Jose was strained anyway. It was an utterly random process. I remember being in Barcelona airport waiting for that connection and sitting opposite this woman who was maybe in her 60s in the most bonkers dress with a crazy hairstyle thinking Yeah, Im going to Ibiza.
Strangely you say that they had a strained relationship but theres probably not many people that could have gone and played those records and had their own take on them and made it work. They got lucky with you, not blowing smoke up your...
It was really mad though because I lived in a little house on the road just past San Rafael to the right, near a yacht showroom. I went there and there were these 2 girls living there who were lovers at the time and they were less than happy to have me there. Id shattered their atmosphere. They were having a whale of a time and then here I am, some skinny scrote turning up Hi, im living with you now. We eventually went out to a bar called Gerry Kellys, a catwalk bar run by some Irish guy who had a gay bar in Ibiza town. We went out there and got hammered for a few nights on the trot and we bonded.
Where are they now?
Tracey and... I cant remember the other name.
They were English?
They were English, yeah. One of them was a cleaner and I think it was that year when they went Look, If Laurence turns up, dont answer the door. I was thinking who the hell is Laurence and this old guy turned up and he was so drunk, literally had crap dripping from his teeth. He turned up wanting to sleep on the floor and I said go away. Turns out hes a close relation of the Queens mother. They got exiled by the royal family being a liability to Ibiza, but thats a different story.
So 92 Ibiza...
Around that time you met Kenneth from Music For Dreams...
I met Kenneth at Roskilde Festival, a friend of mine was DJing and said do you want to come? Ive got a spare plane ticket and I said yeah, sure. Off I went. I recognised Kenneth because there was an article, I guess the first ever, in DJ magazine about top DJs in the world and he had this terrible Michael Jackson jacket on. I was a bit bored and went up to him like Are you Kenneth? Ive seen you in the mag and for some reason we got talking. Actually, I must have met Kenneth in 1993 properly. Im getting the story wrong here, I actually went to...
Do you want to start again?
No no, well deal with it. I am an old man... The Orb did a party on this disused lighthouse in Copenhagen and THATS where I first met Kenneth because he drove us back into town and he played Baker Man in the taxi. Basically the next year I met him again at Roskilde and by that point Id been to DJ at the Cafe Del Mar. We kept in contact ever since.
So Kenneths obviously totally into it as well...
I think hed been doing the Ibiza thing since 82 or something, there was a lot a Scandinavians going then from what I can gather, it wasnt just a purely English thing.
He talks about Bar If and places...
Yeah theres a place called the Little Mermaid which was full of drunk, Danish people. Kenneth told me hed been to Amnesia in 87 so hed been doing it for a while.
So basically Kenneths pretty hardcore and down to it?
Hes very hardcore!
The compilation, what was the deal there? Did Kenneth give you the run of the label?
Yeah he just said pick the tracks you like the most, so I did. Theyre all good tracks, theres nothing there that I didnt want to put on there.
Staying on the modern balearic tip, Denmark has got a great little scene with Peter Visti who was on the national radio for a long time, theres lots of things going on in Europe and around the world. You DJ quite a lot worldwide, why do you think this is happening and what places are good?
I think you can kind of follow trends or just do what you do. Theres a huge market for good music, you cant keep that down regardless of whats in and whats out and hes just carried on playing good music. People appreciate it, I think thats what theres a constant evolving shift and appreciation of stuff that isnt the big kind of corporate hours of deep house and whatever you call it.
I find it quite interesting, you go to someones house in Stockholm, Copenhagen, anywhere and someone will have music on and 3 people will quite happily dance in the front room. They have a totally different attitude.
Yeah, that always surprises me as well, particularly when im DJing. When I stop stressing about it, as soon as you step back and just play the music you want to play thats when it really works. Theres a party, Music For Dancers, in LA that I did 2 years ago downtown in a warehouse which was illegal and the police were looking pretty moody outside. I was stressing out until I got to a point where I just didnt care and started playing the music I really wanted to play and thats when it got good.
On the subject of DJs, whos got it? Whos doing the good thing at the moment?
Thats a good point. There are people who you think are brilliant DJs that no-ones really heard of and then you can define people... Its quite tried and tested and dull, I guess someone like Harvey obviously has been there forever as a great DJ. You cant deny the fact that some people are just great at playing music. Im one of those actually! No, im just kidding. I think from and old boys point of view, Mancuso, although he doesnt DJ any more the way he presented music was fantastic. Ive always liked Moonboots, one of the best DJs Ive ever heard. I think Prince Thomas is a great DJ.
Hes quite noisy.
Yeah hes a noisy little bastard but I like that.
Its like viking music.
When me and Peter Visti did something last year, Thomas just went for it. Darren Emerson was one of the first DJs Ive ever heard. I saw him in August 88, hes the first person I stood next to closely and watched because he was a friend of a friend, mixing he was amazing.
I think people forget he was a technically incredible DJ.
He wasnt struggling.
It was natural.
Yeah, it was like Jesus, how do you do that?
I think people have forgotten how great Darren was as a DJ.
In 88 he was the first DJ where I was like Wow.
But he didnt have to think about it.
It was innate as they say, supernatural. It wasnt like me DJing.
Give us 3 times in a nightclub in the last couple of years where musically for you, youve got a broad taste in music...
Thats a good point actually, me in a nightclub enjoying myself?
Yeah, standing on a dancefloor for hours.
The last time I really really danced...
Yeah, 1 will do.
Leo Mass afterparty in Leeds, he was fantastic. You were there too, I really enjoyed that.
Again hes a supernatural...
Amazing yeah, hes a poltergeist. The guy can play music and put it together. I listened to that mix in my car, it never leaves my car and I never get bored of it. There are certain CDs that I listen to and literally throw out the window.
We met a long time ago now, in the early 90s, youve always been... Your taste in music has never budged from being this...
Well it could be a mellow record, it could be a funk record but it sort of fits within a certain mood and frame and ive never worked out whether or not its because youre stubborn...
I dont know either.
Its just what you like?
Yeah, its a certain thing. 'Ring my bell' as they say, it doesnt have to be any specific genre.
Youve fed Harvey records, youve fed plenty of people records. They were obviously all out there getting their own records. There are certain DJs who will look up...
If were talking about DJs actually, my favourite is Gareth who passed away this year. The ex-Resident of Lovemuscle and Market Tavern. Hes one of the best DJs Ive ever heard in my life. Amazing DJ, old gay guy, amazing. It pisses on a lot of so-called DJs now from a great height to be honest.
Whats happened is that DJing has got confused with producing and then... Theres your problem.
DJs dont make records, I know that sounds a little bit trite and cliched but its true. If you make one record people are like you have to meet that guy, he
s amazing and Im like why? Hes made a record, hes a producer, so what?
I think this is the great lost thing with us that when we were young, because it was so expensive to make a record in the studio, a DJ was a separate job to that. Now everything has got so homogenised.
I think it just comes with this day and age of social media where theres such a short attention span; people just want everything immediately and instantly... Youve got a flavour of the month type of thing, access of information is a bad thing.
But then I think what people forget is that theres an awful lot of people out there who have an incredible knowledge which is what Harvey, yourself, Kenneth in Denmark, these people know stuff.
I guess they do.
But you've sort of earned your stripes.
But that still doesnt count for a lot these days. Its about how you market yourself, how much you want to push yourself to a degree.
Going back to the European thing, its slowly coming round. Balearic has been a term thats been rinsed senseless.
I guess I didnt explain myself very well earlier, when I was going on about lost tracks... Balearic has been there since all those clubs in the 70s and 80s that werent Ibiza. They were New York, Chicago, everywhere really.
I guess it was that jet-set thing, Club 7 or Le Club Sept in the 70s in Paris. I cant pronounce it... Guy Quavers! My friend can pronounce it correctly, all those guys were privy to a very specialist world. They were listening to this super-bonkers music which carried on to Amnesia. Theyre the people, if you could trace a line back to Club Sept, Le Palace, it goes to Amnesia. That same line connects all these places in Europe and all around the world.
Youre not worried about putting food on the table for your kids because youre down the mine, youre from a rich family fannying around you can do what the hell you like.
That was always the way; you go to Ibiza, the best time was 4 in the morning before it got crazy and posh.
The suns coming up. As I said I didnt go there until 1990 but still Amnesia was kind of open air-ish, it wasnt the real deal. 1990 Alfredo was in Pacha, we went every night and it was just Alfredo DJing from start to finish. Played the same bloody records every night in the same order but it was still incredible!
What were the best records of then?
Thats a very good question Paul, I cant remember too much but... Lets move on!
Last question, youve been flying the flag for a long time for this balearic thing...
But Ive always been a little bit reticent because Im not the balearic guy. It should be Nancy or someone like that whod been doing it well before me. Lots of people were doing it before me, tonnes.
But really we dont use the balearic word that much anyway.
I dont think weve said it once. Its a little bit cliched and trite, a bit naff in a word anyway. Naff isnt right, but its a little bit...
Nancy, you speak to her, and shell be like Its eclectic, not balearic.
Balearic is a word to market a record, FFRR, in a sense. If you said in 1986, if you went to Leo Mass and he was playing Dizzy Heights, describe this record, youd be like dunno.
Pop record from London.
Yeah its just a record.
Thats good enough right?
Are we done?
Music for Dreams, Best of - Volume 1 compiled and mixed by Phil Mison is out now, buy it here.
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