Media coverage is a touchy subject in Ibiza. After years of enduring saturation level, lowest common denominator drivel, the island has experienced a media vacuum of late. No Mixmag, no Ministry, no Muzik – some of the biggest and most visible players of the past few years have ceased their Ibiza-based operations. Ad hoc features have replaced dedicated teams of reporters shipped in from locations abroad.
But the clubbing empires are striking back and 2003 have seen the biggest brands take a proactive approach.
Us here at Space-Ibiza.com have embraced technology with a global reach, but Pacha have opted for four issues of a classic glossy magazine, called simply ‘Pacha’. It’s as slick as you’d expect and at the helm is Mr Ben Turner, co-founder of the now defunct Muzik mag, author of “Inspired Images from the Island of Dance” and other clubbing related titles, and probably the most experienced of all the English-speaking editors who have operated on the island over the past ten years.
In this interview he’s frank about some past misjudgements: “One of things I’ve loved about doing the Pacha magazine is it allowed me to make up some of the borderline things we did with the Islander [a collaboration with lad mag Loaded].”
In person he’s laidback yet possessed of a peculiarly focussed drive. Ben has a vision of where he believes dance music should be going, and he is quite prepared to use any means at his disposal to achieve it. Even Justin Timberlake.
Are you resident on the island?
I’m actually in and out all summer. I’ve been spending two weeks in Miami, two weeks in Ibiza. The Miami stuff is I’m also creative director of Dancestar which is the worldwide awards show which Space won club of the year last year. So I’ve been working on that because we’re putting together the show for Miami next year.
Isn’t that starting very early?
The show’s got bigger, and you have to plan further ahead. To make Dancestar work in America you have to bring in some credible but mainstream names. So if you’re aiming for people like Justin Timberlake you have to get your bids in early.
We’re having good conversations with him. Last year it was a possibility. Basically the plan for this year is that every dance act has to do a collaboration with a major artist, because it’s the only way we can really help to accelerate dance culture in America. So if you’ve got Timberlake with Deep Dish, if they’ve done a mix together it just works really well. We just think it’s a way to help break it in America for television because Dancestar is still aimed for tv.
Dancestar’s been a fascinating way of seeing how mainstream America understands this music. I think the bottom line is they don’t. In terms of television we’ve been having big conversations with major networks, and even with having Puff Daddy on the show this year and even having Juliette Lewis still wasn’t mainstream enough for them. But we have to be really careful that we don’t overstep the mark so the show doesn’t become too mainstream. Some of the biggest dance radio records in America are great to hear but visually they don’t come across well on television. So we do need more and more mainstream names to work with dance artists to help kinda break it. It’s such a big country, a big record in Miami can mean nothing in New York. It’s quite a hard scene to pull together. You don’t have one Pete Tong you have six of them, in different states. But I feel positive.
Whenever people talk about dance music’s decline, actually the bigger djs are busier than ever - they’ve all gone global. Dance music is still emerging in so many territories, Asia, in Eastern Europe and America it’s still slowly getting bigger. I think dance music is guilty of being too concerned with what’s happening in England and whilst England is always going to be very important, the focus has just shifted away from the UK.
When did you first come here?
I first came in ’93, I came on a two week holiday with a friend who wasn’t that into clubbing. I think I completely ruined him within seven days but it was an amazing holiday. Space was incredible - dancing on a podium for like seven hours to Darren Emerson inside at three in the afternoon. There was amazing things going on. Café del Mar was a major inspiration with Jose [Padilla] and Phil Mison was very important to me at the time. I just knew from that point I was going to be coming back here every year since and I have done. I must be up to my hundredth visit now.
The first time I ever wrote about Ibiza was a small piece I wrote for Melody Maker which was kinda saying there are some amazing things here but equally I was kinda disappointed by a lot of it. Privilege was amazing, Space and Pacha were fantastic, but it was still quite small, like one good party a night to go to. But it kinda made it a little bit easier to navigate your way around. I didn’t know many people. Sue Bennison and people like that really looked after me and introduced me to lots of people and Jose. I launched Muzik in ’95 and obviously had a reason to be here all the time.
Even though I was travelling at that time, I had travelled quite a bit round Europe, I had never seen those kind of palatial nightclubs. When I saw ‘A Short Film about Chilling’ which was a program in the UK in 1990, that was the show which made me want to go to Ibiza but I actually couldn’t find any friends in Oxford where I’m from who’d come with me because they weren’t into dance music.
So for those three years I had this vision of these nightclubs of how that show portrayed them. It’s still the best show that’s ever been made about Ibiza really. And I wasn’t disappointed, the swimming pool at Ku, the open air. It was mind-blowing and I just wanted people to know about it. All I’ve ever wanted to do working in media and dance music is to bring people onto new things and to open their eyes to exciting new things.
What do you think about the performance of the dance music magazines over the last few years?
When we launched Muzik in ’95 all we did was sell 50,000 copies, but helped Mixmag sell another 30,000. It all expanded the market, and things were kinda like that for three or four years. Then I just think people were trying so hard to make dance music the biggest thing in the world: we wanted in the top ten, we wanted iton Radio One all weekend, and all that’s actually done in hindsight is made it so mainstream that younger people coming through don’t find it that cutting edge. If you’re fifteen and your 20 year old brother has been doing that for five years it’s not really where you want to be. I think the dance magazines, their mistake was, all the editors were like 30 and they all decided ‘Shit, we’ve got to pretend we’re talking to like 17-year-olds’ and they didn’t realise that 17-year-olds were not even like listening to dance music and they kind of tried too hard to be young. I think we at Muzik were guilty of that times, I think Mixmag were guilty of that and actually maybe what they should have done is stuck with their audience a little bit and realised their audience were still into this culture but slightly older and more globally minded. I keep talking from an English perspective, excuse me for doing that - but if you live in England now and you’re into clubbing and your late 20s with some disposable money, it’s actually cheaper to go to Berlin or Barcelona for the weekend than it is to get on the train to go to Newcastle or Liverpool to go clubbing. I think people have just found other areas of enjoying dance music.
What do you think of the way Ibiza in general has been promoted?
Initially it was this whole romantic kind of island that you just had to go and experience and then the oversaturation of dance music and Ibiza in the mid to late 90s it kind of ruined it for a lot of people. You still cannot underestimate the damage things like Ibiza Uncovered have done, underestimate the damage a lot of the dance magazines have done as well. We did a magazine here called the Islander one year which was Muzik with Loaded, which in hindsight it was a really bad thing to do because one year we got it absolutely right then one year we let Loaded have too much of a say in it and the balance went away from the core of the cool part of Ibiza. One of things I’ve loved about doing the Pacha magazine is it allowed to kind of make up for what we did with some of the Islander which at times got very tabloid. There was some great things in there but also some really borderline things. I think having a brand name like Pacha with you is superb because it stands for such a high level of quality. It allowed me to do a magazine which didn’t have to worry about what was going on in certain parts of Ibiza.
I didn’t feel we had to cover certain clubs and certain djs. But when you’re commercially minded like IPC you kind of have to really. So it’s given us a lot of freedom.
How long is your association with Pacha?
I went to Pacha the second time I came in ’94. For me Fridays at Pacha for the last seven years the ultimate night out anywhere in the world and that’s continued I think with Pure Pacha.
I launched Gold Card Ibiza last year, a company that I own, that’s exclusively done with Pacha and El Divino but we’re bring small groups of people who are paying good money for a concierge service. That’s done with Pacha and their co-operation and their VIPs and restaurants and all the great things they have.
You seem to have taken a very general approach, was it hard to convince Pacha to cover other clubs?
I would never have done the magazine if it was just about Pacha, much as I adore everything about Pacha the magazine needs to cover the whole island. Just to do something exclusively about Pacha, well, they’ve done it before, they’ve done great magazines before put together by Toni Riera, but they’ve been just about Pacha. It’s been difficult to persuade some club promoters that what we’re doing is not just about Pacha. And it still is difficult with some people, I think they’re just looking at what it is right now, whereas we have a longer term vision.
Pacha place a strong emphasis on their history, what criteria did you use to when deciding what aspects of their heritage to highlight?
You’ve got your space and you have to fill it. As an editor you’ve just got to do what you find interesting and to hell with everybody else.
Certainly with the cover stars we didn’t want to do the obvious djs. Jade Jagger [cover star of the first issue] is probably one of the most famous and cool people in Ibiza. Neneh Cherry was a great name from the past who’s making a comeback and is using Ibiza to relaunch her career.
The third one [coming out in two weeks] is the music issue, we’ve done a focus on music millionaires in Ibiza - Mike Oldfield, the Lighthouse Family, Artful Dodger, people who’ve sold over 10 million records who take their inspiration from Ibiza. They don’t necessarily make dance music but they’re inspired by this island. On the cover we put together the women on this island who inspire positivity. We did a kind of Vanity Fair style shoot with the girls all dressed up, we did a mixture of promoters, managers, club owners and djs. Smokin’ Jo, Sol the girl who manages Es Paradis with her dad, Claire from Manumission, Jo Mills, Tania Vulkano, Barbara Tucker and Sarah Main. We’ve done a gatefold cover.
I’m sure they’ll do the mag again next year, maybe mainland Spain, or certain parts of Europe. When it comes to nighclubs and dance music I think Pacha and Space have got two of the most credible names a lot of the brands have been tarnished by what’s happened in the UK.