For most island arrivals post 1998, whatever happened previously on Sunday at the world’s most famous day club has been obliterated by a deliberate and highly co-ordinated mass marketing campaign.
Darren in Playa d'en Bossa, last Tuesday
[/center]The progenitor of some of European clubbing's most intense logo-love affairs, Darren Hughes, ex-Cream, ex-home and now We Love Sundays instigator and advocator, is the man responsible.
He explains: “Well and truly now on a Sunday Space is not seen as an afterhours club. In the last three years I think the job’s been done. People have understood what we’ve trying to do and reacted accordingly. The behaviour of when people have come to the club has changed… Now people see it as a 22-hour marathon, I’m not saying that people come for 22 hours obviously, but this year has sealed its fate as that type of party.”
The effect We Love Sundays (and its previous incarnation, home) had on the party landscape was immediate and total. It was analogous to that experienced macrocosmically by modern Ibiza – new ingredients were introduced in volume and the local flavour irreversibly and inevitably diluted. Which isn’t to say the good times ground to a halt - quite the opposite in fact. Old skool party people moaning about how much better it used to be were stampeded in the rush to experience a series of events that have since acquired their own legendary status. Gigs like the terrace sets of Basement Jaxx and chum Erick Morillo, techno dons like Jeff Mills and Richie Hawtin inside, Laurent Garnier wherever the hell he felt like, and of course Danny Tenaglia’s marathon efforts, among many many others. In a scene as diverse and competitive as Ibiza’s, their lineups have always been eye-catching, and if your hero or heroine got booked for such a high profile campaign it was your chance to see if they really could smash up the place like you always knew they could.
Money couldn’t buy the kind of media coverage We Love got. You can’t slag it if you haven’t been might be the scenester’s maxim, but as a journalist if you did slag it you were unlikely to go again. Only a bitter foolish hack would risk their access to We Love Sundays because even if you don't rate the party it’s always been newsworthy. Being sponsored by credible media organisations such as Jockey Slut and the Face at certain critical points over the last few years didn’t hurt neither in the constant battle to gain and maintain brand reputation.
Brand rep maintenance is what Mr Hughes specialises in. He belongs to that generation that experienced such a massive jolt to the system that it felt compelled to completely change the face of recording industry, the radio industry and the clubbing industry, within ten years. The new commodities and services available – music, events, hype, d... – changed the buying habits of a whole class of leisure consumers. So what’s been going through the mind of the kingmaker who has perhaps done more than anyone to install djs on their throne?
How’s it going? How’s 2003 been for you?
: 2003’s been hardly any different to the other years really. The first two years was more of a building exercise to get people to understand the changes we made really, i.e. from a daytime party to a 22-hour party.
The afterhours element of the party is still evident in the morning. We still get a thousand people turn up before midday. Then there’s a kind of slow process of them leaving and a new crowd turning up. There are three parts of the day really. Early morning, then late afternoon a crowd comes that are really coming for the terrace. Then late evening there’s a different crowd again comes, that are coming more for the inside as opposed to the terrace. So you’ve almost got three parties in one day.
What drew you to the industry?
I was just a mad clubber. I went to Manchester to study psychology and I was there at pretty much the perfect time really. 1987 to 1990. Obviously things were quite exciting in Manchester at the time with the Hacienda and some of the other clubs that were opening up. I come from a place called Chester which is between Liverpool and Manchester. It’s a city, but it’s a small place. To see any decent djs or clubs I had to travel out the city. From 16, 17 that’s what I was doing. So I guess my hunger for clubbing started at that point, I guess supplemented by my experiences of Manchester at that time. I moved back home for a year then swiftly moved to Liverpool and saw what was going on around me. Me and James Barton got to become friends and we decided we wanted to put on our own party and that’s when Cream started. Cream opened up in 1992.
What was it like when the Criminal Justice Act was passed in the UK?
That was pre my experience as a club promoter. We started Cream in 1992 and I think clubs like Cream I guess in a way sprung up from the Justice Act and conversely from warehouse parties which were crushed really.
What came from that was slowly but surely a big club. I say a big club but Cream started quite small with only 400 people, but clubs then by 1995 1996 each major city in the UK had at least one major dance club. That was result from that Act and the fact that the raves were great but at the same time they were pretty poorly organised some of them and quite dangerous and etcetera etcetera. And I guess that’s why the festivals sprang up. I guess Tribal Gathering was the first legal all night festival and then obviously Creamfields, homelands etcetera sprung up as well.
Do you dj yourself?
No, for fun. But, you know. If I’m playing records it’s mostly house music. Music that I like. I like to think I like good music.
Which is more important - music or partying?
I think they both supplement each other really. I think good music attracts good people, which makes a good party.
When was the last time you came home at dawn?
I guess most Monday mornings I’m going home at dawn. In fact every Monday morning.
How was homelands?
It was good. It was a success for us because we changed the format a lot. The year before in 2002 a lot of the festivals seemed the same really. The same format, we decided to cut a lot of the younger element, the trance element, book acts or djs that we actually liked, instead of booking people who we thought a lot of the kids would like. I think a lot of things in the UK have changed over the last two years. Things are moving on.
Do you want to expand operations to include the United States?
Less is more is my mantra. Sundays at Space is such a unique wicked party that I’ve not really got any grand ambitions to start touring all over the world. I know Space are doing their tours and We Love I guess is a kind of separate thing. When we renamed Sundays at Space We Love Sundays at Space it was more of an endorsement of what it is i.e. it’s Sundays at Space. That’s the key thing really. We Love isn’t a brand in itself and I don’t want it to become a big club brand, what I’d like it to do is attach itself to what are already good parties. I’ve got no grand ambitions to go take over the world. America or anywhere else.
Would you agree that dance music is considered mainstream music by European youth?
Some of it, yeah. I think the differentiation between trance and hard dance, and who that attracts, as opposed to a bit more of a sophisticated “house” music party, I think there’s quite a stark difference. I think in the UK and especially here in Ibiza, unless you’ve got the top two or three or four trance djs then you haven’t got a party in Ibiza, whereas that isn’t necessarily the case for in my opinion the more cutting edge club nights that don’t rely in Tiesto or Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk. There’s getting fewer and fewer of those trance djs and hard dance djs who can pull those crowds because it’s about their name and even tho on Sundays we book a lot of big djs, even when we haven’t got one of the top superstars on we’ve still got a great party and people who come to the club because they’re coming for the experience of the club as much as the name djs. There’s some djs that will put a lot more bums on seats, but it’s quite an exciting time for me because I think there’s a chance for a lot of new djs to come thru and if you’ve got a quality sound system which again I totally believe in. We’ve put a sound system in Space inside this Funktion 1 system and now a lot of big djs want to play inside and not on the terrace because of that sound system and the problems we’ve got with sound on the terrace where they know they’re fighting against it and they can’t have it that loud they’re more interested in playing inside. The clubs are becoming more important that most of the superstar djs.
Where do you see We Love Sundays on the mainstream/underground axis?
I think it’s neither really. I think it’s benefited, as a lot of good things do, right time right place. Like the Hacienda, Cream, Ministry of Sound sprung at the right time in the UK. I think Sundays at Space also has as well as the unique nature of the terrace, it’s grown into a bit of an institution really. It’s quite hard to define underground overground. I think it you compare it to a lot of the trancier nights you could see it as more underground, but if you talking to some of the promoters or the punters who go to DC10 on Mondays they might think their party is more underground than Space. There’s always another DC10 as Pinup has attempted to become this last year, whether it’s been successful or not. Underground, overground doesn’t really apply to Sundays at Space I think it’s a melting pot of a lot of different things.
Is a lengthy roster of big djs necessary to create a vibe?
The terrace is all about the people. There’s an energy about the place that neither me, Pepe the djs or anybody else could put their finger on and say ‘This is why it works’, but it does. The inside of the club on a Sunday has benefited from the sound system we put in there, and obviously on Carl Cox’s night as well, it’s the same sound system, but I think the inside has needed an important difference because the terrace has long been seen as the key element of Space and that club’s going to develop into a club above and beyond what the terrace is. And I think you’ve seen that over the last few years and now there’s a group of people who are only coming for the night time, they’re not even coming for the terrace and I think it’s testament to the sound system that’s in there. And there’s certain elements that can enhance the club.
Is the era of the superstar dj over?
I’d like to think the reliance upon the superstar dj is not going to become more important than anything else. Because I don’t think certain people should make or break a party. Certain djs can make it better, but I think it’s more important that djs are successful because they rock the party and not because they charge a lot of money or they’ve got a real hard nosed agent or manager. It’s 11 years I’ve been putting on parties, and I pay a lot of djs a lot of money, but more so I’ve become a little bit more philosophical on why I’m paying djs a lot of money. It’s becoming less and less about bums on seats. This year if you study the lineups this year as compared to last year I’d like to think there’s more of a variation. There’s been a bit more of a move away from the trance progressive house dj set, and inside I’m trying to program more funk orientated djs who can play hard but still keep in funky like Jeff Mills at one extreme who can play really hard yet there’s still an edge of funk to it, Justin Robertson, there’s a lot of American djs, Felix da Housecat, Armand Van Helden and the bill this year represents more what djs we’d like to listen to. As opposed to ones who we think can put numbers in the club. There’s a swing back round to fun a little bit more. The terrace has always been about that but the inside had become a little bit too male orientated, a bit too tough and not funky enough and I hope this year that’s been pulled back a bit.
How would you respond to allegations that you knew Sasha wasn’t going to turn up the opening of We Love Sundays but you put his name on the poster anyway?
I didn’t know it was going to happen. It was Sasha’s only gig this year, he was a resident dj over the last couple of years. He decided that he only wanted to play once this year. I didn’t know it happened till his agent called me then he called me about six that night. He’d been at Fabric the night before, out late, then missed his flight. How would I know that was going to happen?
What was your reaction?
I think it’s fair to say that both myself and Fritz were furious. It was the first party of the season and your headline dj, a dj that’s got a longstanding relationship with the club didn’t show. There’s nothing worse than that, it’s not good for Sasha, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for the people that paid money to come and see him. We tried to make another date work, it didn’t work. He played at Pacha last Friday which I’m sure was ok but I know it was in no way what it would have been if he’d played here. So it’s a bit of a shame.
What do you do when you’re not here?
Back over to the UK. Actually I’ll be in Ibiza till the end of October. We’ll stay out here for another month then start preparing really for homelands, or We Love Homelands as it’s called now. May 27th, Bank Holiday weekend. There’s only three or four of us that work on it in my team so it’s a big old event to put together so that keeps us really busy. We’re gonna do a couple of things in the winter. We’re probably going to do a couple of parties in South America, in Argentina, Buenos Aires in a club called Clubland which is killer. Hernan Cattaneo is a resident dj there. Maybe do a couple of dates in Australia, a couple of dates in the far east and that’s it. Unless somebody else puts something else on the table that’s worth doing.