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Go BackWHAT IS IT DANNY WHITTLE DOES EXACTLY? - Brand Director? Musical Director? Content Director?

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Bluechip club brand Pacha’s cultural pull has directly affected the Ibiza landscape. When they first set up in the early 70s, there were no other comparably sized buildings on their other side of the port. Now, ocean liners as big as a downtown office block park up just down the road every day in summer.

Several satellite venues have sprung up in the vicinity, some are doing very well indeed. Numerous bars, shops and hotels surround it, including one loadsa stars number owned by Pacha itself. It is the original incarnation of the Mediterranean ultra-goodtime vibe, which might not mean that much to you unless you happen to be a house dj.

If you have had the extraordinary pleasure, headlining here must be among the most enjoyable employment experiences ever. Someone comes and picks you up from your fabulous lodgings, you enter a beautiful venue with soft lighting where thousands of people having a really great night out cheer you on mightily while you sip champagne and play records for several hours over a very nice rig indeed. And then Danny Whittle comes up and gives you up to twenty thousand euros. Who is this nice man? What is his job description? Well, he doesn’t quite know either.

“Names are pretty irrelevant really,” he says, speaking to in his office, part of the garden-filled club complex on Avenida 8 de Agosto.
“I actually came on board initially as Musical Director but the more I’ve been involved with the company and the group the more I’ve got involved in other areas so they’ve been thinking about calling me Brand Director and Content Director… I look at the week or the season with an overview.”

Danny (left), the week before last

The box he works in with colleague and comrade Mark Nettto (his spelling, not mine) isn’t flashy, but Pacha’s got nothing to prove. The grupo is doing very well indeed.

“I started the Pacha Magazine for the first year and that’s going from strength to strength, it looks like we’ve got an issue of that going out in an issue of the [UK’s Sunday] Observer. That’s going to go out to 1.4 million homes one Sunday in May. That’s fantastic, and obviously more and more people are interested in advertising that magazine now. They’ve seen the quality of it for one year and it really isn’t just all about discos.”

But hold on. Wasn’t raving moulded by a collective “fuck you” to various manifestations of powers that be who enacted ridiculously broad legislation which in bloodless prose has labelled an actual sound criminal - the “succession of repetitive beats”.

What’s Pacha got to do with this? Less and less as it happens. They are perhaps the most prominent example worldwide of how an experience centred around a booming dance floor has moved from alternative lifestyle to just lifestyle. The counter culture has become the culture. Not that everybody in Ibiza approves of Pacha’s engorged status. Veteran promoters Zenith, who put on a party in Pacha for years before moving to new venue La Diosa, for one.
Roberto (Zenith): “I suggest to Pacha, don’t look for a big big scoop all time, like all the big djs. Now is not Pacha, is Subliminal, is Ministry. So I hope for them they take back a little bit their identity that was an example for all the clubs of the world. I think they need to take back a little bit their self. Because they have a lot, more than what they know. I think they are bigger than what they think they are. They are the best.”
A talking point? Certainly. An expensive but highly entertaining night out? Almost guaranteed. But did they really buy a beach for tax purposes?*
*No, so if that’s the only reason you’re reading you can stop here.

Mike Stuart: How was your NYE?
Danny Whittle: Really really good actually. We were considerably up on last year. It was one of our busiest New Year’s yet, if not the busiest. We were really happy with it. A big contingent of Italians came over and there were a few over from the UK and Germany. Good atmosphere, good music, no problems.

How was Bobby?
Normally he tends to warm up for David [Morales] or Frankie [Knuckles], so you very rarely get to hear him play a main slot but he did on New Year’s Eve and played it really well. Everybody was really happy. Andy Baxter opened, Bobby came on at 2.30, played till about 5 then Sara (Main) knowing the crowd how she does played till the end, 8.30 or something.

Did you go to DC10?
To be honest I didn’t. For us it’s such an early start and having gone through Christmas and all the rest and to get down here for 9 for the dinner, so by the time I left here I’d really shot my bolt. And DC10 is somewhere I really love but I know if I got there I’m going to be there for most of the day. So I went home.

How was the Christmas and New Year period in general compared to last year?
I thought it was really good. Lots of people came in. There’s been a really good atmosphere in the club on every night we’ve been open. We’ve been doing the new thing in winter which is Fiasco on Thursday nights in Pachacha which has had a great response. It’s nice for us because for the first time ever we’ve opened Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights so we’ve added a night to the schedule. If that’s looking to the future then we can make the season longer and therefore make the winter more entertaining and get more direct flights then that’s kind of the philosophy of the island really. We’ve reached breaking point in August and most of the summer. It’s fantastic stuff we’ve got here but we only seem to use it for four months.

What is happening with winter flights?
That is the big issue in winter. Can you imagine how many people would come here just for New Year if they could get a flight from Gatwick or Stanstead for a couple of hundred euro and get here in a couple of hours? The problem is it’s gonna cost you five or six hundred euros, it’s gonna take five or six hours and you may well lose your bags in Madrid. From what I’ve been reading of Pere Palau in the PP (Parti Popular) that it’s pretty much on the cards for next year, a couple of flights a week from the UK which I think is fantastic. And I think flights from Italy.

What’s the main difference between Ibiza in winter and Ibiza in summer? Do you have preference?
I love the summer because that is what brought me to Ibiza all those years ago, but I consider winter now to be our prize for the summer. The summer is work work and nothing but work and it can at some points become quite rude when you’re walking past people without really having the time to speak anything more than a ‘Hello’. The people who live and work in Ibiza understand that so nobody takes offence they know winter we all get to spend time together we get to socialise and Pacha’s somewhere you can actually walk around and not get carried around by the crowd for a few months. So even tho I love the summer and I love the dynamics I consider winter to be the prize for doing the summer.

What is your job title here at Pacha?
I actually came on board initially as Musical Director but the more I’ve been involved with the company and the group the more I’ve got involved in other areas so they’ve been thinking about calling me Brand Director and Content Director but the names become pretty irrelevant really because it’s very much planning the overall summer. I look at the week or the season with an overview. Now the music very much comes back to Mark Nettto, once we’ve decided roughly where we wanna go then Mark does his thing which is pulls the djs in, physically if you like, then we all work together on artwork or applying the artwork of the nights to a campaign or marketing for the island in the UK and here in Ibiza. We look at the decorations that each of the nights is going to use and planning that as well and discuss with the décor crew here as well who will then go about manufacturing it. We also deal very heavily with the franchises. I was basically behind opening Pacha London and on from there with Pacha Budapest and Pacha Munich and Switzerland, and more have opened since. I’ve done a lot of that I think because of my understanding of the music industry globally not just in Ibiza. I’ve tended to be more involved in that area because obviously I speak English and a lot of our international franchises speak English, not so many Spanish. I also started the Pacha recordings label, when I first got here. I’m Musical Director of the label as well and part owner.

What approach did you want to take with the magazine?
We’ve made an effort on the covers for example which were more people generated than dj generated. And we wanted it to be more about lifestyle, like we see Pacha really. It’s as much a lifestyle brand as it is a nightclub brand. And that’s where we want to take it. I think if you’re niched as a nightclub brand you have to be very careful. Nightclubs go in and out, but if you’re more recognised as lifestyle you can more adaptable and people aren’t surprised when you put on a Flower Power party. Pacha’s known for being a great house club and you can see Tenaglia on a Tuesday for example the next night maybe is 60s music and nobody really is shocked by that because that’s what Pacha represents. And that’s kind of how it’s going.

How long have you been doing it?
I’m going into my fifth year now, I’ve been here for four full years. Before that tho I was doing Ministry of Sound parties here at Pacha, Renaissance parties here at Pacha so I’ve got history with the club.

What’s it like compared to working for Ministry or home?
I love it, and there’s not much comparison really because when I was working for Renaissance, Ministry I was working with people who’ve very much got their ideas and how they wanted things done. And now working here with Pacha they’ve trusted me a huge amount to do most of the things my way on their behalf. So working here is a different thing altogether.
With home I did little bits and pieces with Space, a year or so before I did Home. And basically I got the job with Home and Darren Hughes wanted to do something at Pacha on Sunday nights, but unfortunately wouldn’t give it us. So my idea was to take Space on a Sunday night, ‘cause at that time it closed at seven in the evening, and do the 22 hourS Home @ Space party, which obviously has gone on from there. We had a great summer. Everything worked how we projected it. That was ’99 and then I did the Millennium on Bondi Beach [Sydney, Australia].
[Sundays at Space] worked really well and it opened up another little style of party. And it moved things on in Ibiza and it moved things on at Space and bringing the big names back in at midnight and allowing the people who’d already paid during the day to come back in free, I think was a great move. I think it worked well for Space and I think it worked well for Ibiza. Space’s opening and closing parties have always been legendary, so I think that 22 hours thing going on every Sunday was just great for the island.

Are the owners, the Urgells, very hands on?
The family trust myself, Francisco and Mark and all the team around them to run the club for them. And although Ricardo (left) is very much interested in the end result, where we go and why we’re going there, they very much trust our experience with the industry as it is today and into the new Millennium. And that’s kind of what you need. With good nightclubs you do need to allow other input. It’s such a varied world. It’s the cutting edge of trend. And I think by doing nothing in nightclubs you don’t stand still, you go backwards. I think you have to keep trying new thing and to be seen to be moving in the right direction. Which is why we do things like the r’n’b and hip hop thing and try and vary the musical style. We’ve got big plans for the summer to introduce a more visual live content. Not only live musically, but also visually, performances.

Ricardo Urgell, from the Julio 2003 edition of the Pacha mag

b]What’s it like here compared to the Navy?
What being in the military for five years does is get your head around the fact you have to get out of bed every morning. Which means if you’re getting out of bed in the morning you’re getting in at some point in the night. And that then enables you to a function on a level that I believe that when people are paying 40 or 50 euros to get into the club, you need to be operating on. I think there are levels you can go to with joining in the party, and being a host, but I think that ultimately them people don’t really care whether you’re having a good time, what they really care about it that you’re making sure they’re having a good time. So I think the military gives you that element of professionalism.

What did you do in the Navy?
I was a weapons technician. I was basically loading bombs on aircraft, on an aircraft carrier. What goes along with that is the discipline and the sense of responsibility that you develop. And I don’t think it’s something you develop in the first six months, even tho that’s you’re basic training, it’s something that over a year or two or three of working on a ship with people in the same boat, sorry for the pun. But you respect them, so you do your bit ‘cos everybody’s doing their bit. And that’s kind of what I got out of the military and I think applying that in this industry because it isn’t a cheap thing. People come out here to Pacha and they spend some money to have a good time and I think they like to think that everybody’s putting as much effort in as possible.

How many people work for Pacha?
As you know it varies through the year as and when we’re open, but generally full time staff, there’s about 30 of us who work all year round. And then we bring in barstaff, and djs the night time workers as well and then in summer everything kind of times’d by ten basically. Then there’s still the 30 core workers that are still here but instead of the four five six dancers, there’s 35, 40, then the barstaff you’ve got the terrace open so when all the rooms are open, there’s 24 bars, 3 barman each. We expand quite a bit in the summer.

What’s the general working environment like?
I think it’s a really special place to work. Ricardo’s got good taste when it comes to people’s working conditions. You can walk around Pacha and everybody’s pretty much set up. Nice little gardens, but I think with Pacha generally, I got a similar feeling when I was working for Space, there’s a very family sort of atmosphere. I don’t know with the others because I’ve not really worked there, but I do know at Space there was a similar sort of thing with Pepe and Fritz down there. Here in Pacha, knowing the family, knowing the Urgells, and having known them for 8 years now, and because of the way Pacha’s set up the family’s very influential the way Pacha’s perceived, the style of Pacha. They come down quite a lot. Piti who’s Ricardo’s younger brother who’s very much behind the sound system, the audio, comes down most nights he’ll pop his head in for an hour, ask a few questions, check out the dj. Ricardo pops down as often as he can. Ricardo takes a slightly easier life, he’s been doing this game for 35 years or more. He’s on the island, he’s also got a little place on Formentera that he’ll nip over to every now and again. The boys, Hugo and Panchi, Hugo’s in his mid-30s now, Panchis in his late 20s, and they’re gradually taking over more and more of the operation, working with the team that’s in place, we all get on really really well. But what you find here in Pacha is that everybody genuinely wants the best for Pacha, they really really do. Everybody takes pride in knowing that when you walk in that club you get a smile on your face and you have a great night. That’s what’s really great about working here.

I heard you made so much money you had to buy a beach for tax purposes – is that true? How is business, generally?
I think that was buy a bitch. They cost more money than a beach. Business is going really really well. We’ve invested a lot of money in the Hotel, and Sa Punta and different businesses. We’ve got a general deal and we’ve leased the place for so long. Them places are very much under the authority of the Costas and at the moment we’re closed because of a legal situation. I wish we could buy Sa Punta it would be a fantastic investment but what we did tho is heavily invest in the hotel to make what was an old 70s style ugly building and now it’s something that’s very retro and we don’t mind associating with Pacha. It’s become very successful and already people are booking it out for summer. We’re doing really really well, there’s no two ways about it. The company’s growing well, the franchises are working fantastically, the magazines went well and even tho we’re not rushing at things and trying to get a magazine out there that people’ll buy, we know we can make the magazines work in summer because we know he have to do so much marketing ourselves it’s pretty self-financing.

How many Pacha’s around the world?
At the moment there’s 23 operating Pachas. I think there’s about eight international ones and 15 in Spain, something like that. From as far afield as Buenos Aires to Budapest.

What’s the process in granting a franchise?
There’s a couple of ways, but generally people approach us first. And they’ll nearly always been businessmen, entrepreneurs, club owners themselves, who’ve been to Pacha they’ve seen how we do it they get back there and wanna do a franchise. What we do then is the owner’s son Panchi, who’s also an owner actually, he would go out as Franchise Director, and maybe myself and we’d meet these people, talk to them, have a look at the space, they would send us a proposal, we would then send them over a franchise dossier, where tell them what we expect, what the philosophy of Pacha is, what the history is, what roughly the kind of deal is we would do, even tho the deal differs on the franchises. On a franchise that we would be very interested in, we may even invest ourselves, be a partner in that franchise. On ones that are a standard franchise, there would be an annual franchise fee and an agreement written that way. That’s the process.

What do you think of the comments from David de Filepe, the Amnesia director, that Pacha gets an easy ride because it’s in the jurisdiction of the Policia Local and not the Guardia Civil?
I kinda didn’t get the point. I didn’t even understand why he was even doing it. I don’t know what was s’posed to be gain by that. In my understanding we come under the jurisdiction of all the police, we come under the local police, the national police and the Guardia Civil. I see the police at Pacha all the time. We do everything we can to keep things within the law. I’d like to think that all the clubs do that. We wouldn’t think for one minute to do that kind of thing when we believe all the clubs in Ibiza are trying their best to keep things relatively within the law. Now I understand that some clubs may open slightly later sometimes, this may be the case, but generally we don’t, we do close. I just felt disappointed. We have a disco federation where I think things can be spoken about and I’m a firm believer people can invite each other out for dinner and speak about problems. So I kinda don’t know why he would need to go through the press really.

What does the Association of Discotecas do?
I’d be lying to you if I told you I knew what the disco federation was doing to be honest. When I see reports about what the disco federation what they’re talking about, I think they talk too much about the stuff they do on the island, and not enough about doing stuff jointly off the island to promote Ibiza as a destination. They seem more concerned with fighting over the people that are here than jointly trying to get more people to come here in the first place. And when you look at how much money we make as the five major clubs, it would be a very small percentage of that to take advertising pages in Italy, Germany, etc... to advertise Ibiza and the five clubs in general. I think that’s where the clubs should be paying more attention, is not arguing over the people on the island, but trying to ensure that more people come to the island.

Why are clubs in Ibiza so expensive?
Some people make their living all year round. But in places like Ibiza that are tourist driven, it’s obvious that’s not the case. And when you go on holiday, when you go somewhere, there’s a price to pay. There has to be. Most of this island’s economy is based on three or four months in the summer and that’s it. Now, you can get cheap drinks in Ibiza, if you want cheap drinks there are plenty of places that sell them, but if they want to drink in Pacha then it’s going to cost them. It costs us. Just the price of the dj would make most general public faint because they wouldn’t believe for one minute that the dj was earning that kind of money.

How much is a dj?
You can pay anything between 10 and 20,000 euros for one night, and most clubs in Ibiza do every night. That’s just one person, and then when you look you’ve got 140 other staff members, then you’ve got your cleaners, and it all adds up. It’s very easy to walk in and go ‘Oh the drinks are so expensive’. But if you take that same drink, and drink it in London, it’ll cost you more. Because we all know that when you buy a drink in England, it’s one third. You buy a drink in Pacha, it’s very nearly a treble. You can see why someone would think a vodka limon is expensive, but when you break it down it isn’t. And if it bothers them that much there’s a little bar round the corner where they’re three euros.

How much does it cost to get a table in the VIP area?
Normally a table for four’s probably a thousand euros over the night, and that would include drinks and so on and so forth.

How would you go about booking one?
You would ring the club, who would put you through to Fred, who works here with Francesco, who takes care of the VIP.

Why has Ibiza been so popular for so long?
First of all the history. I think Ibiza was lucky being the smallest island in the Balearics, out of the group of the three, it’s 20 mile by 40 mile, so it was always going to be that in demand little place that not everybody could go to. And then it attracted the right people with the hippies and the artists and then as it developed it kind of kept that tag. It earned itself a cool tag early on. And I think the only thing that came along that stopped that cool tag for a while was that we went over commercial but that is completely unavoidable with anything ever in the world. Hip hop was one of the most underground, seedy musical styles but now it’s number one in every hit parade in the world. And the same with dance music, dance music was so and then it was number one all over the world. The commercial here was that 20% extra that was not really that relevant. It came along for two or three years, and now it likes something else.

When did you first come here?
I first came here in 1979 with a gang of kids at 16 years old so you can imagine I had an absolute ball. But then I didn’t come back through going into the military and so on. It wasn’t a destination I could do because I was on the other side of the world or whatever and then I came back again in 1992. And I loved it. I loved what had happened. In the 80s it had really established its own sound, the Balearic sound. It had established itself as almost this club culture centre for Europe. And I think that’s what it has become. If you’re into clubs or dance music or making dance music then you really need to be in Ibiza. It’s such a global market place of like-minded people.

What is Pacha doing at the WMC?
We’re doing Friday night, the 5th, before the conference opens, but we figured everybody was getting there on the Thursday and Friday anyway. We do the Opium Gardens on Friday the 5th with our usual headline djs, Pete Tong’s going to becoming along, people who represent here in the summer are going to be coming along to show their face. It’s our way of marketing what we’re going to be doing next summer really.

What else is happening before the summer?
In March Erick Morillo wants to come over and do something with us. I don’t want to say too much because I haven’t finalised it with Erick and I don’t want him screaming at me.

Go to for more info.

Thanks very much Danny for your time and co-operation. See you down the club on Saturday (Jan 24) for Smokin' Jo

Mr Whittle will also be appearing on the Ibiza-based Jill Canney's music'n'chat radio, Radio Uc, 87.8 FM, at 2100, Thursday January 29

Words by Michael Stuart