Steve LAWLER resides in Ibiza all year long. After spending the last 22 years there consecutively he knows a fair bit about what works and what doesn't on the hallowed White Isle. This season Steve has teamed up with the guys at Sankeys (one of the island's most exciting new club ventures, which is destined for great things this year after its launch in 2011) to put on his new VIVa Warriors event.
Never one to follow the crowd, Steve and the VIVa gang have taken a different approach to their night, giving it a strong theme and working with a team of artists to create a unique identity – the ethos simply being good times, fun and partying like there's no tomorrow. I caught up with Steve to have a chat about the new venture and the magic of Ibiza, which is braced for one of its biggest and most interesting seasons yet...
How did you go about broaching the subject of taking over Sankeys Ibiza with your VIVa Warriors?
Last year I saw David [Vincent] and we had a coffee, he asked me if I'd been down to the club and I said, “Yeah I've been down a couple of times. What have you got going on? I think it needs a bit of work but you know, should be good...”.
He was like, “You've gotta play man, you've gotta play”, I was like, “It's not easy to do now, I've got Space closing, summer's over. Unless you're prepared to open the club a few days after, I'll come and play” - he went, “Yeah I'd love to, when do you wanna do it?”.
So I suggested we leave it a couple of days so it didn't interfere with the Space booking, and we did it and it was a fucking slammed house, absolutely mobbed in there and, with that, an amazing energy, a really good atmosphere, it was a great club actually with a really good sound system.
After that I just thought to myself, this is the only real underground club in Ibiza, next to DC10, in my opinion. I mean an underground, intimate, dark club – there's nothing else apart from DC10 and Sankeys now. I like the idea of doing something like that, going back to a smaller room, something more intimate and doing my own thing, as well as doing other stuff on the island, but changing it up a bit.
I could have done something bigger at Kehakuma, but it wasn't MY thing, it was being on the line-up with other acts so the idea of doing something ourselves was quite intriguing. From there I went back, had meetings with all the team and it just seemed like a good idea.
I've always seen over the years, the success of things is down to the right place at the right time & I think that's what Sankeys is right now: the right thing at the right time...So what do you make of Sankeys then?
I loved it, fucking great club – it's a DJ's club. Sometimes when you play bigger venues the atmosphere can get a little... lost. Not in Sankeys, naaah. It's the kind of size where it's on top of you, it's all around you, it's that kind of vibe in there.
Yeah I like it there, a lot. I went there for the Carnival closing party last year – I had to convince my mates not to go to Erick Morillo, which was a bit of a battle. But everyone went and no one was disappointed in the end.
Yeah it's great and, you know what, this island... I've always seen over the years, the success of things is down to the right place at the right time and I think that's what Sankeys is right now: the right thing at the right time.
For sure, and it's a weekly night yeah?
From 4th July onwards it's a weekly night. We're starting it on Independence Day as the VIVa Warriors theme obviously comes from an American movie, it just seemed like the right time to do it.
Tell me a bit more about the theme then, because you're really gone all out with it haven't you.
When we got together with the team, it was apparent from the start that we wanted to do something a bit different, with as many different ideas from what everyone else was doing as we could. The VIVa Warriors idea actually came from my tour manager (I'm not gonna take the credit for that) it was his idea, a fucking great one.
It came from thinking about going against the grain a little bit, I hate the word 'rebellious' but it was us trying to do something less corporate, less organised...
I don't know if you're aware but my first ever VIVa CD had a quote from me saying: “Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently.” And that's kind of our view on how we do things, and that's why Matt thought, “Well the Warriors were like that, VIVa Warriors.” and everyone turned around and went, “Fucking brilliant!” Straight off, it was done.
Then when we looked into the whole theme, the gangs wearing different uniforms, just having this great time doing what they do and not caring what anyone else does, that's what we're doing. Also, trying to do things differently, we've approached this is many ways. We've got a local Ibizan graffiti artist...
Yeah I heard about this, it's a nice way to overcome advertising obstacles I guess?
We've got three billboards, so we didn't have any obstacles in that way but we didn't want to pay for any more, we wanted to put money into other things not just advertising so this is an extra thing. I saw the graffiti on the island everywhere and thought there was some amazing graffiti...
We literally hunted down one of the artists, and when we met him and talked about it he loved the idea – and the great thing about this is we're not just going around and defacing the island, the way it works in the graffiti community here is that they all have certain walls that they're allowed to use from the owners of these properties. So it's not like we're disrespecting anybody or tagging the island, we're using art and their canvas and we've found one artist that loves our music, loves our idea and our concept and couldn't wait to get on board.
This island needed a shake up, it needed it – I've been coming here for 22 years, I know, I can put my hand on my heart & say that there needs to a bit of variation...So what's his actual involvement?
He's doing graffiti for us around the island, and there's talk of him getting involved with the artwork, too. We've also hired an artist called Dragon76, who's actually done some illustrations for some pretty cool projects over the years, he did an illustration for Manchester United at their ground somewhere, of the players. We got in touch with him and said, “Look, we don't have the most money in the world, but we've got this concept that we're all really passionate about and we really wanna use artists...” Something else that we're doing differently is that we're having this artist draw every single person who's performing for us over the season, it's interesting because people are gonna look at it and pick out all the different artists we've got. We've already had some of the first drafts back and they're really fucking good, they're all dressed up in these gang outfits. I just hope people see this for what it really is, it's not a gimmick, it's a whole concept conceived with passion and excitement. I'm happy and proud that we're doing it this way, to find something on the island that hasn't been done before isn't fucking easy – you know yourself, it's been the clubbing capital for 20-odd years, so it's been rinsed!
Haha, yeah exactly. I've spoken to other people about how Ibiza seems to have opened up a bit this year, what do you make of it all?
It's fucking great, honestly. The only people that are really worrying about it are probably people that have had it good for so many years. This island needed a shake up, it needed it – I've been coming here for 22 years, I know, I can put my hand on my heart and say that there needs to a bit of variation. Last year showed everyone that there's enough people coming to the island now... I think last year had the most people Ibiza's seen for eight years. It's the right time for it, the more people here the merrier. I don't see myself as in competition with anybody because I go to DC10 and hang out, go to Space and hang out, I'm still playing some Kehakuma shows, still playing Space opening and closing, got a date at Ushuaia... I'm in competition with no one, we just have our own family of artists and friends, our own party and we want to throw parties for our kind of people, it's as simple as that.
This is how it should be really, none of this “I'm only playing here, I'm only playing there...” business...
It shouldn't be like that but unfortunately it's a business as well and that's been on many people's agendas. We haven't stopped any of our artists playing anywhere else, not one, not even our VIVa artists. Darius Syrossian, who's gonna be resident for us, has had some enquiries to play other nights and we're like, “Crack on, man! Why not, put yourself out there!” Our night's gonna be busy, we're all confident that it's gonna be a fucking great night so we're not in competition with anybody.
You've been working on an album is that right? How far are you along with that?
To give you an idea, this album that I'm doing... I'm seeing myself more as a composer because I'm writing the music and using a lot of session artists, like guitarists, drummers, flute players – there's two guys I'm speaking to who do these drum circles in Ibiza during the winter and they're fucking amazing. I'm trying to collaborate a whole variation of artists and, as a result, it's got a very live sound to it – dare I say it, a little bit rock.
Nice one. Good for you!
Obviously I've dedicated my whole life to house music, but when I've bought albums as a collector and music lover... I used to play at Mambo and I'd play everything from ballads, to jazz to drum n' bass, I've got a ridiculously big collection of records. But whenever I've bought music that I've listened again and again for years, it's been from the greatest bands that ever lived – for me; James, The Verve, Joy Division, The Doors... this is music that lasts. It leaves me with the impression that it's there to make you fall in love, or to make you cry, there's a hell of a lot of emotion in these albums.
And I think sometimes house music albums can lack that emotion. I've been doing this now for 22 years so I think it's only right that I put everything I've got into this, I'm seeing it as the only album I'll ever write and so I'm really going out on a fucking limb. I've talked to a lot of my team, my manager and my agent, and I'm really worried about getting this album out there because it's gonna be a shocker for people – it's not gonna be how I perform as a DJ.
If I'm gonna perform this album on tour it's gonna be with a band and doing it as a proper live performance with me as the conductor in the middle, if you will. I'm writing all the music and lyrics, I'm approaching it like a proper album and, therefore, it's taking a lot of time.
Can you describe your first encounter with Ibiza, as you said you've been going there for 22 years...
It's funny, not a lot of people know this story, which is good... I first came over here in 1990 with my parents. I was already into collecting records, and had been for a couple of years. Wasn't really playing anywhere, I was just a kid who was going out partying and buying the records. I came over here and stayed in Es Cana, which is a dead part of the island as far as clubbing in concerned, and I met these two kids on the bus on the way to the hotel and they knew about all the clubs here. I didn't know that much, I'd heard about it, but I didn't know where the clubs were – so I started hanging out with those two kids and one night I snuck out of the hotel without telling my parents and went to Privilege, and then I went straight from Privilege to Cafe Del Mar in the morning and it changed my life.
A lot of people ask me what it is about Ibiza, well there are no words to describe it. I mean, you can say the obvious – beautiful beaches, beautiful people, clubs – but there's something else that exists in Ibiza that makes it this fucking special & there are no words for it...How old were you?
I was 17 and it really changed my life. Up until then I'd just been collecting fucking what was out there, which was acid house and more techno stuff, but then when I came here I experienced more house music and the Balearic thing with Happy Mondays, My Bloody Valentine and that was it, from that moment on I collected music as opposed to just house and techno records.
That was the turning point for me and I've been out here every year since. Since 1994, I started Djing here... it was a little 'Eureka!' moment I think.
It's funny Steve, a similar thing happened to me and I've spoken to so many people who've said, 'Ibiza changed my life'. It's amazing isn't it?
It is amazing. A lot of people ask me what it is about Ibiza, well there are no words to describe it. I mean, you can say the obvious – beautiful beaches, beautiful people, clubs – but there's something else that exists in Ibiza that makes it this fucking special and there are no words for it. If it had to really put it down to something, it's because everybody that comes here comes with a very enthusiastic, happy, good vibe inside them which means they're radiating positive energy which means this island's got a lot of people radiating love, good vibes, fun and I think that might have an effect on it.
Definitely, it's like the island soaks it all up and gives it back out.
It does yeah. If you believe in energy, which I do, if all the people are radiating this positive thing, it's got to be in the air somewhere.
What else is going on with you over the summer then, is it just the midweek stuff?
I'm doing a date with Sasha at Ushuaia, he asked me personally and I've got a lot of time for Sash he's a fucking great guy and an amazing DJ. We're doing some after-parties at Plan Be, we're doing four select parties through the whole summer but we're not gonna say when they are yet, we're going to announce it on the night at VIVa Warriors and then give out wristbands and say come and join us at Plan Be. I really like Plan Be's whole approach, it's against the grain a little bit and I love that we got in touch with them straight away and were all over it. Also some other select after party's on beaches and strange off locations ;)
I also have three Kehakuma dates, already done Space opening and I've Space closing later on in the season so there's quite a bit out here. I live here all year round and this is my home now, I really feel that VIVa Warriors... because of the people we've got involved, local artists, local workers that have been coming here for years.. we're trying to bring together all the right people. That's what it's all about, getting together and having fun.
Steve LAWLER’s VIVa Warriors
Wednesday @ Sankeys, Ibiza from 4th July to 12th September.
Summer 2012 Line-up Here