Ibiza – Munich phone diaries
When it comes to anything of cultural importance, there will always be people that say they were there when it started or were somehow instrumental in making it happen. The birth of Punk music, the Arab Spring, Ibiza in the late 80s – no matter where or when, the claimants will be there trying to wring out some amount of credibility or respect off the back of someone else’s labour. The standard rule for weeding out the frauds in this situation is one of simplicity; do a little digging and find the first name that was mentioned in connection with the phenomenon – there’s your starting point, and your best chance on some real insight.
This method shall hereafter be known as Alfredo & Jaime: when you want the real story, always go direct to the source.
Alfredo Fiorito has been playing music for people to dance to on the island of Ibiza for a very long time, well before anybody who is anybody will claim to have been there. He is one of the founding fathers of modern dance music, Ibiza royalty and, according to legend, the man who inspired British DJs Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling and more to take the sound they heard in Club Amnesia in the late 80’s back to Britain and give birth to the Dance Music revolution. Before all of that was set in stone, he arrived on the island as a certain kind of immigrant, something akin to a cultural refugee, from Argentina;
Alfredo – I left Argentina in 1976 because of the social and political situation there. I was working as a journalist and I had been promoting rock and roll concerts in my town, Rosario. For this, I’d been used by the military as an example to the new generation; I was put in jail for a week, also my son Jaime’s mother, I’d been followed by the police; we decided that was not the kind of life we wanted to live.
If you would have stayed in Argentina, working as a music journalist and promoter, do you think you might have been drawn to DJing anyway? Is that even something you could imagine, how different your life would have been like?
I don’t think so, because I was completely out of the DJ scene. When I came to Ibiza I never thought to become a DJ, I just came because I heard the news that there was a land with the possibility to be free, and even if you even wanted to smoke a joint you would be able to do it without being prosecuted.
And this is what you found?
I arrived and found a very cosmopolitan place with incredible nature. I found a place where the people knew each other, where everybody invited me to live in their house. I had a lot of friends from Argentina that had been living (in Ibiza) before. I made friends very easily, I found a house very easily. The way that the people treat you and the way you are able to treat them, to get involved with them, was absolutely new for me.
It sounds like you got there and were instantly at home.
Totally. As soon as I placed my second foot on the island, once I got out of the boat, I felt at home.
Do you go back to Argentina much?
I went back to Argentina four or five times. The first time I went, I tried to stay there after living for 7 years in Ibiza. I couldn’t; it was another country and I was another person. Completely out of place.
I found Argentina much more free, much more modern but with a lot of economic problems. I went to play a couple of times, the people are totally into the music, there are fantastic clubs, many good DJs, massive scene there. I found it very interesting, when I went to play I got a great time, and I would like to go again.
Anyone who goes to all-night dance clubs will know what the word ‘Family’ means. The moment when everything goes right; the music, the atmosphere, the people; the deep warmth and closeness of the club.
It should be acknowledged, of course, that this feeling is greatly enhanced with the aid of pharmaceutical stimulants. Nonetheless there is a huge demographic out there, from all corners all the world and spread across multiple generations, that will tell you the greatest feeling of family they ever had was at 4 in the morning in Fabric or Hacienda or Amnesia, with their best friend around one arm and a total stranger around the other, right as the Andy Weatherall remix of Bizarre Love Triangle ’92 was dropping. That’s family, right there.
For Jaime Fiorito, this takes a more literal meaning. As Alfredo’s son, born 1977, Jaime had what could only be described as a proper Ibiza upbringing. Accompanying his father to his residencies at Amnesia and later Pacha, Jaime grew up as an integral member of the burgeoning dance community that Ibiza would soon become world- famous for.
I spoke to Jaime over the phone on a particularly dismal winter afternoon in Germany, and before the cruel bastard could start torturing me with visions of the warm Mediterranean sea, I had to get something off my chest.
Jaime, I’ve got to tell you something. I have never been to Ibiza.
Jaime – Ah, so you’re an Ibiza Virgin. Well, what can I say, I was born in Spain, I grew up in Spain. I moved to Northern Europe, Switzerland and Germany, when I was about 8 so I kind of saw both sides. I still love Spain, simply because it’s a kind of organised chaos, if that makes any sense. The economy is really bad, nobody works, but somehow the people are happy, at least in Ibiza. I don’t know, I just feel like every time I go back to Spain I feel very relaxed. The reason I am travelling so much, especially in the winter, is just because Ibiza is an island and when you stay too long on an island, you get that kind of Island Fever.
So where are you right now?
I’m in Switzerland at the moment, just visiting family. My mother lives in Switzerland. I’m on my way to Berlin to see some people and do a little record shopping and all that, and then back to ibiza.
Is that where you and your father live most of the year?
I’ve been on and off for the past 10 years. I had some years when I was in Ibiza all year round and then other years when I was living outside, like in Zurich and London.
Ibiza itself is absolutely beautiful in terms of nature and the indigenous people, which we call Payeses, they’re very close to the island, we say in Spanish ‘Gente de la Tierra” (People of the Earth), and I really like this aspect. What I don’t like about Ibiza, and generally about Spain; since the 90s and 80s there has been this massive attack of real estate and foreigners investing and just doing a lot of crap stuff; crap constructions, adverts everywhere, stuff that fifteen- twenty years ago you didn’t have.
It seems like Ibiza has become something of a product now.
Totally, yeah. That’s a little bit of the down side, in terms of thinking about the beauty of the island.
One thing that struck me, I heard that in the original days of Amnesia, you didn’t have to pay to get in.
Around 85/86, when I was about 8 or 9, Amnesia was just a local bar, basically. It had a big dancing space which was open-air, and it was a bar where people could hang out once they finished working, instead of going to Pacha, which in that time was already a little bit too chic for some people. And that’s why it was free, because it was a pretty big space and they had to fill it up.
And then, as it started to blow up, people like Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold came along,
Yeah exactly. I think that everybody has heard the story about Danny Rampling and Paul bringing back the ‘Balearic’ beats to Britain. I find it a little bit boring to be honest (laughs).
What was it like growing up there, watching your father as it all blew up.
It was really fun. When you’re a kid you feel really integrated in the whole thing with the adults, I always wanted to go there and hang out with my father as much as possible. Also, my father had a lot of friends, and those friends had kids as well; I used to go there early in the night and hang out with my friends on the dance floor. Sometimes I was just hanging out in the club with my father. It was really good fun, you know, until 1 or 2 in the morning, then I was starting to get a little tired and I would go to the office of the club to have a nap. I was sometimes waking up at 7 or 8 in the morning, going up to my father in the DJ booth, while the people were going totally crazy in the club, and asking him if he would be playing for much longer.
When I was 14, I could see that people were asking for mix-tapes a lot, so I had the brilliant idea of asking my father to record as many TDK mix-tapes as he could and I was basically selling them in the club. I started making lot’s of money that way. That was my first job in the music industry.
Some teenagers sell a little bit of weed to their friends to make extra money, you were selling your father’s mix-tapes.
Exactly. Also, when I was about fifteen, I basically knew by heart all the tracks that he was playing, so one day in the club I said to my father ‘You know, I think I can do this, give me the microphone’ And believe it or not, my father actually gave me the microphone (laughs). Basically I was in the club and singing on top of the tracks I knew and people were loving it, until one day I started not really doing it so well and the guys at the club said “Listen, your Son really has to stop taking the microphone, because it’s just not working”
Well, its nice that they gave you a chance for a while.
Exactly. So in answer to your question, It was really entertaining and it was really good fun. I think I was even spoilt, it was amazing for my age.
I’m not going to say you were spoilt, but I think a lot of people probably would.
A lot of people might think that but there is also the other side of the coin. So many people never called me Jaime, they just called me ‘Son of…’, and in terms of DJing, a lot of people didn’t want to give me my chance because they all thought ‘Well, no, he doesn’t need it, he’s the Son of…”. I don’t think there is ever a story where you have a fantastic start and a fantastic end, there’s always a little bit of both. I’m totally happy, but I must say that there were some downsides to it.
So, I assume your father is the reason you became a DJ. Was that always going to be the case?
No, it wasn’t. When I turned 18 I started in that stupid rebellion age. I basically just didn’t go to Ibiza for a few years and wanted to do the total opposite of what my father does. So I started playing really hard Techno (laughs). I had a few years like this. I always wanted to be a DJ but to be honest, at first I wanted to be a DJ not so much because I was music-passionate but more because I saw what it can give to you, which is totally wrong. If you actually want to be successful as a DJ, the first thing is that you have to be passionate. So I got a little bit older and I actually started realising this is what I want to be. This is the time I started working with my father, around 2000.
The word ‘Utopia’ could probably be (and has repeatedly been) used in reference to Ibiza, with the nominal prefix ‘Dance’ for good measure. We all know what this word means these days; paradise, the perfect place, but if you’re up on your Ancient Greek (or have a dictionary) you will know the word originally comes from Outopos, literally meaning ‘No place’, or perhaps more usefully as ‘the place that does not exist’.
This contradiction, or at the very least ambiguity, in meaning feels apposite when thinking about Ibiza, a place world-renowned as the ultimate idyllic party destination, but with an ever-changing public perception in regards to it’s authenticity. I want to explore this idea with Alfredo, but once again I must open with a disclaimer.
Now, I know people have asked you this before, but I’m going to go ahead and ask it again…
Don’t worry, (laughs) most of your questions are going to be asked to me before.
Fair enough. So I wanted to know how Ibiza has changed, and what you think of how it is now.
I think Ibiza is for young people as it was for me when I came here. It’s a place that gives you the possibility to do what you want, to meet lot’s of people that you are never going to meet in your own town. In that sense, nothing changed. Internally, obviously, the whole Ibiza became much more expensive, professional. It’s not so much the close relationship between people like it was before. There are many different Ibiza’s now. In a way, if you want to talk about it, you cannot talk about Ibiza without knowing this place.
Well, that’s one thing I wanted to talk about – the outsider’s perception of Ibiza. One thing a lot of people say about Ibiza, especially those that were there in the early 90s and before, they say that now it is all just commercial, all about money.
Alright, I think the whole world became more commercial and and all about the money. If you compare it with the times when we arrived, obviously it is much more commercial, much more plastic. Before, there had been so many people that opened places just to have fun; if the business never went so well, they never cared so much. Now, if you want to do a discotheque in Ibiza, you have to think in a very serious amount of money. You have to know that it’s already a kind of closed-club in-between the owners.
As a general rule, it’s very true of Ibiza that it’s super expensive but I think the cool thing about it is that Ibiza, as Berlin or London, has always got a smaller scene that’s more underground. For example, all the young people that work in Ibiza, that have a little summer job here, they don’t pay into any club here, and usually get drinks for free. So there’s always ways to do it, which I think is important to say.
Yeah, that’s very important. The people that work in ibiza, it opens a lot of doors. But I think this is not what you asked, I think, you meant more as a tourist, right?
Well yeah, the reason I ask this is because I have never been to Ibiza. Wait, hang on, how do you pronounce it properly, is it Eye-BEETH-Ah or EE-bee-za?
So, the image of EE-bee-za for a lot of outsiders is of a place that was really big and important in the 90s but is now a place just about money; getting the tourists in and charging them a huge amount of money for drinks and entry and everything they can. In a way it’s like the magic is all gone now.
The magic is the same as in the 90s. The people that came here in the 90s used to say ‘Wow, this is not the place I used to know in the 80s.’ And people that came in the 80s talk about the 70s. You know what I mean?
No matter what, people are always going to claim that the past was better.
Exactly. For me personally it changed a lot, obviously, because my self changed, my experiences are a lot more, but for somebody that just came and never knew the 80s and the 90s, it’s something really fantastic. Of course, they never know that the island changes so much from the summer to the winter.
Do the clubs open at all in Winter?
Not many. I think only Pacha from the big clubs. But you go to small bars and small discotheques, people that
are really into the party, you know what I mean, people that live here for a long time.
Is that how you are? What do you do in winter?
I do some travel around, I prepare productions, I take care of my daughter, Lola, who is six years old and I prepare things for the summer. I used to go out every night, I don’t do that anymore (laughs). I’m 35 years living here; working every night and travelling every weekend, obviously I am not doing that.
I think Winter is really the time of reflection, when you learn what you did wrong in the past year and what you could make better. I think in the past year I’ve been working out how to use my time best.
The style of your typical set, Alfredo, has that changed that much, especially now that you work with your son?
It changed a lot. I used to be the one that everybody wanted to see what I was playing. I promoted a style of playing music that was for the times, that they lately call Balearic. It’s the music that the other people don’t know, I really love to show them what they don’t know. And Jaime brings me the possibility to know music that I don’t know. I always think that the people have a lot to do with the DJ, even if he says he doesn’t care about the people. I care about the people, I want them to have a good time. We want a very soulful atmosphere, with the people enjoying the music, not just jumping.
The thing is, when we play in Space, we play four or five hours, from beginning to end. It’s the best, when you can start and finish, do the whole night long.
And when you look out into the crowd, do you see the same thing you used to?
I used to play in places where there was much more people, the atmosphere was different, more happy or more authentic. But in the place we play, Jaime and I on the terrace, it is a very nice place and we get the Flirt sometimes, as I used to get.
Like getting the charm from the people.
I get the same feeling I used to get before, in Amnesia, in Manumission; the happiness of the people. I get that feeling sometimes in the place I play now. Even with all the changes included.
Now, just a little more history, Alfredo. So, Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold et al came to Ibiza, heard the”Balearic’ sound, then took it back to the UK, and it eventually started to explode there and caused a whole generation of ravers to seek out the island. This is the story of how Ibiza happened, the story that most people hear.
I’m not agreeing with that. The thing exploded in Ibiza, we just never got the media that the English scene got. But in Ibiza there was a lot of people from Germany, South America, Sweden, everywhere, dancing to something the English were dancing to in ’88, but Amnesia started in 84, and the place was packed all up until 88. They obviously helped a lot to make this something global, through the English industry.
And how do you feel about that? Are you happy that these guys brought more international attention, or do you feel something was a little bit taken.
In a way, they helped me to go around the world, to know England in the way I wanted to know, the scene and the industry, and in another way sometimes I think maybe I’ve been used by some people. But, with the pass of the times, what can I tell you? It happened like that.
And of course, when you read the interviews of these guys, in a way you are the central figure, the original legend of it. Does that sound right to you? When you hear and read about how you influenced this entire generation?
Yeah, it’s an honour for me that they think like that. But it’s an honour also for me, and this is not so famous, to introduce people of other countries to this music. The treatment of ‘legends’, in a way it puts you in the situation that it’s not for the better to keep playing. I think the term legend is something that comes from the past, it’s something that’s done, you know? It’s a very English term, to represent people.
Well, I guess that is in some ways relevant. After all, you are nearly 60, and there are a lot of young DJs coming up. How do you feel about that?
It’s not easy to play music at 60 years old, it’s true. But I am in the situation that I am playing the music, and I’m trying to be into the same thing, doing what I like. Obviously I don’t expect the same feedback as 30 years ago, because the style changes. There are many other DJs, much younger, much more in touch, and young people want to be with young people, that’s something that I have to assume.
In your many years of living in Ibiza, I’m sure you have a lot of memorable moments, but are there one or two that really stay with you more than the others?
There are so many. Two really good memories; back in the beginning of 2001, we were playing at this massive party called Manumission in a club called Privilege. When I say massive, you have to remember that at that time in Ibiza they were putting about 10,000 people in a club on a Monday night, so this party was really really big. There were about 50 people working, just dressed for entertaining the people. They had the idea to turn the whole place into some kind of comic world, and we had the idea of dressing up as Spider-man, still not sure why we had this idea.
I agree with Jaime, I remember this very well.
The club was something like 30 metres high and we jumped down, on some kind of metallic cord, from the roof and went down into the DJ booth as two Spider-Men. This was hilarious especially because my father made it to the DJ booth but I got stuck in the middle, 10 metres up between the roof and the booth, stuck in my Spider-Man costume thinking what the fuck am I doing here in the middle? That’s one of the best things I can remember.
The other really very strong memory was the same year, probably even the same month. We were always doing the After-Hours party for Space, this was in the time when the club didn’t have any roof and we were out on the terrace. At some point a woman and a man, I think they were Australian, came up and said they wanted to get married, so the promoters of the night, Mike and Claire McKay, organised a wedding at the after-party. They did the ceremony right there on the dance floor at 1:30 in the afternoon, you could imagine how much fun that was.
How high was everybody at the time?
Extremely high, it was very funny. The weird downside to the story, and I don’t know if I should even mention this but it’s part of it; when the party went from the club down to the beach the people there were in a really strange mood, some people were crying, and we were wondering what was up. Basically, we found out, when we got to the beach, that the whole thing, the wedding and the party, had happened on the morning of the 11th of September, 2001 …
They said “What, you didn’t even know what happened!?”
That sounds like a very hard thing to deal with when you’re high.
Yeah, I still tried to go out for a while, but after a short time I went to my house and I think Jaime did the same.
One other memory, a very old one; one time in Amnesia there was like forty centimetres of water because it was raining and this was an open-air bar; there was like three or four hundred people dancing in the rain. It was amazing; the people with the water until their knees and still dancing, the rains, storm, the music sounding there, it was beautiful. I think Jaime was there also, in the DJ booth.
I don’t remember, I was maybe sleeping in the office.
Frey Lindsay, February 2013.
Frey Lindsay is an Australian journalist. He is a staff writer for Blank Slate magazine in Germany and a Contributing Editor for Tooths Online. (www.tooths.com.au)