David Morales – 24 hours in Ibiza

“I haven’t stopped coming here in 22 years,” says David Morales fondly, when asked about his Ibiza experiences. “When I first came in 1994, being from New York, I had never heard of Ibiza. It wasn’t on my radar at all. It was Cream that brought me over and the first club I played at was Ku. I didn’t know what to expect.”

Amazing is the word the Grammy award-winning DJ and producer chooses to simply sum up that first timer experience. “The second year I came I played at Amnesia, I played at Space when the DJ booth was behind the bar – it was a totally different experience to now,” he continues. “It was always the English brands that booked me in the beginning, like Cream and Renaissance. I started coming for one weekend, then two weekends and in the end, Def Mix had a residency at Pacha for nine years, which meant we stayed here for the whole summer.”

It was Ibiza’s strong DJ and music culture that kept Morales coming back in those early years. “You were cutting edge then. You could play whatever you wanted, but it couldn’t be radio music – commercial wasn’t allowed. People came just for the music, just for the experience… and Ibiza WAS the experience. We had to bring our game. People were really there to listen to what you were playing, they came with no expectations.”

Main photo by Natalie Beth Harris

In 1998, the video for Morales’ seminal anthem Needin’ U captured the feeling of Ibiza as it was at that time. “Ibiza was a hedonistic free for all,” he laughs. “It’s funny, I’d been on a major record label and made videos for over $100,000 but this one, we shot for just £11,000 and it went to the top ten.”

It was the authenticity, the true feeling of what Ibiza was to so many people, that was the key to its success. From arriving at the airport, queuing for the clubs, the OTT dancers and lasers, the camaraderie of the DJs, forming friendships on the beach, the blatant sexuality, the salt flats, the sunsets, the fashion and even the famous Pikes swimming pool. “Love, drugs, good times. That video really represented Ibiza.”

Today, he sees himself representing an older generation of DJs – a generation that didn’t grow up with VIP culture, fireworks on stage or commercial music in their sets. It is this generation that is having a strong resurgence thanks to the popularity of nights like Glitterbox, with older clubbers striving for that musically induced happiness, and younger clubbers wanting to experience the ‘real’ Ibiza.

“Ibiza used to be a secret,” says Morales. “It was something special no one knew. And if you did know, it was a place to escape. It was intoxicating. Now it’s in the movies, it’s changing … I’ve watched it evolve but it’s still something special. I have connections here. I’ve made so many friends over the years. I’m grateful that I’m still getting booked to play. I’m 54 years old and I’m happy I’m still relevant in Ibiza. I love coming here, I will always come back here. There’s something special about this island… you just need to find the balance.”

How do you feel as you step off the plane onto the tarmac?
For me, the minute I get off that plane it’s like ‘phewww’. I understand Ibiza for something different – I’m not a tourist here. It’s not about clubs for me. It’s the energy of the island I understand.

Is there anything special you make a point of doing when you arrive?
When I arrive at this hotel, Ocean Drive, it’s like coming home. It’s my favourite hotel. When I get here, I have a beer and a shot of tequila – the staff know me, they’re like, “You want a beer and a shot Morales?” Then I always go see my friend Neil Ahern at Inkadelic – that’s my first priority when I get here.

Does Ibiza feel like work or holiday to you?
Ibiza… is Ibiza. Even though I am here to work, it’s still Ibiza.

What is your best Ibiza memory?
I have so many! But probably my 40th birthday at Pacha. I had my family here, my mother for the first time had come to Ibiza, my son who was 15 at the time was here and friends and family from all over. It was the first time in my life I could really share what I do with my mother and she was blown away. I come from a very rough place, and my mother, she remembers me in my bedroom at 12 years old banging music out – she was telling me to turn it down. What she saw, dropping Needin’ You in front of 4000 people and to see the response, that’s a standout. She could remember my passion and see where I was at now.

What’s your ultimate Ibiza track?
Needin’ You. Case closed! It was the first video that was ever shot in Ibiza, that represented the island and captured its vibe.

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