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Ibiza music: DJ Harvey – 24 hours in Ibiza

“It was probably when the Club Tropicana film clip came out in 1983 that I first heard of Ibiza,” tells DJ Harvey, a man who has been described as the myth, the magic and the mystery – not to mention the DJ’s DJ. “But to be honest, I avoided it back then because I didn’t think a bunch of English soccer hooligans and Eurotrash were worthy of my presence. I was into what I considered serious things, you know, like dub reggae. And heroin.” Insert the Englishman’s infectious, hearty laugh.

In the late 90s, Harvey was recruited to DJ for the seminal Ibiza 90 tour, which inspired the cult classic ‘A Short Film About Chilling’, as the Acid House movement was in full swing. “I was riding that wave and joined the party,” he says. “When I arrived here I was like… Ohhh! Now I see what all the fuss is about, why people gravitated here and discovered the spiritual side of what was going on. I met the people who really made the island special and there was some serious grown-up fun going on too.”

Harvey returned to the island every summer throughout the 90s to DJ for Ministry of Sound at Pacha before an interesting turn of events – namely, Harvey moving to the states and living as he describes politely, “an undocumented alien” in Hawaii – meant the charismatic musician and Ibiza were separated for an extended period. After receiving his green card, Harvey was once again able to tour the globe and Ibiza was one of the main destinations on his radar.

“One of the first things I said to my manager was that I’d love to get back to Ibiza and find a little summer residency that could be a base and a launch pad for the other things I was doing in Europe.” Enter Pikes at Ibiza Rocks House, under the management of Dawn Hindle and Andy McKay, who opened up their space – literally Freddie Mercury’s bedroom – to Harvey for a six-week residency dubbed Mercury Rising in summer 2015.

“I think you can’t just impose yourself in Ibiza,” says Harvey. “It’s a lot like Hawaii, in that respect, you have to show ‘aloha’ and then you get the ‘aloha’ back. You can’t just go ‘I’m going to have a big night in Ibiza’ – it just doesn’t happen. You’ve got to come, put out the roots and make friends. You’ve got to do the work and then you are allowed to do your thing here. Through some hard work and some love, it all panned out.”

The night was one of the season’s runaway success stories, and 2016 sees Mercury Rising continue at Pikes every Monday night. Harvey himself sets up the space, choosing the flowers (“big lilies, because they have a nice smell,”), setting the lights, choosing the sound system, playing tambourines, drums, whistles and DJing from start to finish. “People might just think I’m standing there being cool,” he says with a mischievous glint in his eye. “But I’m in a complete state of panic working really hard! There’s lot of love put into it.”

The party attracts a mixed crowd ranging from DJs – from superstars to local residents – all eager to witness the man in action after so many years of ‘exile’ to partygoers of all ages. “People think it might be an older crowd but it’s not,” says Harvey. “I think younger people haven’t experienced this kind of party before. Maybe they’re used to bigger nightclubs, or heavier music, so to hear music that is a serious good time, a bit more melodic, and maybe reminiscent of times gone by – it’s an honest to goodness good time. I’m very, very happy with things here.”

How do you feel as you step off the plane onto the tarmac?

I kiss the ground like the Pope! And then I get in my Harvey mobile with a UV bubble over the top and all the people are throwing flowers and the girls are crying. Then they bring me up to Pikes where they make me a special cup of tea…

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive on the island?

I come straight to Pikes and have a cup of tea! Then I jump in the pool, take a deep breath and be happy I’m home.

Does Ibiza feel like work or holiday to you?
I always say to people my average day is like most people’s birthday and Christmas wrapped into one. I have a fantastic standard of living. In general, I am what the Americans would call ‘blessed’. When I’m actually working and DJing, I really enjoy it. I’m dancing, I’m playing music I like, people are happy… I’m an entertainer. Even if the sound system breaks, I’ll start telling jokes. [Ed’s note: Harvey’s ‘showstopping’ joke was j-u-s-t a little too crude for publication!]

Where do you stay for the duration of your residency?
At the moment, I’m balling as they say in America! I’ve got a room at Pikes and a room at Hostal La Torre. Sometimes it gets noisy at Pikes so I’ll go over to La Torre, and other times I want a full English and to jump in the pool so I’ll come here. It’s really nice and thanks to everyone at La Torre and everyone at Pikes for the hospitality. I definitely don’t take it for granted.

Who do you mostly spend time with when you’re in Ibiza?
It tends to be quite transient as people come and go. I see Tony Pike every day for breakfast. I’ve got a small group of buddies, people who are residents out here, bartenders and restaurant staff that become friends. It’s truly an international crowd who come through to visit. I’ve had friends from Japan, New Zealand, England and Bali – literally from all over the world.

What’s your favourite part of the island?
I love to take a little Zodiac around to Es Vedra and Atlantis. You can rent a yacht for 3000€ an hour or you can get a Zodiac on the beach at Cala D’Hort for 300€ and I’m very happy in my little rubber dinghy just zooming around, in contact with the sea, having the time of my life. You go around the outside of Es Vedra and the colour of the water is truly beautiful. It’s like – THAT is navy blue! Now I know why it’s called navy blue. The power of the rock, the magical place of Atlantis, where it looks half Egyptian and half from outer space – it’s amazing stuff.

Ultimate Ibiza track?
Number one in my ‘Balearic top 100’ is quite a strange record: William Pitt’s City Lights. It’s the kind of record that really wouldn’t fit in anywhere else. The guy’s got a strange accent, it’s a strange subject matter and it’s quite a bizarre tune. You wouldn’t think of it as a dance record, but in the context of Ibiza and the Balearic atmosphere, it’s absolutely perfect. A lot of people are unaware of it, especially if you’re under 40. But once that song rings true to you, there’s nothing else quite like it…

How do you feel when it’s time to start packing to leave?

[Laughs] Relieved! I would have been here a couple of months and there’s a big world out there. I looking forward to getting back to LA and seeing my Chihuahua and my girlfriend, getting back to out to Bali and Hawaii. But I’ll always come back. Hopefully this year will be just as successful as last year, and I’ll be able to do more of the same, be more established, call the shots more and just ‘perfect-ise’ things.

Portrait photography by Natalie Beth Harris

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You have 24 hours on the island – tell us your favourite places to…

HAVE BREAKFAST

Pikes. I get a toasted bacon sandwich with HP Sauce and a cup of tea and sit around with Tony Pike telling each other the same stories over and over and over again…

GO FOR LUNCH

I really like Wild Beets in Santa Gertrudis. It’s super clean and fresh… and quite often after a bacon sandwich with a hangover, an organic meal and fresh juice is in order!

EAT DINNER

Last night I went to a beautiful place, a hotel called Cas Gasi where they have a great restaurant. We were there at midnight and it was just our table and it was amazing, with really great service. It was pretty high end, but why not treat yourself for dinner?

DRINK

I don’t go out for a drink that often, but if I were to take a friend out, I’d take them to the Rock Bar in the port. It’s where it all began… For me, it’s still a sacred place. They used to have a picture of Paul Oakenfold and Ian St Paul on the wall, back when they were just 19!

DANCE

It’s a rare occasion if I go out to dance – it has to be incidental or accidental, because that’s where I work – but I do love to dance. I dance on my own in my bedroom – that’s the best place. Twirling around in my underpants to Grace Jones, bouncing on the bed, in the mirror with a hairbrush.

DJ

It’s gotta be Pikes!

PARTY

I think Pacha is still an amazing venue, no matter what goes on in there. It’s a beautiful place, and you can be anywhere in the main room and you can see the old Funky Room upstairs – that was the original Ibicencan Pacha from the 70s. For me it’s like a shrine, you go in there and you know that’s where modern clubbing started. Just imagine when it was Grace Jones and Frank Zappa doing their grown-up thing in there!

BEACH

Hmmm… I like one that I can’t pronounce. We call it Portaloo [Ed’s note: We’re pretty sure Harvey means Portixol]. It’s my secret spot. You have to go way, way, way, way, way, waaaay down and you’re exhausted and overheated by the time you get there, but it’s worth the trip. There’s hardly anyone there, it’s beautiful and quite deserted.

SWIM

I like to swim at Atlantis, because there’s deep water, you can dive in off the rocks and the water is always clean there too. A lot of beaches are full of seaweed and sunscreen but Atlantis seems to be flushed out quite a lot by the fresh water.

ESCAPE

To be honest, I’m not often alone because I don’t drive a car – when I’m home in LA my escape is just me and the Chihuahua on the bed watching The Real Housewives of Orange County! But I do ride a motorcycle and a few times I’ve rented out a Harley here in Ibiza and gone for a ride just to get lost. But because I don’t know where I was, I can’t tell you! But you know on an island, just go in a straight direction and you’ll reach a coastal road or a sign that says ‘Eivissa’ eventually.

RELAX

I like to get massages as I spend a lot of time on my feet. It’s nice when you can find a good one! Because I live in California, normally to relax I go surfing at Venice Beach… that’s the reason I don’t live in Ibiza – because there’s no surf! If someone built a wave pool here…

HANG OUT

I’ve really been enjoying the sunsets at Hostal La Torre. It’s taken over where Café del Mar left off 25 years ago. It’s ironic, because for me, as soon as you could hear ‘boom boom’ coming across from Café Mambo, that was the end of Del Mar as we knew it, but now the Mambo family also own La Torre and I’m really happy they’ve taken it back to that. It’s come full circle. I also really like just hanging out at Pikes, to sunbathe, jump in the pool, get a drink and meet people.

The iconic Pikes swimming pool

Lunch at Wild Beets

Pikes in full swing for Mercury Rising

Harvey in action behind the DJ booth at Pikes

The mythical Atlantis

Sunset from Hostal La Torre

DJ Harvey plays Mercury Rising every Monday night at Pikes at Ibiza Rocks House until September 5, Hostal La Torre on September 7 and Afterlife at Space Ibiza on September 8, 2016.