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Ibiza music: Louie Vega – 24 hours in Ibiza

Legendary DJ, producer, and one half of Masters at Work, Louie Vega fondly remembers Pacha Ibiza back in the days when the DJ booth was level with the people of the dance floor. Though he’d heard tales of the island while touring and playing farm and warehouse raves in the UK in the late 80s, it wasn’t until 1993 that he played his first gig alongside islander DJ Pippi and experienced its famous nightclub scene.

“I’d be here for just two days, so I didn’t really get to see any beaches or anything during that time,” he explains. “I really only saw the nightlife. But I’d always heard it was magical and so beautiful. What everybody was always talking about was that everybody was together on the same bill. People were appreciating all kinds of music – as long as you played it well.”

Four years later, Louie started returning to the island on a more regular basis and finally began to dip his toes in island waters. “It wasn’t as commercialised then as it is now but trying all of the Spanish restaurants, going on a yacht and checking out Es Vedra and Formentera… it was like, wow!” His Puerto Rican roots meant he was no stranger to island life, yet Ibiza presented a different style of living to the Caribbean and the perfect contrast to his NYC home.

Main photo by Natalie Beth Harris

As the years went by, he began spending even more time here and for the past five years has spent a large part of the season living here with wife Anane and son Nico. “We love it as a place for the family,” he says. “Outside of the party life, it’s a beautiful island with so many amazing beaches and restaurants, and the people who live here are so warm. Our son now has his own friends here and he looks forward to coming, he’s playing basketball with some really great kids from the community. We really enjoy being here.”

Today, Vega enjoys many of the elements that make up the island’s popular culture: nature, nightlife and cuisine and says he never stops discovering new places. “We love great music, great food, we love the beaches, we love live entertainment – this is the perfect island for it,” he says.

2016 in Ibiza has heralded something particularly special for Vega, as he and long-term musical partner Kenny Dope Gonzalez spent time together, becoming inspired to create an all-new EP under their more experimental Kenlou moniker (which Louie describes as “a real street project for us.”) at the island’s Flamingo Studios. “We haven’t worked together in many years and it was really, really special when we spent time together here this year,” he says, explaining that it was touring the island together that inspired them. “We didn’t plan what we were going to do, we said we’d just see what happened in the studio,” he continues. “Then as soon as we made the tracks, we just looked at each other and said this is Kenlou! It’s very experimental, drum and groove driven. We’re going to do something really special with it when it’s released next year. We’re very excited about it.”

How do you feel as you step off the plane onto the tarmac?
When you get here, there’s a sense of excitement. There’s adrenaline. It feels like fun is going to happen – I think that’s the best way to put it.

Does Ibiza feel like work or holiday to you?
It’s both. I can be working in a club but the next day I might go to the beach with my friends. In Ibiza it’s like you’re in a whole different world. You can be surrounded by thousands of people chanting and singing as you’re playing your music and then the next thing you’re on these rocks looking out over the amazing water around Es Vedra. For me, there’s no place else like it. It has everything and every day is different.

Where do you stay when you’re in Ibiza?
I like staying near the Marina, where everything’s close and there are things to keep everyone entertained. It’s nice to be near the stores and the restaurants – we’re city people, you know? We don’t want to be up in the mountains! Though there is a time for that…

Who do you spend time with on the island?
My wife, Anane, and our son, of course whenever they’re here. Otherwise I have some great friends from Miami and New York who live in Ibiza every summer – they’re my hangout crew. I’ve been coming here for 22 years and I’m friends with a lot of wonderful people. It’s almost like you have to pace your time with your friends here.

What’s your favourite part of the island?
I like being near Es Vedra, like at Cala D’Hort. I’ve been there by boat too, and just being near that rock is really wondrous. There is definitely an energy there – it’s powerful.

Do you have a favourite Ibiza memory?
I would say my adventures around the island and going to beaches by boat. You see the island from a different viewpoint – it’s so beautiful. You explore and you can stop anywhere to swim – there are even caves you can go into. I’ve had some wonderful experiences – one I’ll never forget was when I was with Anane and we went to this place with 30-foot high cliffs. We jumped off the boat to climb up to the top and I said I didn’t think I could do it. And she said, ‘Well I am!” and she just jumped off! I still didn’t do it…

Ultimate Ibiza track?
I always remember back to playing Black Gold of the Sun, which is a record we produced for Nuyorican Soul, when I played at Café Mambo for the sunset. I cannot believe that was made 20 years ago!

How do you feel when you have to start packing to leave?
Oh man, it’s always sad! I live in New York City and also Miami, so I have a taste of the warmth and the beaches, but Ibiza is really special. It’s something I always really look forward to.

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

HAVE BREAKFAST

Box 7 in Marina Botafoch, because they have everything I need, not just a continental breakfast. I also like Croissant Show in Ibiza town. Back in the late 90s when I used to stay in Pikes Hotel, there were these older Spanish women and they were cooking the real breakfast every day. I’m talking about bacon, fried eggs, toast… You couldn’t resist those. We’d sit around and have breakfast with everybody after coming in from the clubs and jump from the top of the restaurant into the pool!

GO FOR LUNCH

If I’m not in Passion (we LOVE Passion!), I could be somewhere like La Escollera. The seafood there is amazing. They have great DJs playing ambient music and one time I got to see Paco Fernandez playing with his band. It’s wonderful how this amazing family plays together – his son plays the drum machine, his daughter and niece dance, the nephew is the keyboard player – and it sounds so beautiful. I was just lucky to catch that.

EAT DINNER

Recently I’ve been liking this Italian restaurant called Piccola Cucina in the Marina – I’ve been eating there like, every day! It’s great if I want to be close to home before a gig and I feel really comfortable there. Balafia is also wonderful, I go there every time I’m here and I also like Can Pilot – the grilled chicken is amazing there.

DANCE

I go out with friends to different clubs and if the DJ’s moving me, I’ll definitely shake a leg! I like going to Circoloco on Mondays because I know a lot of the guys. The Martinez Brothers are friends, Black Coffee is a good friend, Kerri Chandler I’ve known for so many years… there are a lot of my DJ friends who I enjoy listening to, and they get me dancing. I like Paradise on Wednesdays there too, with Jamie Jones and Joseph Capriati. Even if I’m in the back or in the booth, I’m grooving. It’s really hard to dance on the DC-10 dancefloor these days because it’s so packed!

DJ

My favourite thing is to play on a beach. Anane and I have an event we do – well it’s more of an experience – called Sunset Ritual. We love it and we do it in beach clubs around the world. We did it twice here at Blue Marlin and once at Ushuaia Tower and we’re looking for somewhere special to do something here next year. I do enjoy playing the Glitterbox parties too – now that’s a place I can DANCE!

PARTY

Definitely DC-10, but usually it depends on who is playing on the island. Like, if Moodyman is coming out here, I’m going to see him! I go places I know I’m going to have a good party because the DJ is going to take us there. And I’m a little hard to please as a DJ… the environment has to be right, I can’t be in all the VIP business, I just want to have a good time with friends. Most times people are tapping you on the shoulder and want a picture or to talk about music, which is great and it comes with the territory, we appreciate that, but it means private and intimate events are better for partying with friends. Another good place is Pikes, where they do the music in Freddie Mercury’s bedroom! It’s such a historical place and you walk around and really feel the energy.

BEACH

Cala Conta is really beautiful and has one of the best sunsets on the island. You have sand, you have rocks – whatever you want is here and the water is so clear. It’s just such a beautiful setting especially when you’re here for the latter part of the day when there’s still sun and then sunset to come. I also really like Cala Moli, it’s awesome – there are some really fresh things going on there.

SWIM

Cala Salada. It’s just rocks and water, you choose your spot then you’ve got to find that little sandy area to go right out into the water. Once you’ve got it, it’s beautiful.

RELAX

I love spas. The Four Seasons Spa to me is like the ultimate spa, and the closest you’ll get to that in Ibiza is Open Spa at Ibiza Gran Hotel. Or if you want to be in the environment, there’s Atzaró Spa.

The (non-official) jumping spot from the Pikes restaurant into the pool

La Escollera at Es Cavallet

Paradise at DC-10

Iconic Ibiza beach Cala Conta

The luxurious Atzaró Spa in the north

Louie Vega plays Glitterbox at Space Ibiza on Friday September 9, 2016.