Ibiza music: Steve Lawler – 24 hours in Ibiza

Steve Lawler very clearly remembers his first Ibiza clubbing experience. He was 17 years old and sneaking out of his family’s hotel room at a typically British all-inclusive hotel in Es Canar to head to the legendary Ku nightclub. “I knew of Ku and Café del Mar. I didn’t know about anything else but I was determined to see those two things,” he says. “I got a bus straight to Ku, spent the entire night there and ended up on the rocks by Café del Mar as the sun was coming up. I know a lot of people say this… but it actually changed my life.”

Describing his Ku experience as “like going to heaven”, the young Steve had his eyes opened to club culture for the very first time. Prior to that, he’d experienced illegal warehouse rave culture in the late 80s, which had inspired him to start DJing, but dancing at an open-air club that had huge fans, palm trees and a swimming pool simply blew his mind as he saw clubbing in a different light.

“It was like an unbelievable paradise,” he recalls. ”It was so peaceful and safe – which may have something to do with all the ecstacy people were taking! Clubs didn’t get as busy back then and I heard all this music that I’d never heard before. I heard garage, techno and indie rock all mixed together – that was how I was introduced to Balearic music and it gave me the desire to explore even more music.”

Returning to the island every year ever since that fateful first time, Lawler got his first Ibiza break DJing at Café Mambo in 1995. Over the years, he became an integral part of the ‘superstar DJ’ culture that was emerging, establishing himself as one of the major players on the iconic Space Ibiza terrace. Fast-forward to 2016 and Lawler is as relevant as ever, hosting his own sellout night, Warriors, every Sunday at Sankeys Ibiza throughout the summer seasons.

Main photo by Natalie Beth Harris

“I always had a desire to live here,” he says, recalling his earliest dwelling as a room above a noisy bar in San Antonio’s West End, where the music would finish at 5am, followed by the noise of garbage collectors smashing bottles into bins. “In 2001, when I could actually afford it, I bought a villa and I’ve lived here on and off ever since, in the winter as well as the summers.” Property savvy, he sold his villa in favour of a Marina penthouse apartment, which he calls home to this day, alongside his wife Daniela and two young daughters Avaida and Adriana – though he admits if you’d asked him 15 years ago if he envisioned raising a family here, he would have said no.

“I didn’t see the island, or even the industry I was in, in that way at all,” he explains. “I thought it would just last a few years and I’d have some fun… and here we still are! Now Ibiza will be a solid fixture in my kids’ lives, whether we remain living here or come to visit every year.” While his lifestyle may have altered as his young family grew, Steve’s love for the island has never wavered. “One of the best things about Ibiza for us now is the friends we have here. We love having dinner parties, just casually chatting over a few bottles of wine outside on the balcony until it’s 3am – that doesn’t happen in the UK. We have a lot of friends who also have children, which makes a difference as they’re under the same constraints you are.”

Going back to his roots, Lawler says he’s grateful he was able to experience the wild, hedonistic side of Ibiza in its early days, however he’s also an avid believer in change. “People often ask me about the way the island has changed and evolved with new money,” he says. “My answer to that is it’s not just Ibiza that has changed, it’s the world. There’s a huge divide between those with a lot of money and no money that exists as clear as day in Ibiza, but it also exists as clear as day all around the world.”

Embracing the future is important to Steve and he believes Ibiza will always offer an amazing experience to those who flock to her shores. “It was a rustic, beautiful little island when we first found it and despite the modifications to the motorway or the luxury apartments being built, Ibiza is still an amazing place – it will always remain a hotspot. And it’s also an amazing place for inspiration. You can hear all the DJs play and you really hear them at their best. People really care about what they play here, because this island can make or break people,” he says emphatically, and he would know. After all, he’s living proof.

How do you feel as you step off the plane onto the tarmac?
It’s a feeling that’s never changed. Whenever you land here, there’s a feeling… well, it’s more than a feeling. And I only get that feeling when I land in Ibiza. Still to this day, even though I have been here so much, it never gets boring. There’s also a certain smell. I’ve heard stories that the smell is a combination of the salt and all the rosemary on the island.

Is there anything you always make a point of doing here?
It might sound weird, but one of the things you have to do when you live here is remember to do things like go into San Antonio. For me, because that’s where all my very first memories of the island were made, it’s important. As soon as I step foot into San Antonio, I feel like I am on holiday again. Even when you’ve settled into a routine of living, you’ve got to make yourself venture out and do things that make you remember you are in Ibiza.

What’s your favourite part of the island?
The island offers so much, but I love it in the middle of the island. In the winter, my wife and I go cycling on all the bike routes and we end up at places like La Paloma in the afternoons. We cycle through parts of the countryside and see old ladies with acres of land and orange trees, growing all their own vegetables and fruits who wouldn’t even know there were discos on the island, let alone its club culture. That still exists here, and the only way you see that is if you know someone who knows the island or you venture away from the obvious.

Do you have a favourite Ibiza memory?
That’s a tough question, because there’s been a lot of amazing moments here. On the more hedonistic side, it was when I owned my villa and twice a year I would pay for all of my friends, about 15 of us, to come over and stay. As soon as Space finished, we’d go back there and we’d still be partying on Wednesday! We’d do the whole thing, Bora Bora, Space, DC-10 and it was just crazy. They are some of my fondest memories. We had so much fun it was unbelievable. On the other side, for very different reasons, it’s been spending time with my daughter on the beach – seeing the island through her eyes. Just seeing her as happy as she is, as free as she is, makes me so happy. I still find time for party moments, but it’s important to keep the balance.

Ultimate Ibiza track?
Something that always reminds me of Ibiza is an ambient track called Autumn Leaves by Coldcut. It reminds me of the year when my wife and I got together. Groove Armada did a free CD that came with Mixmag and it was on there, and we used to listen to it all the time. It’s just… this island.

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