Ibiza clubbing: Dimitri from Paris – Creating an atmosphere

With a career spanning almost three decades, Dimitri from Paris has clearly done something right. Perhaps it’s an unerring dedication to music that moves his soul, maybe it’s the ability to teeter the tightrope between nostalgia and reinvention, or could it be his deeply perceptive nature that allows him to seamlessly read the mood of every discerning dance floor crowd? Most probably, it’s a combination of all three, not to mention an encyclopaedic knowledge of disco and funk; groove-filled music that permeated his skin as a child, infusing with his bones as they developed.

These days, Dimitri says he’s the busiest he’s ever been, which is little surprise given his regular headline status at Glitterbox – now one of Ibiza’s most popular parties – and an increasingly despondent society that seizes on the optimism presented with every soaring string crescendo. Here, the famous Frenchman shares his thoughts the growing reputation of Glitterbox, an encounter with Manumission that resulted in a decade-long, white isle drought and seeing musical trends come and go.

Do you remember your first experience DJing on the island?

It was probably in the late 90s for Manumission. It wasn’t for me to be honest, it was too big, too commercial. I didn’t really like it that much and it didn’t put me in the mood for coming back to Ibiza – I didn’t come back for 10 years after that! I’m not a beach and sun person, I’m a real geek. I like big cities; I’m more of an urban guy.

How did your time with Glitterbox get kick started then?

It was all quite natural. I’ve always played the kind of music that Glitterbox showcases – party music. I had played for Defected a couple of times in their early Ibiza days when they were at Pacha. They realised back then that you could make a party successful without making it cheesy. At the time, it was the antithesis to stripped back beats all night long or commercial tourist attractions. So Simon Dunmore’s idea with Glitterbox was again, to find middle ground. He wanted something happy – songs people could relate to, not just beats. I was one of the guys who fit the bill for that kind of musical direction. Glitterbox in general caught on because there was nothing similar on the island.

Do you think the party has gone on to fill a hole on the island, musically speaking?

The music makes it special and everything revolves around the idea of going to a club, communing with other people and having a good time. Everything is geared towards that – the production, the dancers, the tunes. It’s about creating an atmosphere. With the music, it’s been more or less the same people for a long time. It’s not about who’s hot at the moment, or stacking up big names, we’re all like a big team. There’s people like me with my retro sound and then Todd Terry who’s an icon of house music. Simon’s trying to create something with a group of people who all bring their own variation to the Glitterbox sound. We’re all very proud to be regulars there.

It’s a very quintessentially Ibiza party…

It is, but it’s the kind that’s disappeared in the last 20 years. It’s got that Balearic feel – it’s about the party and music. Balearic described lots of things – it could be anything, not just one format. It was eclectic and anything dance music could fit the bill. Simon was in Ibiza in the early days and wanted to capture that vibe that somehow got lost. They were trying to put festival line-ups in clubs but it didn’t work because people would turn up, bang it out for an hour and then leave. Simon created a brand that means something to people now.

Is it a fun gig to play?

It is! I’ve been there since the beginning so it feels like home. Plus, I’ve got an idea about how to navigate the party and give people what they’re expecting. The biggest challenge for me was to go from a smaller venue in Booom! to then Space and Hï Ibiza. Now it feels like a totally new venue. We’re looking forward to seeing how this season develops.

Do you enjoy playing at Hï Ibiza?

Yeah, I mean Space was a legendary club, I played there quite a lot as well so I was wary about what it was going to be but I like the fact they’ve made it more glamorous without it being too glitzy. It’s more comfortable now and there’s a really nice outdoor area. It’s much better in terms of layout and the main room is more cosy which is a real bonus. All in all, I think it’s progress and I’m happy to be involved. And that’s coming from one person who’s very attached to what they know and what works. I was very pleasantly surprised… and I’m difficult to please, believe me.

Do you think that we have a tendency to glorify the past too much?

I wouldn’t say everything was better in the past. There were good things and there are things that are better now. At Glitterbox, it’s not about trends dictating what we do. There are good things about clubbing in the past – back then, people would get together and go to a club because they’d chosen that particular club. It wasn’t about the biggest names and brands and going wherever they were. I like the fact that Glitterbox focus on the past of dance music in general because you really don’t get to the present and the future without a glimpse of the past – we’re not producing something that’s boring and nostalgic. That’s the beauty of Glitterbox.

Harking back to the past though, what was it about disco and funk that got beneath your skin?

I really liked the grooves. Back in the early ‘80s when I got into DJing, you’d hear a lot of computer based music with drum machines and synthesisers. I liked the fact that funk and disco was very rich in sound. You had whole string sections and horn sections, real drummers, real bass players, and it was a more sophisticated sound. To have a personnel of 30 people on one song demands extra precision, and I like that. I like details. I was drawn to it for that reason. You could listen to it simply as a dance groove, or you could listen more carefully to all these intricate arrangements. It was good to dance to but it was a beautiful piece of music at the same time. It was much more multidimensional than a lot of other music 30 years ago.

Do you have any magical nights that stand out in your memory?

My best ever night was towards the end of the ‘90s. It was in Miami for the Winter Music Conference. I still have people talking to me about that night actually. Everything fell into place – every record I picked was the right choice. People went crazy over it. The interesting thing was that I was just in a small room and the headliners were people who were huge at the time – all the New York giants who were huge in Europe – and at some point everyone moved away to where I was playing. People ask me how I managed to do that and really, I was just playing the records I was feeling. It was perfect. It’s impossible to recreate it – this was the best night of my entire career. I don’t think I can top it.

And yet you’re playing more gigs now than ever before. Why do you think that is?

I guess part of it is the experience factor – everyone can be a DJ now, whereas before it wasn’t that easy. So there are a lot of people who aren’t that experienced – I wouldn’t say not talented – I just mean there are a lot of inexperienced people working in places that are highly professional. When you’ve been DJing for a long time there are certain things people know you won’t do – like empty a floor for example. If you know what you’re doing, that will never happen. You’ll never have a bad night either, you’ll do the job. The fact old schoolers like myself can do it is reassuring for bookers. The other thing is that our musical knowledge is technically and mathematically bigger. We’ve witnessed history, you know.

So is it you personally have a spike in popularity or disco as a genre? 

We’ve seen how trends come and go, and disco is becoming more popular at the moment. People are enjoying the disco sound and I’ve been playing it for 25 years so I’m one of the disco players now. I benefit from the current trend. How long will it last? Probably not more than two or three years but that plays in my favour. And the fact I’m associated with Glitterbox is bringing recognition and I’m really proud of that. Things come and go – I’ve seen three or four waves of popularity in my career. Will there be a fifth? Who knows? I feel lucky to have been DJing in a similar spot for the past 25 years.

Dimitri From Paris is resident for Glitterbox at Hï Ibiza every Friday night throughout summer. Click the link below to buy tickets.