Ibiza clubbing: Honey Dijon – Creating safe spaces

Born and raised in Chicago, mentored by the great Derrick Carter, evolving as an artist in New York in the late 90s, based in Berlin and now holding a four-date residency at Pikes in Ibiza in 2018, Honey Dijon is a walking, talking encyclopaedia when it comes to club culture. She hasn’t just seen it all – she’s lived it all. The trajectory of her career has deservedly led her to hold her own place as a heritage artist in dance music history.

While the white isle was becoming known for popularising dance music and creating the culture of superstar DJs, Honey was busy forging her identity in the states; proving herself – both musically and personally – as a pioneering black, transgender artist. It would be many years before she would physically step foot on the white isle and after a seriously impressive debut performance at one of Seth Troxler’s legendary birthday bashes, she found herself welcomed with open arms and swiftly invited to perform at almost every major club in Ibiza.

Never being one to follow a traditional path however, Honey opted for the road less travelled when it came time to launch her own party concept in Ibiza. Her dream was to create a party that evoked the hedonism of NYC in the late 70s and early 80s; to create a safe space for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, age or race; to bring back the spirit of community. All roads led Honey to Pikes, the iconic Ibiza venue that has always been known for embracing, and indeed encouraging, diversity and Deputy of Love was born…

Why do you think it took you so long to discover Ibiza?
You know, the timing wasn’t right for me. I feel like I missed the heyday of Ibiza. From the 60s and 70s when it all started, back when it was an island for the jet set then in the 80s for the beginning of club culture. But in the last couple of years I’ve been invited to play a lot more, which has been interesting.

Given your own musical heritage, surely your experience of club culture makes you more of an expert than anyone who was here in the 80s!
Well… club culture, especially the culture I come from has been colonised, commoditised and commercialised. A lot of people who come here to Ibiza think they’re on the cutting edge of something that’s been around a lot longer than they think it has.

What are your impressions of the island?
I hear there are two sides of Ibiza. There’s the spiritual side, with gorgeous nature and then there’s a debaucherous side, I believe. Sadly, I haven’t been able to spend enough time to experience both – a lot of people don’t know this, but I’m really into health, wellness and spirituality so I need to spend more time here.

Hopefully that will happen this summer with your new residency at Pikes…
It’s quite an honour for me to even play at Pikes, because this place has such a history and has so much culture. Grace Jones, George Michael, Julio Iglesias, Naomi Campbell, Boy George – all these people have been through here. Now everyone’s talking about diversity, #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, gay rights, trans rights and all these things… well, this place had embraced all of that since day one. So it made sense with what I am trying to say as an artist.

Did you have any connection with Pikes previously?
The connection came through my label and Luke Solomon – we’d been discussing what we could do differently and what we wanted to do musically. We wanted to do something that really had feeling and meaning and emotion. The name Pikes just kept coming up in that conversation. The concept of Pikes was never foreign to me, but I had never physically experienced it. Until now.

Tell us about your vision for the party?
What I want to do is create more of a queer space. I feel like in Ibiza, there are so few queer spaces, with a queer sensibility, that are inclusive of queerness. And that is said with no disrespect to what other people are doing – you know, having naked girls on podiums and in costumes. I live in Berlin, and what I love about the spaces there is that you see women naked, you see men naked, you see trans people with all types of genitalia naked – without being shamed or having to fit into someone else’s box for their own comfort. To me, a safe space really means a place where you can go and exist without harassment for being who you are, or having to fit into a binary, patriarchal, hetero-normative system.

Is there a specific musical direction?
Musically, I want to play more soulful things. Music that has meaning and reflections of life instead of just tracks talking about ‘the club’. To me, dance music hasn’t really moved forward and this is coming from someone who was born at the beginning of club culture. I’ve experienced it in so many different forms – I’ve been at every kind of party, from basements and big rooms to after hours and outdoors and I got to experience music at a time when it was about community. I guess the best way to describe what I want to do with Deputy of Love, is to build a community of misfits.

Do you think through parties like yours we’ll see a shift in the way people experience clubbing?
I hope so. What changed all of this is the internet and social media. Now people seem to be more interested in documenting their experiences instead of having them, which doesn’t make sense to me. That’s not contributing to a party. Dance culture has been around for 30 years but it’s been homogenised and turned from culture to entertainment. Now people are coming to look at someone and they want to be entertained. When I went to a club, you weren’t allowed in unless you dressed a certain way, and I’m not talking about designer fashion. Dressing in a way full of personality, having a point of view, having witty conversation or being so wrong that you’re right!

Do you ever get nostalgic about those early days in clubland?
When people say: ‘It was better in my day’… well if you’re here today, it’s still your day. Your day is gone when you’re not here anymore. I carry those experiences and I get to express my feelings through music. So while I don’t get nostalgic about what it was like 20 years ago, I do get nostalgic about people not facing each other when they’re dancing. People are shoulder to shoulder, instead of face to face most of the time. I get nostalgic about people having a personality at the club. I get nostalgic about not seeing more black or Latin people in the clubs anymore – that’s a noticeable thing for me. I’m nostalgic about having more diversity on the dance floor.

It’s all about being in the present, right?
I think it’s egotistical to think it was better in your day. There are kids discovering this music right now. Life evolves and I’m just as curious about what some 17 or 20-year olds are doing as I was with Larry Levan. I’m really hungry to hear a new point of view. That’s why I think it’s really great that there’s more women and queer people doing this now… there’s a different ear happening.

What makes a good DJ for you?
In New York I get to hear a lot of heritage DJs, like Francois K, Danny Tenaglia and Derrick Carter – with someone who’s been doing it for so long, it’s the level of confidence and ease. A signature sound and life experience makes a good DJ. You have to live in order to make a connection to people a certain way I think. A lot of 20-year olds are playing music to get acceptance, more money, more gigs and I think someone who’s been doing it for a long time is more like a musician. It’s a creative urge in you that you need to express, and you’re bringing people together to celebrate and have a good time. I always think I connect people through music.

What led you down the wellness path?
As a trans person of colour, there’s not a lot of mirrors of affirmation of how to take care of yourself. A lot of it started from vanity – I had really bad skin as a teenager and I started to research the industrial agriculture in America with all the hormones and things they put into food. I was terribly insecure because I was dealing with gender issues and on top of it I had acne. I had very low self esteem and I was just trying to figure out how to change that. I realised that everything happens from the inside out, not the outside in. I stopped eating meat at 19 and I started reading more and more, then one path leads to another and it was like a rabbit hole really. I started taking yoga and I had some really good teachers who taught me that it was a practice.  There are some poses you’ll never be able to master and it’s not about that. There are a lot of metaphors in yoga that I really love – breathing through painful poses also taught me how to breathe through painful moments in my life.

There’s a lot of talk about mental health in the music industry right now – does this type of healthy lifestyle help you handle the pressures of success and travelling?
[Laughs] I’m lazy! I need someone to push me with yoga and I’m a lazy vegan, especially in airports! But I do find solace in having these conversations publicly, and having conversations among other artists who understand what you’re going through. I call my friends and say how do I handle this? With all of this recent success that I’m having, I want to know how to navigate it in a healthy way. I’m not some kid who made a record that blew up and I didn’t know how to deal with it, but there are also sacrifices that go along with getting to do the thing that you love. I’m not going to be shamed for feeling tired or sad at times – it can be taxing physically and emotionally. I want to be able to maintain who I am, and not get caught up in who people think I am. Just remembering there is a person behind all of this…

Photography by Mike Portlock for Pikes