Ibiza clubbing: Jon Sa Trinxa – Born Balearic

A childhood surrounded by jazz, Beatlemania and pop programs, a youth spent experimenting with reel-to-reel players and time spent immersing himself in London’s diverse record stores and rave culture, it seems iconic Balearic DJ Jon Sa Trinxa was always destined for Ibiza.

The man born Jonathan Grey forged a place for himself in Ibiza’s rich musical history with his eclectic and varied all-day sets on the beach at Las Salinas in the early ’90s, becoming so entrenched in the culture, he almost had no choice but to take on the name of the beach bar where he’d built his reputation. 25 years on, he remains one of the island’s most recognised musical figures, maintaining his residency at Sa Trinxa and returning to the Manumission family as a special guest at their all new night at Lío Ibiza.

Photography by Mark McGrail

You always had a love of music… but what led you onto the path of being a professional DJ?
It was because I didn’t want a ‘proper’ job! Like most artists, musicians and creative people I guess, I didn’t want to choose a profession.

Did you ever have a ‘proper’ job?
I got the sack from quite a few! I was a photographer for a while, but I saw it as a way to get out of my hometown. I realised early on that there was a big wide world out there, and I wanted to see it. You have a camera and suitcase, you travel… then it became records and suitcase!

How did traveling lead you to setting up a base in Ibiza?
I’d been here in the ‘80s and I decided I wanted to come back and bring my records and my sound system… a farewell to England! I came back in ’93 and had a terrible time… I’d been traveling with a friend and his girlfriend in a big blue bus. We had a couple of parties booked and they were grumbling about not having any money… then they nicked off! We’d been parking at Salinas and thankfully they left my records and sound system (but not any of my money!) with the boss of Sa Trinxa, who had a house right next door to the car park. In a strange twist of fate, I was hitching around the island looking for them, fell off the road, down into a ditch, got up all battered and bruised with a tooth knocked out and as I put my finger out to keep hitching, it was the boss who pulled over and picked me up. And that was that really…

The universe conspired to keep you here! So how did you end up DJing on the beach? The very next day, the DJ at Sa Trinxa didn’t turn up, the boss told me to go get my records and my sound system and suddenly everything changed. It was probably the happiest moment of my life at that time, when I got that job everything just turned around. I went from the lowest of the lows to the highest of highs.

What was the beach bar scene like back then? There weren’t really any other beach DJs as such, there was Jose Padilla at Café del Mar, but no other beaches really had music or sound systems on the beach. Sa Trinxa was – and still is – a special place. It was the owners, the people who worked there, the diversity of the people who came there, the fact it was the last bar on the beach… To have the freedom to play my music there was amazing – I felt like I had just slotted into to somewhere I’d always wanted to be.

What are some of the differences between now and then? I’m not really one to dwell on the past, I think the world is always changing, but it did feel really free and beautiful, Most people were naked, or just wearing sarongs, they’d go down to the water, then take off their sarongs and jump int the sea – it wasn’t a sexual thing, it was just liberating and really fun! Now the difference is everybody’s so dressed up in lace dresses, lipstick and God knows what else! Also in those days, since Franco had died, the Spanish just wanted to party… now they think more about the money they could make selling beer at the party!

25 years later, does Sa Trinxa still have that special feeling for you?
Absolutely. I only play there a few times a week now (I used to do seven days – but if I carried on now the way I did then I’d be dead!), but I still play for eight hours a day and I still have that childlike enthusiasm when I find a really good record… I get so excited to play and watch people’s reactions. What I love about playing on the beach is all the different generations, from little eight year old kids dancing to people in their 80s. There’s nowhere in the world like Sa Trinxa and I get so much love back from the music I put out there to the people.

Eight hours is a long shift by any DJs standards! Do you plan the way you’re going to play?
No. I like to dream away with the music, go on a journey and come back… and I have the perfect environment to do that, just seeing where the day takes me. It’s so different from a club, where you just have two hours to pump up the dance floor. On the beach, the music flows more subconsciously, and the best thing for me, about being a DJ, is seeing how music affects people. It’s not about compliments, or the ego – it’s about those moments when the whole beach is dancing, or those days when there are just three or four people there but we all go on the same little journey…

To many people, you’re synonymous with the ‘Balearic’ genre – who else defines it for you?
There are a lot of other Balearic DJs, like Jose Padilla, Kenneth Bager and Phil Mison, but the thing about Balearic is you can’t define it. I love that. Nobody can put you in a box. We might play music with a crossover, but we’re all completely unique. When I first came to Ibiza with my music – old and new – I realised I had been Balearic all along. I was born Balearic!

You chase the sunshine every winter… have you ever found another place that could tempt you away from the island? No – Ibiza is like a magnet. I love traveling and getting off the island, but Ibiza is my home. I get really excited to come back and I love that preparation for the summer, looking for new music. Ibiza has changed so much – I mean, we have the Hard Rock Hotel, the most expensive restaurant in the world, Ushuaia – but if you want to find those essential elements Ibiza has always been about, they’re still here. The nature and diversity of Ibiza is just amazing – I am always rediscovering the island and it’s a great feeling.