At the tender age of 16 years old, Nic Fanciulli found himself wandering around the legendary Manumission Carry On at Space Ibiza, surrounded by his musical heroes such as Carl Cox and Pete Tong, who – back in the day – would mingle on the terrace with clubbers. Never in his wildest dreams would he have foreseen his future career taking him to the esteemed decks of that same club as it closed its doors forever in 2016, spinning the final records signifying the end of an era alongside his hero and now best friend, Carl Cox.
The magnitude of that experience is not lost on Fanciulli, who went on to be welcomed into the fold by the club’s new owners and management. As resident DJ for Hï Ibiza’s successful Thursday night concept, In The Dark, he has taken the baton from the club’s previous champions and now looks forward to the future. “I never like to look backwards,” he says. “Ibiza is moving forward and after 21 years of coming here, this is my favourite year to date.”
Can you tell us about your very first Ibiza experience?
My parents had been bringing me here since 1983 – they are obsessed with this island – so the first time was with them. I remember swimming in the sea at Playa d’en Bossa, where the old hotels were, where Ushuaïa is now… but my real first Ibiza experience came in 1996. I was only 16 and came out on a Club 18-30s holiday – a friend who was 18 had to vouch for me as my ‘parental consent’.
What were your expectations?
I didn’t know much about Ibiza. I remember thinking of it as a Spanish island where people from England would go to get drunk! I was into music, early day stuff like Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling and Pete Tong, but I didn’t know the names of any clubs except Space and Pacha. I remember I was obsessed with Sasha & Digweed so I went to Amnesia to see them and then I really understood what it was about Ibiza. I’d been going clubbing underage in London all the time, but it didn’t have that same feeling of friendliness and happiness.
Have you been coming here ever since?
Every year, for 21 years. I can’t explain the feeling – I just felt the energy in that first year and I knew this was the place I had to be. Every year I love it more and more. I remember how organic it used to be – going to Manumission Carry On where there were plastic chairs and tables all over the terrace and the superstar DJs would be just mingling with everyone else and enjoying the party, or watching the sunset with 5000 people clapping to Jose Padilla – and it was just insane for a 16-year old kid. Of course, it has become more developed, more commercial and everything is bigger. Clubbing funds the island, but it’s always moving forward. It’s the one place where I still get butterflies when I land.
So, these days, can Ibiza still feel like a holiday to you or is it more about work?
You know, it felt too work oriented in the past – I’d get picked up from the airport, taken to a hotel and wait alone for a few hours before the gig, and it could feel quite isolating but this year I am based here for the summer and it’s been my favourite year ever. I’ve got my family at home, I listen to music in the house to get the vibe happening, we grab a pizza, go to the club together like a crew and it feels so much more organic than before. It’s a big island, but you know everyone here. It 100-percent feels like home. I really embrace it now, and take time out to explore and get to know more of the island and find new places.
What’s your favourite part of the island?
I love Cala Gracioneta – it has a really nice rustic vibe and it’s a tiny little beach that’s a great place to be with my son. Normally beaches with kids can be stressful, but there I felt like I didn’t have to have eyes in the back of my head. Everyone was so friendly. I also used to spend a lot of time in Benirras, where they play the drums, and I like Santa Eulalia and Portinatx too.
Now that you have your own family, do you think Ibiza is a good place for kids?
I really do. It’s amazing for kids. I’m Italian, and that Latin culture is all about family so in Ibiza it’s quite similar. So many of my friends have moved here from England with their families and I get it now. There are great schools, beautiful winters. There are all different types of people who come to this island – some people come for the beauty and the nature and others are here for the music, to forget about reality and just have fun… and some are in between. I’ve embraced more the beauty and the nature as I’ve gotten older – when I was younger it was all about the music but now I’ve bought a house here and could see myself living here for at least six months of the year. I’m always travelling too much for it to be full time!
The buzzing breakfast hotspot Rita’s Cantina, by the Marina in San Antonio.
Do you have a favourite beach in Ibiza?
I’d say Cala Conta or Cala Bassa for the water – it’s just stunning. Or if you’re on a boat, Atlantis.
What’s your favourite place to eat breakfast?
Rita’s Cantina in San Antonio. I’ve been going there for 20 years and she’s amazing. She is Ibiza. I love it – it’s not the fanciest of places, it’s just cool and easygoing. I like going to places with people that I know, it’s a relationship thing.
Where do you like to spend lunchtimes? Cala Gracioneta. The way they’ve re-done it this year is exactly how Ibiza should be. You can sit there and eat and watch the kids in the sea at the same time – I think in two years’ time, that will be the number one place in Ibiza for food, with what the Mambo boys are doing with it. And the staff are amazing too. It’s my new favourite place.
Favourite place to go for dinner?
Il Giardinetto in Marina Botafoch. [Laughs] My accountant used to always say I had so many receipts from that restaurant! It’s not fancy, it’s just a great place. I also love Villa Mercedes – I think I’ve had about five of my birthdays there!
Tucked away in the back streets of Ibiza’s gypsy quarter is the hidden gem cocktail bar, Paradise Lost.
Where would you recommend to go out for a drink? Paradise Lost. It’s amazing. I found it through a friend called Pyro Paul, who I bumped into as I was walking out of Ibiza town one night. He turned me around to take me there and I love it now. The guy who owns it loves what he does and it’s just so cool. Everyone I recommend it to loves it too. These are the kind of places I love finding these days.
Where would you go if you wanted to go out for a dance?
I’d probably go to see Marco at Amnesia. Or Glitterbox at Hï Ibiza on a Friday.
Do you get much of a chance to go and see other DJs these days?
I think I’d be bored if I didn’t! It’s one of the best things about being based here. I absolutely love listening to other DJs – I take so much inspiration from them and there’s so much music out there. This is the place to be – there are five or six amazing clubs on my doorstep which all have 10 amazing DJs every night.
What’s the best DJ booth on the island in your opinion?
I’d say the main room, the Theatre, at Hï Ibiza and then the terrace at DC-10. That’s the amazing thing about this island – I can go to Hï Ibiza and play to 2500 people and then go and play for Circoloco or Paradise to 1000 in a different style. I think people also like to be able to see you play in different environments.
The incredible production of the Theatre at Hï Ibiza.
What was your first impression of Hï Ibiza this year?
They’ve taken it to another level in the sense of production and the nights and artists they have there. To be getting 4500 people in every week in your first two months, in my eyes, is perfect. There was a moment in the Theatre a few weeks ago when I turned around and said it felt like Space, but next level. Space was Space – it had its moment in time. When we closed it, it was like closing Studio 54 or Twilo or any of those amazing clubs, but what I love about the whole Hï Ibiza thing is that Yann really LOVES everything he’s doing. He’s not just thinking about figures or numbers. He’s trying to put together the best concepts and line-ups that he can.
How did your In The Dark residency come about?
I’ve been really close with Yann and Romain since 2002. I met Yann in Miami and he came up to me with a new concept called ANTS and asked if I’d be resident. I played the first ever ANTS show and now it is an insane party! Then Joris and I started La Familia and did that for two years. Yann, Romain and Leslee – they’re like family to me, as much as Space were, and they are the guys I love working with the most. It’s fun too – I really love playing there.
What’s your ultimate Ibiza track?
The one record that always used to blow me away was Laurent Garnier – The Man With The Red Face. I mean, just about every DJ in every genre was playing it from Jeff Mills, James Zabiela and Carl Cox to Sasha & Digweed and Erick Morillo. Such an organic record. Timeless and that to me is Ibiza.
The magical crystal clear waters of Cala Conta.
Tell us about your new album – has Ibiza played a part in its production?
Definitely. 100-percent. I’ve been producing for 16 years now, and my DJ sound is one thing, but for this album I wanted to create something that you could hear at a barbecue, but also in a club. That was my goal. It’s quite Balearic, which to me is emotional. It’s been a ten-year process – I started it about a million times and scrapped it about a million times, Then I found some of the old tracks about three years ago, and started collaborating on them with people I loved as DJs and producers like Guy Gerber, Matthew Dear and Eagles & Butterflies. Then it finally came together and I’m super happy with it.
Does the island inspire you to make music?
I used to have my studios above Café Mambo for a couple of years in 2006 and I wrote a lot of records there, but I wouldn’t do it again. I’d rather be in a basement in London. I DJ a lot more now though and I don’t think I’d have the patience to sit in a studio with all this around me. I get inspiration from everything I do in the summer, I might write ideas on the plane, but I take it all back home with me during the winter. On the days I have off here, I just want to relax.
Sometimes the best things in life are found in your own backyard…
Best Ibiza memory?
[Smiles] Easy. You have to imagine for me… coming to Ibiza in 98, looking up at Carl Cox playing at Space and thinking this is absolutely amazing. Roll forward 19 years and playing back to back with him until the last record of Space – I can’t explain it! It was the most humbling feeling ever and shows you just what kind of character Carl is. At 10am I said, I don’t want to step on your toes and he turned around and said: “You are going to close this club back to back with me.” We ended up playing until 12.30 and it was amazing. I cried, Carl cried, Pepe cried, my dad cried. Everyone had a moment. I’ve been going to that club for so long but didn’t realise how much of an impact it had on my life until then. Closing with one of my best friends, my hero, the person I looked up to when I was a kid… wow. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life.
How do you feel when you’ve got to start packing to leave?
I hate it! It’s very difficult. The amount of times I’ve wanted to cancel gigs to stay… I think this (and Mykonos) is the hardest place in the world for me to leave. It’s just so amazing – why would you want to leave?
NIC FANCIULLI PLAYS IN THE DARK ON AUGUST 24, 31 AND SEPTEMBER 7, 21 & 28, 2017 AT HÏ IBIZA.