Ibiza’s Danny Whittle – I Hate the VIP Concept (interview)
When Pacha Ibiza ‘became an unwitting ground zero to the EDM movement’ (Billboard) off the back of David Guetta’s Fuck Me I’m Famous parties in 2010, Pacha’s then musical director Danny Whittle followed up by breaking the likes of Swedish House Mafia as well as underground house hero Luciano, seemingly cementing his status as one of Ibiza’s key tastemakers and influencers.
Suddenly quitting the club in 2012 some months after the club’s owners had criticised ‘skyrocketing DJ fees, the shortening of a standard DJ set, and the general shift from club culture to DJ cults of personality’, he told Billboard soon after he’d quit ‘because my understanding differed from the owner’s.
“He believed that the Pacha brand was big enough to fill the club, and I believe that content is king,” he explained (Billboard: http://bit.ly/1hHVthC )
Setting up rapidly nightlife agency IBZ Entertainment and continuing his role as one of four founder owners of increasingly influential music conference, IMS, his transition to full independence appeared seamless when he added programming at new Ibiza Town Booom to his portfolio at the beginning of last year.
With former Pacha residents Luciano, Morillo and Defected all following Danny to the much hyped new club, success seemed assured, though when pretty much everything that could go wrong actually did, Danny eventually left.
12 months on though, he’s back firmly at the centre of the island’s action, both via IMS and IBZ Entertainment and more interestingly at Ibiza’s new underground club du jour Sankeys, where he recently teamed up with David Vincent. Uncharacteristically quiet in media terms throughout 2013, he’s also now firmly back to full force, emailing Skrufff this week after we linked to an Ibiza-voice article he feels is unfairly negative about the island’s scene.
“Dear club owners and promoters, do you still think that people come to Ibiza for the sake of music first and foremost? You believe our island is still the clubbing capital of the world? Forget about it, Ibiza lost these laurels years ago,” Ibiza-Voice claimed in their hard-hitting polemic (Ibiza-Voice: http://www.ibiza-voice.com/story/news/6157 )
“The line-ups of local events are undeniably solid, but nothing too outstanding, innovative or groundbreaking. It’s not a capital, it’s an established industrial centre with faultless assembly lines that rubber-stamp commercially successful products,” they said.
”Jonty, can I just say that Ibiza-voice comment is a load of shit,” Danny retorted in an email.
“There are some amazing line-ups on the island outside of the super clubs. They just want to be controversial.”
Skrufff asked Danny to explain exactly why he disagreed so vehemently and whether in 2014 there’s enough happening on Ibiza beyond Sankeys and dc10 to realistically still compete with London or Berlin.
Well for a website called Ibiza-voice, I think they should look for the positives in Ibiza: We know there are negatives there always have been; I’m sure there are negatives in every place,” he starts.
“There are some amazing line-ups for underground music in Ibiza this summer. Of course DC10 and Sankeys are the most visible clubs championing underground DJs, but there are also loads more off-the-radar parties with after-parties and other events that you need to be here on the island to know about. It seems to me that Ibiza-Voice is here but doesn’t seem to know about them.
Also comparing Ibiza to Berlin is crazy. Berlin is open 12 months of the year and works in a whole different way, it’s like comparing chalk and cheese. What I do know is most of the DJs playing in Berlin will at some point play in Ibiza and in the end will probably play in Las Vegas. It’s the route that most djs dream of following (except the few that don’t give a fuck and I respect them, but they are the 10%).”
Skrufff: Ibiza-voice also said ‘you believe our island is still the clubbing capital of the world? forget about it’: given that Berlin’s best clubs (Berghain/ Katerholzig etc) charge less than 15eur admission, have no VIP rooms or bottle service and are attracting more and more international clubbers weekly- what makes Ibiza still the world’s club capital, particularly for younger people without much money?
Danny Whittle: “Again, how can you compare the two? In Ibiza we have 30,000 plus people clubbing every night, seven nights a week, does that happen in Berlin? I don’t think so. Ibiza tries to cater for across the board club entertainment, the reach goes from the most commercial to very underground and that’s what makes it the clubbing capital, if all you want is underground then yes Berlin is a good option but that doesn’t make it a clubbing capital it makes it great at underground.”
Skrufff: What are the longer-term implications for Ibiza of younger people being priced off the island? How much is that a concern? (if so, how can it be solved?)
Danny Whittle: “There is no strategy for that, it’s all about market forces or demand, if Ibiza needs to re-adjust then it will do. I see millions of young kids coming to Ibiza and many of them keep coming back because they fall in love with it. Just because a club in Berlin charges 15 euros to get in doesn’t influence the way Ibiza works and just because someone at Ibiza-voice says Ibiza isn’t what it is, doesn’t change anything: maybe they should change their name to berlin-voice and revel in that.”
Skrufff: Mark Broadbent recently said he quit We Love ‘due to a lack of enthusiasm in the way things are heading in Ibiza and how that party will now need to be programmed to achieve the kind of numbers we had grown to expect. I wasn’t about to jump on board some other soulless ship of edm pirates in a hurry’: how much do you agree the island is now dependent on EDM to sustain its new 5 star/ vip model?
Danny Whittle: “Mark is an amazing guy and will always have my respect, however, I suspect Mark was talking about the club he worked for and not the island he lives on. There are many places on Ibiza where you can present the kind of music Mark loves, it’s just that its for 300 people and not the 5000 people he became used to. Whatever Mark chooses to do he will be successful at and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Broadbent inspired night raising its head in Ibiza at some point in the future, even if it is for 300 people.”
Regarding the 5 star VIP thing, there are six 5 star hotels on Ibiza and about 2000 others. The backbone of our business is the dance floor. If the dance floor isn’t full the VIPs don’t come, so its obvious what’s important. And to be honest I hate the VIP concept; they are not VIPs they are just someone who wants a table and a bottle, everyone should be treated like a VIP. I fucking hate that name.”
Skrufff: How much do you believe that the people staying in all the 5 star resorts are booking their trips because of particular DJs? Or because of EDM?
Danny Whittle: “A lot, but who cares, EDM today, underground tomorrow and then it becomes commercial and something else tomorrow. Electronic music keeps on changing and to be honest last year there were too many underground parties on Ibiza and that’s why some failed. Ibiza is about embracing the whole spectrum of electronic music and that spectrum is wide, I’m ok with that for as long as people enjoy it.”
Skrufff: You had a torrid season last year personally,: what was the worst moment? How close did you come to quitting ibiza?
Danny Whittle: “I would never quit Ibiza, I live here and love it. The worst time for me was realising I was leaving pacha after 15 years of working with them and living the belief in the club. My wife used to call me Jack Nicholson after the movie the Witches of Eastwick, because I kept spewing cherries. But in the end you get on with it and move on and move on I did.”
Skrufff: What have been the key lessons you’ve learned from the last 18 months?
Danny Whittle: “When walking through hell, keep walking.”
Skrufff: Anything else to add?
Danny Whittle: “I have to say Im loving working with Sankeys. I see kids coming to have a great night, I see in their face they are not over burdened by the potential cost but know they are going to be highly entertained with amazing music and a great atmosphere. It reminds me of why I loved clubbing from the beginning, although I can still have a great night at any of the other clubs. Oh and Ants at Ushuiaia is a blast.”