Simon Dunmore, the well known head of Defected Records and international DJ has mixed the new "Eivissa 07" compilation that gives you a taste of the upfront tracks you will hear on the white island of Ibiza this summer.
In this interview he explains why people look at him funny when he says he has been at a club all night, how DJ’ing on a Monday night led him to become one of the best known House music A & R’s in the business and why Pacha Ibiza is a pure disco.
Question: Can you remember the first party you ever promoted?
Answer: Yeah! The first party I ever promoted was at a wine bar called Hiccups wine bar in Hillingdon, right below the flat I rented out at the time. Luckily closing time was 11 in those days, otherwise it would have been a pretty horrible place to live. Because it was so noisy we used to go down there on a regular basis, but Monday’s were always so dead. I had started DJing at a couple of places; usually mates parties because I had a good record collection and it was cheap cos I was a mate and wouldn’t charge them! So I started getting a bit of a reputation, wanted to buy some decks but couldn’t afford them so got a bank loan and then thought ‘God I’ve got to pay for this!’ So I went to this wine bar and said, look if I can fill this place on a Monday night, will you pay me? And they said no. So I asked if I could take a percentage of the bar, and they agreed. Did some flyers, old-school type promotion, got all my mates down there, packed it on a Monday night and it was great. Just playing soul, jazz, nothing too heavy this was back in 1984 I guess. It was a good night.
Question: Would you consider yourself a promoter nowadays?
Answer: Yes, but in a different way. When I first started out I was a DJ and I was promoting the fact that I was a DJ and that I was playing records with the intention that people would want to book me. Now I’m promoted Defected and the records we have signed to us, the artists associated with us and musically what we stand for.
Question: Do you think the role of A&R manager has changed over the years?
Answer: Dramatically. Certainly when I first started out being involved in Cool Tempo and then AM:PM, really and truly you just had to sign records. You know, you’d hear a record, you’d like it, you’d give it to your marketing guy and they’d take care of everything and you’d go back on the hunt for the next record. And that worked in those days because record sales were such that even if you didn’t have a hit record, you could probably hit enough numbers to make it a justifiable signing and make the business work. Now you have to have more of an overview. You need to have an idea of how to market the track when you sign it, you’re probably doing parties so you need to link the promotion in with them, touring the artist. You have to come up with a multitude of methods for exploiting the records you sign. If you sign a record and it’s a hit, should the guy then do a compilation? The sales and revenue generated from the tracks just ‘aint enough any more; you have to look at all the periphery.
Question: Why choose Pacha over all the other venues in Ibiza?
Answer: For us Pacha is the only venue that we consider, because it’s a pure disco. There are great clubs in Ibiza obviously, but none of them really have combination of clubbing and fashion that I think Pacha has. Space is a great club, but for the music we play and the demographic of people who want to come to our nights, see our DJ’s and listen to what we do, Pacha is the perfect home for us.
Question: Do you harbour a secret ambition to live in Ibiza eventually?
Answer: Ibiza is a pretty magical place. I think that during the summer they have that really intense three month period during which they make their living, so the island just gets really frantic. But if you ever get the opportunity to visit the island out of season, it’s an amazing place. The people who live there are pretty chilled in the summer; they are super-chilled out of season. London is changing as a place, and I think if you’re a young go-getter, it’s a great place to be, but it’s not a place I can see myself as I mature. Ha ha! So yeah, I’d like to move to Ibiza.
Question: What’s your favourite restaurant in Ibiza?
Answer: Sapunta on Tallemanca beach. It’s just round the cove, a little bit out the way so it’s nice and quiet. You overlook Tallemanca beach and then you can look over to the castle and Ibiza Town. The food’s great; the do an amazing steak and chips which just melts in your mouth! I’ve just had a really great time there and it’s a really cool spot.
Question: Have you ever had any run-ins with the Spanish Police?
Answer: The Spanish police are renowned for being a bit tough. I’ve never personally had any run-ins with them, although I have been pulled over a couple of time when I’ve been driving for them to check I’ve got all the official permits and so on. If you don’t , they fine you, and you’re never sure whether it’s a legitimate fine or just a tuckeroo in the top pocket! Ha ha!
Question: Sunset or sunrise?
Answer: Sunset definitely. Unless I’ve actually got up to see it rise. Sunrise it great, but at the end of a pretty heavy night….You tend to suffer the day after so sunsets are a pretty cool moment for me.
Question: When will you stop DJing?
Answer: It’s kinda weird actually. After every bad gig (and there’s not many of them these days), when you’ve travelled and you’re in a hotel, and you know your sets gone down badly, you just think ‘What am I doing here?’ I’d rather be with my family, having a good meal, watching the football, anywhere. Bad gigs are a real downer, so I think about stopping after every bad gig, but then when you do a good gig, you remember how much you love it. So while the gigs are still great I’m happy to carry on DJing.
Question: Does this compilation represent what you would play during a DJ set?
Answer: As a DJ, doing a compilation is a pretty personal thing. I think there are DJ’s who put compilations together with the intent of selling as many records as possible, which is fine. For me, the Eivissa comp is an extension of what I’m about musically, about what we do as a label, and in this instance, what we do as a label in conjunction with Strictly Rhythm. So it’s really personal to me. The previous two years was more about what we thought was a Balearic sound and a good listen across the two CD’s, and that’s still the case, but the difference is we only licensed seven tracks this year, so the majority of the album are actually going to be released on Strictly or Defected or one of the other subsidiary labels that we have. So that makes it even more personal, because they’re not only record that we play, they’re records that we sign and they’re records from the labels that we work with. I’m really proud of this years’ release.
Question: Are there any tracks on the compilation that really stand out?
Answer: All of the tracks stand out for different reasons. But if I had to identify a few real highlights there’s a new track by Todd Terry that’s coming out on Strictly Rhythm called "Get Down". It’s a collaboration between Todd, Kenny Dope, DJ Sneak, with vocals from Tara MacDonald, and for me it’s a pure disco-house records, that’s so good I think it’s really going to put it’s head above all the other records this summer. Years ago when I first got into the house scene I used to listen to a Mr Fingers album. It was one of those albums that you’d stick on when you got back from a rave and you were trying to mellow out. From start to finish it’s a great album. Mr. Fingers is a guy called Larry Herd, and he’s still making great records, and he’s made one under the guise of Mr. White called "The Sun Can’t Compare". If you were to transport yourself back 20 years or so, it would be a massive ‘e’ record. It’s a massive record. Finally, Dennis Ferrer "Touched the Sky". Dennis is someone we’re working with, massively underrated as a producer, and this track is a bit of a sleeper which got a lot of spins at the Miami Winter Music Conference. You play it on your i-Pod or in your car and think it’s a pretty cool record, but it a club it’s something else, it just sounds dope and really comes into its own.
Question: What’s different about the compilation this year?
Answer: This difference between this edition and previous ones is that we are now entering the digital age. More and more people are now downloading their music, so for the first time you can buy the entire album digitally. Before, people were very cagey about giving you the rights to download their tracks, but that’s not so much the case any more. We were able to get digital rights to all tracks, so you can get the entire mix, or if you like specific tracks you can buy them individually, or if you like all the tracks but you don’t want them mixed you can download them that way as well. So that’s a first as far as we’re concerned. Also this year we have a bonus DVD, so you can get a sense and a feel of what Defected In The House parties are all about.
Question: Now that you’re a grown up, how do you behave on a night out in Ibiza?
Answer: It’s weird. When I do things like go to school and pick my kids up, which is one of the things that reminds me I’m a grown-up, and people asked me what I got up to at the weekend, and I say I was up all night at a club, they look at me as if to say ‘Aren’t you a bit old to be doing that?’ It’s tough, because sometimes you’re in a club and your surrounded by people who are 22 to 28 years old, and you might look at a chick and think ‘Yeah ok!’ and then it hits you that you literally could be her dad! It’s tough, it’s really tough! But you live with it. I feel comfortable in the DJ booth, but sometimes I feel uncomfortable out of it. The bottom line is I love to see people having fun to music, and if it goes off to one off to one of our records it a real buzz. I’ve never wanted to make records, but I feel that what I was always good at was identifying music and telling people about music. When that happens in a club and I can see people react positively I get a real good feeling and don’t feel so uncomfortable any more.
Question: What would you do with your life if house music had never been invented?
Answer: House is a funny thing really; it’s just a modern extension of disco, so if house didn’t exist, maybe I’d be running a disco label. I’ve always been into my soul and my jazz, so I think I’d probably be involved with music in some way. It’s been so long that I’ve been involved with music, I never really think of the alternatives. I can’t answer it. Sorry!
Question: What are your tips for Ibiza 2007 outside of the Defected catalogue?
Answer: I often get asked what records are going to be big in Ibiza, and until the season starts it’s pretty hard to say. Up until a few years ago you could go to the WMC in Miami and hear 7 or 8 new records that you knew would go on to be huge in Ibiza. That has changed. It’s not about educating and playing new music as much as it used to be, it’s about having a party. To be fair, it takes all of my time to get to grips with our own releases, so outside of what we do with Defected or any of the labels we deal with I couldn’t really say. From our own records, I think the Todd Terry track "Get Down" on Strictly Rhythm that I think will do really well, a Martin Solveig track on Defected called "Cabo Perano" which is a quirky Latin-house record that I think will be big. But on anyone else’s label, I can’t help you!