In June 2018 Phil Mison very kindly shared a tape – a recording he and José Padilla had made while DJing at the Sunrooms in Southend, in 1993. The Sunrooms was new to me – I hadn’t heard of it – so intrigued – “How did a balearic legend end up in Essex?” – I contacted the venue`s former owner, Mark Hey. It turns out that Mark is an Ibiza veteran, having regularly visited the White Isle even before that eventful summer of `87. Mark was a regular at Museo, the bar / club that José co-owned before his residency at Cafe del Mar. He and José go way back.
Words and pictures by Mark Hey.
We used to call Museo “The Egg Bar” – because it had a big egg like structure in the middle of the gardens. I went over to Ibiza in early `86 to stay with a friend called Andre Power who was selling timeshare in Cala Vedella. Andre loves to dance. There’s a recent-ish clip of him up on youtube.
I quickly fell in love with island, got my girlfriend over, and we then got our own cool house at Cala d’En Real. It was in a funky new complex, near Cala Vedella – part of which contained Mike Oldfield`s house and studio – which was bought by Noel Gallagher. Noel doesn’t own the house now, but funnily enough Liam Gallagher was talking about it the other day on a chat program. He said his brother let him stay their and first thing he did was throw a cigarette over balcony and set lightning the undergrowth – nearly burning the house down.
Museo was just down the road, so I started going there a lot – right from my first day. José (Padilla) had just taken it over. He`d been working on it with his friend for 2 years, designing it and building it, but the guy then committed suicide – in the bar – just before it was due to open. Some of the statues in the garden did seem a bit disturbing and haunted. Anyway I had a few records with me and soon blagged José into letting me DJ for drinks. Whenever he was too busy running the place to DJ himself, he`d let me take over. I remember playing B.A.D.`s E=MC2, Marvin Gaye, some Stones 12s, James Brown, Fela Kuti, Roy Ayres. It was generally a mix up of jazz, soul, funky rock, disco, reggae and funk – pulled from the small amount of vinyl I had with me and José`s collection at the bar.
Every time someone came over from the UK to visit us I got them to bring more vinyl. We eventually went home in June, but then drove back over with our friend Crazy Horse – so we had a car, all our clothes, etc. We opened a hairdressers at the Tennis Club in Cala d’En Real. We continued going to Museo all the time, but I don’t think I DJed there again. Museo was all about the sculpture garden. It was built on a big corner plot in the middle of the countryside. You had to walk through the garden to get to the bar at the back. The bar decor was very “organic” – flowing plasterwork, bit Gaudi-like, with lots of equally flowing artwork.
Steve Strange – looking to escape the UK and the press – moved into the house next door, and he and Tracey became good friends. Tracey later went on to open a popular club in Amsterdam called Time. We`d all go to Museo, and then on to KU – where, because of Steve, we had VIP passes. We`d go to Cafe del Mar, and some great local Spanish-run bars. There used to be a lot of those places, but it all changed pretty quick. Once, Tracey`s dad was over visiting and Tracey and Steve took him to the opening of Space. He ended up drinking Lumumbas and dancing with all the transvestites. He disappeared and was found smoking dope with them. God know what else he`d taken. He`d never taken drugs before and didn’t seem to realize that they were transvestites. Tracey`s mum says he was never the same again.
When moved back to the UK in `87 I opened up a restaurant / bar / hairdressers / record label called Attitude, in Leigh-On-Sea near Southend. My partners in Attitude were Will Hutton and Deb Hillairet – who went onto form South Africa`s first rave collective, UFO. Together we travelled to Ibiza again to pick up inspiration and vibes. The bar – Attitude On Food – was very influenced by Barcelona, with a big exotic fish menu. We had crayons so you could draw on the table cloths, and we used to make sculptures out of the tableware! Lots of bands and DJs played. We had a regular session with Bob Jones – his Sunday Surgery. Snowboy and lots of the Southend R&B and jazz community played and / or drank and danced.
Once Attitude was was up and running I went to L.A. to study body work – energy moving, deep massage, etc. I was there for a year. When I came back in early `88 Spectrum had just started at Heaven. Will and Deb had been to the first one, and convinced me to go to the second. From there it was all about acid house. We started our own club in Southend called HEART – with Fabio Paras and Craig Walsh warming up for Colin Hudd – which straight away turned into a weekly roadblock. To begin with it was just “clued-up” people – those in the know – but after about a month the crowd was full of football fans on E – and it felt a bit strange, as those people never normally entered our cultural world.
I was importing rope rafting shoes and crystals at the time – and, because I was into energy moving and meditation, I was trying to keep away from the excesses of all night parties…However, Attitude On Food became an “operations centre” for the World Dance parties – coordinating everybody, letting everyone know where everyone else was, relaying messages to service station phone boxes….This was more Will and Deb`s thing but I was helping out, and there were lots of faces around. Folks like Pete Tong, Seal…. and by 1989 it had all descended into hedonistic madness.
I closed Attitude down and then re-opened as a Thai restaurant – with a soundtrack of funky music and good art on the walls – called Hothouse. At the same time I bought an old fishing shop, which I was renovating, and which would become the Sunrooms. We pretty much built everything in the sunrooms from scratch including all the lights, bowls and plates. All the artwork was done by friends we found along the way. We had strange metalwork around the bar – the concept of which was the life and death of a alien Jesus-like. messiah, character. We had strange moving sculptures in the toilets. It was pretty bonkers. The builders asked me how I wanted the ceiling finished. I said “Remember when you were a child and someone threw a pebble in a still pond, and how wonderful and serene the rings of water looked. Can you go back in your memories and recreate that.” They told me to fuck off. They did it though – using wire mesh and plaster. You should have seen their faces when I made and gave them love-beads as a gift.
When we opened, it was initially more of a restaurant with – mad Irish Frank as head chef, who’d been Phil Lynott – from Thin Lizzy`s – private chef before taking the job. Although a brilliant chef he was also an amazing drinker and the busy nights soon became chaotic. My DJ friend Satch Patterson was the first manager. Luckily the bar was so busy that getting rid of the food side at night was no problem. We had a massive amount of unusual beers on draught including x8 Belgium beers, Normandy cider, smoked beer from Germany. There was a club room upstairs and we ended up having DJs and bands every night. The second one was with Alfredo headlining. That was a bit of a night!
The Sunrooms became the alternative centre of Southend and we eventually got a 3AM license. We could hold 200 people but used to get around 400 a night, coming and going. We had some famous people coming through – The Orb did a lunchtime set, we had Green Day do a small gig on there first UK tour, Dr Robert – from The Blow Monkeys – did a set, Normski and Toyah Wilcox did a TV show there. Bob Jones moved with us. Gary Dennis played soul and rare groove. Penny Reel would come and spin reggae and ska. Clockwork Orange`s Chris Powell would often play. Dean Chalkley the photographer was a regular, as was Marc de Groot (Ibiza party photographer)…the hairdressers Adee Phelan and Lee Stafford. Vince Clark was a regular in the mid-90s, as was Alison Moyet even before that.
I continued to visit Ibiza and would bump into José, go out with him and his girlfriend, go round to his house…and then one Friday night – at 11PM – he just turned up at my house in Leigh-On-Sea – with some mutual friends – ready to party (laughs). I`d act as his warm-up DJ when he had gigs in London – Ministry Of Sound, Fred’s, Heaven – that was a great gig for me, the place went nuts. He`d also come and play at the Sunrooms. There was one party where he headlined and DIY supported, and another with Alfredo headlining and Jose doing the warm-up (How Balearic is that???) – which was an amazing night. The packed club went crazy and I remember Alfredo mixing between 2 copies of Uncanny Alliance`s I Got My Education for what seemed like forever.
I was in José`s flat in London when he had just got the go ahead for the first Cafe del Mar compilation. I was with him when he was going through the tracks he was thinking of picking. I`d also send guys who DJed for us at Sunrooms out to Ibiza – to help José sell tapes in the markets and / or DJ at Cafe del Mar. People like Chris Powell. Bruce French and Simon Russell ran an ambient night, every Sunday, at the Sunrooms, called Ambientbeing. I dropped Simon a line to see what he could remember. This was his reply.
“Bruce and I went out to Ibiza following an invitation from Jose – after he’d visited the Sunrooms and heard us playing at the Ambientbeing night! We used to DJ twice a week doing the sunset mix at Cafe del Mar on Jose’s nights off…We managed to get regular work club decorating at Pacha and with a German Artist Sola – who ran the crew at Amnesia…We also worked on various other one-off parties around the island. We worked on few parties at KU and with Nicky Holloway – who`d just opened the Milk Bar in San Antonio. I also recall working on a party “The Time is always now”in the caves at Cova Santa and a party in quarry somewhere outside of San Antonio…all immense fun. We met, worked and partied with so many great, wonderful, eccentric individuals from around the globe! We lived with a host of beautiful girls who danced at Pacha, and Bruce and I were in a hedonists dream far from the drudgery of Sunny Southend. Although I should say that half of Southend ended up coming out to Ibiza – listening to us at Cafe del Mar, hanging out at Nick and Sid’s Rock Bar, Sa Trinxa… Although it was mostly through spangled eyes it was definitely one of the happiest times of our lives.”
The last time I saw José was a bit random. I was out in soho with a friend – who was over from Japan – and we bumped into José. We ended up down the Milk Bar, where we picked up Brandon Block – who happened to know my friend from Japan. From there we all went to Ronnie Scott`s to see Flora Purim – which is where me and my friend had been headed in the first place. We weren’t the quietest of audiences (laughs). I used to DJ myself at the Sunrooms every Wednesday alongside guests like the folks from Mo`Wax and Delancey Street Records. The Sunrooms ran for about 10 years. I sold it in 2000 and moved to Somerset. I bought The Wookey Hole Inn and then, with my partner, Lizzie, The Sheppey in Godney, near Glastonbury. It’s a bit like the Sunrooms for grown ups. I play records there under the alias DJ Hare. For a taste of the musical menu check our Mixcloud page.
We’ve also just bought property in Portugal – 2 small B&Bs-come-letting houses. At the foot of the hills and 10 minutes from the sea. In Tavira near the Spanish border. A river runs round it. The place is called Casa Paz – “Peace House”. There’s some building to do, but it`s gonna be fab.