José Padilla / Forever King Of The Sunset

José Padilla passed away on the evening of Sunday, October 18th. We all knew he was ill. So many people – 1000s – kindly donated funds towards his treatment and care. But colon cancer is such a cunt – one of those conditions where by the time the symptoms show themselves it`s often too late. 

In my opinion, José was the most influential of the “old guard” of balearic DJs – more so even than Alfie and Leo – because – I believe – that it was Jose`s “chill out” tapes and compilations that kept the idea of balearic alive – passed it on to subsequent generations – while the hazy halcyon days of Amnesia were something of a cult – confined largely to the memories of those that experienced them first-hand. If you were born say after 1980, then your way into “balearic” was most likely via the Cafe del Mar, and her most famous resident, José. So many peoples ears were opened by José`s sunset sets – opened to vast new areas of music, changing the idea of what a DJ could be. For example one current king of chill out, Chris Coco once told me,

“Listening to José play this crazy range of music, making this really spiritual, magical atmosphere, I thought, wow, this is the way to go with DJing – playing a soundtrack to nature – “God`s own cinema”, as we used to call it.” 

Personally I consider José to have invented “chill out”. Without him there would not be an industry of audiophile and listening parties. An industry that looks like it may well provide a life-line for DJs, promoters, and venues in these testing times. A possible foothold that might keep underground dance music alive. 

Of the “old guard” José made his home on The White Isle before most of the others arrived – Alfredo, Carlos, Cesar, Cirillo, Leo, Pippi,…. José was born in 1955, in Girona – one town on from Barcelona. He, however, spent his childhood on the family farm in Perpignan, in the south of France. A fan of “symphonic rock” – bands such as Genesis, Manfred Mann, and Black Sabbath, and emerging German electronic artists like Klaus Schulze, José moved back to Spain, and  Barcelona, when he was 16. He landed a job working as a DJ`s assistant at Pacha in Lloret de Mar, on the Catalonian coast – where his mind was blown by “the colour, the costumes and the amount of beautiful young people”. By the age of 19 he was DJing himself. Then, swimming in unspecified hot water, at 21, he sold his records and left for Ibiza – arriving on the island in 1976. His trip inspired by Barbet Schroeder`s film, More. 

“The film, More, that`s what made Ibiza famous. That was it for me, the Ibizan white house with no water or electricity, hanging around, knackered guys from Vietnam, cheap living.” 

José immediately fell into dodgy drug deals – with the caretaker of famous forger Elmyr de Hory`s home – visiting Amnesia, and dropping acid on beaches with French hippie chicks – together watching the sunrise. Initially he worked construction and waited tables before securing a gig DJing at a small hotel called Bergantin. He built his DJ reputation though at the club, Es Paradis, in the village of Sant Antoni de Portmany, or San Antonio, where between 1979 and 1982, every night, he`d play marathon 8-hour sets. From 10PM to 8AM, José would spin sides by James Brown, Chic, Fischer Z, Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, The Salsoul Orchestra, Supertramp, Timmy Thomas, and Ultravox. Pink Floyd`s Money and The Rolling Stones` Honky Tonk Women. John Miles` Music would be his last track of the night. The club`s set up of two turntables and two cassette decks allowed him to experiment, playing sound effects – waves, thunderstorms and birdsong – over the music. 

“It was beautiful.” 

After 3 years José quit Es Paradis – something in hindsight he recognized as a mistake – and took a job at a new “macro-discotheque” called Manhattan. A 3-storey complex that housed not just a dance floor, but a cinema, and swimming pool. Manhattan was a financial failure, and then it burnt down. Leaving José bouncing around the small clubs of San Antonio – Extasis, Nightlife, Nitos, and Playboy – with the occasional guest slot at KU. He would also host regular Moon Dance parties at Pacha. In 1986, with 2 friends, José opened his own club Museo, in Cala Vedella. A 400 – 500 capacity open-air, garden venue, it was called Museo because it was furnished like a museum with paintings and sculptures throughout. Posing between the statues and palms you’d find an exotic clientele which stretched from Steve Strange to minor Euro aristocracy. Being the boss allowed José to indulge in more out-there playlists, which included bossa nova, jazz, Pat Metheny, Miles Davis, and modern classical pieces by ensembles such as the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. But tragedy struck when one of Museo`s partners, during the quiet winter season, shot and killed himself in the bar – forcing the venue to close. At this point José stopped DJing, and and instead began making a living selling mixtapes in the hippie markets, at Es Canar and Las Dalias. 

Initially these tapes were just his own selections, but as business started to boom, José commissioned others from the island’s leading DJs – Alfredo, Pippi, Cesar de Melero – and sold copies of these as well. By 1989 he was running 8 copying machines around the clock to keep up with demand. In 1991, these tapes led to José being offered a DJ residency at Cala Des Moro `s Cafe del Mar. The bar`s owners, Pepe, Ramon, and Carlos, had already been playing José`s cassettes for years. Every day, while continuing to sell tapes from behind the decks, José would supply a sundown soundtrack. Here chart-hits sat next to new age, mellow hip hop, jazz, and deep house that bordered on trance. Rubbing musical shoulders with albums on the labels Windham Hill and ECM – plus quite possibly everything the Innovative Communication imprint ever released. In 1992 UK record label React approached José and asked him to put together a compilation based on these mediative, introspective selections. Completed in 1994, this compilation became a series of compilations, which went on to sell millions of units, and make both the Cafe Del Mar and José globally synonymous with sunsets and chilled-out sounds. 

When we published the small pamphlet – The Yellow Book – of Ibiza DJ interviews last year, much of the feedback I got was positive, but a lot of people also asked “Why isn’t José in it”. Well, the truth is that he isn’t in it because he said, “No”*. I asked and asked, and asked and asked, because as I hope is clear by now, he was / is key. I even got his close friend Phil Mison to attempt to “Inception” like persuade him. Phil would send me WhatsApp messages from Ibiza, “I`m with José now, and he says, “No, no more `80s”, but the question would then prompt José to launch into an evening of priceless tales from the dawn of the balearic beat, which now probably only Phil knows. When José eventually saw the pamphlet, he was apparently upset, “Why am I not in here?”, and I am completely gutted because I always, always believed that I would make it happen. 

Without José everyone`s musical palette would be a fuck of a lot less colourful. I have a  recording of a Kiss FM radio show where Andrew Weatherall introduces records that José turned him onto. Personally, I have lists and lists and lists of tunes ID`d from Jose`s cassettes. Music that displays a lover`s exhaustive search for both the old and the new. Gems in every genre, that – like Weatherall – inspired my own searches, and formed the foundation of what I do. The whole Chocolate Milk & Brandy idea, and mixes, are dedicated to José. 

“Attempting to recreate the golden yesterdays of José Padilla`s White Isle sunsets with the tunes of today.” 

The last time I DJed in Tokyo, just a couple of weeks ago, I cued up this record, an old José favourite. It`s such a classic, that I wondered for a moment if I should actually play it. Audiences are so sophisticated now. Seemingly not satisfied unless they are Shazam-ing some fresh unknown. It`d been so long since I`d listened to it – hadn’t we all moved on? – but it was so full of, well, happiness, and joy, that I couldn’t help but smile, and then honestly laugh out loud. José Padilla Maria Requena, thank you. 

*I can’t say as I blame him, because like so many of those originators he was royally ripped off. 

Stephen Armstrong – The White Island – Corgi Books
Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton – Last Night A DJ Saved My Life – Headline Books
Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton – The Record Players – Virgin Books
Helen Donlon – Shadows Across The Moon – Jawbone Press
Peter Watts – Wish You Were Here – Uncut, September 2016
– Plus a huge, huge thank you to Phil Mison

2 thoughts on “José Padilla / Forever King Of The Sunset

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s