Interview / Balearic Mike

Be warned, this is a long one….a whole lot of party distance traveled…..I first met “Balearic” Mike Smith in the early 2000s – on the DJHistory forum – where he had given himself the “avatar” of Linda Di Franco. Through this introduction I started buying records from him – while he was working at Manchester’s legendary Vinyl Exchange. The packages of obscure balearic “unclassics” would arrive with handwritten notes, and smiley faces. I didn’t get to meet Mike in person until he DJed at the Saturday afternoon sessions at Cafe 1001 – hosted by Phil Mison and Steve Terry. I didn’t know anything about Mike`s lengthy “tenure” at LuvDup – but I was well aware of his association with another Mancunian musical institution, Aficionado. 

Early last year Mike agreed to help me fill in some blanks in the “Balearic Beat” story I was writing – for example the 2010 Folk Ibiza trip was only a sentence – and it needed to be at least a paragraph. So one weekend lunch-time / late evening we jumped on FaceTime and proceeded to sink beers and reminisce. The conversation as you’ll see went on for hours. From Brighton`s Coco Club to Love International in Tisno. My sincere apologies to Mike because it`s taken me an absolute age to transcribe and type up.

Balearic Mike Rio 2019

Mike in Rio in 2019.

Are you based in Brighton now?

I am yeah. This is my second stint in Brighton actually. I first came here in `88 – which was nice (laughs).

A good time to be there for sure. So were you going to things like Chris Coco`s Coco Club? Did you know Chris back then?

I did, but no I didn’t really know him then – I was just a punter on the dance-floor, looking up at him, thinking “Wow this guy plays amazing music.” I obviously met and got to know him later, and his grown-up children now come to see me in my day job – which is really weird. 

What is your day job?

I work for the University Of Sussex – I’m a librarian. I’ve been working in libraries for 12 years.

Do you have an area, a specialty? 

No. Generally, I suppose, front-line services. You know, I’m one of the people that library users see a lot – involved in the nitty gritty things that keep the place running.

So are books, as well as records, a passion for you?

A bit. I mean I was a bit of a book-worm as a kid, but pop music blasted that out of the way. Books went down to perhaps 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rung of my interests. 

I worked in libraries for a bit – before I went to Uni. I mean I’ve obviously got that filing / cataloguing / cross-referencing thing in me. 

Well, this is it. My wife used to run a 6th form college library – and when I was thinking of leaving Vinyl Exchange (a hugely respected second hand record store in Manchester) – she said why don’t you think about looking at libraries, you’ve got all the skills – you’re basically a librarian, but with records. So I applied to Manchester University, went for just an assistant position but ended up with a more senior role, based on the managerial and retail experience I`d got at the shop. I also worked at the John Rylands Library, which is a special collections library. An amazing collection. 

balearic mike chicago house hacienda

Balearic Mike back in the mists of time, at The International 2 – for Trouble Funk in 1987.

Why did you leave Vinyl Exchange?

The guy who owned it at the time basically decided he’d had enough. A couple of the guys that worked there were going to take it over, and initially I thought I might go in with them. But there was also the option of taking voluntary redundancy, and getting some money to do something else. At that point I`d been there 18 years. 

Wow!

Yeah, so I just thought “You know what, this would be a good time to get out, with a chunk of money and some time to think about what to do next.” I had no idea what I was going to do. I still had some romantic idea that there was still work within the music industry and I could line-up some cushy, well-paid A&R job. 

Did you explore that first?

Very tentatively, but I knew from working in a record shop that the industry at that time was spiraling downwards dramatically. 

What prompted the move to Brighton? Was that work-related?

No, not at all. My wife and I had become very weary of the rain and the sarcasm (both laugh) – which is about 80% of Manchester. 

That’s part of its charm.

It is but we’re both non-Mancunians, and we`d been there a long time. We`d started visiting San Francisco on a regular basis – and we liked the sun, the beach, to be by the sea in the sunshine.

So you weren’t born in Manchester?

No, I`m a Scot. I was born in Edinburgh, and grew up 12 miles south of the city, in the arse-end of its green-belt – in a place called Mayfield, surrounded by lots of little mining villages. 

When did you move to Manchester?

I didn’t move to Manchester until I was 20.

Oh, so you were in Brighton first?

Yeah, well from Scotland I moved to Warrington in the North West – at 13 – finished high school and did an Art Foundation course – which is where I met my wife. Then I went to Brighton to study Fine Art. But I only did 2 years of the 3-year course, because I basically started studying acid house instead (both laugh). 

Balearic Mike Art School

So you dropped out?

I did. The course was half studio work and half essays. My first year was glowing but in my second year I went off the rails. I managed to pass the Art History, the written side, but the studio work…I just didn’t do any.

Were you painting? Sculpting?

Painting. I was really into abstract painters. 

Is painting something you still do now?

Sadly no. I started drawing again a couple of years ago, but it`s something I’ve rarely done since leaving art college. I did a little painting for my wife’s birthday, but that was the first thing I’ve done in 30 years. 

When you were in Brighton did you go to the Tonka stuff at The Zap club? 

Yes. So when I moved down it was September / October `88 and the Zap was open, but it was before the refurb, so it was just 2 little tunnels. They had acid nights and balearic nights. The Escape Club was there, which had a range of different parties, and there was also this place called Downbeat, which opened in a converted church. That’s still going. It`s called the Rialto Theatre now. There was stuff going on every night. It was incredible. Then, over the winter, The Zap had the refurb, which expanded it into this huge, cavernous, pillared dance-floor, and it was just fantastic. The opening weekend was great. The next weekend they had Soul II Soul DJing – Keep On Moving had just come out. Saturdays was the The Coco Club, and then they had the Tonka nights. They had brilliant stuff going on all the time. So basically I was kind of living there (laughs). 

coco_club_flyer_600px

Were you DJing at that point?

I actually started DJing – but not in any cool / credible sense – when I was still at high school. Playing pop records – like Prince – when I was about 15. I got asked to do it because I had lots of records. Someone else did all the talking, `cos I was too shy. Even by that point I probably had a couple of hundred records. I started buying records when I was 10. Adam & The Ants were my first love. I grew up with loads of music. My parents were really young. My mum was 18 when she had me. My dad was 20. My dad had a great stereo. I`ve still got the speakers that my parents got as a wedding present from my grandfather, and I still use them – Goodmans – they sound fucking amazing. There are 8 separate speakers in each one. So I grew up with loads and loads of music. People forget that in those days there was very little TV, so we had the radio on all the time. I’ve been obsessed from a very young age. My dad was really into music. When I was about 6 or 7 John Peel came to dinner. 

How did that happen?

My dad was a fan of his show, and wrote him a letter. Peel then phoned up, “Bill, I really loved your letter” and they communicated for a bit. Then when Pell was doing a gig in Edinburgh my dad invited him round for dinner. We only loved in a tiny 2-up 2-down council house – which dad didn’t want Peel to see – so instead there was a big family dinner at my grandparents place. Of course at the time I didn’t know who John Peel was. 

Did you listen to Peel later? 

Yes, as a teenager, while doing my homework I`d listen to Janice Long and then John Peel. 

When I was at Uni, and had no money for records, I`d listen to his show regularly, tape the shows, and write down lists of records – for when I did have spare cash. 

As a kid I saved up pocket money and lunch money to buy records. I lived quite close to school so I`d sneak home for lunch and bank the money. Records were relatively cheap then. A 12 was something like 2 pounds – so 2 days lunch money (laughs). I only really seriously started taping stuff off the radio in `87, when someone put me onto a radio station playing hip hop and house music.

Were you a breakdancer, a graffiti artist?

No, none of the cool shit. Sadly no. No one at my school was that cool. House music had started to chart in about `86, and a friend recommended a Sunday night radio show – on a commercial station – not a pirate. The DJ was this guy called Stu Allen. He’d play 5 hours of black music every Sunday night – 2 hours of hip hop, 1 of soul, and then 2 hours of house – and I started taping that. I`d lie in bed listening with my headphones on, and then edit it down the next day. 

STU ALLEN RADIO

Radio was incredibly important back then. 

And right though the `90s I think. With 6Music I’ve started listening to radio again. With internet radio there’s so much choice out there, and I think that’s great because when we were growing up, unless you were in a big city – with pirate stations – there was no opportunity to hear this music. Now you could be anywhere and as long as you’ve got an internet connection you have access to a wealth of amazing stuff. 

When did you move to Manchester?

So in the summer of 1990, rather than re-take my second year, I dosed about a bit – partying and making some cash helping to paint & decorate one of the hotels on the seafront. I’m actually terrible at decorating – there are no transferable skills from Fine Art at all. It was a great summer. My girlfriend came down to visit, we all watched the football – Italia 90. I went for a job at a local shop – Rounder Records – but didn’t get it, and then in around October I ran out of money. When my girlfriend went back up north, I moved to my mum’s in Warrington. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. If you go to art college you don’t really have any career plans (laughs).

Except maybe start a band.

I was shopping in Manchester and noticed a sign in Vinyl Exchange – saying they were hiring. I spoke to Dave Booth who was working in there – who sadly recently passed away – and talked my way into it. I went in for a trail day, and then another trial day with their “dance expert”, Adrian “Luvdup” Gent.

And there your fate was sealed.

I managed to impress Adrian and I stayed there 18 years. I started on the 2nd of February 1991, and left 18 years and 6 months later on the 1st of August 2008. 

manchester vinyl exchange

It was a great shop. I`d travel up to Manchester to see friends, and party, and regularly shop in Eastern Bloc and The Exchange. I picked up piles of balearic classics and vintage house there. I have loads of records with the little stickers and comments on. 

That is really nice. I saw something on Facebook recently where someone posted a picture of a record – The Woodentops` Why – and it had one of my stickers on it – “Balearic classic!!!” and a smiley face drawn on it. I’ve DJed all over the world and often, nearly always I`d go back to someone’s house and flicking through their records there`d be one of my stickers saying something like “This is wicked. Buy it”, or “Get right on one matey”. It`s still a great shop, it`s still going strong. I think that proves how good it is, that it`s managed to survive. 

There was a lot of snobbery attached to the London record shops at the time, I`d often get knocked back when asking for popular things, whereas in Eastern Bloc I could pick up copies of records that were usually reserved for the shop staffs` mates without any problem. Then in Vinyl Exchange all the old stuff was very conveniently racked up and labelled – so I could just walk over the unit marked “balearic” and find tons of things from the back pages of Boys Own, which I couldn’t find anywhere else. None of it was overpriced either. 

The thing with Vinyl Exchange was that we were in a city that had a really vibrant club scene and 3 or 4 really great dance music specialist stores – selling all the music being played in these clubs, in huge quantities….and eventually a lot of those records end up on the second-hand market. There was an endless stream of great records coming in, as people bought new stuff and sold their old stuff. 

With all the music coming into Vinyl Exchange did you also shop at places like Spin Inn and Eastern Bloc?

When I`d listen to Stu Allan he’d always play the Spin Inn chart, so Spin Inn was the first shop I went to in Manchester. Eastern Bloc, at the time, was in Afflecks Palace (a large Victorian (?) indoor market / shopping arcade) so we`d go there to buy clothes and pop into the shop. Eastern Bloc sold everything – hip hop, house, techno, but also indie and alternative rock. It was a great shop across the board. Spin Inn was slightly more cutting edge, because they were more of a specialist store. 

Where were you going out in 1991?

Most Excellent on a Monday, at The Brickhouse, but my favourite was Glitterbaby – Greg Fenton`s thing on a Saturday. By the time I got to Manchester I think the Hacienda had just reopened again – after being closed due to the drug / gang-related violence – the “Gunchester” thing. I went to The Hacienda a bit pre-acid house – when I was at college in `87. We`d go and see gigs by people like Mantronix and Joyce Sims. They had this weird arty night called Zumbar on a Wednesday, and there was the Chicago Jackmaster tour in late `87 as well. Adonis and Larry Heard, people like that, and I used to really like the Hacienda before acid house. It was a much more interesting crowd of people – more mixed racially and sexually. After acid house it seemed to become just “lads” really (laughs). The summer of `88 was probably amazing. I never went to Hot (legendary Hacienda house night) – which I`d love to be able to say I went to – but no, sadly not. It was early 1991 so I`d missed Spice and Konspiracy, and Greg and Justin (Robertson) weren’t DJing together anymore. 

GREG FENTON GLITTERBABY

They didn’t fall out though did they?

No. They were still mates. They wanted to take the music in slightly different directions. Greg was much more disco, camper, gayer. They were fantastic nights out. Every night was like the best night of your life. Most Excellent kept going for a while, but Glitterbaby stopped – heartbreakingly the weekend before my 21st birthday, at the end of August, 1991. I was devastated. 

Didn’t Greg do Space Funk with Jon Da Silva?

Yeah, but before that there was this thing called Circus which started in October / November in the same venue as Glitterbaby – The State. That was Greg every week, with a guest DJ – rotating people like Justin, Mike Pickering, and Sasha. Again it didn’t last long. I don’t know why. 

When did you start DJing with Luvdup?

I moved into a house with Adrian (Gent) at the end of `91. It was me, Adrian, and Chris Sheep. Chris had a clothes shop called Sheep Clothing, in Afflecks Palace, then Tibbs Street. He sold his own stuff by also stocked labels like Stussy and Hysteric Glamour. We all moved in together – and it was quite a party household. Adrian had decks and I  just thought “I`m going to learn how to do this properly”. Mark (Van Den Berg) and Adrian kept borrowing records from me – to play at Luvdup – so I figured I should start playing them myself – and just started practicing on his decks. 

The first gig I did with them was a Valentine’s Day party – early `92 – me, John McCready and Adrian. I warmed up for John – who was very complimentary and supportive, as he always is. From there I got the bug. At art college I`d done a few parties but I didn’t have decks and didn’t know how to mix properly. 

LUVDUP FLYER

Were you playing anywhere other than Luvdup?

No. I didn’t think of myself as a DJ really. I was just someone obsessive about records, who worked in a record shop. I mean when Luvdup started it was very small scale – they were just parties for friends and friends of friends. By the end of `91, when they started doing parties at The Venue, it was getting bigger. 

I didn’t realize just how big it got until I talked to Adrian recently.

They got huge. Even when I was working with them – which was through to about `96 – they needed 4 DJs to cover everything. They had the weekly party in Manchester – something they don’t really get props for – because it was a really hard time in Manchester – because the violence was off the scale. You tell stories and people don’t believe you – people being stabbed, guns on the door, CS gas on the dance floor – there seemed to be an incident every other week. A lot of people gave up DJing in Manchester and took the money to DJ somewhere else. Luvdup did The Venue, then Hell at The Number One – which was outrageously good fun – a sweat box with great music and great guests – then Jolly Roger, which was a big mid-week thing, and then Home at Ducie House – where they did the Friday and then managed to get Saturday night. That ran for quite a long time. So there was always the need to have someone in Manchester, and then there were additional gigs all over the place. I mean in London we`d schedule 3 or 4 gigs into one night, and play them between us, as a kind of tag team. Say I`d get somewhere and do 10-11, then jump in a cab to the next one, while Adrian played 11-12, he’d then cab it over to me, and I`d move onto another venue. We`d do that, chopping and changing, all through the night. From little parties to huge things, like the Leisure Lounge, in Club UK. All these massive places. It was just insane, and insane amounts of money, and insane amounts of fun. Christ knows how we did it. Well I know how we did it (laughs).

Why did you stop DJing in `96?

By the middle of `96 I was getting a lot of gigs on my own – as Mike Luvdup. I also found doing the bigger things a bit “pop” and a bit “mainstream”….handbag house. Luvdup were happy moving in that direction, because that’s where the money was. But I was starting to struggle because I didn’t want to play those kinds of records. When Luvdup started out it wasn’t commercial at all. But slowly it became overground. I mean by `96 the first Moodymann records were coming out, all the Idjut Boys stuff….I`d be turning up at places and they’d want me to play JX` Son Of A Gun, things that were big commercial records, and it wasn’t where I wanted to go with music. 

A bit soul-destroying I imagine? It must be hard to stay enthusiastic playing those records all the time.

I mean I like pianos as much as the next person, but come on.

Well you can’t hold your arms aloft all night – they’d get a bit tired. 

Exactly. So at the end of `96 I started doing this party in Stoke, with Kelvin Andrews. 

How did you meet Kelvin?

Kelvin and I met at an inter-club 5-a-side football competition, on a Sunday, in Stoke. His club, Golden, hosted the event – Luvdup sent a team, Mixmag sent a team, Eight Records in Liverpool sent a team – which was full of Liverpool Academy players. I`d been in Birmingham all weekend, DJing and visiting my girlfriend, and Golden had come straight from Back To Basics. We were all absolutely fucked. I hadn’t played football for a good few years either. It was the most farcical football competition, but a very funny day. I had this ridiculous pair of BOY shorts on – knee-length boxing shorts, black and covered in white stars, high elasticated waistband. I think Golden beat us 2 – 1 and as we walked off the pitch Kelvin said to me, “Shorts of the tournament they are mate”. And that’s how we met. 

Did you DJ at Golden?

Maybe once, Mark and Adrian, perhaps a couple of times – but we`d go and party there if we were in the area – just hang out after our own gigs. Kelvin shared a house with the promoter Jo Hand – and there were just ridiculous after parties there. 

We were also going to Birmingham a lot. They had this amazing club scene – parties like Wobble, and Cream – the illegal one – with all-night licenses. In Manchester everything shut at 2, or 4 at the latest – but in Birmingham you could party all through Saturday night into Sunday morning, which was incredible. Birmingham was absolutely ridiculous. We couldn’t quite believe it the first time we DJed there. Adrian and Mark got booked to play Wobble – which was in the “Jewelry Quarter” – an industrial area – so there were no residents about to complain. It was 2 floors. Adrian and Mark played in this attic room, with a bouncing wooden floor – which bounced so much that they had to hang the desks from the ceiling on chains. I remember Adrian – who was drinking a bottle of tequila – at one point lent on the decks and woo!!!…..

wooble-on-water-2108-flyer-back-cropped

Who did Wobble?

Phil Gifford and Si Long – brother of Chris Long, The Rhythm Doctor. Phil was a hairdresser and Si ran the clothes store, Red Or Dead. Birmingham also had great record shops. Nathan Gregory Wilkins and Lee Fisher both used to work in shops there, and they both know their onions. 

Sometime in the mid-90s – it must have been the winter of 94-95? – LuvDup also had a Friday night residency at The Leadmill in Sheffield. I know it ran over the winter months, as the journey over the Snake Pass between Manchester and Sheffield was often quite hairy! One week Radio One`s Pete Tong show were there, and as I was the only LuvDup DJ there that night, they recorded a brief interview and a few idents with me. One of the team asked me to record something along the lines of “Hey, we’re Luvdup, and this next record has been absolutely massive for us here at The Leadmill!” Imagine my horror when it was broadcast a few weeks later and the track they played after it was Robert Miles` Children! I would like it noted for the record that I have never either owned or played Robert Miles` Children!

I also had a very brief residency at Gatecrasher in Sheffield. yes, THAT Gatecrasher – Trance Mecca, Mitsubishi’s, etc. This was for a few weeks during the summer of 1998. A promoter I knew from Birmingham – Simon, I think – was now involved in Gatecrasher, and asked me to DJ in the bar. He also booked Miles Holloway and Elliott Eastwick from Paper Recordings to play in the mezzanine area. The first night we went over, the team had just signed a deal so that they now owned the venue, and they were all celebrating quite vigorously! It was crazy – but in both of the spaces we`d been booked to play you could still hear Tiesto or whoever was in  the main room. We couldn’t hear ourselves. It was just bizarre. – but fun for a few weeks, until they decided there really wasn’t much point having us there.

What did you do with Kelvin in `96?

It was me, Kelvin, and another DJ, John Taylor, and the party was called Sound. It was an attempt to get away from playing house music all night long – a mix of Larry Levan dubs, Talking Heads, and the latest weird pop. It was at a club called The Stage in Hanley. It only ran for 6 to 8 months, until early `97. It wasn’t massively successful but for one of our first nights we had Daft Punk on as guests. This was the weekend before their album Home Work came out. They played for Slam in Glasgow, Bugged-Out in Manchester, and us (laughs). They were amazing. I mean we had some really cool guests – Annie Nightingale on the opening night, Pete Wiggs from Saint Etienne, Tim Burgess from The Charlatans – people who had interesting records to play. It was great fun, and reignited my enthusiasm for DJing. 

What did you do after that?

Nothing really. It kind of seemed like game over – because I was known as Mike Luvdup and I`d left Luvdup. I played the backroom at Bugged-Out once – because I was working with Rob Bright in Vinyl Exchange and he was resident there with Boggy – James Holroyd – we were all mates. I did a few odd things but it wasn’t until Moonboots and Jason Boardman started Aficionado in `98 that I got to DJ regularly again. 

For people on the outside, it looked like you were a resident at Aficionado.

I was there pretty much every week, but I wasn’t a resident. Aficionado started on Thursday, at a bar called Aqua. I never really went because I played football on a Thursday. I only went to Aqua once. There was a New Order gig on, and so since most of my football mates were going to that, I skipped football and went to Aficionado – when I got there Jason was on his own because Richard had gone to see New Order as well. 

It didn’t really take off until it moved to a Sunday, at Zumbar, on Oxford Road. I was there every week, because Richard was my mate. 

AFICIONADO POSTERS

Did you meet Richard in Eastern Bloc, where he worked?

Richard and I actually went for the same job at Vinyl Exchange – which I got and he didn’t  (laughs). In yer face Moonboots. But right after that he started working at Eastern Bloc instead. He’d come into Vinyl Exchange and give me very cool looks and I`d bump into him in clubs, where he’d do the same. Richard did the lights at Glitterbaby, and we slowly began to warm to each other, eventually becoming very good friends. We didn’t really start hanging out together though until about `96 – because up until that point every weekend we`d both be busy DJing somewhere or other. To be honest up until `96 it`s a bit of a blur and I’m usually pretty good with dates – linking events to records and football matches – but it was a great time. There were a lot of great people around. The Naked Under Leather crew – Tom & Ed who gone on to huge success as The Chemical Brothers, Phil South who set up the Golf Channel label.

Did you stay involved with `Nado until your move to Brighton?

Kind of. I played at Zumbar, Arch Bar, the 10th birthday party in 2008. I got to warm up for Daniele Baldelli on that night – which was a great honour, but slightly nerve-wracking. I was shitting my pants. 

How did you first get to hear “The Baldelli Tapes”? 

I heard them probably just a little bit before DJHistory got a hold of them. I think Richard had heard one in the late `90s. Simon from Faze Action had a copy of one that he`d got from this crazy Italian DJ (Rob – I’m pretty sure this is Leo Zagami aka Leo Young – who also introduced Harvey and Tonka to Baldelli`s genius). Then there was a Mixmag article about the Afro / Cosmic scene – which listed some of the records and featured that famous photograph of Baldelli, Mozart, and Grace Jones. And then Phil Mison got a tape from Lexx. It was all kind of weird `cos this happened at around the same time as Harvey`s Sarcastic Study Masters mix. 2002? They both kind of blew everyones mind. Even people who knew their stuff – like Mark Seven. I`d been buying records from Mark for years – back when he`d mail out a list – before there was even a website (Jus`wax). I sent Mark a copy of the article and some tapes, because he`d never heard of Baldelli. He caught up pretty quickly though (laughs). His next stop was Italy. He didn’t waste anytime in getting ahead of everyone else. 

BALDELLI TAPE IMAGE

Everybody was buying their Cosmic stuff from Mark, and Chris “Soft Rocks” Galloway, from his Pure Pleasure Music site. 

In `96 / `97 I was Hoover-ing up Loft classics from Nick The Record (DJfriendly), and I figured I`d just about got all of them and along comes Baldelli and Cosmic. Another huge list of records to track down. 

Cosmic Alphonsous

Can you tell me more about your Cosmic Alphonsous mixes. Were these tributes to Baldelli? Were they all Baldelli classics, or also tracks you’d discovered and thought fit? Any plans to revive the series? 

I put the first one together about 17 years ago – and just handed it out to friends. They were – initially – a total tribute to Baldelli. All tunes that we`d discovered from his playlists. I was driving the folks at Vinyl Exchange mad with my obsession. That Phil & Friends Band 12” is still the most expensive record I’ve ever bought. 

From Volume 4 onwards I was adding stuff I`d found independently, and records I`d bought from Mark Seven and Chris Galloway. There were 7 volumes in all. I did the last one in 2007. They were all recorded live at “Baia Degli Alphonsus” – my old house in Old Trafford. It took me a while to figure out how to get those sound effects out of my Allen & Heath mixer. In some ways they reignited my “DJ career” for a while – because once they started appearing on-line people began getting in touch and I was getting invited all over the place to play again. 

How did you meet Phil Mison?

I met Phil at the Cafe del Mar. That’s pretty balearic isn’t it? My only trip to Ibiza in the `90s was in 1994 – as part of Luvdup. It was pretty spur of the moment. Mark and Adrian had got a gig out there, Kelvin was DJing out there, and another friend, Graham Fisher, was also out there for the summer. Jose Padilla had heard him play at Wobble – in Birmingham – and said “Right I want you to come an be resident at this thing I’m doing at Space”. Graham had this shitty apartment in San Antonio, and me and a girlfriend from Birmingham were watching some youth TV program late one night, and the presenter went, “now we’re off to the clubbing capital of the world, Ibiza” and there was Graham. He was on a beach full of bare breasts and he looked at the camera and said, “look at all the b…..boats”. I said, “Everyone is off to Ibiza, shall we go?” and she said, “Yeah”. We booked a flight, phoned Graham, and he picked us up. We stayed with him for 6 days. I DJed at Cafe Mambo – it had just opened next to Cafe del Mar. Graham and his girlfriend at the time, Sacha, took us to Pacha. Kelvin and Weatherall playing, but when we got there Weatherall had just be taken off the decks. 

That must have been the famous “drill music” night. Andrew used to tell this story of playing in Pacha, looking down into the crowd and seeing this irate older guy on the dance floor in a Hawaiian shirt shouting up at him. Turned out to be the owner of Pacha, who had him removed for playing music that sounded like an electric drill. 

Yeah that sounds like the night, but I didn’t hear him. Kelvin played a blinder. He`d just done that remix of South Street Player`s Who Keeps Changing Your Mind? – which was fucking awesome in that space. When I walked into Pacha, I was just “fuck”. It`s an absolutely beautiful nightclub. 

Have you been back to Ibiza?

I have, but it took a long time. I mean we had a great week, but – well this is kind of how elitist we were back then – at the time I thought this is ruined, totally spoilt. We hung out at the Cafe del Mar at lot because we were staying around the corner – and that’s where Graham introduced me to Phil. The second thing he said was “nice sunset”. We`d be there most days, asking him what he was playing. He was playing great music, like that Kruder & Dorfmeister track with the harmonica – High Noon. 

We went from Pacha, that night, to Space – Kelvin was playing on the terrace there – and he got dragged off – for not being commercial enough. We went to KU  – although it was Privilege by then – and again it was an amazing venue but I was wandering around thinking, “this is shit”. It was a beautiful, beautiful place but the DJ was just playing classic house all night – nothing that wasn’t a massive vocal anthem. It was waring and tedious – endless records that I`d heard before put together in an order that was meaningless. Everyone was just kind of standing around waiting for the sex show.

Manumission?

Yeah. I didn’t go back to Ibiza until 2010 – for the Folk Ibiza trip. 

Isn’t Folk a bar in Didsbury?

Yes. It used to be a Polish delicatessen, and then a guy called Justin took it over, and made it over as a deli / cafe / restaurant. Justin had been a regular at the early Luvdup nights, but we`d lost touch. I hadn’t seen him for nearly 10 years. There was another quirky cosmic disco night called Naive Melody, and the guys from that, younger guys – Elliot and Danny – they started doing parties at Folk – Dan shared the flat above with Justin. Then there was another night there called The Acid Tree, run by a chap called Nick, and he asked me to guess there. It was lovely. Really nice food, really nice booze, a beautiful old amp and vintage speakers. It sounded great, even at a kind of BGM volume. The place had the feel of a “workers co-operative”. I was going to do something there with Moonboots – which fell through – and instead did something with Jan Hammered. 

folk didsbury

When was this?

2009 into 2010 I think. We were having people like Phil (Mison) up to play – Paul Murphy, Graham Fisher – and the place was getting a nice little buzz about it. Martin Brew was also doing a night there – they had something interesting going on nearly every weekend – all kind of mellower music – although they did do some all-dayers that got quite raucous. Otherwise it was pretty chilled. Then Justin came up with the idea of doing a mini-festival. Electric Elephant had been going a couple of years at that point and Justin wanted to do it in Ibiza – with Ibiza being the spiritual home of this kind of “chillout” scene – and with the island being such a special, magical place. 

So I put Justin in touch with Johnny Lee – who runs the Last Night A DJ Saved My Life charity – because he was in Ibiza, and they needed someone on the ground out there. But after announcing it on the DJHistory forum – and everyone saying that sounds brilliant – the actually take up of ticket sales was very slow….and then it started to slightly fall apart. Because they couldn’t guarantee numbers, they couldn’t book venues exclusively. So instead of being at one site, the festival ended up being at different venues across the island. It was a little bit of chaos really. Justin was great. He paid all the DJs expenses and our villa, and everyone who went had an absolutely wicked week – but I think it must have cost him a fortune – and he was never quite the same after (laughs).

From the outside I`d assumed it was well attended. 

No, it wasn’t – but you’d probably know everyone who went – Soft Rocks, Mudd,….there was a good crew of people. It just wasn’t a lot of people. Even when we weren’t DJing somewhere Justin and the Folk people were staying in this big villa with a pool, so we`d party there until it was time to hit another venue. So you realized, “Shit, I’m not going to sleep for a week”…and we were all a bit long in the tooth for doing that to be quite honest. But we did have a really really good time. So much so that my wife and I went back a few months later for my 40th Birthday – in the summer of 2010. 

Me, Mudd and Jan had DJed on this beach all day, and at the end of the gig we planned to do a back to back hour – then Justin sprang a special guest on us – Nancy Noise – and we were like “fuck off, nice to meet you Nancy, but this is our gig.” This was the first time I ever met Nancy and I was awfully rude to her. She’s always really nice to me. Once that gig finished we went to another bar, on a hilltop, and carried on there – where Kelvin and the Naive Melody guys were DJing, and one of the Gipsy Kings – who just happened to be there – did an impromptu live gig. It was just crazy. Then everyone piled into a camper van, which caught fire. It was nuts, but good fun. 

How did you get involved in Electric Elephant?

Well that started in 2008, in Petcrane. Electrics was the Unabombers and Moggsie. They ran Homoelectric, Electric Chair, Electric Elephant and the Electric Bar in Chorlton. They asked me to do the first one, but a mate was getting married and I couldn’t go. Moon and Jason went and did an Aficionado thing. Then in 2011 they asked me and Kelvin to do a Down To The Sea And Back boat party – the compilation had then fairly recently come out. 

ELECTRIC ELEPHANT

Was Down To The Sea And Back a comp before it was a party?

Yes. Kelvin and I had been talking about doing a compilation basically since we first met. Kelvin and I met and we both loved Liverpool FC and records, and we got on like a house on fire, really hit it off. Every time we`d see each other we`d end up back at someone’s house hogging the hi-fi and going “Have you heard this?” In about `92 / `93 I played him Jago`s I’m Going To Go, and we both said we should really do a compilation – and then it took us 18 years to get round to doing it. So yeah, the comp came first. With the comp, Electric Elephant had an identity they could tie the party to. 

Kelvin and I hadn’t thought about creating a “brand” or DJing together under that banner. I was really surprised because it was a real gamble for EE – because the other parties were people like A Love From Outer Space, Horsemeat Disco, you know internationally renowned names with superstar DJs. I actually took records as well, it was the first time I`d DJed on a boat. Records on a boat party is not the best idea, as I found out. 

DOWN TO THE SEA AND BACK

To give you some background on the festival – the first thing to take place on that site was The Garden Festival organized by Nick Colgan and his friends – Brummies with a  background in running San Francisco raves. The Garden moved to a new site, in Tisno, and then morphed into Love International. Nick and his partners were running the site and their own festival – which was too much – so Dave Harvey – who had been doing the booking for The Garden – took over Love International. 

Electric Elephant was for about 1000 people. They sold it at some point, and the people who bought it sort of ran it into the ground. I played for them in 2015 and 2016 and the scheduling seemed a little ill thought out – club DJs in chillout slots – stuff like that. Then in 2017 Dave asked us to join Love International instead. The Garden was kind of house house house whereas Love International embraced that “balearic” vibe a little bit more – with a much broader range of music being played.

LOVE-INTERNATIONAL-2020

Love International has obviously been postponed, but were you booked to play this year?

We did it for the last 3 years, but we weren’t asked this year. You know, things change. It was brilliant. I had 9 years going out there and DJing in Croatia. I have to say that the first year I went out there I thought “Fucking hell, this must be what Ibiza was like back in the mid-80s.” I was disappointed by Ibiza, but I wasn’t disappointed by Croatia. Especially when we went to Barbarellas. The original club was a bunker – a round concrete sweatbox – but when they moved – the second year I went, 2012 – they built the new one, and we got a speedboat to it. It was just how you imagined Amnesia was in `87 – no roof, palm trees on the dance floor, the sun comes up around 5 and you dance until 6. It was just magic. Unreal. I don’t think Ibiza now is for anyone other than the stinking rich. It was always about 30 quid to get into the clubs, but bars gave out free tickets, and no one was really drinking because they were taking Es instead. So you could still go there and have a cheap holiday. You can’t do that anymore. The last time I was in Ibiza was in 2014. Kelvin was living out there and we did a few Down To The Sea And Back parties, around the time that the second compilation came out. We did these things at Sam’s, which is this posh restaurant on the beach – that I think Carl Cox owned. Kelvin had done one with Alfredo, and it was OK, but we did one and no one really came. It was really quiet. Afterwards we wandered along the beach to this event that was hyped as one of the cool parties on the island. A French DJ was playing and it was packed, 1000 people on the beach, but no one was dancing, everyone just gawping, and it was just really dull house music. He played a couple of great records right at the end and there was no reaction what so ever. He played the FK mix of Moloko`s Forever More, and this old Eric Kupper record – that was an old favourite of Kelvin and mines – K-Scope Volume 2 – Planet K. And we were like “Yes! At Last!” but there was no reaction. It was like standing in a massive bus queue….then you go to Croatia and people are losing their minds to music and you can go there for nothing and stay in a really nice, but really cheap place, and eat really brilliant food. 

How did you meet Steve Terry?

Steve walked into the Vinyl Exchange on day, in around 2003. It was a quiet mid-week day and I was sat at the counter processing some records, listening to a Baldelli tape. He was going through the racks but came over and asked me what the tape was. I played him a few things, sold him a few records, told him about Baldelli, told him about DJHistory – which he promptly joined. Then about a week later he phoned me from London and said “this guy, Linda Di Franco, has just published this chart and it looks amazing. I don’t know anything on it. Do you know any of these records?” I went “Ah, yeah I saw that. I know a few of them” not letting on that Linda Di Franco was my “avatar for the DJHistory forum (both laugh). Steve then met loads of people through the forum. He met Phil Mison – who was Belen Thomas – and Moon – who was Sandy Morton. Moon actually collects Sandy Morton records. When we went to Berlin in 2004 he bought about half a dozen of these absolutely appalling looking records. I think he thinks he looks like him (laughs).

!

How did you get involved in in Steve and Phil`s Cafe 1001 Sessions?

Well, they just asked me to come down and guest. It all happened really quickly. Steve hit it off with Phil and they decided to do a party. Steve`s one of those forces of nature isn’t he. He just makes things happen. 

cafe 1001 flyer06 copy

Yes he is extremely enthusiastic.

Yeah. Richard, Phil and I could talk about doing a party and 5 years later nothing would have happened – but it was like within a week Steve knew everyone and was hosting an event. Steve got on really well with Oscar (Falanga) from Trax as well. At the time there were these “supersaver” train tickets where you could get a Manchester-London day return for a tenner. So a whole load of us would travel down for these afternoon sessions, have a great day listening to great music, get smashed and get the last train home. We moved recently and I found a box with all the Cafe 1001, and Big Chill Bar, flyers. They’re beautiful. Steve`s got a really good artistic eye. You look at the DJs that played there and it`s amazing – Phil was the resident, then Gerry Rooney, Mark Seven, Hugh Herrera, Alex from Voices, Nathan Gregory Wilkins. Fucking amazing. I think I’m going to get some of them framed. 

They were great afternoons. I had a young family at the time, so getting out at night wasn’t so easy. It was fun putting faces to all the DJHistory names. 

Yes, we joked that we should all wear lapel badges. “Linda? Not what I was expecting”. I actually got an email from the real Linda di Franco – “Hi, I’ve seen you using my name on the internet. Is there a reason for this? Do you know my music?” I wrote back and told her that I loved both My Boss and TV Scene and she seemed flattered. For a while we kept in touch. When Jolyon Green got married, his DJ partner, Matthew Burgess, asked me to give him Linda`s contact details. Matthews persuaded Linda to write out the lyrics to TV Scene, and sign them – which Matthew then gave to Jolyon as a wedding present. TV Scene was one of the tracks we licensed for the second Down To The Sea And Back comp.

Are there any plans for a third compilation?

We talked about it. Music For Dreams was interested. I actually recently did a mix for this radio thing that Kelvin’s doing – called H.U.G.S – with his brother Danny, and Kelvin brought it up again. It would be great, if Music For Dreams are still interested. 

Well, they seem to be into comps at the moment. They even let me do one (both laugh). Can you tell me more about the Whirlpool parties you did with Steve? 

The Whirlpool party was sadly just a one-off. Shortly after meeting him, Steve asked me and Moon to come down to London and DJ. Whirlpool was the nickname we`d given to Moonboots flat, so it seemed like a fitting name (I always assumed it was named after the Edwin Starr tune that was “rediscovered at the time – Rob). It was in a pub / club called The Salmon & Compass, at the end of Chapel Street Market, in Islington. It was something of a gathering of the clans as I recall. As well as Oscar from Trax, it was the early days of DJ History, and loads of bods from the forum turned up, including Bill Brewster himself – obviously wanting some tips from Richard and I on how it’s done – plus Chris Galloway and some of the other Soft Rocks.

You and Steve also had a record label, Fascinating Rhythms. Can you tell me how that started and when and why it stopped? 

Fascinating Rhythms, was also spurred on by Steve. I got sent the Radiohead Reckoner remix by an old friend Jonny Miller. I was down in London to play a party – Who’s Afraid Of The Cosmic Truth or something? It was in the basement of a restaurant – and I met Steve for a pre-gig drink. When I played him the track on my iPod, he said “Why don’t we start a label and put it out?” So we did!

I did all the nuts and bolts stuff – sorting a P&D deal with All Ears Music, sourcing the sleeves, getting them screen printed, numbering and sleeving the records. Steve got a friend to design the sleeves and labels. I decided what we released. Steve met Sam Sallon and asked if he was up for it. I got Boggy – James Holroyd aka Begin – to do us a remix for nowt. 

The final release was all sorted through Rune Linbaek. Both artists had deals – SONY I think – but let us do a vinyl only release.

We stopped because it was exhausting, and impossible to make any money. 

Prior to the pandemic did you have any regular gigs? Didn’t you hook up with Dave Jarvis, Ashley Beedle, and the Heavy Disco crew? 

Sort of. I was warming up for Horse Meat Disco when they came down to Brighton. Me and Kelvin did 3 Down To The Sea And Back parties – all really good. Last year I got to DJ in Brazil, and Croatia of course. You know I don’t rely on it for a living so I can wait for the right things to come along. 

Weren’t you doing a radio show for 1BTN?

Yes. I was, and I was loving it. I did it every week for 3 years. I started off doing it solo, and then asked my friend Ben (Monk) to come and do it with me – initially it was supposed to be a one-off for his birthday – but he loved it so when ended up doing it together every week….but every week ends up being quite a commitment. I had to leave my day job and hour early to do it. The traffic in Brighton made getting there on time quite stressful. It began to become a bit of a hassle. Then my wife and I bought a house and everything was going into boxes and I decided that it was a good time to call it a day. But I do miss it, and I would like to do a radio show again at some point. One of the problems was the FM license. You can’t play any music with swearing in it, and you don’t think that’s going to be a problem but then it is. I couldn’t play a Prince record because he says “ass” in it. With the on-line things – like NTS – none of this applies. 

1btn-radio

It was a proper radio show, talking between tracks, giving listeners information about the music – music is so much more than just what it sounds like. There is always a story to tell. And I loved that. You know more than anything I am a fan. With the balearic thing we pull all of this different music in from lots of different places and it`s important to know where it comes from and how it all fits in…how a Belgian pop record becomes an acid house classic, when it was never intended to be, which is why your writing is so interesting. 

Well it obviously fascinates me – all the stories behind the music. Pretty much every record I have I could rant on about why I have it, who played and where and when – its “cultural significance”. 

I suppose it comes back to growing up in the `70s and `80s and listening to the radio then. I was into music before I started going to clubs and that was through radio, and even once I`d started going out I still learn about the music initially through radio. 

Do you still buy a lot of records? I remember you saying a few years back that you were going to take a break, that you had so many great records already that you were going to spend some time going back through them. 

I have slowed down. If you look behind me there`s this pile here, that’s what I’ve bought this last year (points to stack of around 30 LPs and 12s). That`s not a lot is it?

No.

Although I have moved a few into the other room (laughs). It`s as much as space thing as anything else. I have to admit that I have gone and bought back copies of records that I’ve sold – working in a record shop I turned over a ridiculous amount of my own collection. I probably had about 20, 000, which is now down to 10, 000, and there are some things I should have kept. During the `90s I`d get sent 40 odd records a week. Some weeks it was just staggering, and if I didn’t like them I`d just take them into work and sell them. Working in a shop also meant that you could see which types of records were selling and going up in value – so I could sell at “market peak”. I mean I haven’t really got any Italian piano house anymore. Q Words` That`s The Choice, for example, I sold that for 250 quid. All that stuff became super sought after and expensive in the North West. But some things – like some of the Hardkiss stuff I sold – I`d quite like that back. The odd Leftfield remix.

I’ve gone back and re-bought really cheesy things – records I over played at the time and thought I`d never play again. Stuff I might not play but kind of need there to mark a moment in time. You know trying to write this balearic beat book people give me top 10s from classic club nights and I think I’ve got that – but I haven’t, I’ve sold it – and I feel I need to revisit these tunes in order to do the writing justice. Often they’re 1 pound tunes on Discogs. 

Then with 20 pound postage to Japan. 

That`s about right (both laugh). 

But now, now I’m older it is more about the memories attached. My records are a bit like a cross between a history book and a photo album. 

Mike regularly uploads brilliant mixes to Mixcloud. He’s also started a wonderful series of long posts about some of his favourite records on Facebook. 

Balearic Mike Tisno 2018 Heather Shuker

Magic shot of Mike in Tisno in 2018 by Heather Shuker

2 thoughts on “Interview / Balearic Mike

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