There’s a real vibe about a new Balearic scene this Summer, but unlike other scenes it’s always been difficult to define as a musical genre. Depending on the setting (and when we talk about Balearic the setting is very important) the music could be lush chill out both old and new, classic jazz, latin music, disco, 80’s pop music, low slung melodic house or a cheeky re-edit. What’s always been important is the mood, the right track for the right moment. Selecting music for a sunset is an art form that’s deeply embedded in Balearic DJing culture and so with the announcement that Jose Padilla was to return to the Cafe Del Mar for shows this summer, we couldn’t resist asking Emma Warren to speak to the man himself to find out more.
Balearic is a feeling – and Jose Padilla embodies that feeling.
The hugely influential DJ soundtracked the 1990s with his sunset sets at the Café Del Mar, playing a selection of widescreen electronica, dubbed out ambient and the likes of Penguin Café Orchestra to signal the end of one sun-drenched day and the start of another hedonistic Ibiza night. He changed things forever.
Since then, he sold six million copies of the game-changing Café del Mar Vol 1–6, released two albums, remixed countless tracks and been introduced to youngsters conceived while their parents listened to one of his world-famous tapes.
Jose Padilla has just signed to the highly respected label International Feel, also home of fellow innovator Harvey. He’s primed to release a new single, Solito and there’s an album coming in Spring 2015. And if that wasn’t enough, Padilla’s returning to the Café Del Mar this summer for some select dates for the first time in fifteen years – the perfect resolving chord that heralds the start of a new Balearic summer.
This is like announcing that a resurrected Larry Levan is returning to the Paradise Garage. After all, Jose Padilla is the Godfather of Chill-Out, the man who made the balearic blueprint, whose musical choices and DJ style are still influencing and inspiring everyone from Madonna (who selected his Café Del Mar compilations as the ideal desert island listening) to Bestival’s Rob Da Bank to underground DJ heroes like Harvey and Andrew Weatherall.
“I’m going to do the sunset, just like I used to. Half an hour of ambient, emotional music before and after sunset then more uptempo into the night. It’s new times and it’s exciting to play Café Del Mar again. I’m looking forward to it.”
The music is sounding strong, too. Solito is a soft and inviting wash of North African mysticism, warm and dusty beats and a heat-haze bassline that Frankie Knuckles would have been proud of. It was recorded on the first sunny day after winter in Padilla’s living room with Mark Barrott from International Feel. “It was very cosy and the music came very quick. It was incredible how fast we connected, like we’ve been working together for years.”
“International Feel fly the flag for balearic music in the right way. They’re Balearic from the beginning and it reflects on the label. They have substance.”
Padilla is substance personified. He began DJing during the repressive Franco dictatorship when much music was banned. He had to dig deep for classical music and local folk because of the scarcity of international sounds – and because DJs at that time had to play all night. “We played from 11pm to 6am so we had to play different styles or repeat the tracks. We had to keep the crowd going whatever we had. That’s my roots. Even today I still do that. I can’t do a set of two hours at the same tempo. Impossible! Even if you lock me in a room and beat me. That’s where balearic came from.”
His first ever DJ gig was at club Toppity Top at Lloret Del Mar on the Costa Brava. “I stood next to the box all night with ten records, waiting for the resident to be hungry or to go out with a girl for half an hour. When I got my first DJ job I was so happy.”
He moved to Ibiza in 1976 and started DJing in San Antonio, making tapes of his sets and selling them at Es Cana market. On the first day he sold out in an hour. On the second day, he sold sixty tapes. By the late 1980s he was living in a house next door to the Café Del Mar, DJing at clubs like Es Paradis at night and selling 500 tapes a day. In 1991 Café Del Mar asked him to step out of his house and into their DJ booth, where he played until 1999in front of a hand-made sign saying ‘TAPES’ .
The rest is history, although it’s a living history, as respected website Test Pressing proved when they digitised and uploaded a few of Padilla’s classic tapes, much to the delight of the balearic diaspora old and new.
It’s a busy time for Jose Padilla. He’s also doing a compilation for release summer 2014 on Secret Life Music – who will be collecting and digitising all 47 editions of Padilla’s iconic tapes. There’s a brand new radio show this summer, following on from his successful Ibiza Sonica radio shows which will be syndicated worldwide, and he’s just celebrated his 40th anniversary of DJing.
He’s in great shape, just like the scene he built. Earlier this year a well-known music magazine contacted Padilla with the news he’d been selected for their Lifetime Achievement Award. He turned them down. “I didn’t want it. I’m still DJing and making music and I love it. When I’m retired – then you can give it to me.”