You Are What You Read

After finishing university with its routine of “required” reading I moved to London to work at a music magazine. To my sheer delight I was surrounded by, inundated with, magazines. All the monthlies I couldn’t afford arrived on subscription: Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Vogue, Details, plus Rolling Stone and a weekly dose of high-gloss, low-IQ celebrity fare from OK! and Hello. Plus unlimited access to Q, Mojo, Mixmag, and Arena which were produced in the offices around me.

With that journalistic goldmine to hand, I got out of the habit of reading actual books. The only two that made the trip from Philly to London were my dog-eared Franny & Zooey and a signed copy of Trainspotting, sentimental relics of my teenage years. Occasionally I borrowed a beach-read from my flatmate, but for the most part I read in 50 to 1500 word chunks of magazine-speak. A couple years later my company launched the future publishing phenomena that was Closer and Grazia, to join Heat in the ranks of the half-million-plus selling women’s weeklies. They were as were as brightly-wrapped as the contents of the office Cadbury Roses tin, and twice as addictive.

Books were passé. They were demanding and required concentration. Why bother when I could get instant fix on every page of Closer? At some point I said, half-joking, that I’d forgotten how to read: “Gossip magazines are turning me illiterate.” It wasn’t far off the truth. My attention span and love of words – honed over 17 years of serious reading – had fallen apart. My exposure to new ideas and information, and my ability to absorb and analyse, was being chipped away by a diet of mental junk food that bloated my mind with vapid nonsense. Realising that I had fallen into the mental equivalent of Supersize Me, I made a conscious decision to read more books.

It was like swapping chips for carrot sticks. Sure, it was good for me, but I had to work at reading books. There was a rhythm and a discipline to engaging with a long piece of text that I had lost. The shiny weeklies winked and pleaded: read me instead. I started rationing: Vanity Fair and Vogue once a month; Grazia or Closer as a Friday treat. Gradually, the diet of full paragraphs and polysyllabic words got easier to digest.

My main excuse for junk reading was the plea of many fast-food fiends: “I don’t have the time/money/energy to get something nutritious.” Turns out that, as with food, cheap and good-for-you is easy to come by if you know what you want and plan ahead. Thanks to Kindle, I have an accessible, wide-ranging selection of books perpetually to hand. But an e-reader is no more necessary to good literary fare than one of those prepared-meals delivery services is to a good diet. The best and most intriguing source of books is charity or second-hand shops. Unlike Amazon, which overwhelms with options and makes you wait for delivery, they offer an instant fix. Browsing the shelves you can snap up everything from the latest best-sellers to arcane anthropological tomes. Second-hand shops gifted me Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House, Henry James’s The Aspern Papers and Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington. They’ve introduced me to Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Mead, Anton Chekhov, Alice Walker, and Kurt Vonnegut. My handbag currently contains Hard Travelin’, Kenneth Allsop’s brilliant history of the migrant American workforce, purchased for £1.40 in a Marie Curie shop.

Accustomed, once again, to a feast of words and ideas, I happily turn my nose up at Metro and the gimcrack lure of Closer and its cousins. I still subscribe to Vogue, and occasionally spend an hour perusing magazines at Waterstone’s, but my compulsion to keep up with the Brangelina marriage saga, or to find out who has cellulite/forgot her mascara/fired her nanny is gone. Quitting junk food does a body good – and the same is doubly true of the mind.

Charity Shop Finder (UK)
London Book Swap
Oxfam Bookshop Finder (UK)

Higher Education Academy Winning Essay

In the spring I won the Higher Education Academy Student Essay Competition, which paid for my Kindle. Hurrah! Anyway, below, my winning essay on “What do English or Creative Writing have to say to an age of austerity?”

When the recession first bared its teeth a literary friend of mine was blasé. Writers are used to being poor, she said, what’s new? She was right. The age of austerity is simply the rest of the world getting a glimpse of life as lived by “lifetime English majors” (as Buddy Glass called us) and creative writers since – oh – just about forever. Writers ranging from George Orwell to Hunter S Thompson, Oscar Wilde to Mavis Gallant, have lived in – and written some of their most exquisite, lacerating prose on the subject of – abject poverty.

You will have to have another job, Italian novelist and poet Natalia Ginzburg noted matter-of-factly in her essay, My Vocation, a love-letter to the art of creative writing. Few writers are fortunate enough to be able to prove her wrong. Even when times were good for the rest of the world: when hedge funds grew into dense money-thickets and credit was easy, when house prices rose and investment portfolios swelled with promise, writers shared little of the bounty. There were – and are – exceptions, of course. Some writers sell enough to buy a house in the country, a few nab movie deals, or churn out novels regularly enough to enjoy life in a certain style. Once in a while, a six-figure publishing deal makes headlines. For most, though, the act of writing, even for publication, is so remote from any prospect of financial reward as to render money virtually meaningless. The best advice I can give you, a literary agent told my course-mates and I, is to marry someone with money. She was only half joking.

Writers take for granted that talent, education and dedication do not necessarily lead to material success. This particular reality has come as an ice-water shock, however, to those who followed the beaten path from A-levels to university assuming it would lead them right into a secure job in their chosen field. During the boom years this progression seemed irrefutable; like two-plus-two equalling four. All you had to do, in order to have a comfortable life, was learn something useful like business, banking, marketing, or management, and then sashay into a comfortable office, regular paid holidays and the eventual promise of a respectable three-bedroom semi somewhere on the commuter belt. When there were plenty of well-paid jobs available choosing to pursue English or creative writing was seen as at best frivolous, and at worst a dangerous brand of stubborn, self-defeating stupidity. Writers, like other artists, were asked: “Why don’t you get a proper job?” Now, there is no such thing as a “proper job”. Graduate unemployment is at a record high and it isn’t just humanities students who can’t find jobs. According to the BBC more electrical engineers are unemployed than are modern languages graduates, and fine arts is no worse a course, in terms of employment potential, than economics or civil engineering. The promise of the proper job turns out to be hollow.

Because English students and writers have never really participated in the collective fantasy of eternal satisfaction through consumption we are uniquely placed to help our stunned compatriots make necessary adjustments. Creative writers and English students don’t make calculations based on salary packages; we choose differently. We don’t talk about how much money we will be earning in five years, but about the novel we’re writing, our next article, or the screen-play we are going to adapt. Since we have no corporate ladder to climb, no water-cooler politicking to do, we spend our time reading, writing blogs, publishing journals, running workshops or teaching. We define ourselves by what we create in a world where the phrase “creative type” is commonly used as a pejorative. Compelled to question the petty orthodoxies about what we should or shouldn’t do with our lives, creative writers develop the habit of asking questions, of deciding for ourselves – day by day – who we are and how we want to live. “Freedom is a choice,” Hunter Thompson said, “You decide who you are by what you do.” Because writers have typically fallen outside of society’s casual assumptions about money and success we have learned the art of self-definition.

Writers have valuable truths to share in an age of austerity. We can encourage people to stop chasing illusive financial gains and focus on building a life around work they love. We are here to testify that creative work is a vital and satisfying life choice, not a privilege of rich dilettantes. Most of all, writers are proof that poverty is not fatal. We know from experience that there are many ways to take the sting out of a scant bank balance. Our leisure time is different: most writers don’t spend Saturday afternoons shopping, or own the latest flat-screen TV. Instead of going to restaurants we have friends round for dinner. We cultivate gardens, learn to sew or cook, take the time to bake home-made Christmas treats or make our own marmalade. We are familiar with frugality, with library cards, discount vouchers, charity shops, battered trainers and hand-made gifts. Rather than feel deprived, writers and “lifetime English majors” embrace the challenge of freedom and creativity, and can help show society that there is more to life than scrambling up the property ladder, or wearing the latest fashion. As Henry David Thoreau, a writer who knew a great deal about austerity, so beautifully articulated: “It is life nearest the bone where it is sweetest…. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.”

Mslexia Feature – Creative Writing Courses

This feature was published in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Mslexia, the UK’s leading magazine for women writers. Order a back issue here!

There are three primary motives for doing a post-graduate degree in creative writing. They are: getting a qualification in order to teach creative writing; learning about the publishing business; and becoming a better and/or more successful writer. Unfortunately, creative writing programmes make no distinction between students who want to be the next Shakespeare and those who want to be the next Dan Brown; between aspiring teachers, and people who need help drafting a pitch. There is no logical reason why these students should be lumped together. It is a matter of convention and administrative convenience – and a recipe for dissatisfaction.

I did a Master’s in Creative Writing after a decade in journalism, because I wanted to improve my writing. My gut said if I wanted to write fiction I just needed to write fiction. But the lure of a qualification, with its implicit promise of employability, convinced me to forfeit a year of my life and several thousand pounds. My experience as a student illustrated the absurdity of trying to turn creative writing into an academic exercise. Writing can be learned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can be taught.

Workshop model
The centrepiece of all creative writing programmes is the workshop which, in theory, is an enlightened space where rough drafts become nascent masterpieces by means of peer review. Great literature is not written by committee, however. F Scott Fitzgerald rightly noted that ‘one has to rely in the end on his own judgement’. Critical feedback can be valuable, but workshops tend to bog down in irrelevancies. ‘You never get to the heart of a piece,’ says Patrick Holloway, a student at Glasgow University. ‘Everybody has to say something, so they say, “This doesn’t work for me”, or “I don’t like this line”, but that’s just personal taste. It takes away from what should be the heart of the discussion: What’s the piece trying to do and how does it do it?’

One-to-one tutorials are potentially more helpful, or at least less likely to degenerate into arguments over the use of italics, but they encourage a prescriptive approach to writing. Orwell writes that: ‘Every literary judgement consists in trumping up a set of rules to justify an instinctive preference.’ When instructors are obliged to coach their responses as instructions it leads to terrible nonsense, like one class discussion where a fellow student said, in all seriousness, that writers are ‘not supposed to use adverbs or adjectives’. I hoped our teacher would leap to the defence of the wild adverbial luxuriance of English, but she didn’t. Why would she? Creative writing courses have to justify their existence, and ever-increasing fees, by telling students something. Glib pronouncements are antithetical to learning, but they pass for teaching. The trouble is, the stuff writers really need to know can’t be taught, and admitting as much would be fatal to the current academic system.

There is no excuse for letting form rule function, though. Instead, creative writing courses need to figure out what is essential and how to help students access it. At a minimum, creative writers need: confidence, a solid grasp of English, discipline, problem-solving skills, literary resources, patience, and – above all – time.

Back to basics
Creativity demands confidence which has to be based in a profound appreciation of English. Computer programmes can correct grammar errors, but if a student doesn’t understand the basics of English how is she going to create something compelling? Unfortunately, the word ‘grammar’ raises hackles; students think it is old-fashioned and unnecessary. Being a good writer doesn’t necessarily mean sharing Gertrude Stein’s enthusiasm for diagramming sentences, though. Joan Didion, one of the finest sentence-smiths operating, admitted: ‘Grammar is a piano I play by ear… All I know about grammar is its infinite power.’

The goal isn’t to memorise linguistic formulae but to develop an understanding of the creative possibilities of language. That means reading, reading and more reading. Unfortunately it would be bad business for universities to tell students that the only thing they really need to become better writers is a library card; and a worrying number of students seem to think that reading will impinge on their writing. Mavis Gallant puts this notion firmly in its place in her essay ‘What Is Style?’: ‘I have never heard a professional writer of any quality… say he would not read this or that for fear of corrupting or affecting his own [style], but I have heard it from would-be writers and amateurs.’

If students are ever to be more than ‘would-be writers’ they must read, and creative writing courses should make it their business to supply fantastic literary resources. Students shouldn’t have to scrap over a single library copy of a novel, or traipse around town scouring second-hand stores for course texts. Anything assigned, or even recommended, by a tutor should be freely available to all the students. If that means handing out pre-loaded Kindles on the first day of term, so be it. Once they are armed with books, it is up to students to be disciplined, take risks, ignore advice and nurture their own creativity. A degree is no substitute for keen self-perception and the ability to work through difficulties.

‘When you hit a wall,’ Patti Smith advised, ‘just kick it down.’
Writing courses can offer encouragement, succour and space to think, but figuring out how to kick down walls is up to the individual. Hunter S Thompson tried to improve his prose style by typing The Great Gatsby; Ernest Hemingway said: ‘My working habits are simple: long periods of thinking, short periods of writing.’ As with grammar, there is no right way to teach problem solving skills, but they must be learned.

Individual challenges Perhaps the best thing universities can do is create challenges and leave students alone to work them out – an approach employed at Central Saint Martins, where fashion designer Ben Kirchhoff studied. ‘We didn’t have tutorials or anything like that,’ he says. ‘They just set us tasks and we had to figure things out our own way. People moaned but you ended up with very creative work.’

Time and patience are the crucial elements in transforming creative impulses into finished product. This means that writing courses need to shed the academic straitjacket and take a more relaxed approach. Creativity is not a horse that runs faster under the whip. Fitzgerald wrote to a friend that James Joyce was working twelve hours a day on Finnegan’s Wake and hoped to be finished in four years; it took Jonathan Franzen nine years to write Freedom. There is no need to cram a Master’s into a year. It is simply a matter of convention. Students should be allowed to use or misuse time at their discretion. No book or poem is better for being written in a rush.

In order to be truly useful, creative writing courses should be more flexible in terms of content and teaching, as well as time. Rather than offering one or two rigidly formatted programmes universities could act as facilitators for a kind of modern literary salon. Grades, which are pointless anyway, should be banned. Tutors should offer as many literary survey and composition courses as they care to lead, which would encourage students to read widely and allow them to spend more time with instructors they admire. For example, I would have happily taken half-a-dozen seminars with my course convenor, instead of the paltry one permitted by the schedule.

Courses for horses
There should also be ‘how-to’ courses for students who want to write commercial, genre, or children’s fiction, taught by writers in those fields. Finally, there need to be seminars on publishing, marketing, contracts and negotiation skills. But each part of the course should be self-contained, and students should be able to pick and choose freely, and proceed in their own time.

This would mean that students who want to earn an MA in order to teach could move quickly through the required elements, while would-be commercial fiction writers could learn the conventions of genre and how to tailor their writing to a particular market. Literature buffs, library geeks and indiscriminate lovers of words would be free to immerse themselves in books and literary culture, taking classes that satisfy their curiosity and feed their creative impulses. This pay-as-you-go approach would, if nothing else, force students to take responsibility for their own learning and find their own sense of direction – two skills no would-be writer can survive without. It would also liberate tutors from the pressure to teach and allow them to take the role of guide or mentor. This would make writing courses looser, even a little chaotic. They would be more reflective of writing than of academia. They might be less productive but ultimately they would be more creative. ■


HOW OTHER ARTS DO IT

Thinking about the teaching and learning of creative writing led me to wonder what the relationship is between education and inspiration in other arts. So I interviewed artists from two very different disciplines. Their conclusions were strikingly similar…
■ FASHION DESIGNER ’You can teach techniques but you can’t necessarily teach talent. You study to develop your taste, to learn how to become more yourself professionally. It took me 10 years to get to where I am, but I would have been a designer no matter what. Choosing your own path is hard, but it’s formative. The shit is horrible when you’re in it, but it makes you the person you are. When I was teaching I saw far too many kids who should never have enrolled in a fashion course. It might be brutal to reject students who don’t have talent, but it’s not something you can learn. People need to think about what they want to do, instead of being pressured to just do a degree. The whole point of doing a creative course is to encourage someone to be creative, not to give them a booklet that says: ‘this is how to be a designer.’ BENJAMIN KIRCHHOFF, from the award-winning design duo Meadham Kirchhoff

■ CONCERT PIANIST ’My best teachers were the ones who allowed me to find my own way of expressing things. Rather than teaching me tradition and the ‘right’ way they taught me to draw on what I already had, accept who I am, and build on that. Good teachers encourage discussion and new ideas.
Practice is essential, but you can’t play well if you don’t have the right sound image in your head. If I find myself struggling with a piece I have to step back, not play for a while, and try to understand it. Once you understand something you can figure out how to translate it. Sometimes it is more important to imagine what you want to achieve rather than playing it constantly.’
NATALIA WILLIAMS-WANDOCH, award-winning concert pianist

Editor’s Note
One of the things I’m regularly asked when I’m doing events is whether I think there’s any point in creative writing courses. My usual answer is that it depends on the institution, the tutors and the course itself. Because, as Cila Warncke says, writing can be learned but it can’t be taught. But what’s the best way to create fertile ground for learning? I wondered if it would be possible to explore that idea in this issue. And then, serendipitously we got Cila’s pitch. ‘I would like to write a feature for Mslexia on teaching and learning in creative writing, comparing it to the experiences and learning processes of artists in other disciplines such as dance, music and design,’ she wrote. ‘I am not convinced, based on my experience, that writing courses necessarily get the balance right between providing feedback and encouraging students to develop their own standards and methods. On one hand, writers are encouraged to be highly individual compared to, say, musicians who learn by repetition and immersion. Yet at the same time, students are expected to submit their writing to the examination of a random group of peers – a process which I argue is antithetical to fine art.’ Irresistible, really. And it shows how often synchronicity plays a key role in the writer’s world.
VAL MCDERMID, Best-selling author & Mslexia Guest Editor

Music Writing Clash Zero dB

Here’s a profile I wrote for Clash in 2006 about two-man band Zero dB.

Trace a line from The Police to Sun Ra via a menswear shop, Newcastle and the Big Chill and you’ll emerge through the looking glass into the bent, sun-blitzed world of Zero dB. Where, for the last six years, Neil Combstock and Chris Vogado have been conjuring up aural mischief as remixers for the likes of Peace Orchestra, Truby Trio, Hexstatic and Original Soul Boy and the legendary Sun Ra.

Now, with debut album ‘Bongos, Bleeps & Basslines’, Zero dB are stepping from the brackets of the liner notes to deliver a joyously muddled musical adventure that veers and swoops, punch drunk, from dance floor to cocktail lounge.
Relaxing at his home in the heart of Barcelona affable Chris Vogado (first record: ‘Outlandos d’Amour’) admits he never meant to end up in a band. “I always wanted to be an electrician – and I was for a bit… it didn’t take me long to realise it wasn’t a dream job.” A stint in tailoring followed. “The worst job ever. Too many inside leg measurements. Was it women’s tailoring? No. If it had been I might not be here now,” he chuckles. On a music technology course in Newcastle he met Neil Combstock, and the pair started working together after the both drifted down to London. Alongside their extensive remix work they started releasing their own tracks, beginning with ‘Come Party’ (still, Chris says, the ultimate floor filler).

“Thirty or forty” tracks later and Zero dB were ready to skim the cream to create ‘Bongos, Bleeps & Basslines’, beginning with the title track (Chris’s top pick of the album), a barefoot-electro tribal funk anthem. His second favourite, ‘Sunshine Lazy’, oozes with affection for the bossa nova music he grew up on, all loping beats and hazy heat-shimmer vocals from Nouvelle Vague collaborator Phoebe Tolmer.

Elsewhere the record skips merrily between genres, appealing, Chris says hopefully, to any audience from WOMAD to Homelands, jazz festivals or the Big Chill. “We could fit into all four – we’ve done the Big Chill before, and I’d love to go back, but all of them really.” Robust internationalism is very much part of the Zero dB experience, actually, with Chris in Spain and Neil regularly moving between Tokyo and London.

“We recorded the album in London though,” Chris reports. “We both realised that to get a really good album together you need to be face to face. Otherwise, when you start arguing about it, it’s too easy to put the phone down.”

And they’ll be reunited soon, he says, to take the album on the road. “We’re producers first, really, and DJs second, but we’re going to try something live this year. The album sounds very ‘live’ and we want to capture that atmosphere – it’s going to take a big band though.”

Meantime, Neil is back in Tokyo and Chris and his wife are looking forward to their first holiday in, well, six years. “Since this whole thing started, actually,” Chris says with a mock sigh. “We might jump on the ferry and go to Ibiza. That would be nice.”

DJ Mag: 50 Ways to Do Ibiza

Posted by Cila Warncke

Originally published in DJ Magazine Ibiza Edition 2008

1. Look both ways
Traffic runs on the right-hand side of the road here. Whether on foot or in a hire car an unexpected encounter with a fast-moving moto will ruin your holiday.

2. Take the bus
Everything else in Ibiza is “mañana, mañana” but the buses arrive and depart with Prussian regularity. You can zip between Ibiza Town and San An or Santa Eularia in 20 minutes, for a mere €1.65 (compared to €20 in a taxi) or hop on the Disco Bus to Amnesia or Privilege for €2.10, saving yourself the cost of a vodka limon.

3. Go to Underground
The tagline on its website reads “not for everyone” but that’s precisely why you should spend at least one night partying at this converted 200-year-old farmhouse. It’s a second home for the island regulars so the best place to pick up gossip or news about the coolest villa parties.

4. Go to a local café

Spanked your MasterCard buying shots at Pacha? Seek out the Ibicenco equivalent of a greasy spoon and enjoy a three-course meal with a drink for under a tenner. Also, Spanish laborers are partial to a beer or chupito with their breakfast so workerman’s cafés are an ideal place for a sneaky post-club bevy.

5. Have a drink at Teatro Pereyra
The drink prices are daunting (watch out for the €50 bottles of wine) but you have to visit this red-velvet venue at the end of Vara De Rey at least once for its live music and retro ambiance.

6. Hire a chef…
You’re in a villa full of hungry people more adept at frying their brains than frying eggs. Why not pool your resources and call for help? Catering companies like Le Grande Bouffe will whip up dinner, or provide a fabulous beachside picnic – for less money and hassle than doing it yourself.

7. Try vino payes from the source

There are polished local wines on offer in restaurants and shops but for an authentic taste of the island visit a vineyard like Can Pep (Sant Llorenc) or Can Rich (San An) and ask for a slug of vino payes – the Ibicenco vintner’s version of homebrew. Quality varies wildly by year and ‘yard but it’s better than the €2 bilge at Spar.

8. Talk to bar staff
They’re more than just drink dispensers, you know. If you’re looking for a great underground party go chat to Dave and Duze at Lo Cura or make friends with Steve or Sophie at Delano. Curious about island history? Miguel at Marino is a walking encyclopedia of local lore.

9. Take a barbeque to Sant Llorenc
Don’t spend your whole holiday living on ham & cheese baguettes – get out of town and up to the tiny village of Sant Llorenc to its municipal park/barbeque spot. There are picnic tables, individual bbq pits and even firewood.

10. Make sure you have your EHIC card

Hopefully you won’t need it but be sure to get your European Health Insurance Card before you fly. It entitles you to free emergency medical treatment (and Spain’s top-notch state health service puts the NHS to shame, so you’ll be in good hands).

11. Embrace Eroski
With its red white and blue logo Eroski looks more like a petrol station than a grocery store but it’ll save your budget. They do freshly baked bread, inexpensive booze, nice produce and their own-brand toiletries will bail you out if you forgot the wash bag.

12. Dance to cheese on the Sunset Terrace
Now the Space terrace is just another box with a roof and windows go catch the last remaining vestiges of the open-air vibe on the sunset terrace. Tom Novy, a resident for going on 15 years, will play the most appalling cheese imaginable and but somehow the extra dose of sunshine makes it bearable.

13. Get invited to a villa party
You haven’t lived till you’ve gotten off your head at a stranger’s country house… and with the strict opening hours laws in effect this season villa parties will be the only way to go. To snare an invite strike up conversations with the regulars at the bars in the old town.

14. Wear fancy dress

Embrace the un-coolness of wonky glasses, comedy wigs and outrageous charity shop castoffs. Look like a plum? Who cares! It’s Ibiza. Put on your weirdest clobber and take to the dancefloor with pride.

15. Get a tattoo
Perhaps it’s something to do with the general air of live-and-let-live liberalism, but Ibiza has more tattoos per capita than most prisons and great tattoo artists as well. For a permanent reminder of your perfect island summer visit Sandra at Tiki Tattoo who creates one-of-a-kind Tahitian tribal designs, or head to Inkadelic in the Mercado Viejo where Luca specialises in gorgeous script.

16. Hang out at Ocean Drive
The DJ hotel of choice, Ocean Drive at the end of Marina Botafoc is the perfect place to gatecrash debauched after-hours parties. Every weekend its full of the We Love… line-up and Pacha regulars so get down to the bar, blend in, and see where the night takes you.

17. Have a pizza at Punto.It
It’s approximately the size of a phone box but this pizzeria on the main drag in Figueretes dishes up the most delicious, authentic Neapolitan pizzas imaginable. Can’t be bothered to leave your apartment? They deliver too, just call +34 971 39 30 67.

18. Stock up on Saturday
Ibiza shuts down on Sundays so get in plenty of water, booze, loo roll and Rizla the day before. There’s nothing worse than rolling home after a heavy night to find your apartment fridge empty apart from jar of mayonnaise and a half-drunk tin of San Miguel.

19. Experience the ice cannon at Amnesia
You haven’t lived until you’ve stood in the pulsating centre of the main room at Amnesia, blinded by the lights and suddenly felt the temperature drop from 35 degrees to zero as the ice cannon belch out a blast of dry ice. It’s the best rush on the island, even stone-cold sober.

20. Get a massage on the beach
It’ll help shift the toxins and lactic acid produced by a heavy night’s raving and give you the energy boost you need to enjoy the next party.

21. Hire a mountain bike
Cheat traffic by hiring at bike. It’s the best way to get to Salinas or Es Cavallet during the height of the season, and if you fancy getting away from it all head inland towards Sant Llorenc or Sant Mateu for a relaxing ride in the countryside.

22. Get in the swim
There’s no call to learn open water swimming in England but it’d be a crime not to take advantage of Ibiza’s the crystalline shallows. Brush up on your skills and confidence with an hour or two of personalized coaching from Ibiza Swim.

23. Drink hierbas
Make like one of the locals and finish off your meal with a chupito (shot) of hierbas, the traditional Ibicenco licquer. It tastes a like a sweeter, milder Sambucca and is strangely, addictively refreshing.

24. Learn enough Spanish to order a cab
Radio taxi dispatchers in Ibiza are known for their zero-tolerance, especially at the height of the season. Speaking English will get you nowhere so remember this phrase: “Quiero un taxi desde (where you are) a (where you want to go), por favor.” It’s your only hope.

25. Go diving at Punta Galera

This rocky stretch of coastline at the end of San An bay is a fantastic place for diving. And the lack of a sand beach means it’s never crowded, even in mid-summer.

26. Eat fruit from the tree

We’re not suggesting climbing any fences to steal oranges (tempting though it might be if you’re down to your last 10 euros) but if you happen upon a fruit tree in the campo there is nothing more delicious than a freshly picked, sun-warmed fig or Clementine.

27. Share a taxi with a random
Shed your British inhibitions about talking in queues and find out who else is headed your way. It saves time, money, the environment and is good karma to boot.

28. Wine spritzers
Mixing good wine with fizzy water feels wrong somehow, but after a couple of stonking hangovers you’ll begin to see why Ibicencos regularly dilute their vino with a dash of agua con gas. It stops you drinking too quickly and – most importantly – keeps dehydration from sneaking up and wrecking havoc with your head.

29. Know the police
There are three police forces in Ibiza: local, national and the Guardia Civil. The local police are in charge of safety and public order, not drugs or violent crime. So remember who’s who, mind your manners around all of them and, if you’re unlucky enough to be involved in an incident, remember you’ll need to report it to the Guardia – not the local police.

30. Count on the chemist — 24/7

You can get almost anything over the counter in Spanish chemists for aches, pains, itches or ailments, including contraception and antibiotics. Be aware some medications are expensive without a prescription, though. Chemists operate a 24-hour rota system so there’s always one open.

31. In case of emergency…
There are two numbers you need to know: 112 – the standard Spanish emergency number — and +34 971 301 818 which connects you to the British Consulate, which can help with lost passports, legal issues and financial crisis (email: BritishConsulate.Ibiza@fco.gov.uk)

32. Buy a memory stick for your camera
Half the fun of coming to Ibiza is being able to taunt your friends back home with endless Facebook albums of your wild nights and sun-soaked days. Don’t spoil the fun for yourself by running out of memory space on day five.

33. Get a Spanish SIM card
They are about five euros each and mean you can receive calls from home for free and if everyone in your group gets one you’ll save a mint on those “I’m on the terrace mate, where are you?” texts.

34. Embrace locutorios
These cheap and cheerful internet cafés are the best place to pop in and check your email, or make a phone call. They also sell snacks, beer and cold drinks – which comes in handy at odd hours or on Sundays when the ordinary shops are shut.

35. Go to a market (but not Es Canar)
The “hippie market” at Es Canar makes Southend look like St Tropez. Avoid it at all costs. For an authentic market experience head to the Saturday morning car boot sale at the Hippodrome in Sant Jordi or to chic boho hangout Las Dalhias.

36. Buy at least one piece of “island clothing” (i.e., trashy, sexy, outrageous)

As far as high street shopping goes Ibiza is a bit of a wasteland so snap up some fabulous piece of Eurotrash gear instead. Diaphanous floral button-down shirt, lads? Feather-trimmed crop top with strategic cutouts, girls? Why not? With a fresh tan, and after a few days on the rave diet, you’ll look great in anything.

37. Arrive at a restaurant by boat

Be a VIP for a day and cast anchor off-shore from one of Ibiza’s super-chic beachfront restaurants. Ex Xarcu (34 971 187867) in Porroig is tops for luxury seafood, or idle off Cala Jondal and have your meal ferried out to you from Café Tropicana.

38. Check out the record stores
Vinyl outposts in a digital world, Ibiza’s record shops are among the best in the world. Satisfy your music cravings at 40-year-old institution Delta Discos for a Balearic-style mix, Industria (run by Inigo and Pepe from La Communidad) for hot underground electronica and techno or M15 for the latest compilation CDs (all in Ibiza Town).

39. Forget Atlantis

Honestly, unless you have a mate who knows exactly where it is the search for this mythical beach is about as fruitless as that for its namesake lost city. You have 80 other amazing beaches to choose from so don’t fritter away your sunshine time trying to find this one.

40. Have a drink at L’Elephant
A total style-magnet, L’Elephant boasts one of the coolest roof terraces on the island. Enjoy a sweeping view of the island as you sip a pre-Amnesia cocktail amidst its chic, minimal furnishings.

41. Jump into a pool with your clothes on
…because you can.

42. Have a close call/get thrown out of somewhere
Today’s catastrophe is tomorrow’s legendary tale. Just ask my mate who is still dining out on the time he got thrown out of Privilege for jumping in the pool, wandered wallet-less into a nearby cow pasture and was next seen slumped over on the back of a random’s scooter, fast asleep, after hitching a ride back to his hotel.

43. BYO to Amnesia
No, you can’t take your own drink in the club but you can do as the local kids do and loiter in the footbridge over the new motorway guzzling rum & coke before actually making your way into the club.

44. Have a tacky night in San An
It’s horrible, leery and full of 18-year-olds from Dagenham or Brum throwing up on each other and flashing their knickers. Er, what’s not to love? Rock on down to San An, get pissed on the cheap and enjoy the inevitable sense of superiority.

45. Take the water taxi to El Divino
Have a couple of drinks at Rock Bar then hop on the boat plying across the marina and arrive at El Divino in style, even if you only stay for a drink on the waterfront terrace.

46. Enjoy the view in the main room at Pacha

For sheer style Pacha is still the club to beat, and they have entertainment to match. Find a spot in the main room and admire the sexy moves and jaw-dropping physiques of their dancers.

47. Start a rumour
Wild rumours are to Ibiza what punch-ups are to Glaswegian pubs: an essential part of the ambiance. Tell your mates you’ve heard that Erick Morillo is going to have a secret all-drag theme party at Burger King, or that they’re going to open the roof at Privilege so Tiesto can sky-dive into the pool on opening night, and see how long it takes to whip around the island.

48. Play spot the DJ – whoever tots up the most wins

They are bloody everywhere, those DJs. Make a game of it (two points for a Space resident, three for anyone sporting a techno ‘tache, etc) and at the end of the week buy the winner a novelty tee-shirt.

49. Be careful with your valuables
It’s tempting to think that nothing bad can ever happen in Ibiza. This, unfortunately, isn’t true. If you don’t want to spend three hours baking in the Guardia Civil shack while some surly Spanish cop remains totally indifferent to the traumatic loss of your camera/money/passport keep your stuff close. You wouldn’t leave your bag on the floor in a bar in London, don’t in Ibiza.

50. Come back…

The worst thing about Ibiza is leaving. Ease the airport blues by planning your return journey ASAP. Whether it’s a “no luggage” two-day jaunt or a week during the off-season you’ll feel better for being able to say, “I’ll be back soon!”

Sinner In Me (Villalobos Remix)

Originally published in OWTL issue 47. Posted by Cila Warncke

Sinner In Me {Ricardo Villalobos Remix}

I don’t have space here to explain why Depeche Mode is the only electronic band you’ll ever need, but this remix proves my point. While their contemporaries languish sedately in a bin marked “nostalgia” Depeche Mode is as vital in 2006 as they were in 1986. Jacques Lu Cont made ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ an essential electro anthem on its release, and now lifelong Mode fan Ricardo Villalobos has turned the melancholic Sinner In Me into an achingly beautiful, minimal, vocal anthem. You don’t get many moments of introspection on the DC10 terrace, but when this got dropped there was a collective deep intake of breath. Dave Gahan’s plaintive lyrics, wedded to an icy backdrop of minimal techno, bear a shiver-inducing poignancy. A fraught mixture of defiance, acceptance, weakness, and longing, ‘Sinner In Me’ wrestles with temptation, redemption, and that fleeting moment when you’re standing on the top of the world waiting for the inevitable fall from grace. There is, allegedly, a 7” promo knocking around… here’s hoping for a proper release


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Exclusive Sasha Interview

Originally published in OWTL issue 39. Posted by Cila Warncke

Meeting Sasha is roughly the dance music equivalent of an audience with the Pope. Even people who don’t know (or care) anything about dance music know who he is. On the other hand, rabid fans don’t seem to know much more – only that he’s a genius mixer, DJ, and producer; that his music can change your life. No one’s quite sure, though, how a shy lad from North Wales became possibly the most recognised, and revered, DJ on the planet. Least of all him. “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t fallen into this, ‘cause I was a lazy twat,” Sasha says, fidgeting with a Marlboro Light.

Sasha

Sasha

Part of his mystique is down to his wariness of the media merry-go-round. Before he arrived his PR runs through a list of the don’ts: Sasha doesn’t do photo shoots; Sasha doesn’t do lists. When he arrives he’s utterly amiable though, only saying he wishes he’d “handled things differently,” in the press, when he was younger. Now, he is professionally friendly, engaging; he makes eye contact, smiles a lot, when there’s a question he doesn’t much like he leans back, chuckles, and subtly shifts the topic.

Luckily, this doesn’t happen often. When we meet, Sasha is about to play his first London gig in over a year (at The Key), and is anticipating his first large-scale set at TDK Cross Central. He seems genuinely happy to be back. “I really do miss London,” he says, settling into a corner table in the Electric, on Portabello Road. For the three-odd months a year he lives in town, he’s based in West London. A handful of his mates are scattered noisily around the next table, downing mid-afternoon beers, waiting for him to finish. His PR team hovers nearby. Clearly he’s taking no chances on anymore slip ups with the press.

Londoners could be forgiven for thinking he’s gone off-radar lately. “I’ve been in America, doing residencies like Crobar and Avalon, and doing regular shows. Recently, I’ve been in New York setting up my studio,” he explains. New York is where he spends about five months of the year (the remaining four are in “airports and hotels”). The NYC connection started back when he and John Digweed were residents at Twilo, playing regular 12 hour sets of banging, dark progressive tunes. Now resident in the trendy (but not cheap) East Village he enthuses about the café culture and the way “on any given night, anything can happen.” Including moving into Garth Brook’s old studio. “It’s a really nice sounding room,” he says, of his new space, “but the last album recorded there was Kenny G’s Christmas album. We hope he hasn’t left any weird vibes,” he says, chuckling.

Sasha imparts this casually, sipping his beer, as if jet-setting between two of the world’s hippest (and most expensive) neighbourhoods were totally normal behaviour for a Bognor lad. Yet he admits when he first moved to Manchester, to try his hand at DJing he didn’t expect it to last. “A lot of my friends were DJs [too].Every winter when January came and the clubs emptied out we thought it was pretty much the end of the world. The end of the scene. All my mates thought it was a two year flash in the pan. My parents were disappointed [in me], very disappointed.”

By a stroke of good luck, as their playground, the Haçiencda (“the Haç” as he still affectionately calls it), sank into a morass of gang violence Shelly’s opened down the road in Stoke, and he landed his first residency. “People were pissed off at going to clubs and getting beaten up. There was nasty shit going on. [Shelly’s] was an hour down the road and it exploded. Even then, though, I didn’t really [think it would last].”

Sasha behind the decks

Sasha behind the decks

Sasha’s career took off and, as the international bookings started rolling in around ’93 and ’94 he thought, for the first time, maybe it would last. The next ten years are well-documented. In 1994 he and John Digweed mixed the now-legendary Renaissance compilation. It’s an album – and a friendship – that has stood the test of time. (In the course of the interview John gets 13 mentions, Sasha’s wife, two.) “John and I have a really unique relationship. It’s great working with John. He’s so professional. The exact opposite of me,” Sasha laughs. They work so closely, he says, that he can’t remember whose idea it originally was to open the Renaissance album with a daring three remixes of Leftfield’s ‘Song Of Life.’ “It worked beautifully together, but I don’t know who it was. When I work with John it’s very difficult to pinpoint after the fact. We lock ourselves in a room and listen to records for a couple of weeks, then we go and mix it down together. It’s very much a collaboration.”

And he doesn’t just mean in musical terms. Though Sasha and Digweed are only playing 10 dates together this year (“and that’s more than we’ve done in the last five years,” he says) he clearly treasures their camaraderie. “He’s a dark horse, I tell you,” he says, more than once, chuckling at some remembered mischief. His stories often loop back to reference his pal. “I’m not very good at travelling. John [Digweed] gets everything into one rucksack – CDs, change of clothes… I end up with two suitcases, two huge pieces of hand luggage. John’s always laughing at me [because] I’m always getting charged for excess baggage. If I’ve been in a hotel room ten minutes it looks like I’ve exploded… clothes everywhere! But it kind of makes me feel at home, a little bit. It helps me keep my sanity.”

The other constant in Sasha’s itinerant lifestyle is, obviously, music. It always has been, really, but technology has made it instantly accessible, all the time. “I used to check my record boxes, and – especially in the middle of the summer – they’d invariably go missing for a week at a time, somewhere,” he recalls. This sneaky respite turned into a nightmare on the eve the ‘Airdrawndagger’ launch, though. “I was flying back from Ibiza to play [the launch] at Bedrock, and my records went missing. I got back at five in the evening and basically had to go to a record shop and cobble together a DJ set from promos and stuff. It was such an important night for me, and to have that go wrong… I decided to switch to CDs, and from CDs to computer was quick.”

Armed with a Mac laptop and a London-based server Sasha will never have to do a last minute record dash again. “I update my record box every week,” he says, meaning his digital music collection. “I’m constantly downloading music, people send me stuff over Instant Messanger… Before you’d be desperately trying to get decks in your hotel room, now all my music’s on my iPod.”

The trade-off is everyone else has music at their fingertips, too. “Before, you know, I could get hold of a track and I’d have it for a year before anyone else. That just doesn’t exist anymore,” he says, a little nostalgically.

It’s an almost throw-away comment, a statement of well-known fact. But what he’s saying, in extreme shorthand, is the whole system of privilege which helped propel him, and his contemporaries like Judge Jules, Danny Rampling, Digweed, and Pete Tong, to the peak of their fame and earning power, broke down. It can’t have been an easy adjustment for one of the original superstar DJs to suddenly find that being a superstar was no longer enough to keep him ahead of the pack. To discover exclusives he once commanded because he was Sasha, were there online for any two-bit bedroom jock to play with.

The rub being, people didn’t – and don’t – expect any less. Ask if he ever gets tired of being “on duty” all the time, of working flat out to keep up with the onslaught of new music and technology, and he smiles a little. “Yeah, I guess so. But that’s my job. I mean, people expect some kind of legendary set, every time they see me. It’s important that I’m on top of things, and that I don’t disappoint people. You know, it’s hard to please everyone.”

He leans back against the leather banquette, his bright blue eyes narrowing, as he ponders this responsibility. There are several of these little pauses in the course of the interview, moments where Sasha, the musician and music fan, seems wordlessly puzzled, or even a little frustrated, by phenomenon of Sasha the DJ. Unprompted, he says DJing “never felt like a job, it always just felt like a night out, I used to blow off gigs and not really think about it.” As if the pressure of expectations could be dispersed by simply ducking it. But he corrects himself. “Maybe [I did], a long time ago, but the last six or seven years I’ll miss maybe one weekend a year, ‘cause I’m ill or something. I play virtually every weekend of the year, and when you get ill, you get ill,” he says rather vehemently. Then he leans forward, all wide-eyed sincerity. “I mean, if you have your wisdom teeth out and your face swells up twice its size you can’t really go out and DJ, can you?” he appeals.

It’s hard to tell if he’s being disingenuous, or if he honestly feels hard-done-by in public perception. More likely, his is the reaction of a fundamentally shy bloke often caught in a pressure cooker of anticipation. For example, he finds festival sets “nerve wracking.” When pressed for an explanation he shrugs. “I don’t think I play that kind of stadium filling music. I definitely struggle with what to play at festivals. And, um, so many things can go wrong, so many cock-ups can happen.”

Sasha, off-duty

Sasha, off-duty

Thousands of fans who have lost themselves in blissful oblivion at his festival sets might beg to differ, but Sasha likes the paradoxical freedom of “dark and dirty” venues. “You have a play a certain set at a festival, the biggest sound you can muster. When you play for 500 people in an intimate space you can try things out. The crowd will follow you, they’ll go with you.”

This idea of communion is, perhaps, what went missing when MP3s took over the world. Before, people who wanted to hear a certain kind of music had to go to a club, or a festival. Now, they just have to switch on their computer. It is a sea-change, Sasha readily confesses, that left him stranded for a bit. When it comes to production and DJing he does either one or the other. “I try to do studio work on the road, but… well, you’re knackered all the time. I take my laptop and don’t use it.” So, after a self-imposed touring exile of a year, to finish ‘Airdrawndagger’ (“the record label was fine, the pressure eventually came from myself”) he felt disconnected from the DJ scene. “I was kind of lost after that. [In] 2002, 2003 I was treading water. I was a bit unsure of what I was doing and where I was going.”

But luckily technology giveth, as well as taketh away, and the advent of Ableton gave Sasha a fresh perspective. “When I grabbed hold of Ableton I was so hungry to go and DJ again, I was hungry to be out there, playing.” So he did, taking to the road in the States, all over Europe and South America (where, he says, they have the best parties in the world) and dates in the UK including his Fabric residency, which came to an abrupt end last summer. Ableton, it seems, finally allowed the crowd-pleasing DJ and the perfectionist producer to work in some kind of alliance. Instead of locking himself in the studio for months Sasha can edit on the fly, showcasing his mind boggling musicality in a more direct way, satisfying his own creative urges and the audience’s insatiable appetite at the same time. “If I do a boat party in Miami, or a festival in Budapest, or a club in London, I can deliver something special. Five or six years ago I’d have a particular set I’d play, and it would evolve and change, but it would be slow, using a computer allows me to create a unique set every time I play.”

It’s a benefit that cuts both ways, as his newfound technological freedom allowed Sasha to record and release a brand new mix album in one night – thanks to Instant Live. This pioneering setup records, masters, and mixes live shows as they happen, meaning fans can walk out of a venue with a legit, properly packaged live CD at the end of a gig. Sasha’s management company set it up, and – remarkably – pre-licensed 60-odd tracks so he could pick and choose what to play on the night. Though he enjoyed it, the recording (at his Fundacion closing party at Avalon in LA) wasn’t exactly plain sailing. “At the beginning of the second CD my computer spazzed out on me. I guess ‘cause I was under pressure I wasn’t thinking straight. Normally I’d mix in a CD and reboot my computer but I thought I could fix it by fiddling with it”, he grins, miming slapping a keyboard. Hiccoughs aside, he is happy with the finished mix, and looking forward to getting to work on a studio album, proper. “I spent six weeks moving stuff and finding my way around [my new studio]. I’ll be going back in January to work on the follow up to ‘Involver’. It’ll be half DJ mix, half remixes, with some of my own productions.”

First, though, there’s the rest of the year to get through, and a string of gigs including TDK Cross Central, and Space, Ibiza, where he’s playing for We Love… since the demise of the Viva parties he co-headlined with Steve Lawler last year. Sasha is still clearly unhappy the night failed to take off. “It was launched badly. I think [the promoters] just assumed with me and Steve it would be a hands-down success,” he says, which seems like a fair analysis. Unfortunately the Sasha and Steve magic wasn’t enough to keep the night afloat. (By the end of August the headliners, including Sasha, had stopped turning up and there were only a few hundred confused looking clubbers wandering around the cargo hold of Space.) He’s philosophical, but disappointed about it. “It was humbling. It taught everyone involved a lesson. I would have liked for it to work out ‘cause you see Erick [Morillo] and Carl [Cox], they’ve both got established nights now, they’re just brilliant. Maybe next year we’ll think about doing something,” he concludes, brightening.

For every Viva, though, there’s a Southfest. Where, last December, he and John played to a screaming horde of 23,000 clubbers in Buenos Aires. “It started raining and nobody left. It was the most amazing atmosphere.” An online video clip is more illustrative: sheets of rain pour past the camera lens, Sasha – sporting film star sized aviators and a huge grin – pogos behind the decks, caught in the flashes of a blinding light show, the crowd stretching, literally, as far as the eye can see. “I felt like a rock star that night, it would be nice to relive that a few times,” he says, laughing.

TDK Cross Central won’t deliver 23,000 delirious fans, but Sasha is back in full, optimistic flow, happy to be home, excited to play for the “educated pests” (as he calls them) of London clubland. “I like festivals where you have a lot of bands and live things, it’s a bit more eclectic. It brings a healthier mix of people together. You can’t just turn up in London and play any old set. They won’t accept that. It’s challenging. But, you know, I love a challenge.”


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Women Who Rock: Chrissie Hynde in BlackBook

Posted by Cila Warncke

Chrissie Hynde is a true star; a voice crying in the wilderness of contemporary culture where where Cheryl Cole is a “national treasure” and Britney Spears is a slave. In a just world her interview in the Icons issue of New York style bible BlackBook would be printed in leaflet form and scattered through the streets, or reproduced on billboards in city centres.

Chrissie Hynde (from BlackBook)

Chrissie Hynde (from BlackBook)

The first utterly brilliant quote is her frank analysis of the fucked-up-ed-ness of American consumer culture: “This is why I left the States when I was 22. I saw that I was going to be trapped into buying a car so I could get to work so I could pay for my car.”

Later, she elaborates: “It’s an indignity that one has to become part of a system; it’s forced upon you. And it’s not a good system. It’s an evil system.” Yes sister!

Her comment on relationships is perhaps the most heartening thing I read in 2008: “I don’t think I’ve ever been defined by my relationship with anyone. I just tread my path and stick to the plan. And if anyone wants to come along and be part of it, that’s fine, and if they don’t, fair enough. I’ve never left my philosphy to join someone else’s.

Hear that? That’s what a free woman sounds like.

Mixmag Special: Ibiza’s Best Restaurants

Posted by Cila Warncke

If eating out in Ibiza calls to mind McDonalds, pizza or chicken-and-chips it’s time to spread your culinary wings and discover the island’s eateries. From cosy country restaurants to luxurious seaside fish shacks Ibiza has memorable dining for every taste. From the hills of Sant Rafael to the white beaches of Formentera, we’ve unearthed Ibiza’s finest restaurants. Buen approveche…


Es Xarcu
, Cala Es Xarcu, Porroig, 971 187 867
A case of “more than meets the eye” Es Xarcu is a seriously luxurious (and pricy) restaurant masquerading as a casual beach shack. The clue is in the fact it is more easily accessible by yacht than by car – and in the opulant villas on the cliffs above. Try the meltingly fresh fish, the gallo de San Pedro cooked in white wine sauce is a favourite.
Best bit: Leaning back and sparking one of their expensive cigars while you ogle the floating palaces of the rich and famous.

La Paloma

La Paloma

La Paloma, Sant Llorenc 971 325 543
There are pizza places by the dozen but La Paloma, in the quant village of Sant Llorenc, is where locals go for genuine Italian cooking. Bright, airy and rich in charming details (the heart-shaped backs of the white wooden chairs, the candle-lit garden) it is an ideal peak-season alternative to buzzing seaside dining.
Best bit: If you or your guest is vegetarian La Paloma’s organic vegetable garden and amiable attitude make this an unusually welcoming experience.

Café Macao, Santa Gertrudis 971 197 835
There are two Café Macao’s in Ibiza and most websites still point you to the location at the end of the harbour in Ibiza Town. However, the original owners have taken their expertise and loyal following to the countrified comfort of the it-crowd’s new favourite village, Santa Gertrudis, whose homey comfort is the perfect setting for their refined Italian cuisine.
Best bit: The cosy décor has been lovingly sourced by the owners over the years – every piece has a story.

Sa Punta, Talamanca beach 971 193 424
There is no shortage of beachside nibbles at Talamanca but for the best nosh head past the first parade of snack shacks to Sa Punta, a favourite destination for the beach’s regular visitors. Not to be confused with the Sa Punta in San An bay, this relaxed eatery is situated at the far end of the beach past the salt flats of Ses Feixes it cultivates an atmosphere of intimacy against the sweep of the sea. Painstakingly fresh seafood is a speciality, naturally.
Best bit: Near enough Ibiza Town to have a civilised evening meal before strolling to Pacha.

KM5 Caraterra Sant Josep, km5 971 396 349
The spot for luxurious lounging, KM5 is a magnet for everyone from DJs to disco dollies to minted Continentals. Owner Patrick Soks and his partner Philip have created a 1001-nights meets Eurotrash vibe that ticks all the right boxes. Come for cocktails, stay for elegently presented modern European cuisine.
Best bit: Wallow in the ample cushions of the lounge area while ogling the barely dressed molls wandering past.

El Olivo, Plaza de la Vila 8-9, Ibiza 971 300 680

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

There are a multitude of good restaurants lining the Plaza de la Vila, but Ibiza veteran’s unanimous first choice is El Olivo. Owners Pierrick and Frederic have carved a niche with simple but fresh, lively modern French cooking. If you’re looking for a break from seafood try their lamb with raspberry vinagrette or sample foie gras.
Best bit: Book a table outside to enjoy the fantastic free show of Dalt Vila’s bustling nighttime streets.

Juan y Andrea, Carretera La Savina-es Pujols, Formentera 971 187 130
If you only go to one restaurant on Formentera make sure it’s Juan Y Andrea’s. King Juan Carlos I and Bill Clinton have both visited, but you don’t have to be an upper-crust politician to enjoy the elegant ambiance. If you happen to arrive by yacht they’ll ferry lunch to you, otherwise sit beneath the palm trees with sand beneath your toes as you tuck into specialities like labuna a la sal (sea bass baked in salt crust).
Best bit: Picking a live lobster from the tank and having it end up a perfectly cooked delicacy on your plate.

L’Elephant, Plaza Iglesia, San Rafael 971 198 056,
The sort of place that lures in reviewers from both the Sunday Times and the New York Times, L’Elephant earns its “destination” status with a delicious menus and fabulously stylish surroundings. They serve up incredible food, including some of the island’s best sushi. And if the cocktails don’t make your head spin the stunning vistas from the roof terrace will.
Best bit: Jaw-dropping views from the sexy minimal-chic rooftop.

El Ayoun, San Rafael Calle Isidor Macabich 6, San Rafael 971 198 335
Possibly the hardest-partying Moroccan restaurant on the planet, El Ayoun lost its music license last summer after one too many amazing parties. They’ve spent the winter working on improvements which won’t irk the noise police. As well as renovating the decadent interior they’ve added Vietnamese cuisine and sushi to their much loved repetoire of French and Moroccan classics.
Best bit: Their new Club Sushi menu makes them one of a handful of restaurants where Itsu junkies can get their fish fix.

Casa Colonia, Santa Eulalia Road 07840 Santa Eulària 971 338 001
There are gardens and there are gardens; Casa Colonial boasts the latter. Tuck into exquisite French or Thai food as you sit amidst flowering bougainvillea on the grounds of this converted country-house. Book on a Monday and you may find yourself rubbing shoulders with the Cocoon crew – it’s Sven Vath’s favourite lunch spot.
Best bit: Quite simply, the setting. Be sure to book ahead for a sun-dappled spot beneath the palm trees.

La Brasa, Carrer Pere Sala 3, Ibiza 971 301 202
Fairy lights woven amidst banana fronds turn La Brasa’s courtyard into an enchanted oasis just beyond the bustle of Plaza del Parque. Try the Ibiza sea crab salad, salmon in a delicate langoustine cream sauce or tuck into rustic rabbit – roasted whole in front of you on their outdoor grill.
Best bit: Homemade ice cream washed down with an espresso.

Cami de Balafia, Sant Llorenç, Carretera San Juan, KM15.4 971 325 019
Cami de Balafia is possibly the best argument on the island for simple food done to perfection. All they do is grill meat over a variety of woods including olive, almond and carob, but the results are mouth-watering. Expertly cooked cuts are served up with incredibly fresh salads and plenty of wine. Come in the early evening to grab a seat near the succulent scent of the grill and watch twilight turn to starlight over the campo.
Best bit: According to Erick Morillo, the salad – “I’ll bet anyone a 100 bucks they won’t ever taste nicer tomatoes.”

Es Camp Vell, Sant Mateu 971 805 036
You can’t miss Es Camp Vell because there is very little in San Mateu apart from it and the church, which stands watchfully next to this classic Ibicenco restaurant. You’re far more likely to be rubbing shoulders with local families here than with designer-clad tourists, which is remarkably refreshing. The food is reliable and unpretentious: grilled meats, paellas and fresh produce from nearby orchards make satisfying repasts.
Best bit: Walk off lunch with a stroll past fruit laden vineyards and emerald green fields.

Cala Jondal

Cala Jondal

Blue Marlin, Cala Jondal 971 410 117
Possibly the most iconic beach bar in Ibiza, Blue Marlin is a favourite sunset destination and – once or twice a year – home to the most exclusive parties on the island. Last year Kate Moss and her posse rocked up for Ibiza Voice’s Blue Velvet closing party. But even sans supermodels it’s worth a vist for thoroughly chic seaside dining.
Best bit: Lying on a huge, 360 sunlounger drinking one of their exquisite mojitos as the sun sinks into the sea.

Yemanja, Cala Jondal 971 187481
Rubbing shoulders with Blue Marlin, Yemanja offers a slightly more laid-back, familiar atmosphere than its glamour puss neighbour. Lively groups and extended families decamp around long wooden tables laden with paellas, salads and fresh seafood. With attentive staff ferrying out endless bottles of wine lunch can easily turn into dinner, so book ahead if you want to guarantee a seat.
Best bit: Swinging your feet in the sand as you knock back a glass or three of their speciality cava sangria.

Jockey Club, Salinas 971 315 788
A relaxed yet decidedly chic hangout, the fifteen-year-old Jockey Club is one of Ibiza’s most iconic beach bars. Rows of gleaming white sunloungers stake out the restaurant’s turf, creating a champage-bucket and oyster-platter littered oasis of fine dining amidst the Salinas crowds. Snap your fingers for another drink then lie back and gaze out towards Formentera as the world goes by.
Best bit: A spot on one of the Jockey Club loungers is a front-row seat to the action at Ibiza’s most glamorous beach.

Es Cavallet

Es Cavallet

Chiringuito, Playa d’es Cavallet, Sant Josep 971 395 355/971 395 485
The laidback jewel of the southern beaches, Chiringuito Es Cavallet has been a magnet for fans of beach cuisine for more than twenty years. Founders Cristina and Jose Luis started with a kiosk in the 80s which has grown into a beloved restaurant. Hire an umbrella, stake your place in the sand and enjoy specialities like tuna carpacchio, smoked cod salad or grilled meat.
Best bit: Taking in the parade of fit, bronzed, barely covered flesh parading past while sipping on something from their excellent wine list.

Es Torrent, Playa d’es Torrent 971 802160
Reputedly the best fish restaurant in Ibiza, Es Torrent is a gourmand experience. Owner Xicu Sala built it up from a humble chiringuito more than a decade ago and it’s now a favourite hangout for chic foodies who like having their meals caught-to-order (they’ll take your fish requests when you call for reservations). Eating here may be the closest you ever get to royalty, quite literally, so make an occasion of it.
Best bit: The uniquely Ibicenco vibe of pure indulgence in a completely relaxed, unhurried atmosphere.

Tropicana, Cala Jondal 971 802 640 http://www.tropicanaibiza.com
Completing the Cala Jondal trio is Tropicana, a favourite destination for the yacht-club set thanks to their cheerful boat-catering service. If you arrive on dry land you make the most of their services including speedy delivery of fabulous caipirinhas or, if it’s been a long night/day before, freshly squeezed juices and an ample Mediterranean menu.
Best bit: Their massage service – the perfect way to rejuvenate and prepare for your next assault on the clubs.

Ama Lur, Ctra. Sant Miguel, Km 2.3 971 314 554
Taking its name from the mother-goddess of Basque mythology, Ama Lur is the crème de la crème of Ibicenco eating. Blending Basque-country cooking with Mediterranean touches, it offers hearty cuts of meat, fresh cheeses and splendid homemade puddings. And it’s been voted best restaurant on the island for three successive years, by its competition.
Best bit: Enjoy its intimate, country-house setting in the garden overlooking nearby orchards.


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Clash: Deaf Stereo

Originally published in Clash

Deaf Stereo

Deaf Stereo


Deaf Stereo has been percolating ever since Luke, Will and Ben met at Westminster Uni on a music course, at the turn of the millennium. It was four years before they had a name and an idea to go with it. “We decided to stop playing stuff we thought we should, and play music we wanted to listen to,” they explain. The music they wanted to play, if their first single is anything to go by, is solid, grooving beat driven indie pop. Disco biscuits with a side order of Jack Daniels, say.

“We’re into bands like the Chemical Brothers, Underworld… we like the peaks and troughs of dance, but we also wanted proper songs,” says Barney, who describes his role in the band as doing “keyboards and laptop stuff.” About a year ago, they completed their set up, with fifth member, Tom, the handsome, clean-cut drummer.

Sitting in the trendy bowels of the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, it’s Will, who plays bass, who keeps up the steadiest stream of patter. A series of wry asides from behind a hand rolled cigarette. “Would I ever sail a giant effigy of myself down the Thames? Shit. If I were as big as Michael Jackson that’s the least I would do. I’d have a whole set of them.”

Ben, (guitars, backing vocals) is small, dark, thoughtful. He takes on the philosophical questions. Or rather, turns questions philosophical. If you had a band uniform, say, what would it be? Luke (singer) runs a hand through his beautifully cut hair and says, “That’s something we’re still thinking about.” But Ben launches into an earnest and articulate explanation of the dangers of embracing style over substance. Absorbing this, Luke effortlessly readjusts his stance on the issue. “We happy wearing what we wear. No one’s told us to change anything yet.”

These small, subtle realignments happen more than once. Not in a deliberate presenting-a-united-front kind of way, but in a fluid manner which suggests long practice in accommodating each other’s ideas and opinions. Disagreements are minor: Barney prefers Addlestone cider, while Ben is happiest drinking mojitos. Will predicts a Dire Straits revival to general eye-rolling. When it matters, they’re in perfect sync. They want the right songs on the album (“we have a reputation as a party band, but we have some slower songs too, we want to showcase that”); they like the same venues (Koko and Fabric, where they played a riotous 3am gig); and perhaps most importantly, they all know what they want on their rider: “You mean when we have a rider? We’ll have as much as we can get! We got sandwiches when we were at Brixton, that was great,” Luke says.

So far, they’ve humped their equipment through calf-deep mud to play at Glastonbury last year. They’ve written a raft of songs which will somehow have to be whittled into an album. They’ve learned to party on backstage freebies because “we can’t afford to go out unless we’re playing.” They’ve been given some good advice: “Get a job, sort your life out, stop wasting your time,” Will guffaws. And what advice would they give someone following in their footsteps? Ben and Will catch each other’s eye and chorus, “Get a job! Stop wasting your time!” They all laugh.