The meteoric rise of Liverpool duo CamelPhat over the past few years hasn’t been an overnight success — far from it. The pair grafted in Liverpool-based record shops and labels for a number of years before forming CamelPhat in 2010. It wasn't until their ‘Cola’ tune with Elderbrook was picked up by Defected that they smashed into the charts. It even got nominated for a Grammy.
Since then, tracks such as ‘Panic Room’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Be Someone’ — all collected together on their ‘Dark Matters’ album — have helped propel them to the top. After successful seasons at Hï Ibiza, Camelphat now take on hosting duties at Ushuaïa, delivering a new flavour to this outdoor venue. They’ll be bringing together a host of their friends, as well as sharing the stage with their co-residency partners Solardo. DJ Mag Ibiza spoke to Camelphat's Dave Whelan about their debut season at Ushuaïa...
Tell us about your first experiences in Ibiza...
“It must’ve been when I was like 13 years of age, I think. I went with my friends and parents, and I remember going to a pre-party for Cream at Bar M. Somehow, we managed to sneak in. I was convinced we’d made it into a Cream event! I just thought, ‘This is like the greatest party ever’. Twenty minutes later everyone had gone elsewhere. Obviously I found out later on in life that these were just pre-parties for the big events.
“We just loved the Space terrace. We were constantly on the Space terrace, that’s where we kind of got used to the idea of wanting to be DJs and carrying on from there. It was always Sunday afternoons on the Space Terrace — Bora Bora first, then over there. I can also remember buying vinyl like Michael Gray ‘The Weekend’ as a white label in Ibiza. God knows how long ago that was, kind of on that level when Plastic was a record shop rather than a bar.”
What does it mean to you to be holding a residency at Ushuaïa every Tuesday?
“It’s daunting. Obviously we’re slightly concerned because it’s so big, and the other names that are involved — David Guetta, Calvin Harris, ANTS, all these well-established DJs like Martin Garrix — are all these massive, huge brands. Then there’s us, who are just trying to get there. I don’t know, I guess it’s a gamble and it’s a risk, but it’s one that we’ve got to take to get to the next level as artists, taking it in as we go. Before the pandemic, we would do Tuesdays at Hï and they were one of the biggest nights on the island. If we can gather that energy and the momentum of that, this year it’s going to be great. That’s what we’re aiming at.”
How’s it going to be different for you guys at Ushuaïa as opposed to Hï this summer?
“I feel like we’ve become artists rather than DJs now, because we’ve kind of had a lot more hits than your normal DJs that have crossed over — and they’ve become anthems. What we’ve learnt as we’ve been on the road lately, we’ve just done our own album tour, is that these particular records kind of lend themselves to more like concert events rather than just a nightclub. Our music kind of transcends into a live show anyway. I think Ushuaïa have got the arena to do that, what with their light-show and the way they put on a show itself. I think our music can cross over and look like a concert every single Tuesday, rather than just a couple of DJs turning up and playing a few tunes. That’s the idea anyway.”
Will you be staying on the island, or doing quick visits in and out every week?
“For the first time this year we’ve decided to rent out a couple of apartments each. We’re going to base ourselves here this summer and not take on as much work as we’ve done in the past. The one thing that the pandemic has done is it’s made us appreciate rest, rather than going out there and absolutely killing ourselves every weekend. Previously, we’d get back to Ibiza mid-week and be totally exhausted and not completely enjoy the show and the sets and everything. We don’t want it to feel like a job, we want it to feel like we’ve arrived — and let’s enjoy it.”
Do you think Ibiza is still relevant in the global dance music scene?
“There’s obviously places around the world now that are getting bigger and bigger — the likes of Tulum, Mykonos, even Miami now, I feel like they’re all catching up musically — but nothing will ever stand in the way of Ibiza. I think this summer more than ever is going to really prove that to people. I think that’s the one thing that’s going to stand out. People are going to come away and go, ‘You’re just not beating Ibiza’, which is generally the case every year, but this year in particular. You’ve got generations of kids who were 16, 17 when we went into lockdown, who are now old enough to go to Ibiza — they’ve probably never even been to nightclubs before, half of them. They’re going to go and witness Ibiza for the first time, along with people who went religiously every year for 20 years. There’s such a mixed bag of people that it can only be a positive, it’ll bring that extra energy. That’s going to be the talk of the world.”
Will you ever get bored of Ibiza?
“Yeah. I always come away from there saying never again, and then by the time February comes, or let’s say after Music Week in Miami, I’m absolutely itching to get back. I feel like Miami Music Week is always the trigger, as soon as it’s done I always think, ‘Next, Ibiza’.”
What is your favourite place to go in Ibiza when you’re not clubbing?
“There’s a restaurant called Casa Maca, which is owned by the Mambo Brothers. We’ve been going to that for the last couple of years. We’ve watched it grow from basically a car park with benches and fairy lights to an absolutely unbelievable outdoor restaurant that overlooks the Old Town. What they’ve done to it now is unbelievable, with the amount of seating they’ve put in there. It’s just got better and bigger, and yeah, it’s just a vibe, it’s really comfortable. The lads who run it, the Mambo brothers and Javier, they just totally deserve it. It’s just one of them places I love to go, I recommend it to everybody.”