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“No frills, just house”: inside Defected’s sparkling Eden Ibiza season finale in San Antonio

As two long-running bastions of Ibiza, it’s fair to assume that Defected’s Fridays residency at San Antonio’s Eden are a match made in house music heaven. Just to be sure, though, DJ Mag’s Olivia Stock heads to the Ibiza superclub for 2023’s season closing party — a glorious celebration of their motto — "house music all-life long" — and 20 years of the legendary label on the island

“I’m gonna need a minute to cool off,” a young raver mouths to his mate, before shuffling off the dancefloor to stir up the air with a Defected-branded fan. Less than a minute later, it’s jammed back into his pocket as the opening chords of Modjo’s ‘Lady (Hear Me Tonight)’ fill the darkened nightclub. With the urgency of having just been told by mum that tea’s ready, the youngster launches himself back into the crowd and gets swallowed up by the jostling sea of ravers.

The scene is emblematic of a Defected party, where the music keeps on calling you back to the dancefloor. Tonight at Eden Ibiza, the vibes are especially giddy as the legendary British label returns for the final party of its seventh summer residency. One which Defected’s newly-appointed CEO and co-owner, Wez Saunders, says has been “one for the history books”. To celebrate, he’s curated a programme of residents and friends of the label to conduct proceedings into the early hours.

It’s a testament to Defected’s values that on feasibly the biggest night of the season — where international headliners would typically be in order — they’re keeping things in the family. “I like the closing parties to be a bit of a showcase of our residents because they really understand what Defected is about,” Wez tells DJ Mag, perched in a cramped backroom room of the nightclub. “This line-up is a really strong showing of where we’re at right now. We feel like it’s perfectly apt for the occasion.” It’s a couple of hours before the party starts, and bass is thundering in the background, as Eden’s Void sound system warms up ahead of a night of housey goodness. “The calm before the storm,” he grins.

Photo of DJ Darius Syrossian fist-bumping a fan and a photo of the crowd at Defected’s Eden Ibiza closing party on a purple background

“I like the closing parties to be a bit of a showcase of our residents because they really understand what Defected is about” — Wez Saunders, Defected CEO and co-founder

Defected first moved to Eden in 2017, following a long run of residencies on the island since the turn of the millennia. Starting with Pacha in 2000 alongside Ministry of Sound, the label moved to the now-shuttered Booom, then Ushuaïa, and finally the terrace at Amnesia on Tuesdays, before taking a year out to weigh up their next move. “As we were thinking about what to do next, we recognised that there wasn’t much happening for entry-level clubbers in Ibiza,” Wez explains. “There were certain events that gave people access to the more commercial end of pop-dance/house, but not really true house music.”

Both aware of the “huge young person presence” in San Antonio, Wez, and Defected founder and then CEO, Simon Dunmore, decided it was a fitting new home for the residency. At this time, Eden had just undergone a period of swift changes in ownership, and was facing something of an identity crisis. But after a refurb and a return to its paradisiacal name in 2015, the club was firmly on the way up. “It felt like we were both trying to almost rebuild our position in Ibiza,” Wez explains, “so it made sense to join forces. That first season was an incredible season, and we just built from there, really.”

The residency quickly became one of San Antonio’s most popular, attracting both genre newbies and seasoned clubbers with its “no frills, just house” policy. In particular though, the Friday-night party has evolved into something of a rite of passage for those new to the White Isle. It’s an alliance that Rinco Soesman, Director of Eden, prides himself on. “It’s nice to see the kids for the first time coming to Ibiza, coming to Eden, and recognising something that they have at home,” he tells DJ Mag. “People just come for the party and I think that makes Eden really unique. That attitude is also just so ‘Defected’. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you do. If you come for a party, you’re welcome.”

Photo of Hannah Wants DJing with a spotlight on her and a photo of a red ‘Defected’ logo above the crowd at the label’s Eden closing party on a purple background

Rinco, who also owns Panama club back in his hometown of Amsterdam, is sporting a black, glittery turtleneck and matching dark jeans when he meets us in the concourse. Quietly glamorous, he looks like a physical manifestation of the nightclub. Walking with an exceedingly long stride, the Dutchman gives DJ Mag the Eden grand tour, pointing out the “improved LED screens” and “revamped VIP area” like a proud father. He’s expecting 4,000 people through the door tonight. “Maybe even more,” he grins, “definitely more.”

The secret to the residency’s success is a simple one. “Synergy,” Rinco tells us. “Both brands know what we want to bring to the table. We both have a love for the British kids that want to party, and we want to give them that first feeling of house music and educate them a little bit about what it’s all about. That’s a real privilege.” We part ways as the clock ticks towards midnight and the first ravers enter the club.

The early-starters are rewarded with a slew of house heaters from Defected’s newest resident, Paige Tomlinson, including the storming MK remix of HoneyLuv and Seth Troxler’s ‘Sex & The City’, which entices a lone “woo” from the crowd. The scouse DJ has been on a swift ascent since winning Defected’s Unsung Heroes competition at the start of 2022, which posited her as a serious one to watch — and she handles arguably the toughest slot of the night with confidence.

Charging through headsy house cuts, including Souldynamic’s ‘Equatoriale’, Paige coaxes clubbers into the front section of the dancefloor; an indented crescent dipped a few feet below the concourse. It’s a unique and striking space, overlooked by Eden’s semi-circular mezzanine and a shimmering, three-foot disco ball. For anyone who needs a reminder of what’s currently reverberating through their skull, “House” signs are dotted around the nightclub in assorted fonts and shades of neon. And, as always, Defected’s technicolour branding flashes across LEDs behind the booth, including its inimitable “House music all life long” mantra.

Two photos of the crowd from behind the DJ booth at Defected’s Eden Ibiza closing party

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you do. If you come for a party, you’re welcome” – Rinco Soesman, Director of Eden Ibiza

Monki arrives at the decks sometime after 1AM and spins Marco Lys’ monstrous remix of Cajmere’s ‘Brighter Days (ft. Dajae)’. There’s a palpable energy surge as the crowd recognise the longtime Defected resident and radio host. She fires through a ravey tirade of club cuts, including Daniel Steinberg’s ‘Our House’, before unleashing a chopped-up edit of Dominica’s ‘Gotta Let You Go’. We’re ascending Eden’s iconic spiral staircase just as the chorus hits, and it’s pure pandemonium. Having set the scene for an unforgettable night of music, Monki hands over the reins to Darius Syrossian with a parting message from Honey Dijon’s ‘Work (ft. Dave Giles II, Cor.Ece & Mike Dunn)’: “Let the vibration take you down to wherever your desire flows.”

The Iranian-born DJ responds by slinking through one of the more eclectic sets of the evening. It’s a bold move, especially under the nose of a room of classic house devotees, but one which earns its pay-off in its closing quarter. With a fist held firmly in the air, the DJ slaloms from Julio Bashmore and Bongoloverz right through to Bicep. The latter could feel corny, but in the moment it feels right, and the ravers are clearly on side by the time he bows out of the booth.

Hannah Wants’ sixth (and final) set for Defected at Eden this season is a fast-paced and technically-imposing one. In the past year, the English DJ and producer has become something of a poster girl for the label, cranking out a steady run of singles including 2022’s ‘Cure My Desire (feat. Clementine Douglas)’ and ‘The One (feat. Ara)’ — both of which get a spin during tonight’s victory lap. It’s her most recent cut, ‘Hard To Breathe’, released in August alongside Hannah Boleyn, that gets the most rapturous response. The deep, dancefloor-focused track being just the antidote to ward off the 4AM slump. Leaving the booth, Wants motions a heart gesture to the crowd, and earns a sea of them back in return.

Photo of DJs Sam Divine and Low Steppa mixing while looking out at the crowd, alongside a photo of the crowd dancing, at Defected’s Eden Ibiza closing party on a purple background

Despite temptation from parties across the island, Eden’s dancefloor is bursting at the seams as the final set of the night gets underway. “It’s a real thing I’ve noticed with Defected,” Rinco noted earlier in the evening, “people come and they don’t go, they stay right till the end.” It’s not difficult to understand why, as Sam Divine and Low Steppa step up for their “impromptu” b2b. Cycling through contemporary and vintage house anthems, including a big ‘B.O.T.A.’ dub and the nostalgia-soaked ‘Thrill Me’ from Junior Jack — it’s a jubilant end to the night, and the season.

Though Defected regularly throw parties in as far-flung locations as South Africa and Indonesia — and the Malta Weekender is fast becoming a fan-favourite — it’s clear something extra special happens when the label lands in Ibiza. “If it’s not broken don’t fix it!” Wez Saunders laughs, when asked whether he sees Defected sticking around at Eden. “The partnership has been really strong over the past seven years, and we’ve helped each other to develop so much in that time. I genuinely can’t think of many residencies on the island that have stayed in one place that long.” After over 20 years on the island, the label has got throwing parties in Ibiza down to an artform. We’d say ‘see you next summer’, but we know Defected have a winter of tricks up their sleeve before then.

Revisit DJ Mag’s 2019 feature on Defected as the great success story of UK dance music.

Olivia Stock is DJ Mag’s Digital staff writer. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @oliviast0ck

Pics: Connor Baker (@Bonmk1)