“I did two Cream after-parties here in 1994. The Chemical Brothers did one, and Pepe [Roselló, the owner of Space] walked up to them after 10 minutes and said ‘You have to go off… now!’ and put David Morales on instead. It took me over 14 years to convince the Chems to come back after that!” So says We Love… Space promoter Darren Hughes, and it’s one of many excellent anecdotes (some printable, some very unprintable), that we’re told over the course of an extended chat with some of the key players behind the world’s greatest nightclub, Space.
First opened in 1989, the iconic nightspot celebrates 25 years of existence this summer (hence our chat), and it’s no exaggeration to say that Space has changed the concept of clubbing as we know it. Sundays, for example, helped give rise to the birth of the 24-hour party, while the club has also acted as a springboard for the careers of Carl Cox, Steve Lawler, Sasha and literally hundreds of others. Yet while it’s now very much a state-of-the-art, 6,000 capacity super-club, back in ‘89 it started out with far more humble intentions.
The brainchild of local music lover, businessman and sometime politician Pepe Roselló (a shrewd operator who speaks no less than six languages), Space was originally a conference hall and occasional discotheque, while its opening policy — decreed under Spanish licensing laws — meant that it must be closed for at least two hours a day.
Taking full advantage of laws that worked well in their favour, the savvy promoters chose to operate the club from 8am-6am and voila, Space’s influence soon spanned the globe, with visitors from as far afield as Japan and Australia making annual pilgrimages to Ibiza’s shores in search of this almost mystical club.
That said, the club’s success was no instant thing. Initially conceived as a 300-person capacity club, back in its early days Space actually struggled to attract the punters, with Roselló laughing as he speaks of nights with barely 50 people inside.
But as the island’s tourism increased due to the proliferation of cheap flights, so too did the numbers down at the picturesque Playa d’en Bossa nightspot, and slowly but surely the club was converted to meet demand.
A quarter of a century on from their opening season, and it’s telling that Space is still as influential as it’s ever been, with DJ Mag readers voting it their No.1 club in this year’s Top 100 Clubs poll. And in an industry where evolution is key, that’s no mean feat.
But if ever there was a time to reminisce about times gone by, then a 25th birthday is surely it. Roselló’s favourite moment at Space, for instance, revolves around the time Erick Morillo played Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ in the wake of 9/11 (“simply magical, and it really demonstrated the power of music”), while he also pays homage to long-term resident Carl Cox’s birthday sessions and the many Opening and Closing parties he’s been involved with. Manager Juan Arenas, meanwhile, fills us in on his early Space experiences, where, as a wide-eyed teenager from neighbouring Mallorca, he was utterly transfixed by what played out in front of his eyes.
“I first came here when I was 17,” he tells us. “A bunch of us would get the boat over [from Mallorca] early in the morning so that we’d arrive just in time for Space on Sundays. We’d have breakfast in front of the club to keep our energy levels going, we used fake IDs to get in and we didn’t leave until 8:30 the next day! They were very, very special times that I’ll hold dear forever.”
It’s similarly hard to dwell on 25 years of Space without mentioning 1999, the year We Love… was born. As you might have noted by now, We Love… is Space’s flagship night and by some distance its most influential party.
It’s also no real coincidence that We Love… first came to prominence in 1999 — a year island veterans and clubbing aficionados still talk of as the best-ever season on the White Isle. While many still pine for the days when the club was still open-air (when aeroplanes would roar overhead, breaking the sound of the music as they touched down in Ibiza’s nearby airport), the club has been savvy enough to move with the times; always looking forward rather than backwards.
“We can’t deny that those halcyon days without the roof on the Terrace were simply amazing,” states Darren Hughes. “You’d have planes flying overhead [the Terrace had no roof before the authorities intervened], and everybody going crazy to each and every arrival was something that’ll stay with me forever. And the DJs loved it too — it made for such a special atmosphere. But as a promoter,” Hughes continues, “I’m only as good as my last party. And I can’t let nostalgia come in the way of that.”
Much of what Hughes is saying goes some way to explaining the club’s still huge influence, and the likes of the aforementioned DJ Mag gong is testament to the constant graft that’s involved in running the world’s greatest club. DJ Mag are sitting down with Pepe, Juan and Darren on Space’s famed Sunset Terrace, and barely a week into the 2014 season, we’re curious to establish quite how a club of Space’s proportions works.
“Some people seem to think we just flick a switch and it all comes to life,” laughs Darren Hughes. “But there’s so much more to it than just that. Last year, for instance, we officially stopped putting on parties on the 30th September, but after that it takes a good six to eight weeks to finalise the accounts and plan for the next year. And to get the artists that we’re going for can be very hard work. Some of the guys that we’ve got playing at We Love… this year, for example, are pretty high profile, so it takes a lot of to-ing and fro-ing before they can be confirmed.”
Juan Arenas agrees. “People always ask me about the Opening and Closing Parties especially. They’re amazing, but so much goes into organising them it’s insane! We spend months liaising with artists, agents, sound technicians, tech guys, marketing experts and even liquor companies. Basically, every single aspect of the experience has to be adhered to with absolute professionalism — and we have to be 100% sure that it’s the right move for the party.”
It’s merely a week after the Opening Party when DJ Mag catch up with the Space crew, and we’re keen to hear what they thought of this year’s edition. “The Opening Party is my favourite party — and this year was amazing again!” says Juan.
“The people are fresh, everybody is in a good mood and all the island residents come out to play too. We have an extra area for the Opening and Closing Party in the car park called the Flight Club, which holds an extra 5,000 or so people, so they can all dance outside like in the old days. This summer, the area was supposed to open at 12, but we had some misunderstandings with the town hall, which meant we had to open at 4pm instead.
Anyway, when I woke up last Sunday and looked outside, it was raining and I was naturally disappointed, figuring the clubbers wouldn’t want to dance outside. But then at five minutes to 4pm, the sun came out and the clouds went away, which is one of those happy coincidences that only seem to happen on an island like Ibiza. It was like the gods were shining down on the party, like it was meant to be. At the Opening, I love just walking around with a beer in my hand and surveying how the people react to everything that’s going on in each room, which in the end, is what makes my job so worthwhile.”So what makes Space so special? Is it the music? The setting? The DJs? As it transpires, Darren, Pepe and Juan are all unanimous in their decision here — but it’s Pepe who pipes up first. “That’s easy,” he tells us. “Space is so special because of the people. All we do is host the party, but they’re the ones who make it what it is.” He’s not wrong, and after 25 years at the helm, he’s obviously pretty well qualified to talk about the subject. Thanks for the memories, Space. Here’s to another 25 years of music, hedonism, people and all round good times at the world’s greatest club.