Up in the north of the island i am sitting with Claire + Mike, Manumission creators, now being on another quest to finally reinvent themselves and their understanding of how to create the perfect party.
Let’s find out what this is all about:
20 years Manumission – how does that feel?
Mike – Hard to believe no? What do you think?
Claire – Yeah… It really feels like from another time… It was such an intense part of our life, an all-consuming experience.
Do you have a rough idea of how many parties you did?
Mike – This is quite easy to work out – 15 years of Manumission, normally 14 parties each season…
Claire – and 9 years of Carry On…
So it is about 336 parties……….. incredible.
Mike – That was a pretty intense time… Definitely great fun.
Claire – I don’t think we could have done what we did without the passion for it.
You definitely changed the party landscape of Ibiza…
Mike – Well, we’d better apologize for what has come after Manumission – (big laughs!). We were very [very] happy with what we did but i guess we are partly to blame for what has come out if it.
You probably put things in people’s minds that they later misinterpreted or overdid in a certain way, without mentioning any names… How did you come to Ibiza in the first place?
Mike – We met the first year in 1994 – i literally came on holiday after starting Manumission in Manchester. I came her for a break, did not want to visit any clubs at all – that lasted for about one week, the second week we wandered around the clubs and i thought wow – imagine we could stay and do Manumission here? Then we spoke to Brasilio and managed to get a deal, he offered us the Monday nights just to do a small party in the Coco Loco bar…
Claire – And it grew and grew and grew…
Mike – quite quickly until we filled up the whole club and it went on for years until José Maria literally locked the doors up on us on August 4th 2007.
It seems to be an outstanding date if you know it straight away! Manumission is as far as i know still the promoter with the biggest number of people visiting their event up to present – that is amazing!
Claire – Mike lived in New York before and he noticed that the clubs came and went and it was very [very] hard to stay on top in this club scene.
Mike – Usually they lasted for about 6 months – in a cool club…
Claire – So we kind of reinvented Manumission every year and i guess that is one of the reasons why we stayed on top.
Mike – And we only did parties here. Many people use Ibiza as a platform to tour the world, so how ever successful they were in Ibiza they can go on tour after, using the name of Ibiza for themselves. We found that it is our mission to bring people to the island, if you wanted to come to Manumission you had to come to Ibiza. And this was the perfect place for Manumission, what a playground, all that freedom, the cool international crowd and we could invite people down here to give them the most incredible time, taking them to Sa Trinxa and all our other favorite places to have this wild adventure.
Claire – a 36 hour adventure…
Mike – It was incredible times – we felt like we lived more than most people do in their entire life in one single year. In any of those 36 hours we did so much we felt like Erroll Flynn… The things we saw and did… One of my favourite thoughts was that who ever comes from a small village from somewhere and goes with us on the whole 36 hours would then, after returning home – have so much to tell it would last for years to come.
Claire – We spoke to thousands of people, we were right in the middle with them, it was like having a party in our house.
Mike – That is how we treated it, a party from us for our friends and everybody was welcome, however and wherever they came from. It is your obligation to be a good host.
BTW., what happened to all the massive constructions, stages and decorations you did during all those years?
Claire – The Hotdog is still here in our garden… and we got three big skeletons in the cupboard… a whole room for our artworks, but most of it i don’t know… We had this giant cat…
Mike – She was three meters tall, smoke came out of her mouth, her eyes lit up and the dj played underneath her paws.
Claire – But that has disappeared as well… Things disappear quite quickly in Ibiza, maybe it will reappear somewhere one day.
Do you miss the old times?
Claire – Well, it was so intense at the time, then we changed to a family life and it took us seven years to write the film script and to develop our new show so that has been an amazing change for us and it was really necessary. Of course we miss it because it was so much fun.
Mike – If we go out now it’s fun as well but we made the perfect party for us to have fun back in those days…
Claire – What we are creating now is again on another level, the team we work together with now comes from the cinema world, you don’t see those people in nightlife.
When Manumission stopped did you already have the idea or how did that come to life?
Mike – For the last six years of Manumission we already wanted to make the film we are making now. We are on it probably for the last thirteen years. I found the book that the film is based on at the Strand bookstore in NYC, our plan was to finish Manumission in 2007 but then, before the end of the season, José Maria literally closed the doors on us. It would have been our most successful year but then we were in a different situation, and in order to keep our team employed we moved to Amnesia which was a mistake… It would have been better to finish in the middle of the season.
You can’t transport Manumission to Amnesia or any other club in the world i guess…
Claire – We just put so much into that production, it was all perfect.
Mike – It was the pinnacle on what we did before, that final year in Privilege was the best on every level but life had another plan for us. We believe in the meaning of life anyway.
Claire – And it somehow helped us with defining the main character, if everything would have been too easy we might not have had this insight. You become a little bit more humble, as your ego kind of goes crazy in nightlife i guess it was in a way good that this has happened. It was a lesson we probably had to learn.
Talking about egos and the actual party scene, what is Ibiza right now for you?
Mike – It is still a beautiful island, sitting here in our farmhouse is exactly the same as it used to be…
Claire – What baffles me is all those people holding their smartphones in the air and i ask myself ‘what are they going to do with that footage?’ Do they sit at home and enjoy what they should have enjoyed in the actual moment?
Mike – And who made the DJs so important?
Claire – Of course the DJ is an integral part of a good party, he or she is definitely essential but to only worship that one element puts the whole system in question.
Mike – 20 years ago, when we first came to the island, it was a very cosmopolitan group, very international crowd, a rebel scene, the people that came here have all chosen to leave where they were from in order to break free, come here and live a free life. And when you tell people about Ibiza at that time they didn’t know, e.g. Americans didn’t even know where ibiza was, for the English Ibiza was San Antonio so lots didn’t want to go thinking it was all drugs so the island had a really bad reputation and we had to explain that Ibiza is much nicer than they had imagined. So to get through that and come here you had to be a braver kind of person to ignore all of that and come down. So it was a kind of filter and therefore it was a very special group of people whereas nowadays it is so much more mainstream and all those rebel characters are probably still here and do the same as what we do, living in the countryside and not going out, or at least so much. And i totally understand it, what is there to go out to that we would really enjoy? We do go out from time to time but i guess we need to make a party for us to fully enjoy it. The clubs back in the old days didn’t used to be full but they were great, e.g. Pacha was a fantastic club, very glamorous and international, now it’s just a packed club full of smartphone holders – so where is all the glamour gone? Which is a shame….
Claire – The Motel wasn’t packed and it was a tiny little club, sometimes we were ten or twenty of us but we had a great time in there! It wasn’t about being full to capacity…
Mike – nowadays you measure the success of a club on the numbers, is it packed? – then it is good, not packed – can’t be good……. A club does not need to be packed, it needs good people having a good time with some good music and whatever people would have in a good party, you know? but to just put a headline DJ on and pay 150.000 Euros to play for two hours…
Today the billboards are full of DJ faces celebrating themselves…
Mike – exactly… Maybe he is a really nice guy but he is definitely overpaid. The club is obviously making good money if not they would not pay this price, but if all the money is given to the DJ what money is left for the party? There was a shift around the year 2000 when Pacha did direct deals with the DJ’s and cut out the promoter. That model got taken on across the whole island or let’s say in most of the places but actually the promoters were there for a reason, sure the DJ is the carrot to get the people to a party but there is an art to throwing a good party and that is what’s missing. And fun!
Definitely fun! So let’s talk about the new project called ‘Phantasmagoria’:
Mike – It is a place in the future.
Claire – It is strongly connected to cinema…
Both – Where do we start??
Mike – This summer we will be holding five events on fridays in August starting on Claire’s birthday which is the 1st of August. What we are trying to create is something that we would enjoy to go to. License pending we will turn the car park next to Boom into a drive-in Movie theater with food and drinks.
Claire – We are talking to Seth Troxler regarding his London eatery restaurant ‘Smokey Tails’ which pays homage to his Detroit roots, where they do fantastic Spare Ribs on a barbecue so we would love to have them do a pop-up restaurant here in one of those super cool jet stream caravans to feed this massive drive-in so people can have a picnic with their cars in the back. And we have chosen five of our favourite directors so each week we want to celebrate the work of one of those directors so what we are planning to do is to show one of their films.Then we go over to Phantasmagoria where we have this amazing visual artist and in addition Craig Richards in residency. Phantasmagoria is set in the future in the year 2034 and the world is so devoid of culture that the citizens go to a club called ‘Sexus’, they are all cinephiles getting dressed as characters out of the movie.
Mike – We sourced these super cool blues songs that were banned in the 30s so they will be the basis for the soundtrack of the shows. We have the best dancers trained in classic ballet doing this sexy choreography, bringing those two worlds together, who normally would never meet. This is where we wanted to go with Manumission, I always wished i could have lived in Paris in the 20s with all these great thinkers and artists and poets and writers, if you got them all together in one place, the outcome must be very special when you mix the best talents of different fields. So we try to mix the best of film, the best of music and the best of dance, and we are pretty sure something will happen, and we don’t even know what that is. It could have an effect on culture in general because of going that extra distance. Right now there is a cultural void, as long as the formula of paying off a big DJ and filling the club works none of the club owners will change this formula…
Claire – Ibiza is such a special place, the parties here need to be on another level and they can be, it has been done before so why not do it again?
Mike – We should not be imitating Las Vegas and i think it should be an honor and a privilege to play in Ibiza so people should not get stuck in paying those outrageous wages but investing it in the culture of the party, as a reinvestment in the scene. Right now there is too much service towards the VIPs and we hear people say that this service isn’t even good enough for the VIPs, they charge VIP prices but do not deliver VIP service which those clients want. Before we had rich people as well but they would hide their money and drive around in a shitty old car, hang out on the beach smoking joints trying to blend in with the others enjoying their anonymity within genuinely cool people.
Coming back to Phantasmagoria, what is the long term plan, is it meant to build up as Manumission did, do you have a plan for the next few years?
Claire – This is designed as a ten year plan, we would love to see it grow into a festival of dance, music and cinema. We see a lot of potential in it.
Mike – We are obsessed with cinema, we always were, and i would love to bring all those amazing directors, and every year visionaries of music and dance and more as it grows. And the dream would be to build a film studio here because i think this is like Hollywood, or better said as Hollywood was before it was run by lawyers and accountants. We have the potential to create an amazing fresh film industry here to make great movies which is a great alternative to nightclubs and bars.
Claire – And it would give work during the winter, the light in winter is so beautiful and amazing, and for the kids growing up here there aren’t that many opportunities so one of our aims is to build up a school involving all the different art forms that exist within the cinematic world like dance, set design, costumes, settings, make up, styling and so on.
Mike – And we got our eyes on a place where that could happen so we are already talking to the government about this, because that would be just fantastic. so touch wood.
One last question – what do you think about dub Ibiza?
Mike – We love the logo, but more important is you are the only un-corporate magazine, almost all the other magazines are about promoting themselves or their brand. On top you were one of the first and you probably will be the last, so stay strong!
Thanks for the kind words and this massive interview, we talked for more than an hour and said a lot of things that needed to be said, and we cross fingers for your new project or better said projects, this island needs you!