Ibiza is heralded as a key spiritual home of dance music, but it’s not often you’d associate the island with drum & bass. It’s always been there, though, lurking beneath the mainstream glitterball surface and has had a history with the island going back to day one… One of the earliest labels to experiment with the jungle sound wasn’t called Ibiza Records for nothing.
Besides inspiring Paul Ibiza to name his label after the island, over the years the Spanish island has seen the likes of Carl Cox inviting D&B DJs over to his legendary Space events and there’s also been the Sunbeatz festival. These moments, however, were quite sporadic at points. Much more recently there’s been a renewed interest as Ibiza has seen major league D&B acts play at Together in superclub Amnesia, there’s also the more underground sounds of D&B night BassFace. Now, as of last month, a brand new label – Balearic Breaks.
Founded and co run by jungle pioneer Darren Jay (who was part of the original A.W.O.L event and is now a partner of the brand), BassFace founder and Together promoter Alex Jazzy Herbert and former Metalheadz and Goldie manager Rhyan Paul, Balearic Breaks is the first D&B label to be established on the island and cultivated by inspirations of the island. Everything about the brand, from its soulful, musical signature to the community-based radio shows, are done with their location and local scene in mind.
With the debut release out now – Simon Splice – Dance With Me/Life Goes On – and Skuff, Hadley and Surreal all locked in for releases later this summer, we called up Darren and Jazzy in their Ibiza HQ to find out more.
Before we even discuss the fact this is the first ever D&B label from Ibiza, I think some people might be surprised it’s a liquid label co-run by jungle pioneer Darren Jay!
Darren: We’ve stopped using the ‘L word’ now mate (laughs) There’re so many different subspecies of D&B and no one can agree on what’s what so we’re calling it soulful Balearic breaks. We are not claiming to have reinvented the wheel, we know others have been doing this for years now but you’re right; quite a few people I’ve sent mixes to have said ‘I think you’ve sent me the wrong mix! This is deep and soulful!’ But on the other side of that, I have always had a deeper side. When I worked at MCA and we had the Mecca Recordings / Blackmarket label and in 93-95 myself and Rene put out three deep D&B albums called Total Science with artists like Nookie, Roni Size, Steve Gurley and E-Z Rollers on them. I also did a mix called Different Strokes for KMag which was on a deeper one in the mid-2000s. So I’ve always loved it. I came from being a soul boy and heavily into jazz funk in my teens , and I think working with Larry Heard as his sound engineer and tour manager has had an influence on me. As has living in Ibiza.
Alex, how about you? You come from a promoter background, don’t you?
Jazzy: So I was out here in Ibiza as a D&B purveyor but not as a DJ at the time. I could see the need for more of it on the island. All you had was Together, which is great, but very upfront D&B. It didn’t cover the whole spectrum. So I set up my own night BassFace to cater for that. Off the back of that I was invited to work at Amnesia and on Together and, along the way, I developed myself as a DJ. I play a lot of instruments, but I was DJing heavy neurofunk, so I started seeking something deeper and more musical, which is how I arrived at the Balearic Breaks sound.
Ibiza has had a strange relationship with D&B hasn’t it?
Darren: There’s been jungle over here since 93 onwards. We played at The Zoo for Sundance. We’d always be playing with DJs like Slipmatt or RatPack where you’d have the token Randall, Kenny, Micky or myself on there. Then Es Paradis had Helter Skelter every Sunday and me and Micky were residents for two years, which was really good. But the problem was there were never enough people into the music. So me and Micky thought ‘Okay, there aren’t enough people out here on the streets into D&B, let’s bring some fans over.’ So we put on Sunbeatz years later which ran for seven years , which was the main source of D&B on the island for a while. Everyone and their dog told us it wouldn’t work but we did the main room in Privilege with Andy C and other venues like Eden, Es Paradis, Sankeys, Vista club and The Zoo. The thing is, though, you need to find the locals out here who love D&B and the holiday makers who love it. The trouble with holiday makers is they would get so wrecked they haven’t got a clue what’s happening or what nights are on. So Alex has had this amazing street team all dressed in black with bandanas.
Jazzy: The happiest friendliest people you’d meet on the street. They turned heads and it started to build this following. It took a long time to happen, and a lot of people didn’t believe in me or believe it could be done. We started in this club called The Blue Rooms, which is 250 capacity. They made us start at 4am but, me being me, I still pushed hard for it and people were leaving the superclubs to come to my event. We’d funnelled off this really cool thing and that’s when I got headhunted by Amnesia. They could see what I was doing was working.
So BassFace triggered this whole new movement and the label is the latest manifestation of it in a way…
Darren: Yeah. We had to ask ourselves ‘What is it?’ If we’re going to run a drum & bass label in Ibiza and the main audience aren’t into mainstream or dancefloor D&B, then what can we give them? We all know that if you give someone who doesn’t think D&B is any good a straight up tune they’ll hate it. But if you play them something soulful, maybe something on Liquid V, or a remix of a contemporary tune, then they can get their head around it. Our strapline was ‘D&B for house people.’ We’re bridging that gap.
Jazzy: I see it all the time. I’ll say ‘Do you like you D&B?’ They say ‘Nah mate.’ So I play a house tune, then I play the D&B remix and 9 times out of 10 they’ll be like ‘Wow what is this?’ They won’t believe it’s D&B! So yeah we’re crossing this gap and showing people what we’re delivering isn’t what they’re expecting of drum & bass. We’re showing another side.
Darren: It wasn’t even intentional, but it’s happened very naturally and the sound suits the vibe of the island. It’s come together incredibly well and we’ve actually got all of our releases lined up for the whole of this year and beyond. I’ve never been in this type of situation on a label before.
You got loads of wicked talent on board. Tell us about Simon Splice – he’s also known as Exile isn’t he?
Jazzy: I met him in Amnesia funnily enough, in the smoking area. He knew exactly what he was talking about and knew his shit. At the time I was playing super hard stuff too so we made a connection. But over time we’ve both explored deeper sounds and he started sending me his Simon Splice tunes too. We’ve been guiding him and helping him craft his new sound that really fits the label. He’s a very gifted producer.
Tell me about Skuff. I know him for darker stuff on Rebel Music…
Jazzy: Yeah he’s super diverse. I met him on a forum and we got chatting and I realised how many of his tracks I had. But then he started sending me this deeper, more soulful stuff that he hadn’t released yet and I was like ‘How the hell isn’t this out there?’ So we started working together.
Darren: Some of the stuff he’s been sending is just incredible. He’s so prolific. He’s admitted himself that he’s focused too much on music and not enough time pushing it out there like so many artists. I said to him he was born 20 years too late – if he was around in the early 90s then he’d have been on Logical Progression. Bukem is a big fan of his now, too, and supports a lot of his tracks. So yeah we’ve got an album coming from him that I’m very excited about. There’s something magical about his sound that just works. I can’t explain it, but some producers put sounds together you wouldn’t think about using.
Look forward to hearing that album. What else can we look forward to?
Jazzy: Surreal is coming up soon. He’s the man of the moment right now and smashing it with a unique sound. He’s doing things with Duskee and Sl8r and I can see people jumping on his style so I feel very lucky to be releasing his music. Then the next release after that is from Hadley. Another extreme diverse character, his knowledge when it comes to music is exquisite. A bit like Skuff, when I realised he was also doing deeper things, I invited him to work with Balearic Breaks and for us to be his outlet for that side of his repertoire and the music he’s making is so fucking good!
Darren: Hadley has been here for three days making music, it’s been a lot of fun. The thing is, we’re trying to build a solid nucleus of people in the label, we’re trying to nurture talent from all corners. All ages, all genders. Even house producers who’ve never made drum & bass. We want to cultivate that culture and that experimentation and this vibe. That’s what the best labels do. We are massively influenced by other artists and labels such as Spearhead, Hospital, Liquid V, Fokuz, Lenzman, Sevin, Calibre and Random Movement.
I got a feeling liquid will be a very dominant sound over the next few years…
Darren: I think so. Timing wise I think were spot on. We were doing live streams every week in 2019 which led us to working on OpenLab which was founded by Robert Miles and I’d say is one of the coolest stations in Europe. We talk to people from the streets of Ibiza on how their lives have changed. We’re also on Bassdrive bi-weekly and monthly on Future Sounds Radio, which is great.
Love the idea of representing people from the streets
Jazzy: It’s about the whole culture really. The people and our lives. It’s about the community.
Darren: It really is. And, in answer to your question, yes I can definitely see the deeper and soulful styles having a major influence as we move forward. You can hear it in DJ sets now – even jump up DJs are dropping more vocal tunes in the mix and I think we need to go back to that. Variety and diversity.
Back to that melting pot!
Darren: At the end of the day you’ve got to play what we feel haven’t you? I couldn’t stand up and play music I don’t like and there’s a lot of average music out there at the moment. There’s so much stuff to go through to get to the good stuff so we’re really championing and believing the good stuff when we find it. It’s not about DJ tools or of-the-moment bangers, this is about music we absolutely adore and believe in. And we’re only just getting started.