How we made Space Ibiza

‘If you wanted to have sex in the middle of the club, you could. No one cared’

Pepe Rosello, founder

In 1958, I was running a restaurant in Ibiza called El Refugio, before moving on to La Reja, a jazz club. After years of repression and dictatorship in Spain under Franco, music offered freedom, dancing, physical contact. Hippies, the Woodstock generation, came over from the US, fleeing the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and bringing music that filled the venues: Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon – all forbidden in Spain at the time.

In 1962, I took over the Capri club and renamed it Playboy. I was being rebellious, as the magazine was banned. But the area, San Antonio, ended up getting a bit vulgar, so in 1989 I took over Space. People thought I was mad to move to Playa d’En Bossa: the area had no personality, the tourists didn’t leave the hotels, and it was mostly for family holidays.

So the first thing I did was put a wall around the club for privacy, even though you could still jump over it. The authorities had over-regulated night-time, but there was no problem with opening in the morning. So we started Breakfast in Space, where you could dance and welcome the planes passing 30 metres above your head. People started coming directly to Space with their suitcases, even before checking into their hotels.

When it comes to making a successful club, if you manage to attract a tribal group who fight the establishment, you’ve already done most of your work. The masses then absorb that transgressive elite, enhance it and give it an identity. The British are the most devoted audience of all: they’re always polite and respect the rules. Music helps them express emotions that have been pent up by their culture and education.

I’m 80 now and this will be my last year owning the club. I’ve got so many good memories. The night I turned 75, my friends blindfolded me and sat me down in the main room. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in front of Dita Von Teese performing on stage, with soprano Tiziana Fabbricini singing La Traviata.

‘The best nights of our lives’ … Space Ibiza.
‘The best nights of our lives’ … Space Ibiza. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Carl Cox, resident DJ

I was curious: a club that opened at seven in the morning? You’d been out at Pacha and you’d think: I’ll get some breakfast, wash, have a shave, then go to Space until two in the afternoon. You felt like a naughty schoolboy: you’re meant to be going to bed, or just waking up from the night before.

The club had people from everywhere: Venezuela, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands. Hearing an aeroplane fly over a club was a first – it would drown out the music on the terrace and you’d all be cheering, because there were more people coming to the island.

‘Be flamboyant’ … Carl Cox.
‘Be flamboyant’ … Carl Cox. Photograph: Manel Gimeno

Back in the 1990s, if you had a camera, you had to leave it in the cloakroom. So if you wanted to have sex in the middle of the club, you could. No one would care. These were the ideals of the place: be flamboyant, be as free as you want. The Manumission night in the 1990s, which had a live sex show on stage, used to get 10,000 people every week.

Ibiza has become more conservative now. At DC-10 people used to dress up as aeroplanes or as Catwoman, for no reason. Elrow is bringing that back, but it’s forced and staged. And at Richie Hawtin’s recent nights, everyone dressed in black – like, who died? We grew up in the summer of love, where it was all about colour and having a smile on your face. I want to walk away from it all now and just remember that we’ve had some of the best nights of our lives in this club.

• Carl Cox’s weekly residency, Music is Revolution, runs until 20 September at Space Ibiza.


Interviews by Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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