Exclusive Interview | José Padilla
Café Del Mar Legend and Chill Out Godfather Talks Balearic Past, Present and Future
by Joshua P. Ferguson
You can't talk about Balearic music without talking about José Padilla. The iconic Spanish DJ got his start when the country lived under Franco's rule, driving a then-young Padilla to dig deep for musical inspiration that came to encompass Spanish folk music, jazz, American soul and the odd soundtrack or two. Moving to Ibiza, the Spanish Isle now famous as an international clubbing destination, in 1975 when it was still a quiet tropical paradise, Padilla slowly built the foundation of what would become Balearic music.
It began with Padilla selling tapes of his DJ mixes in the local island market. Their popularity went viral in a way seldom seen in the '80s. Establishing himself as one of Ibiza's premiere DJs, his legendary residency at seaside lounge Café Del Mar throughout the '90s became synonymous with what is now widely recognized as chill out—sunset grooves that kiss goodbye to the day and warm you up for the evening ahead. The compilation series that followed Padilla's idyllic sunset sets turned him into an international best seller and sparked a musical movement that can still be heard in hotel lounges and sushi restaurants the world over.
Now, with artists like John Talabot and labels like International Feel writing a new chapter in the Balearic sound, Padilla is back, having recently returned to the DJ booth at Café Del Mar and to the studio with International Feel's Mark Barrott to add his own voice to a renaissance in the iconic Ibizan sound. We reached out to Padilla via e-mail to hear more about the early Balearic days in his own words and find out more about his new single "Solito" and his next artist album due out in 2015. Here is what the chill out icon had to say.
Balearic has come to mean something quite specific as both a music and a lifestyle. As an originator of both, can you describe what Balearic means to you?
For me it's a way of playing music. It's the way I always play, all my life: very eclectic, with no boundaries, and it links with a way of life from living here in Ibiza.
From a musical perspective, how did your style and sound as a DJ originate in the early 70s?
My roots come from Motown, Trax Records, Philadelphia. Then I discovered Bossa Nova and Jazz. Franco-run Spain banned many tracks like The Rolling Stones, so I had to find my own way, my own sound.
What part did that political and cultural climate in Spain at the time play in your early days playing records?
There was a scene of very small clubs—it was like we were hiding—and illegal parties like Oro Negro and La Ratenora, where they played music that had been banned, in some ways it was similar to the rave scene in the '80s in the U.K.
How did that carry through to the tapes you were selling after you relocated to Ibiza and eventually at Café Del Mar?
I got more educated and evolved over time and I found Brain Eno, Tangerine Dream, Neu, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson, then Bossa Nova and Jazz.
What other inspiration helped you cultivate your now-iconic chill-out style?
The main one is the King Ra (The Sun), I play beautiful, emotional music for the sunset.
You recently brought that iconic sound back to Café Del Mar after 15 years away. What was it like returning to the DJ booth there?
Well, it was very emotional. I was nervous but it was amazing and I felt so much love from the people.
You’re also active in the studio, working on a new record for International Feel. Can you tell us more about the sound you’re crafting for the record?
For me it's a very important album. It's a great label as well and I’m a big fan so it will be a very eclectic album, almost like a DJ set, a mix of organic and electronic. I know no other way. My first track ‘Solito' is what people may call ambient or Balearic.
What are your inspirations and aims this time around?
My aim is to make music people of all ages can enjoy with the highest quality production so it has longevity. I’m not interested in making music that lasts only one month. It needs to be for a lifetime.
What’s it been like connecting and working with Mark Barrott on launching this new phase in your career?
It's been great. it’s like we were working together all our lives, very sooth following and we understand each other.
For those who might only be familiar with Ibiza as the clubbing destination it is today, can you describe the scene during it’s early hey day?
Well, back in the day you had to play all night, play all styles of music. Things changed of course over time. There were no computers, life was more relaxed. Everything is busy and hectic now and there was not the big VIP scene in the old days.
As someone who’s lived there for almost 40 years, do you feel you can still find that old school Balearic spirit there?
As long as I’m alive I'll be trying to keep it going so yes!
Speaking with Mark recently, we discussed how there does seem to be a building renaissance in the music at least. How does it feel seeing that the peaceful sound and spirit you helped created is becoming popular again?
Yes, because there has been a new wave of great producers over the last few years like Psychemagik, Todd Terje, Lindstrom and labels like International Feel, Tusk Wax, Philomena and Bird Scarer Records. So there does seem to be a lot of great things happening right now.