Modern talk of Ibiza often revolves around notions of glitzy, high-priced clubbing, relentless hedonism and boorish music, but Mark Barrott’s life on the white island is nothing like that. With a blissful new album, Sketches from an Island 2, set to surface via his own International Feel label, the UK producer dropped by RBMA Radio’s First Floor, and in this excerpt of his conversation with host Shawn Reynaldo, he speaks about his own Ibiza experience, the limits of Balearic music and the possibility of putting together a live show.
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Ibiza is known internationally for really ostentatious clubbing but when I read about your life, and when I listen to your music, I get the feeling that is not your Ibiza experience.
Not at all. We live in the center-north of the island, maybe ten minutes from the nearest village. It’s incredibly quiet. One of the reasons for moving back to Europe was to be close to my parents as they got older, and so I go to England quite a lot. When I go to England, I’m amazed at the level of ambient noise. It’s absolutely disconcerting because, where we are in Ibiza, it’s quiet. If you want to hear the ambient noise that goes on around our house, listen to the Sketches album. You’ll hear the field recordings; crickets, birds, the sound of a gentle breeze.
Tony Wilson from Factory Records said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” and Ibiza is like that. What goes on here between the end of May to the end of September is not Ibiza. It’s one small pocket of Ibiza – pure, unadulterated hedonism - and that is not my life. Our lives here are very much focused on sustainability, looking within and spiritual practices. It’s very different to the international perception of the Ibiza brand.
I don’t know if you object to your music being filed under the Balearic category, but there are elements of New Age, jazz fusion, weird funk music, chillout - so many terms get brought together in that world. When you’re making music, are there any limits to what you bring into it? A lot of these sounds, on their own, have been derided over the years as unfashionable, even though now they’re back and “cool.”
I think Balearic has always been a bit cheesy. It springs from the original DJs - Alfredo, Leo Mas, Jose Padilla - having to fill these great expanses of time. They were booked for eight, ten, twelve, fourteen hour DJ sets – sets that you and I would think, “How the hell could they do that?”
When you look at modern DJs, it’s only people like DJ Harvey that are doing that. There wasn’t the plethora of records then as there is today, either. These guys had to fill this time with massive eclecticism: house, jazz, New Age. Then you’ve got the sunset and the scenery. You’ve got this “something-in-the-air” vibe that’s very particular to Ibiza. I went to Croatia last summer, and it’s a very similar place, but when I played some of the stuff that I play in Ibiza people were looking at me as if to say, “Who’s this guy? What’s this?” It didn’t work.
Ibiza’s eclecticism is all about context and the context is Ibiza, and all of that gets filtered into when I make music. I don’t think I would be making this music if I were in Britain, Berlin or Italy. (It’s slightly Uruguay, though, because where we lived in Uruguay had that “California surf village in the ’60s” vibe, but Ibiza has that and so much more besides.) I never really think, “Oh, is this cool? Am I doing something that I shouldn’t be doing?” Once you start to second-guess yourself, you lose your identity as a musician.
Do you think you would ever put together a live show, especially now that you have two albums and several singles under your own name?
When I was Future Loop Foundation in the ’90s, I did a lot of live drum & bass shows. I was twenty years younger, it took a lot of work and it was only myself. If I wanted to go out and do a Sketches show, I would need guitarists, Indian musicians, percussionists and multi-instrumentalists. It’s very tempting [to do now] because the market has moved that way. People want that direct interaction with you, but whether I’m too lazy or not, I don’t know. Wouldn’t it be great, on Midsummer’s night next year, to do a show on the top of the Es Vedra tower, in the south of Ibiza, at sunset, and have it filmed?
That’s when I think, “Oh, God, life’s too short.”