Pippi is short for Giuseppe Nuzzo, the iconic Italian DJ of Ibiza. He’s been living on the island since the 1980s — since before the dawn of house music — when a Pacha co-founder invited him to become one of their first resident DJs.
In the 2000s, he was an essential progenitor of Balearic lounge beats as we now know them, with his annual compilations Undiscovered Ibiza, In The Mix and A Touch of Class. But it’s picturing Pippi in the peak 1980s, helming marathon sets before crowds that were as star-studded as they were in-the-know, that really delights the mind’s eye.
Here, in a 2006 conversation with DJ History’s Bill Brewster, he remembers the lucky twists of fate that took him to Ibiza, makes a claim for bringing soul music to the island and, best of all, describes lunches of paella at Simon Le Bon’s before magical, free-flowing sets that are now the stuff of legend.
How did you get interested in music?
I was born November 11, ’56, in Italy, in Ruffano, and I was interested in music since I was a little child. I was always involved in music – not because of my parents, because my parents were not interested. I had a big family, seven brothers, but I always had some special relationship with music. I started singing at the age of seven or eight. At that moment I realized I had to do something with music.
But none of your brothers were involved in music?
No. Later, yes. I have a brother called Alberto who was the drummer in a band, a really strong band, in the ’70s in Switzerland. But it was completely different to me. He was a really good drummer, and my wish was to be a singer, but I couldn’t sing.
Were you involved in music at school?
No, I learned fashion design. For me, fashion and music, it was amazing. I was into the early ’70s groups like Genesis, David Bowie, Elton John, even the soul people like Funkadelic with the crazy clothes, and I followed this style. I had a little band and I sang. We did a lot of concerts for the school.
But when I was 16, I said I need to leave because friends from my village said that I came from another planet because I liked different music and I liked different dress. I did my clothes by myself. You can imagine! Big flares, big pants. I moved to Switzerland, in Zurich. My parents moved there, so I had to follow them because I was not yet 18. I said to my brother and sister, “Please take me out of here!” I started working, learning the language. Then I moved to Germany and started doing what I really liked with the music and fashion world.
Why did you move to Düsseldorf?
Switzerland was not the right place to stay. Actually, I had another family member who lived in Germany. I thought it would be more interesting there, and it was. In two and half years, I learned German, because there was no one there to talk Italian with! This was 1973 and ’74.
Were you buying records at this point?
I was working only to buy records. My salary was only for records. At that time, it was disco, soul, funk, Motown, Genesis, Pink Floyd. I’m very eclectic in my music style. Basically black music, but also those classic bands.
How did you get your first gig?
In Düsseldorf at that time, there was a place called Malesh. It was an Arabic name. After Malesh, it became Checkers, where Claudia Schiffer was discovered. I was there one day, and for some reason the DJ was missing and I was in the right place at the right time. I had been DJing on and off since 1974, but from then on, I didn’t stop. That was in 1979.
Malesh was the main club in Germany at that time: Amazing music, amazing people. It was not such a big club. It held maybe 800 people with one room, a restaurant and that was it. The decoration was Arabic-themed, which at that time was very different. Now it’s not, but then it was unusual. It was very glamorous: black and white, Moroccan. After the concerts, the big groups would come there, like Mick Jagger. We had a lot of people into the music that came down, but lots of models and arty people. To get in there was impossible unless you knew the right people.
How did you discover Ibiza?
After playing at Malesh, I started meeting new people, and one day a friend of mine, “Hey, with your music and vibe, you really should go to Ibiza.” So I decided to go. I was in Pacha, and I was really freaked out about the atmosphere and about the place. But I hoped that one day I would get to play in there.
What was so special about Pacha then?
It was very very familiar. It was little, only the bit that you see at the front today. There was nothing behind that. It was only the finca. The main room today did not exist then. It was spontaneous. The people were very select. There were a few Italian, a few English, a few Spanish, but from each country it was the cream of the cream: The ones who really knew about Ibiza.
Do you remember who the DJ was?
Yes, it was Cesar. He died already.
Ah, did he die of a heroin overdose?
Yes. Musically, for me, it was bad, but they played some good tracks in between.
Do you remember the type of things they played?
Yes. I remember that he played a lot of King Crimson, very heavy stuff. Bob Marley, because that year was the year of Bob Marley. He did a concert for Babylon By Bus. “One Love” was recorded here! It was the first reggae concert I saw here. It was in Corrida, an arena for bullfighting. So they just played rock. They really didn’t play that much black music.
For me, I was playing in Germany and I was buying records in Amsterdam, and at that time, Amsterdam was amazing for music. I went there every week buying new stuff. So I started to come there for holidays, just back and forth, I loved it. I worked three or four days in Germany, then I’d come for three or four days here. At the time it was so cheap to come here.
Did you discover the other clubs on the island?
Yes, but there really weren’t so many. Pacha, San Rafael (which became KU), Lola’s, Glories and Es Paradis in San Antonio. Lola’s was a little gay place in downtown here. It was actually a bar full of crazy people, very good. It was like a cave in the rock, very small. I came with tapes to give bars, because there were a lot of bars, and I gave them to people here.
After three years, I knew everybody here. Finally, in March 1984, in Germany during the winter, I was in the club and I saw Piti and his wife. “Pippi, we need you.” Two days later, I moved. I had my whole existence in Germany, but for me, Pacha was the ultimate priority. I started a new era when I arrived here to play.
Who had been playing at Pacha up until you came?
It was Maximo Zucchelli, an Italian guy. Very important in the history at the beginning of the ’80s. But he has some problems. Too much cocaine. After two years, he was fucked up. Fortunately, in my life, I’ve never had problems with this, you know. Never. Music and my work was first. I mean, I’ve tested the drugs and I know what they are, but you know! I learned to have the balance because, as I said, I love music and this job. I would not permit drugs to destroy this.
What were the days like?
During the day you’d meet these people in the afternoon. You’d go and eat paella in Roman Polanski’s villa. So many auteurs and actors and music people came over. Donald Sutherland, the owner of KU, José Antonio Santamaría, even Ricardo Urgell. When you were at Pacha they would say, “OK, tomorrow, four o’clock, it’s paella at Roman Polanski’s house or we’re meeting at Simon Le Bon’s.” We were all involved in this, but it felt very natural. It doesn’t exist now in the same way. Now you organize a party in a villa and it’s BE-BOOM-BE-BOOM. But at that time, it was a meeting, you had brunch and get together.
So what did you do then, eat and drink…
Yes. No getting fucked up, but having good times. There’s so much stuff. When I think back, it was the right situation with the right people. And actually, when I started in Pacha, it was really like the difference between night and day because I brought black music. The Spanish were always into rock or strange reggae. A strange sound. But this Maximo Zucchelli was more into the new wave, the new electronic sounds.
Why was Pacha so special?
Because of the atmosphere and the vibe, the visual aspect. It was unique. It’s hard to explain. It’s still special, but it’s ten times bigger now. It was natural and full of love and peace. The people that came there were liberated, and they only came there to dance and enjoy themselves and go crazy about the music.
Do you remember the kinds of records you were playing that first summer of 1984?
I remember it was the year of the first album of Sade. It was a phenomenon. Grace Jones’s Slave To The Rhythm. At that time, I was so young and had so much energy, so I played two copies of the same record to create phasing, but it just came naturally to me. Two copies of Sade together to make echo. We didn’t have machine for this then. And the people were like, “Wow,” and they went crazy. Especially the Sade. I’d never forget that. Smooth Operator.
Everyone was together. There was no VIP. It was one big VIP.
When you played in Glories earlier on, what did you play there?
All I remember is Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” because they loved it there! I never forget. I played this album a lot.
Tell me some of the other things you played at Pacha?
Kissing the Pink, “Big Man Restless.” I was always looking for music, and when I discovered this record, it was so special. The 12" was like a diamond. But we also used to play Talk Talk a lot, in general. They played live a lot at KU. A lot of bands at that time played at KU. All of them. And Mag & the Suspects, “Erection.” I played this kind of dark stuff, but this was the limit of the dark, because I also used to go into the black and the soulful. Soul, funk, atmospheric and slow, and then as soon as the people start to come, you build and build up. Go with the flow until six o’clock.
Did it always end at six o’clock?
What was the crowd like when you started playing there?
Crazy. When I started, it was a drugs crowd already. I realized because I was there and all the people were offering me it! But it wasn’t like today. It was more healthy. Better quality. And the people were in the best situation.
I guess if you’re wealthy, you can afford the best drugs!
There are two ways to take drugs: The intelligent way, and the stupid way, like the kids do today. But it was really magic.
Was there still a hippie element then?
A lot. But this was special, because people from outside, these people, they got involved together and this created a really nice vibe. There would be Julio Iglesias and Simon Le Bon and a junky next to them and another hippie next to them. Everyone was together. There was no VIP. It was one big VIP.
What years did you play at Pacha?
It was ’84 to ’88. Then I moved to KU. I decided to change. Ibiza is nice to play, but you also need to change. I realized this very late. Playing for years in one club can be good but also very dangerous. So I took a break and went to another club until 2001, when the club finished.
It was still open air, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was like a magic garden. Big, but not like today. It was different. A swimming pool, a garden, nice. A lounge. You could go to the swimming pool and gymnasium during the day for the VIP people. All the actors, everybody.
When was the first time you heard a house record?
Either 1986 or ’87, in the shop. I used to buy a lot from Italy a lot, in Milano. In the ’80s, it was one of the big cities where you could buy.
Did you use Disco Inn and Disco Piú?
Exactly. I had a very good connection for records. The good record shops knew about Ibiza, and they chose only the best records for me. Every three or four days, I’d get a package to Ibiza. I was lucky enough to get records before many people.
Well, it’s an important place for breaking records.
Actually, I discovered so many records here when I was a tourist. Level 42 I discovered here. I bought a lot of American disco at the time, but I don’t remember. Funkapolitan, you remember them? That was big here. The whole album. They came and play at Amnesia.
When you started playing house records, did you start playing them straight away?
Everything. Also “Set It Off.”
Yes. Frankie Knuckles. Georgie Red. I discovered this in Germany, and it was really an amazing track. Alfredo used to play this track in the morning.
When you worked here in the ’80s, were you friends with the other DJs?
Yes. When I started in Pacha right away, I was alone playing all night. I was the guy coming from outside, but nobody could do what I do. The Spanish sometimes are jealous: It’s a part of their makeup. In the beginning, all the DJs – not Juan Rivas – but the other DJs were saying, “Who is this guy?”
And then we started to take another DJ in my team. So Cesar de Melero and Juan Rivas came here, Juan is now the main DJ in Ibiza Global Radio. He still plays. We were the only DJs there.
We had a new style of music, and it was a new era of music.
Who was playing at KU when you started at Pacha?
Patrick, a black guy. Another guy who was Spanish. But I remember specially Patrick from NYC. He was amazing, he played very good stuff.
Who was playing in the other clubs?
I don’t know about San Antonio. We knew there were clubs there, but you know… Then later, at Es Paradis there was a resident, Giovanni, for many years there.
José Padilla played at Es Paradis in the late ’70s.
Really? I met José Padilla when I was in Pacha already, and I never forget that he always asked me for tapes to sell! When I first met him, “I need a tape! I need a tape!” He sold them in the market.
Did he give you a cut for the tapes?
In this case, no. He just wanted the tapes to do his business, not my business. I didn’t care, I had my own business. I also sold tapes. I sell direct to the people. They say, “I like your music, do you have a tape?”
Were you selling tapes even in 1984?
Yes, we recorded every night. Some people went crazy and paid $500 for one tape.
Really! “I need this tape, this set you just played, I need it now, exactly this one. $500!” It happened. They pay a lot for one hour’s music. And actually, I was so busy selling tapes I had to bring someone else with me to sell them. A lot of money! I would come home with my pockets bulging with money.
What did you do with all the recordings at the club?
I have some stuff, but not enough of what I did. Many friends collected them. Sometimes I try and recoup and put on CD.
I’d be interested in hearing them. What’s it like playing here compared to playing elsewhere?
For some reason, Ibiza is special to people even when they don’t even know about it. They come here and go crazy as though they’ve already been coming 20 years. Some of the people, they come now because they’ve read about Ibiza: It’s a party, there are drugs. And it’s a holiday island. People are on holiday, and they are happy. They want to have fun in any way they can.
How has it changed over the years?
There’s a big difference. The difference is, like everything: It’s become commercial. Greece, Mykonos, all the other special places in the world. Now, there’s construction all over the island. In the next six months, we will have a highway. So this is a big difference from 25 years ago. Everything has changed, in a good and a bad way. But it’s still the place to be during the summer! There’s no other place similar to this in the world. You come here for a week and you can see all the main DJs in the world.
How do you feel about it then compared to now?
I miss the family. Today, you can only get people together with the music. Years ago, the music was there, but there was also more socializing. I miss that familiar feeling. You still have this in Ibiza now, in places like Kilometre 5 or El Ayoun. But these are not clubs. You get this feeling we used to have in clubs now only in bars.
How did the arrival of house music change the clubs?
We accepted it right away. We were the first to play this kind of music. It was already a sensation here. Whether the reaction was good or bad from the people, there was a reaction, “What is this?” One year later, everyone was jumping on it. The move from soul and funk to house was a big and important change for us. We had a new style of music, and it was a new era of music.
Once it arrived, were they only playing house music?
Until the early ’90s it was more eclectic. We didn’t only play house. We would play Frankie Goes to Hollywood or Propaganda or Sly & Robbie.
Which Sly & Robbie?
All. “Boops.” It’s Immaterial, “Driving Away From Home.” Talk Talk. We mixed it up really well, but in a different way than before, so we’d go from fast to slow or we’d start with something crazy like Woodentops or Billy Idol “Eyes Without A Face" or “Rebel Yell.” All of them were Ibiza sound.
Were you playing Jam & Lewis and Prince and stuff like that, too?
Yes, yes. “Sign of the Times.” The Cars “Drive” and so many others. We used to play a lot of stuff, so eclectic, so different. For us, it was so easy to play. For me, it was my vision to play this eclectic style, and go up and down. Play really heavy, “Macho City” by Steve Miller or even Gil Scott-Heron’s “B-Movie” or Stanley Clarke and Herbie Hancock, Gino Vannelli “You Gotta Move.” And this was special, the night, because when we closed we tried to finish with a special record, because at that time the last record was something you wanted people to remember the next day. So you used to play Pavarotti or Pink Floyd, a 20-minute track. And the lights were on, but the people would stay and listen.
What’s the most amazing night you can remember at Pacha?
There are so many, it’s difficult to say. Every night was something special. Pacha has the power of movement and people and party. Especially in the ’80s and ’90s, there was no sense of Monday or Sunday because every day was special. The top. At the time, you had no idea what day it was.
Were you playing seven days a week?
Yes. Maybe you had one day off some time. We worked hard. We started at 11 or 12 until six or seven, and you played all night. And we have to take care of more than the music. First of all, you are responsible for your workplace, the DJ booth. Also for the lights, many things. Pacha was so special that we really take care of the soundsystem, because Piti is fanatical for the sound quality.
Piti was the original DJ, wasn’t he?
Yes, when I arrived he’d just left. He’d just started Flower Power then. Together, we started to play this historical party that he still does now.
What did you play at that then?
Ike & Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Beatles, Santana, Zeppelin, all the oldies. Actually, it’s become very commercial, but it used to be much more underground. It is an authentic party with a special vibe. As a DJ, you have to be able to play in different kinds of situations. So they say, “Tomorrow we play a disco party, so you play disco.” Whatever. That’s why we learned so much playing in this place.
Did you ever see a dancing horse at Pacha?
Yes, in Pacha. It was always in a Spanish party, and they came to the dancefloor with the special music and danced. But between the people on the dancefloor.
And did the horse shit on people, then?
Yes. Sometimes! Only in Pacha you could see that, but in KU you used to see the bull from Sant Ermin! Yeah! It’s a very traditional thing from near San Sebastian, and the owner was from the Basque country, so they do a traditional party with two or three thousand people and a bull in the middle. But the bull fell in the swimming pool because it was so full. And in the morning it started raining. It was magical, with Grace Jones dancing in the rain. Crazy people. She used to live here in the ’80s. Neneh Cherry lived here, Nina Hagen, John Hurt, Donald Sutherland – he’s old now but 25 years ago he was unbelievable. It was an amazing time for them.
One year after the preceding interview, DJ Pippi began a new residency at Pacha. He spoke again, briefly, about returning to the club.
Why did you come back to Pacha?
Well, when I left Pacha there was never a problem. I left because I felt there was not space for my creativity. They started to go a different way with promoters and so on, and I decided to go. I’m a DJ, I need to work, I need to play. Last winter, the owner and some other people at Pacha had a meeting with me and it was really interesting meeting. They said they wanted to do Pacha like they used to do it, so I said okay. The idea was to do something in the Funky Room, one night every week. We started last week, so I’m back there now.
When I interviewed you last year, you were still very positive about Pacha even though you had not struck a deal with them then. You obviously had a good relationship.
Yes, I always had a good relationship with them. To be honest, I was at Amnesia for four years, and with all the respect to the club, at the end of the day Amnesia was not my style. If I’m living in Ibiza, I want to give it my best and to play in the right place with the right people. If I play a gig all over the world, they book me, I play and do my job. But in Ibiza, I want to do what I really like: Play for the people and play for myself on my own island. Amnesia was a transition for me, really, and I think I’m back at Pacha and I’m really proud to be there.
You have been doing parties on Formentera, too, haven’t you?
Yes, in fact I’m playing today. I play once every two weeks. I do it with the same people who do the Made In Italy parties. It’s very small, maximum 300 people. It’s very intimate, nice people, not really kids. Pacha is like my second home. It’s a big feeling for me to be there again. Everybody is nice to me there, and everybody believes in what I do.
You talk about Ibiza as your island. Is it your home now?
I’ve lived here for 29 years. I have roots and my family here. It’s my place.
This feature is composed of two separate interviews conducted by Bill Brewster. One in 2006 and one in 2007. © DJ History