Clara da Costa

by Dan Prince December 2016 MUSIC Read in PDF format N12/2016
Clara da Costa She's the girl who left her home and family behind her to chase her life dream. Three decades later Clara Da Costa remains one of the leading DJs in Ibiza and all over the world with her boss Jacks House radio show now heading towards it's 10th anniversary. We check in with an artist who has seen it all in Ibiza...and has lived to tell the tale!

Welcome to IUMAG Clara and a very Merry Christmas to you! What has been your favorite tune of 2016?

Probably ‘Half Life’ by Alex Arnout which was the first release on my label, not biased honestly ha ha ha. No, seriously, it is a great track.

Two anniversaries coming up in Da Costa world that are definitely worth celebrating, let’s kick off with 2017 being the year you celebrate your 25th year of DJing in Ibiza! Let’s take you back to your beanbag and a 13 year old music devotee watching ‘A Short Film About Chillin’, the documentary that helped change your life forever. What was it about this television magic that captured your imagination and made your mind up that one day you would DJ on the White Isle?

It actually had more to do with a DJ I got to know from my area back in the day in Surrey. I used to go to this under 18s event at my local football club (where I actually ended up playing my first gig) and I remember this DJ friend of mine who was considerably older had just come back from Ibiza. He was wearing a long sleeved grey top from Es Paradis with the pyramid and green apple on it. I loved it so much, we got chatting all things Ibiza etc. That was the first time I had heard of Es Paradis (I was 13), little did I know that I would become resident DJ there 4 years late !!!!! Quite mad when I think about it and 2017 will see me celebrating 25 years DJing in Ibiza with a tour called Married To Music, which is a very true statement ha ha.

We all know your famous story about how two years later you ran away from home and within weeks had secured a DJ gig at Es Paradis on the island, was the escape as hoodwink as it sounds? Dead of night, Adidas bag slung over your shoulder full of your worldly possessions…?

Ha ha ha no, I knew that I wanted to go and work for the whole season and DJ over there. I was already putting on little events in the UK and playing for some great nights but ibiza was the place for me to really grow and and take it to a professional level. I didn’t go alone, my best friend Claire and I went together saddled with my heavy boxes of vinyl. We booked a flight, one weeks accommodation and then had to just get on with it.  They were probably the hardest times but seriously the best times. We eventually found an apartment to share with 3 lads we met. Claire and I used to sleep on the sofa and the little pull out bed underneath it, the apartment always looked like a bomb had gone off , there were 5 of us sharing one bed !!! The following year, we took the whole apartment on for ourselves.

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Tell us the story about securing that first gig in Ibiza, how did it come about?

Ufffffff ! It really wasn’t easy. I primarily tried up the West End literally lugging my heavy vinyl around in the heat and remember going for a DJ audition at a place called Gorms Garage. There were a group of lads from the Lake District also trying out. They took the piss and made fun of me and I remember feeling really shit but also thinking, I bet I have better music in my box ha ha. That didn’t work out, I think I actually left before my turn to try out. I got pissed off, I was young, sensitive and feeling vulnerable being the only girl. That worked out well for me in the end really as I ended up playing in some really cool places. My first bar gig was for the Milk Bar by Nicky Holloway but at that time it was Sid and his lovely girlfriend (at the time) Helen that were taking care of things. We had some great times there and the older crew introduced me to all the right movers and shakers. I definitely got on better with the slightly older generation as there were not many people my age at that time anyway. My first big club gig was actually at Star Club aka Kaoos aka Eden, warming up for (believe it or not) Carl Cox along with Stuart B. It was amazing, educating, jaw droopingly great to see Carl in action using the three decks in perfect sync. I have it on VHS somewhere and keep meaning to get it digitalized. Es Paradis came along a bit later. A friend of mine called Aitor who was the resident DJ at Kopas let me know they were interviewing people down and the club and put me in touch. They already had some of their DJs so I needed to work out a way of getting involved with this super club. I went for the interview and explained that I would be good for pr. I eventually developed that job into Artistic Director taking over all the in-house bookings and the DJ residency followed. I will never forget the first time I played in there. I felt a mixture of nerves and excitement with a trembling hand trying to control getting the needle onto the vinyl with the huge roman pillars towering above me, flashing lights and a couple of thousand people to please !

What were the tunes you’d have been playing back then, at the time Ibiza had some good vinyl shops…

Wow, so many I can remember. Back then I would get my records from M15 in Ibiza Town but I went on to work winter seasons at SWAG Records in the UK and had some monster tunes to go back with. I was playing a lot of Italo house, Strictly Rhythm, a Dutch label called Fresh Fruit…oh there are so many and all quite varied. A good tune was a good tune, simple. They are all in my studio in custom made boxes.

Did you get paid?

Yes yes and yes, I always got paid from the super clubs.

Who were some of the DJs that took you under their wings and what were your first impressions of the venues around the island?

Quite a few DJs actually. DJ Pippi was always a great guide, I love that man. I remember seeing him playing Pacha when I was 15, I was in absolute awe of him. I never thought that we would have ended up playing together years later. He is a great talent and friend. Brandon Block & Alex P also took me under their wings (albeit a bit messy ha ha ha), they were great and are like my big brothers.

As for my first impressions of the venues around the island…

Well, I had never seen anything like it. I had only really seen London clubs and although I loved amazing venues like Limelight and Heaven etc, this felt like a whole different dimension. Purposely built clubs and all very individual. Es Paradis with a dance floor that turns into a swimming pool, designed and built by the late and talented Lluis Güell alongside Pepe Aguirre, Pacha, converted from a beautiful old Ibicencan casa with incredible dancers, Amnesia with a beautiful garden/terrace, Privilege, (was KU then) a huge club with bridges, balconies, a swimming pool and views to die for, the list could go on.

As you mentioned, you secured the role of Artistic Director at Es Paradis really quickly. How much of an input did you have bringing in some of the world’s leading promoters to the venue?

I was genuinely in control of what parties/promoters were contracted so what ever you saw regarding events from 92 till around 99 was my work. I lived, breathed and worked the industry. I rarely slept. I did everything from booking flights, booking hotels, printing, organising pr teams, auditioning dancers, and of course DJing. It was my life, and it still is but you can get things done a whole lot quicker now. I was only equipped with a typewriter and a fax machine ha ha. No internet back in the beginning.

Promoting in 2016 is a WHOLE LOT different than promoting in 1996 in Ibiza. What are the biggest changes, good and bad…

Well everything has changed since the digital world took over and there are a lot more people now, more parties, more competition, more brands etc etc. It has never been easy for a promoter to just rock up in Ibiza and put on a successful event. It takes so much work, dedication and belief in what you are doing. I think it is harder now than ever. People can buy their way in now, it was not like that back then. But the oldskool promoters or the people that have been around and educated in this industry for years seem to always prevail and be the most successful. So I would say bad change would be bad talent buying their way in plus some of the new laws surrounding nightlife (although not too bad). Good change would probably be the digital world although that splits me in two sometimes probably due to nostalgia and the memory of people queuing up to buy a ticket at the club entrance and stuff like that. Oh and I don’t like all this pressure for likes and sponsoring posts for business on Facebook. You never know the real popularity or talent of a DJ or an event until you witness to for yourself. Everything can look good on paper.

You must have been booked for so many private parties over the years in Ibiza, throw some top top events you’ve rocked…

The best private parties were always up in the mountains at my friend Tony’s house in San Rafael. It was brilliant up there, even the local police would come and join us sometimes, no hassle. I actually went up there the other day and we were reminiscing about the old days.

In your humble opinion, what are Clara Da Costa’s strengths and qualities that has kept her at the top of the DJ pyramid for so long in Ibiza and beyond…

I guess it comes down to 100% passion in a sometimes difficult and trying industry. I have always moved forward and embraced new talent whether it be other DJs, record labels and events. Being humble and keeping you integrity intact.

Which brings us very nicely to your radio show Jack’s House which has just celebrated it’s 8th Anniversary. Who were your childhood radio presenters and shows that you loved growing up?

My radio Jack’s House is my baby, I love it. I grew up like many in the very beginning listening to the top 40 I think on Capital Radio recording the songs I loved….pause, record, pause record, you know the drill. Later on it would be all the pirate radio stations around London. I wish I could remember the names of some of them (someone please remind me). I can remember going in as a guest and having to sometimes just suddenly run with the runners as they grabbed the equipment when the police came knocking, they were fun times.

How did the whole Jacks House show come about and what was your original idea for it’s format?

I spent about 8 months out of Ibiza living in Barcelona while I was working as a song writer for a couple of majors. When I returned to Ibiza I decided that I really wanted to do a radio show.  I spent my first year at Global and then moved onto Ibiza Sonica where I have stayed even since. Originally, it was me just going in and doing a set, but before long, I realised that I wanted to present a show with fresh production, exclusives and vinyl releases week on week and for it actually to be more focused on what was to come as opposed to what had/has been. It evolved quite quickly. It is a lot of work as I have to keep on top of what is coming out, chasing the tracks I have heard and sourcing the music then putting together a playlist. I then go in, do it live and produce and present the whole thing myself. I love doing it, I am on a massive high each week when I finish, it is a gift.

Personal highlights from Jack’s House over the past decade?

Probably too many to mention. Jack’s House has now also become an event and a record label so it has grown slowly but organically over these 8 years. Big highlights would be taking it on the road and hosting parties for Carl Cox at Space, the launch of the record label earlier this year  (now with the 3rd release on the way by Two Diggers), with the first vinyl release (Confirmation Bias) by Alex Arnout back in August, and the great guests I have had come in to the radio ( which I have occasionally) over the years. Oh, and a group of loyal listeners that have called themselves the Jacksters. The show has genuinely brought people together and formed new friendships.

Years ago there were no great radio shows or stations in Ibiza. Now with Sonica, Global, Pioneer and many more there is loads of choice. What are the key elements for a successful show in Ibiza?

Ibiza is famous worldwide and lots of people fall in love with the place so if you can just transmit a bit of that Ibiza vibe into their living rooms, cars etc, you can make people still feel a part of it. It is all about communication and painting a picture with your music and your voice. You just have to keep it real and fresh with heart & soul.

What is the future of the show?

I hope it will continue for years to come, I will carry on playing new music and getting behind artists both new and established. Jackcast with guests and artists from the label will come in the near future as will Jacks Talent (a small artist agency). Jack’s House publishing is already fired up with a couple of great artists on board and I look forward to hosting more events in 2017.

You of course were one of the selected few to DJ at the Space Closing in October. How was the party for you and what are some of your favorite Space memories from over the years?

It was incredibly emotional for everyone as was the closing of Carl Cox. The team behind the scenes did a truly amazing job. There were so many people inside that club and it all worked out well. Pretty much all the DJs had a short set of 30 minutes monitored by a big digital clock and we all respected each other’s time. I finished my set with ‘All This Love’ by Gwen McCrae. I sat up on the wall up in the Premier Etage before my set with tears in my eyes. It was lovely though as I had my oldskool friends,  DJ Pippi (who played after), Willie Graff and famous Pacha funky room man Vaughn by my side. I have too many Space memories to mention, I just always think of wicker chairs (if you know you know). I just want to thank Pepe Roselló, Safe House, Carl Cox and Dave Browning for helping to create all those memories, they will be ingrained in my heart forever. Space really was an institution but I firmly believe that the people behind it played the main part. Space the venue may change but as Pepe said, the memories will always float between those walls.

So as you sit in your studio from your San Antonio surveying the island this December, what are your thoughts of Ibiza 2016-2017? Is the island in a good position, is it going in the right direction, what are some of the issues that need to be tackled?

You know what, nobody ever really knows from year to year what is going to happen. We always hear more than a million rumours and it is not until quite late in the day that everyone (especially the public) knows what will be on the big Ibiza stage. Is it going in the right direction???? Is the world going in the right direction?  All I know is that there is something uniquely special about this island in that, where ever you end up dancing, it just feels different when you dance to the beat in Ibiza. I am not biased, I am yet to encounter that feeling anywhere else.

What about the island’s club scene, is it in good hands?

It is forever evolving but I can say that there is some incredible talent out there, new promoters and nights coming through all the time (Look out for the Real Gang crew). I don’t favour all the events or DJs that end up here but then again I don’t like everything on the menu at my local restaurant up the road, different horses for different courses.

And finally, it’s Christmas! What would be the perfect gift Santa could bring you to adorn your studio?

Minimoog and some finished production to eventually put something of my own out again but on my own label. And to run the year off, I will be playing in Leeds at Angelica on NYE for Neverland and then I will be playing at Egg London for Promised Land on NYD night.

Thank you Dan and Happy Christmas!

https://www.facebook.com/clara.dacosta1

 

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