Willie Graff in Dubai

The Ibiza-born housemaster tells Time Out about expat brats and the changing shape of the White Isle

Interview

So you grew up in Ibiza, right?
Yeah. Both of my parents are from New York and they met here, in Ibiza, almost 40 years ago now. They’ve been here ever since, so my brothers and I were born and raised here.

Do you feel Spanish, or do you feel like an expat brat?
I feel Spanish, but I know what you mean – a lot of my friends feel like they don’t really belong, but my parents put me in a Spanish school surrounded by Spanish kids, so I don’t really feel like an American.

How did you get into dance music?
I went to a beach party when I was 14 and I just thought it was amazing that so many people were out there having fun at the same time. I’ve always loved music and I was going to kids’ discos when I was 10, but being a teen at your first party with older people, on a beach in Ibiza, is something else. After that I started DJing at a little beach bar when I was about 15 and eventually ended up playing in Pacha. It took some time to convince my parents though.

What are you making at the minute?
I started working with this guy in Ibiza called Tuccillo. He’s an Italian guy who’s been living here for years. He’s really super-talented. We’re making old-school house music with something of a new feel to it; a bit of
a Balaeric vibe. We had a record out on Freerange called ‘1 2 3 Yeah Yeah’ and that went quite well, and we’ll have a new thing coming out next month on a French label called Circus Company. These are very exciting times for us.

Ibiza’s been through some changes over the last year or so – how have you noticed it affecting business?
Well last year they brought in this after-hour law, which means that clubs can’t open in the morning any more – they have to open after 4.30pm. Last year it felt a bit weird because people were still getting used to it, but I really think it’s going to be good for Ibiza in the end.

Really? How?
All the people who were coming to party non-stop for three days and then leave – people who didn’t want to give anything to the island – they’re staying at home now. And there are private parties – house parties and things – happening all over, so if you’re looking for something then you’ll find it. And the parties happening in the day are nicer – they’re full of good vibes and cool music. So it’s no longer a crazy, non-stop party – it’s just cool people doing cool things.

But isn’t the crazy party why people go to Ibiza?
There doesn’t have to be 20 million people here all the time. And it’s not like it’s empty or anything now – the island’s still packed. I was in Pacha the other night and we had 4,000 or 5,000 people in there. The music’s very commercial, but I think that’s going to change as well – it’ll become more real and people will realise that a lot of the big-name DJs are crap. Maybe when those guys leave, the island will return to its roots.

Willie Graff plays Sanctuary, July 23.

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