Daley Padley's Ibiza's journey began in 2000. As a wide-eyed northerner he roamed the bars and clubs of San An before crossing the island to Pacha for a life-changing experience soundtracked by Roger Sanchez. In the 18 years since, he’s become one of the most respected DJs in house music, his pulsating and melodic sets shaped by his time as a warm-up DJ, often taking to the decks for more than 14 hours at a time. With his own Pacha residency now in its second year and a new album on the way, we sat down with Hot Since 82 to get knee deep into his sound...
DJ Mag Ibiza: You’ve been going to the island for a long time. What were your first trips like?
Hot Since 82: “This is my 18th consecutive year on the island. [The first time] I stayed in San Antonio as all us Brits do, went with about 11 mates and had the best time of my life. Was down Mambo every night watching the sunset, saw people like Pete Tong, Erick Morillo, David Morales and Frankie Knuckles. The first time I went to Pacha was in the year 2000 too, to see Roger Sanchez.
“My older brother was a big house-head so he dragged me along, the other guys decided to stay in San An. I was into the more soulful and classic US and garage house before that, but that trip definitely cemented my love for all things house music.”
Were you DJing at the time too?
“Well, I started in 1999 just messing around on my brother’s and friends’ turntables, but it wasn’t until I returned from that Ibiza trip that I started collecting my own records, buying my own flight-case and headphones. It all happened quite suddenly. The place that played the best music where I’m from in Barnsley was called KGV so we all used to go there, and I hired it out for my 18th birthday. I DJ’d and my best friend played and we filled the lounge with mates.
“We must have been playing some good music because the owner asked us to come back and do a regular night. It started on Wednesdays which went really well, so we moved to Sundays, which went on for five years. I held a residency playing from midday to one or two in the morning — that’s why I always like to play long sets ’cause that’s what I was used to. I always say that’s the best time I’ve ever been a DJ — playing to your friends every Sunday, no pressure, no politics, no stress, just playing records and testing new bits out. It was a really special time.”
Cutting your teeth on those extended sets must have helped a lot...
“Yeah, definitely. You start off and there’s just no one there and you’re warming it up over time, maybe it won’t get busy until 8pm. I learned how to warm up properly, I’ve always prided myself on those types of sets. I miss those types of sets.”
Do you feel that art is being lost these days?
“It’s very rare that I’ll go into a club or a festival now and the person before me is holding it down nicely. Most of the time you get there, it’s just some young guy smashing the shit out of it. Fair play to them, some of these guys don’t get to play as often as we do so I respect that in a way. But the art of warming the room or the festival up, [when it’s done right] it makes me excel too. “When you’re headlining all the time it’s great, it’s an amazing opportunity to close out festivals and clubs, but there’s records you can only play in a warm-up set that you don’t get to play otherwise. I’m constantly buying new music from all different genres and bpms but most of the time I’m just playing those peak-time records, so all the other music I have on my computer usually doesn’t see the light of day.
“At [London’s] Tobacco Dock that we did recently, I opened the club up by playing a vinyl-only set in the smaller room which was really fun. I played for two hours but I didn’t wanna leave! It keeps it entertaining for me, keeps me on my toes and it brings some of the old flavour back again.”
"I learned how to warm up properly, I’ve always prided myself on those types of sets. I miss those types of sets"
When you used to start at midday in the UK, it must’ve translated well to Ibiza, as that’s often when the after-party is just starting...
“Yeah for sure, from 2000 to 2006 in Ibiza you could basically do whatever you wanted. Ibiza was built on dancing in the sunshine, there were no curfews and it’s definitely missing day parties now. We used to go over to Bora Bora, go to the supermarket and get some beers and some ice, make a hole in the sand for the ice and the beers, finish them off and head to Space, dance on the terrace for a few hours, then we’d get a stamp and go back to Bora Bora till midnight and then head back to Space and stay there till 6 or 7am. I really miss those times.”
Any particular sets you remember from that time?
“I remember being on the Space terrace and someone played New Order, and I was blown away. Hearing New Order and everyone going wild, and then a plane flew over and everyone cheered and I thought ‘Oh my god’. It makes the hairs on my arm stand up even talking about it. Being 18 years old, just left school, being amongst all of that, it was a really memorable moment for me personally.”
What was the concept behind Labyrinth initially?
“Well, last year we didn’t even know we were gonna get all summer until really late — like January or February. They originally wanted to do three different residencies but for whatever reason they chose us to do the whole summer. We were up against it — most of the talent we wanted to book already had long and strong relationships with other clubs and promoters, so we had our work cut out for us. We did the best possible job we could, and I think the line-ups last year were incredibly good.
“The ethos of the party from my point of view was to inject a bit of house music back on the island. Nothing too chuggy, which is why we booked David Morales and Danny Tenaglia — a bit of a nod to the days I used to be on the island. Ultimately, we’re just trying to put on a good party where people don’t even have to look at the line-ups — they can just trust us and come in and have a good night, and we’ve carried that on to this year. Obviously Pacha got renovated, which worked out really nice for us too.”
The line-ups are really varied. Is it important to you to keep switching it up?
“Yeah, we had everyone from Armand Van Helden and Moodymann in last year, this year we’ve brought in HAAi who’s resident at [London club] Phonox. She’s a big selector. These days if someone says to you ‘Who’s your favourite DJ?’ I couldn’t answer the question. It’s been a long time since I thought ‘Oh wow, who’s this guy or who’s this girl?’ and that happened with HAAi. I was closing down a party in Amsterdam and went to the afters, and I thought Ellen Allien was playing! I asked the promoter who she was and the next day I went online and found some mixes and YouTubes and was listening to them all week. So I just reached out and asked her to be resident for Labyrinth — and luckily she said yes.”
How often do you get the chance to see and hear new talent, considering how busy you are?
“Well that’s exactly it, and I also have really bad tinnitus so I’ve been forced to limit the time I’m in clubs. I don’t really get a chance to see new talent, but I’m always online and listening to new mixes all the time and I still do all the A&R for the label [Knee Deep In Sound] so I’m still checking every email.”
"Kids get bored so easily, so you’ve got to keep giving them ammo. For the first time ever I’ve actually got too many tracks"
How do you find the creative impulses to make music when you’re running a weekly residency in Ibiza, and all the other shows you’re playing?
“Last summer I did hardly anything. I was playing on the island Thursday and Friday and then I’d do Saturday, Sunday, and sometimes Monday, so I couldn’t physically take any more shows. With my eardrums too, the last thing I was thinking about when I got home was to make music, so my music really suffered for it. In October I took three weeks off and then in November I started writing the new album.
“It’s easy to feel the pressure to write a hit club record and not the music you might like to write. I’ve felt that pressure, for sure. Music should be made for an emotion and how you’re feeling at that time, and this new album definitely reflects that.
“You can understand how DJs and producers, after four nights of playing and travelling, may just end up making something quite functional or something that ticks boxes just to get something done before they hit the road again.
“It’s easy to fall into that trap. You feel the pressure when you’ve got managers and agencies asking for more music. For me, I’ve got Pacha and a good record label that’s doing well so it keeps things flowing, but you’ve gotta keep feeding people new stuff. Kids get bored so easily, so you’ve got to keep giving them ammo. For the first time ever I’ve actually got too many tracks! So that’s a nice position to be in.”
How did you avoid falling into that trap of churning out club-focused music for the sake of it? How do you stay creative?
“At the beginning of the season last year, my best mate passed away. That’s why it was such a crazy hectic summer for me, trying to deal with these emotions of losing your best friend in a really tragic way, not being able to say goodbye. It happened two weeks before the season started, so I was trying to make this party work in Ibiza and also mourn a friend — it was very confusing for me. I didn’t realise until around August-time how much I was drinking and partying. I just didn’t have a handle on it. I’d never lost anyone close to me, so it was new emotions.
“In August I just shut all the partying down, cancelled everything — I needed to sort my shit out. Took some time off, sobered up, and the remedy for me personally was to put those feelings into music — so that’s what I did. The new album’s not like the usual stuff, it’s slower, has more emotion, vocals. There are probably only two records I’d play peak-time in my sets. I don’t feel bad about that either, it’s always nice to play your own stuff if you can, but an album gives you a bit of freedom to go somewhere else.”
You talked about the excesses of last year when you were dealing with your friend’s death. There’s been a lot of discussion around mental health and wellness in dance music recently. How do you avoid getting sucked into the party every time?
“I’m really lucky to have my fiancée and her family, they keep me super-grounded. I’ve still got the same friends I had back in the day; I still live in Yorkshire. I see a lot of people whose friends are constantly changing, they’re at after-parties all the time, they get stuck in the DJ circuit that can be really unhealthy. Sleep deprivation is the worst thing ever and when you’re combining that with drugs and alcohol, it’s a slippery slope. Like I said I was drinking a bit more last year to drown out the sorrows of losing my friend, but I managed to get a handle on it after a few months and I don’t drink at all now. But I’ve learned the hard way — that’s not to say I haven’t obliterated my body over the past 17 years because I definitely have, but I think it’s just about being surrounded by the right people or the industry will swallow you up.”
What does Ibiza need to do differently to remain a cultural and musical hub?
“The way it’s going, people won’t be able to afford to go anymore. The hotels are insane now. The drinks were always mental but the hotels were so-so, you could find a good deal — but now everything’s expensive. We used to go for two weeks up until 2006, and now my friends come for a long weekend because they can’t afford it. All prices need to come down — hotels, tickets, even flights! It costs my manager £500 to get to Ibiza and back from London. Every year it’s going up and up, and ultimately it’s killing it. They need to change things sooner rather than later, or the kids will find somewhere else to go.”