Ken Fan: The Interview


It has been such a busy year at Cafe del Mar that Resident DJ, house music producer and artist booker Ken Fan has been running around the Island (and the world) at breakneck speed. Finally, we caught up over a couple of cañas to ask him about life, Ibiza, and what it is like to provide the music at the most famous beach bar on the planet.

CDM: Like a lot of DJs, you were young when you decided on music as a career.What was the eureka moment when you said: “I’m going to be a DJ?”

I went to the DMC (DJ Mixing Championships) competitions, watched them on videos, went to one in Birmingham when I was 15. Then I went to raves from the age of 16 or 17 at Shelleys in Stoke on Trent, and I was hooked. I started DJing as soon as I could, doing school discos, youth clubs, local pubs, and bars, running my own parties in Lichfield which were really popular: until the police put a stop to it.

shellys house music

CDM: It was a strange time for sure.

I was running my own radio show from there. Lichfield is a small city north of Birmingham which is quite an affluent area and the police didn’t want it becoming a party town, so we had queues and queues of people and the bizzies would be there searching them. They just didn’t like it. After that I got picked up by Miss Moneypenny’s in Birmingham, they took me on as a touring resident and promoter, they brought me out to Ibiza every couple of weeks, where I took a residency at  El Divino for Miss Moneypenny’s, Pacha in the funky room… and that was that! So I’ve been coming out here every year since 1998 and now I live on the island.

ken fan 2 house music

CDM: There you go everyone, School discos to Pacha in one easy move. So, based on that experience what advice would you give to kids wanting to break into house music today? Surely it’s a lot different today.

It’s very different today, there’s social media for a start- you have to be orientated to networking. These days it’s more of a business, being a DJ. The music and clubbing as an industry as a whole really; when we started it was naughty and illegal. For the kids who threw illegal parties, you know? Now it’s a multibillion-pound industry that conquered the world.

My advice today? First of all, in this day and age, you need to be more than a DJ. You need to have the contacts, you need to have a fan base- i.e, blag yourself a little residency somewhere, use that to start you off. Of course, if you’re not going to clubs and afterparties to get to know DJs and promoters, if you’re not partying with people they’re not going to know you, and they’re not going to book you. Start a record label, get producing too. Most important thing is to get yourself a nice little residency. That’s your platform.

circo loco house music

CDM As you say dance music is now a multimillion-dollar business compared to the underground scene that you started off in, is that the main change that you’ve noticed, that dance music is mainstream?

It’s a funny one. What is underground nowadays? Back in the day on Ibiza what was deemed underground? Circoloco, DC10  that was one of the most underground places. But I find these days that as soon as you start advertising a party, it’s not underground. As soon as you put posters up, flyers, artwork- booking big DJs. That’s not underground. Underground to me is text messages to a crew with coordinates. Meet in a field, no VIPs, no lineups, just see when you get there. Anything that is underground gets popular, brings revenue, exposure and everyone is a superstar you cannot be underground. I guess the only places that are underground in Ibiza are the Ibiza Underground! That’s the only underground club we have here really. They don’t really advertise their lineups, the Romanians; Rhadoo, Raresh, they’re the only real sort of underground people here for me.

ken fan danny rampling house music

CDM: Tell us about a weird adventure you’ve had this year.

No comment. They could all get me in trouble.

CDM: Does God exist, and why is he Carl Cox?

I think, personally, I don’t believe in religion so I don’t believe in God. I do believe in Carl Cox and I do believe he is the King of Clubs, so that’s good enough for me.

CDM: How has Ibiza changed since you started playing here?

Yeah, well I’ve been playing here 18 years now and it’s changed dramatically. It was about free love hippy free spirit days of 24-hour parties, no restrictions- to now, which is very much controlled, which is very much about money and VIP culture. The music, the majority of the places has gone downhill, though I hate to say it.  There are a few places still playing nice music, but the VIP culture is taking over.

I feel this is pushing some of the normal ravers and party goers out- after paying 50 or 60 euros to get in, I think it’s a more business-focused, the big backers aren’t interested in hippy smiley promoters, they want all the DJs, take all the revenue and form a monopoly on the island. I mean, I’ve heard stories of smaller promoters being bullied, say, the bigger companies go to the ticket outlets and say, “take their posters down, stop selling their tickets, or we’ll stop giving you ours to sell.” Which is a bit nasty. You could suppose it’s a psychological thing, they must be worried, even with all the money that they have.

CDM: What’s the best part about playing at Cafe del Mar?

It’s my fourth year, and I love all of it, to be honest. We’re putting the sun to bed and welcoming the moon. The team we have there are like a family, I feel very relaxed. We have the free range of playing what we want, what I perceive is suitable music for Cafe del Mar, rather than have a dictated music policy. It’s a concoction of a lot of things. Playing underneath the moon and the stars after the sunset is a beautiful thing.

CDM: Cool. So, what’s the biggest influence on your sound?

My music sense comes from everywhere. I think with a lot of things, like food, like music, like martial arts, don’t stick to one style. Like, you don’t want to be served spaghetti Bolognese every day at a restaurant, do you? Same with martial arts, I think MMA is better than being strictly a boxer, mix it up a bit. So I like to take my influences from everything. So I take elements from hip-hop producers that I like, the ethnic and world music producers, house music, and take the bits that I like and put it all together.

Like, I’m going shopping for ingredients to cook, and it depends on who you’re cooking for. I work with a lot of DJs and no disrespect they play one style or nothing at all. I find at Cafe del Mar especially, you need to be very adaptable. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of DJs who can play all across the board, from the chill out to the techno and banging stuff and lounge and house music and the afterparty stuff. There aren’t many around, it seems like people are finding their sound and just want to stick to it. I think a lot of the up and coming DJs just wanna play that big sound and be the next Marco  Carola or Carl Cox.

Carl cox house music

CDM: Do you think that’s down to people being afraid to take risks? You talked at the start about social media presence, do you think people get big on Beatport for one particular sound and they think “Well, this is my thing and I have to stick to what’s popular or I won’t get booked.” Do you think that is part of it?

I think there are different artists and DJs of course. The producers who DJ are pushing the sound that they make themselves- but DJs, especially Ibiza resident DJs, we play so many different venues and have to adapt to so many different people particularly in places like Cafe del Mar, it’s very international, with a wide age range.

Compared to the other places down Sunset Strip we have a slightly more mature audience, while in other places they’re seeing younger, predominantly British customers, so they have to play more EDM to please their crowd. At Cafe del Mar we have people from Japan, South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, from everywhere– and they do tend to be slightly older. So instead of banging it out, we need to play music we can lounge to, eat to, chill out to, but by the same token if you want to get up and dance you can. To me, that’s good music, rather than catering just to just a formula club sound.

CDM: What are your plans for the winter season?

This winter, November I’ll be back in the UK, December is Thailand doing Koh Pha Ngan to do full moon parties in the jungle with 6 to 8 thousand people, New Years Eve is Kuala Lumpur, then back to Thailand, then Australia for a month, then Romania for a ski resort in January, and back here in about February or March. House music and chill out alternating really.

In the meantime, we do have something special in the pipes called The Root Sessions. I and a few DJ friends will go to beautiful spots on the island at the full moon and play some music, recorded on video and high-quality audio. If we pull it off it will be incredible.

CDM: You’re a busy boy.

Ish, yeah!

CDM: Who would you love to see play at CdM? Your dream booking.

It’d have to be Carl Cox, to play from an hour before sunset to an hour after, an eclectic mix of what he thinks would be a good transition. The King of Clubs at Cafe del Mar?

CDM: That would be radical.

It would, wouldn’t it? With Carl, he plays house music, soul, disco, funk. He knows Cafe del Mar, and I think it would be an interesting one.

CDM: No doubt. Let’s talk about your new mix you’ve released. Tell us how that has come about.

It’s coming to the end of the season, and people are often coming up to me and asking me for a CD or a mixtape. But of course, we’re playing a lot of the tunes as we receive them and the tracks are brand new. I think it’s nice to get out to the public what we do at Cafe del Mar do around sunset. I think it’s a little bit different to what everyone else is playing around the island. There’s a lot of influences in there, a lot of ethnic sort of influences, some nice house music in there. I start about 86bpm and finish around 120bpm, so it’s eclectic, not mainstream. I’ve mixed in some meditation sounds and chants with some afro-latin samba stuff too and some old school tracks. I’m very happy with it.

CDM: Thanks, Ken! You can hear Ken Fan’s new playlist right here, and the download is free. 

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8 Secret Reasons to Visit Ibiza in September

Ibiza in September: Is it the best time to go?

 Easy answer: YES.

OK, end of the blog. That was easy, see you next week. What do you mean, why? Surely over the last few months, you have learned to take everything you read here as a cast iron fact? But, ok. This blog is nothing if it is not geared around catering to your every whim. Here we go with the finest 8 reasons to get a flight to Ibiza in September. 

ibiza temperatures ibiza in september

1. The Weather is Better

We don’t mean the weather is better than in the UK or the rest of Europe (even though it is). Look at the forecast here, and this is early September. Sorry, Glasgow, Sorry Cardiff, you’re both beautiful cities; but you’re covered in cloud and you’re not hitting 25 degrees in the shade all month long.

glasgow temperatures ibiza in septemberCardiff temperatures ibiza in september

My friends back home are already pulling on jumpers and hoodies, and here we are on Ibiza, in September, not even remembering what socks are for. It’s actually kind of cloudy today and has been for the last two or three, and no one wears anything more than shorts and t-shirts- and even then, you’re overdressed.

Anyway. What I mean by saying the weather is better in Ibiza is that the brutal heat that visits us from mid-July begins to diminish. a near 40 degrees centigrade peak is too hot for most, which is perhaps why August is known as Italian month. Our neighbours over by the Tyrrhenian Sea are as accustomed to high temperatures as we are in Ibiza. That’s just my theory, any Italians out there, put me straight in the comments below.

My Polish friends who also (foolishly) visit us in August are generally more familiar with the cold and return back home a curiously luminous pink. We do try to warn them. Visit us on Ibiza in September or you will burn to a crisp. They do not listen.

Cooler by a couple of degrees, the highest peak of the season has passed on Ibiza in September, which leads me to…

2. There’s room to swing a cat on the Island

Note: Do not swing cats. It’s not nice.

August on Ibiza is partly a state of mind. The residents greet it with a mixture of excitement and terror as the roads turn into a Death Race sequel and the beaches are so many paltry inches of sand betwixt spread out towels. It’s really not all that bad though, we just think it into being bedlam. Creating our own reality.

villa pool ibiza in september

Ibiza in September is different.

While there is still packed flights landing at the airport and the clubs are, if anything, getting ever more exciting as the legendary closing parties approach; you can feel the extra few inches of space.

As there are slightly fewer package holidays sold, the traffic is a little faster flowing, parking is a possibility, and the stress levels drop. This is nice for everyone, you might see the smiles on the waiters be that little wider. Ahhh.

3. The Parties Are Better

August is crammed wall to wall, as I say. Even Cafe del Mar can have trouble squeezing in all our guests, and that’s with the giant Cafe del Mar Lounge available. Clubland in late July and August feels a little cramped for my taste. The DJs feel it too I am sure, it’s nice to have a dance floor go off, right? That necessitates some space for people to move.

This September in Amnesia alone there is Adam Beyer, Chase and Status, Andy C, Pendulum, Paul van Dyk, Eats Everything and Nathan Barato. Not bad, for one week in just one club on the island. The closing parties start to appear on the horizon. Despite the gruelling months that are behind them, the promoters and club workers always find that extra gear. Which, of course, means truly unmissable events.

woomoon ibiza in september

4. The Price is Right

Yeah, September is great for the parties, the extra space and the awesome weather, but the real deal is how happy your wallet is. Flights from most European cities lose at least 25% of the price- and it doesn’t end there.

It may stun you to know but many day-to-day items on Ibiza mysteriously increase in price during peak-season. Funny, huh. We can’t be too snooty about this practice, almost everyone depends on the tourist trade here to survive- and through winter every centimo can be important.

The good news for the tourist though is that it costs less to get here, it costs less to stay here- and it can even be easier on the spending money. Win Win Win.

5. Look out of your window right now

Does it look like this?

Es vedra ibiza in september

Well then. 

6. The Storms

I know, I’ve been saying how great the weather is here, but the end of August heralds the season of storms. Incredible views of the power of nature are available for the brave- it’s still warm, of course.  Last year we stayed in a house overlooking a cliff and were treated to a thunderous lightning storm. So low were the clouds that for a short time, we were inside them!

Also, a couple of years ago there were even tornadoes out to sea. Cool, and a bit scary. But mostly cooler than a mojito in an ice box.

7 The wild side begins to live again

As visitors to the White Isle will know, a major problem during the summer is the threat of forest fires. One chap has been arrested for deliberately setting fires this year, and a sizeable chunk of woodland went up in flames in August. Thanks to the amazing skill of the bomberos and the seaplane and helicopter pilots, the blaze was controlled quickly.

While the lone fool with a lighter out for arson is hard to stop, it’s still a relief when the tinder-dry underbrush gets a little moisture. Even better, a little drop of moisture in the air is enough for the green leaves to pop with colour.

We’re along way from the lush tones of February. but it’s a start!

8. Scuba time.

scuba ibiza in september

Take it from me, there’s nothing better than getting out around Illa sa Conillera on a boat, rolling off the side with a tank and diving for an hour.

Why is SCUBA so much better during September in Ibiza? Firstly, the waters are far less busy. Less engine noise means that the undersea world is happier, behaving in a less stressed manner. Kind of like how we are on land with lighter traffic. The waters are warm and clear still and you can encounter all manner of fish and other aquatic life.

Don’t delay, get your fins on!

Naturally, the best part of all is that Cafe del Mar is open all month long… and it’s a poorly kept secret that the sunsets in September are some of the most spectacular. What are you waiting for?

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Cafe del Mar Vol. 23 Review

Cafe del Mar Vol. 23 Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

So, I finally (6 weeks after release) managed to get my hands on a copy of Volume XXIII.

Cafe del Mar Music has been producing chill-out albums for a long time. A really, really long time. The first release of Volume I was back in 1994, which is a year I remember most for being a bit scared of Diego Maradona at the FIFA World Cup and discovering Green Day’s seminal pop-punk album Dookie.

Don’t judge me too harshly, I was 13 at the time and had just discoveredvolume 23 cover distortion pedals. Thankfully, musical taste evolves with age, experience, and exposure to disappointing pop-punk concept albums about the president being bad.

In any case, I can be grateful for the role the music of Cafe del Mar played in improving the accompanying soundtrack from Calo des Moro all the way to the council estates of Yorkshire.

If you were making a playlist to soundtrack your life, wouldn’t there be some moments that dovetail with chill-out? We all have those songs that are inextricably linked with moments in time. Have you ever thought about what songs would go on the film score in the movie about you? Your heroic moments might be backed by Eye of The Tiger. It’s almost involuntary, how we collate these songs into a soundtrack. It seems like Cafe del Mar records are genetically coded to weave their way into our lived experience.

Cafe del Mar Volume 23 brings the atmosphere to the fore. As you would expect from a double album with soundscape luminaries such as the Cinematic OrchestraBrian Eno and Bonobo on board, the layers are soporific, weaving sweetly to create an otherworldly new reality. 

Cafe del Mar Volume 1-23 and on…

After so many albums we might be forgiven for assuming that the series would cafe del mar volume 1get stale. Granted, the archetypal Balearic sound was more evident on earlier albums like Volumen Ocho or Cinco, but this is at least down to our nostalgia. The times they are a changing, and like every other genre of music in history, chill-out is not immune. Archetypes become archetypes for a reason, after all.

This is a good thing.

Staid obedience to giving the crowd what we *think* they want has led humanity to baffling decisions. Producing a road version of the Jaguar XJ220, for example. KISS making a disco record in 1979, which sure, was a commercial success but… it’s disco.

There are other examples I’m sure. The point is that it is not 1998. The same advancements in production technology that make Adam Beyer sound like he’s from the future are also changing chill-out music. There is a reason why dance songs from the 1990s sound so dated. We are simply so far advanced from the technology used back then.

For the non-electronic tracks on Volumen Vienti-Tres the loudness war is over, and this has led to higher density, movie-score layers of sound that delight the senses. Zero 7’s Last Light is gloriously recorded and through a good sound system the depth is really apparent. You can say this about every track on the Cafe del Mar Volume 23 album, in all honesty.

A double album is a rare thing these days– one might even say a risky move. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips once said “[A] double album. Just this idea that you can weave a couple of themes into there and you can sprawl a little bit.”

I don’t know if this idea was in Toni Simonen’s mind when he cut this record, but it pleases me to think that it was. Thematically we always have Cafe del Mar as a concept, underpinning the music itself. There’s still a lot of space to explore ideas and sound within the chillout genre, and Cafe del Mar Volume 23 brings a luscious ocean of sound to dive into.

Top marks!

Cafe del Mar Volume 23 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can get your copy of Cafe del Mar Volume 23 here.


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Cafe del Mar & Privata: A Very Balearic Story

Let’s talk about fashion. Specifically, I want to talk about a clothing brand called Privata.

Fashion is a funny old game. Have you ever wondered how trends become trendy? Why is it that last year skinny jeans are in, but the by the next season boot cut is everywhere?  For a while, I entertained the conspiracy theory that companies got together like the Illuminati to collude together about how to maximize sales of denim.  Maybe that’s true.  Why are we even talking about this? I’ll tell you. Privata. They are the clothing company that makes the shirts we wear at Cafe del Mar, so they’re great blog-friendly content!

As an extranjero, I was unfamiliar with the company when first wearing the shirt. However, I am also inordinately impressed by the quality of the materials used. Throughout our careers, waiters have become accustomed to being shoe-horned into polo shirts of synthetic fabric, so to be clad in a sturdy, lightweight cotton shirt is actually pretty refreshing.  Still, the question remains: Who are Privata?

These sorts of questions tend to keep me up at night, so I have put my investigator’s hat on and I am going online in search for answers. Sure, I could ask my Spanish colleagues, but I already bombard them enough with questions about local wildlife, Spanish grammar and where to find good Hierbas. And so, down the rabbit hole of international fashion we go.

privata vintage 1

Did you know that the major fashion labels now employ multinational companies who are solely focused on predicting trends?  The opinion of a select few kingmakers influence the minds of Dior, Dolce and Gabbana and the other elites. Naturally, this filters down to what will hit the high street sometime after the catwalks premiere the new look.

How do you even begin to get that job?

So there is, apparently, a fairly elite section of the fashion world who watch trends, employ sociological analysts and pay attention to oil prices and other obscure data points, and use this knowledge to produce books on style for the forthcoming year.

This book is then bought at a price in the multiple thousands of dollars, turned into seminars on which shapes, fabrics, and colors will be popular, and voila. Lagerfeld’s show looks a little like DKNY’s, and for a little while, we all follow the same basic trends. Even if this is as simple as whether a bare midriff is in or out.

irene privata


Then we come to Ibiza. The original bucker and starter of trends. Ibiza has her own style. There are the ubiquitous white outfits for when you’re particularly Moda Ibiza, but the fashion does not there.  From the beaches of Bossa to the San Joan set to the Sunset Strip, the varied fashions of world citizens combines and amalgamates into Ibiza chic. Even the West End has a signature look. Spot for yourselves, the slightly early 90s looking neon shorts on pretty much every young guy this year. privata vintage train workers

So, against this background of a globe-spanning fashion machine, you can imagine my shock when I found almost nothing online about Privata, at all. Their website is simple, they have a list of their stockists (exclusively in Spain and Andorra) and a social media presence that takes pride in being unobtrusive.


It turns out that Privata has been making clothes for over forty years, but have eschewed listening to the advice of the industry at large. Almost on purpose. I  see why Cafe del Mar choose them.  Many moons ago, when we were all much younger, Privata developed a technique that had gone out of fashion during the post-war prosperous years. There is a technique for recycling raw and used materials like wool into finer fabrics. But, that is another story. A story that begins at the dawn of the 20th Century, and fades during the intervening years as it becomes cheaper to produce synthetic fabric.

Still with me? OK.

It appears that in the early 70s, when our older relatives were about to discover the horrors of velour and lycra, Privata broke with fashion ideas entirely to make nautically inspired clothing from natural fabrics. Forward thinking indeed, when we consider that twenty years after Privata began, we British folk were wearing shell suits. privata vintage fishermen

It seems to me that Privata and Cafe del Mar have the same sort of mentality. It didn’t matter to Privata what other fashion labels were doing, and it still doesn’t matter. Privata are themselves, with their own identity. I wouldn’t hesitate to say the same about Cafe del Mar (though I am obviously biased!)

Privata take inspiration from their surroundings. Like the founders of Cafe del Mar in 1980 take inspiration from the sunsets of Calo des Moro. Like this, the architect Lluis Güell interpreted the island of Ibiza into the styling of the original cafe.

Privata country

The ideas of Privata are as true today as they were in 1973. Interpret the natural world around us, the sea, the countryside, and provide practical, stylish clothing that exudes timeless cool.  They also keep your servers at Cafe del Mar happy!

Find Privata’s full range on their website, or through their Facebook Page.

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