Having left native London in 1998 in search of warmer climes and the perfect places in which to enjoy his youth, Hed Kandi resident Ben Santiago didn’t originally intend to have a career as a DJ. His childhood hobby resurfaced at the same time he discovered the island of Ibiza… and the rest, as they say, is history. Today he lives in Ibiza all year round with his fiancé Laura Fowles (aka Hed Kandi saxophonist Lovely Laura – read her interview here) and gives us the scoop on island life. Ben and Laura perform live at the White Ibiza Summer Launch Party this Thursday.
When did you first discover you had skills behind the decks?
When the Acid House scene first exploded, I was about 13, and there were two pirate radio stations in London, called Centre Force and Sunrise. I used to tune into those and I just loved the music, then me and my little friends would buy the records, and started out by putting two HiFis together and someone got decks so I learnt to DJ. But it was just a hobby, I never dreamed of turning it into my profession!
So when did that all change?
I’d been traveling and living abroad since 1998, and when I was about 30 I was working as a PR in a club in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. The DJ in the club needed someone to fill in for her one night, and basically I stepped in and quickly learnt how to use CD players, because I’d only ever played on vinyl. I loved it… and that very same month I came to Ibiza on a holiday, fell head over heels in love with the island and didn’t want to leave. I swore I would come back to the island and actually make a go of turning my 15-year old hobby into my profession. In 2005 I moved here to try my luck… now I live here all year round.
What keeps you here?
It’s a question that gets asked all the time and is really hard to explain. It’s just the island’s spirit, and my life here – it feels like this is my real home. I’ve settled down here, I’ve gotten engaged and we’ve bought a house here… whenever I come back from a trip overseas, every time I land it’s just like aaaaah… I’m home.
Do you have any island secrets or favourite places to share with us?
I like sitting up at Sa Talaia, it’s only ten minutes down the road from our house really and Laura and I found a great spot up there where you can see the whole south coast of the island. If you look over to the left you see Playa d’en Bossa and to the right you can see Es Vedra and everything in between… that’s our favourite spot.
Where can we see you playing on the island this summer?
I’ll be playing at Hed Kandi at Es Paradis every week, for Cream at Amnesia for the fourth year running and some daytime gigs at El Chiringuito, plus some private villa parties. I’ve had such a busy winter that I’m taking on less work this year! I’m hoping to spend a lot more time enjoying the island and spend a lot more time with Laura.
How does it work, playing with Laura? Do you plan your sets or is it impromptu?
No, we never plan it. But that’s not unique to us two, that’s how Laura works. She plays with many different DJs and she’s jamming over the top of the music, while the DJ does his thing, and in my case, I’m not watching Laura, I’m watching the crowd, and doing what I do. She complements that. People seem to love that we’re a couple!
Tell us about the styles of music you play nowadays?
I play a bit of a mixture really, in the daytime it’s very eclectic, at Hed Kandi, it’s straight up house music and if I do a tour it’s big room house. When I play at Cream, it’s a lot more on the tech-ier side. I love it. I’ll be honest though, I do love house music, but I’m really enjoying the daytime gigs at the moment. You create a very special atmosphere by playing music from the last 50 years. It could be anything that’s fresh from yesterday to a track that’s 50 years old and it all fits in together and collectively creates a very nice atmosphere.
Best thing about being an Ibiza resident DJ?
The best thing is playing music to the people. I think a lot of people come here because they’re serious music lovers and consequently your music gets appreciated more. You see and feel that.. Even if they’re not dancing and it’s lazy beats on the beach, the crowds here still appreciate music much more.
Do you get to get out and see a lot of the other clubs on the island?
I’m not going to lie, no. I’m more into the nature of the island, so you’re more likely to find me sitting on top of a mountain than you are to find me on one of the club’s dance floors. I still get out, but just not all the time…
Why do you think Ibiza is such a haven for creative types?
This is another I can’t pinpoint, but I think it’s to do with the energy of the island. The Romans came here and partied, the hippies all came here in the ‘60s, there’s just an energy to the island that attracts creative, bohemian types.