Monday, 20 July 2015

Comfy Dub on the Babylon Beach

Ibiza is well known for it's sunset strip in San Antonio, laced with cafe's and restaurant's all serving expensive drinks and food to tourists while D.J's salute the sunset playing chilled vibes. It's the place everyone goes to, Cafe Mambo and Cafe Del Mar especially.  But today i would like to tell you about the other side of Ibiza, on the east coast, tucked away just around the bend from the laid back working resort of Santa Eulalia, is a little gem of a beach and restaurant; Babylon. Granted you can't experience the sunset from here but you can take in a true relaxing Ibiza vibe with perfectly thought out sun drenched soundtrack's, provided most of the time by one George Solar: A D.J, Producer, Re-mixer and a top man. When you meet George your greeted by a cool ,passionate, gently spoken, warm and fuzzy guy who really loves life, his music and to D.J, which if you follow him on social media, you will often see the words I Love My Job at the end of his Tweets. 

 A man who has traveled the world from his homeland of Germany, playing his unique style of comfy dub sets before finding himself in the idyllic little island of Formentara and eventually neighboring Ibiza. He has played in San An's Kumaras around the bay ( one of my favorite places to experience the sunset away from the crowds ) where he did live sunset set's for local radio Ibiza Sonica. A former D.J residence at Formentara Blue Bar, a place which is still firmly close to his heart. I read some words from him recently about being in Ibiza " I didn't come to party! I came to chill and make music - music make me "

This week sees the release of music he has made, a collaboration with Beach Messiah; a blissful five track E.P entitled Hotel Kuba. 5 tracks which guarantee to transport the listener to a beach bar, all with perfect summer vibes. Though when it was recorded, it couldn't have been further away from the truth. I'll let George explain. 

Perfect timing to get a quick Q & A with you as your new 5 track E.P is released. Can you tell me a bit about it, how it came about, describe the sound etc?

My colleague Daniel aka Beach Messiah (resident DJ at Sunset Ashram & very good sound engineer) and me got together in his home studio 18 months ago now and started to pile up dubby beats just for enjoyment. First more like scetches, and originally just to kill some time during the long cold & damp Ibiza winters. As Daniel tends more towards uptempo electronica whereas I am (mostly) as downtempo as I possibly can, there was a certain friction in these scetches that we both liked, so we finished & started to shop 5 of them in spring. Of all the good people in the world it was none other than Kenneth Bager (of Music For Dreams fame) who picked up on our sound first and signed the tracks sort of overnight.

We decided to name the EP Hotel Kuba in homage to the odd location Daniel's studio was part of during that time. Its funny as a lot of people tell us they think we sound very sun drenched & positive… as that particular winter was actually pretty dark and moody, and so was the vibe of that location. I really look forward to what we come up with when we get to work in a more friendly environment this winter then :)

I have enjoyed a few summers in Ibiza hearing you D.J, where can people see you playing this year? Still at Babylon, Wax Da Jam ( Nightmares on wax night ) and Blue Bar ?

My residency at Babylon Beach is in its 4th year now, and since I am actually curating their overall sound & safeguarding a certain music policy (incl. playlists when there's no dj), a lot of my love, energy and time goes into that. We are actually building something special, therefore conceptual continuity is crucial… especially here, on an island where most venues just go for the usual stereotype bang-bang in order to cash in fast - or, even worse, don't really give a damn about the music that's playing. So in fact, the sad truth is a lot of daytime venues here get raped energetically on a daily basis, and so do the clients that go there. We wanted to make a difference. For us at Babylon, the right music at the right time is just important as the food and the location actually. That turns out to be quite the mission - but we are definitely on something. Now we have a lot of people revisiting as well as many local regulars, as the word has finally spread it seems. But we keep exploring at all times, I personally think we can take this as far as it deserves to be taken, so there's still a long way to go.

This season, I also play a few "classic" sunsets at Blue Bar Formentera again, simply because its my balearic spiritual home, but only like once a month or so. I wish I would have more time! It's always like a short homecoming vacation for me - 2 days in ultra tranquil Formentera enable me to hack the crazy Ibiza season pace better once I get back. Formentera is my personal wellness resort and I will probably live there again at some point, so I can't do without it neither summer nor winter. It's just such a magic place.

No Wax Da Jam for me this season. Ease wanted a different vibe & set up from the last years and that's alright with me. He always has brilliant people playing with him and they truly deserve all the love Ibiza has to offer them.  

Like that, I also have a bit more time to work on music & promote the releases coming up. Also, I get to enjoy real life a bit more - the last years i played up to 60 hours a week during summer, now its only around 40 and thats much healthier in terms of quality, peace of mind & focus. On top, I finally get to go to a beach without having to play music there. At last I can do regular beach stuff, like swimming or just plain toasting.

Do you still love your job and was Ibiza a good move for you from your native Germany, also can you briefly tell me how you ended up on The White isle?

I guess I will always love my job - what is not to love about it? I get to spend most of my time playing boss music on the beach while overlooking the Mediterranean sea. That's quite something and it humbles me on a daily basis.

Make no mistake though - its a very demanding job at the same time if you want to do it right. Especially when you do it as frequently as I do. You need to keep it interesting for yourself and the people, so you're constantly in need of new tunes (or unearthing timeless classics you forgot about) to go with your basic selection. You also need a lot of focus & discipline. Only then you develop that sort of sensitivity for the moment, as well as some kind of "auto pilot" over time, sort of like a modular system keeping you and your perception of things flexible. So that even on a not-so-good day you can secure everybody goes home happy.

In a daytime setting (I mostly play lunch, dinner and/or sunsets) you may not have to keep people dancing too often. But at the same time there's a big difference between just playing a few tunes or making it a unique and special selection for that very moment instead. Most people spend a lot of money to travel here, to eat great food in an amazing location. There's a certain extra responsibility you have towards them, and it's important to never forget that. Which doesn't necessarily mean to only play "happy" music - but it's crucial to pick tunes that mean something, even if they don't have lyrics. You have to make it more than the mere sum of its parts, that's the ticket. The people are open for feeling different vibes here, so why not cater to that.   

It's a blessing to live on this island, I don't regret a single day and probably never will. Ibiza is very different to what people are being told, the north where I live has a middle earth-hobbitland quality to it. Although I didn't relocate from Germany to here directly really, much rather from the neighboring island, Formentera, where I lived for a couple of years before I moved over. The reason was by that time I was still gigging all over Europe, but when there's a severe winter storm there's no ferry boat from Formentera to Ibiza, so there's no plane to catch hence no gig to play. That's why now I live in Ibiza but I go to Formentera whenever I get a chance to.

Can you give me one piece of music or tune you would drop in your sets to soundtrack a sunrise and a sunset ?

A sunrise soundtrack has to be rather tender for me, maybe even no beats or almost none. That's why some of the more horizontal Cinematic Orchestra material would definitely do a good job.

( The Cinematic Orchestra - To Build A Home )

Maybe one of the ambient translations from Bob Marley & The Wailers originals that Bill Laswell did. 

( Bob Marley - Them Belly Full But We Hungry Instrumental Dub )

But i would most likely give you a different answer tomorrow, there's just no general approach that always works in fact.

For sunset, it could be "Rotation" by Herb Alpert - preferably that pretty spaced out "Left On The Bench" edit version which I love to pieces. It includes A LOT of mellow percussive dub elements and is fabulous 10 minutes long… ample time to even let the dj watch the sunset for once I'd say.

( Herb Alpert - Rotation Original video 1979 )

In the end, it really always depends on the moment though. A sunset on an otherwise deserted Formentera beach facing Africa goes way deeper than one on the San Antonio sunset strip ever could, so the selection should be appropriate.

Can you remember the first D.J experience you had yourself,  maybe a club back home or in Ibiza?

Yeah I clearly remember clearing the high school prom dance floor by playing a string of weird funky fusion jazz vinyls to a bewildered strictly-rock crowd :)

Can't really recall my first professional gig but it was not much later. I probably alienated people in a similar way. Which is funny because when I think about it now, I still try to execute that certain right to change the vibe completely whenever I feel it's appropriate, until today.

My first Ibiza gig was a very spiritual sunset at Kumharas, around 2005. I realized how well dub works for an authentic balearic sunset that day (until then it was just a vision).

If you could have written one chill out piece of music in history, which one would it have been?

Good question, can't really answer that one as there are so many landmark tunes.

What I can admit though is that until today we often use the first few bars of Massive Attack's - Protection as a reference sound for beat production. If our original beat doesn't sound nearly as crisp, round, warm and dope as that, it's time to go back & do it again or move on to another beat.

( Massive Attack - Protection )

Same with the early Kruder & Dorfmeister stuff. That overall vibe, so rich yet so minimalist. That's a unique quality in terms of timelessness & class you really don't come across anymore nowadays. Which, in sum, would also mean that the best chill out music  was made by folks who just wanted to make good music and gave a shit about genres in fact. There's a certain effortlessness in those peoples sound which is impossible to reach if you try too hard I guess. The only chance to get anywhere near is to simply be yourself & go with the flow. And when you think you are there, listen back and take out another 25%, reduce it to the max. Like Miles Davis said: the most important notes are the ones not being played.

You get a call to play a set in any club or beach bar in the world, where would it be? 

Most probably Babylon Beach Ibiza, because if I don't go to bed soon that call will come for real in just a few hours.

I am happy to realize that I have played some of the most beautiful spots I can imagine. If you are a beach bar/hotel owner somewhere out there in the southern hemispheres reading this though and you are up for proving me wrong, please feel free to get in touch. If the spot is truly beautiful, I might consider breaching my non-travel oath finally.

Any other future projects you would like to share?

Beach Messiah & George Solar got a few interesting remix offers that we will get to deal with shortly, one of them being an eclectic jazz cover version of a Nirvana track which sounds very tempting. We are working on more album material simultaneously.

As I type this, I am finishing a new compilation that German label POETS CLUB records asked me to do. It's basically almost like a solo album, since they suggested I compile my faves from original material I was part of making/writing/producing/remixing during the past 15 years or so. That one is called Input Selektah and will probably see daylight in autumn. Some nice exclusive versions & rare collabs with gifted friends in high places!

The "real" solo album is in the making as well, I am in 7 tracks deep now (demo stage) and currently vibing with potential collaboration partners, mainly amazing vocalists and horn player friends I made over the years. Can't really give too much away for now but the working title is The Outernational and I hope to put finishing touches to it over the winter.

I have been approached to produce beats for some other people as well, which I am seriously considering, yet I have that urge to finish my own stuff first so I have the appropriate amount of headroom for doing that sort of thing.

Finally, can you tell me a few tunes that are working for you in your beach bar sets?

Any fusion of dub and horizontal tropicalism works just fine for me. One of the best examples would be the Boozoo Bajou album Satta. That's really music that will never sound dated, in fact it will always sound better than most of what I have heard ever since it was released. There's a french artist by the name of Blundetto, he's on a very similar vibe with his sound. Again: there's that laid back effortlessness level in the music & production that you can only reach if you don't think too much in genres, what the people would maybe prefer or about the latest uptempo fashion. Timeless, organic and effortless music always works just fine anywhere. For me, that is.

( Boozoo Bajou - Camioux )

( Blundetto - Warm My Soul )

So if you've enjoyed the interview, in Ibiza over the summer and would like to see George in action while enjoying their famous sangria then check out

Keep up with the goings on of George Solar at:

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