Jo Mills – Exclusive InterviewMay 28, 2020
Whenever we talk about or reminisce about heading to the ‘Island’ (Ibiza) we think of the white sands, all night 3 dayer sessions, getting absolute pounded with the beat of thousands of feet dancing to the drum.
We think hedonism we think underground we think the best music and the freedom to do what the fuck you like with like minded people, clubbers who want the very the same experiences all wrapped in the shared love and friendship of good times. We caught up with one of Ibiza’s underground icons Jo Mills so she could fill us in on her time living & spinnin in Ibiza…
Mike Mannix: Hey Jo great to talk to you, tell us then how long you’ve been living and working in Ibiza and your Circoloco resident DJ days?
Jo Mills: Well I use to come here with my friends years ago in the early ’90s and I just loved it, after that I came back here did a gig in San Antonio and it’s when I started DJing properly, around 1995. I started playing weekly in Ibiza for Cream at Amnesia and other venues so me and my partner Charlie Chester decided to buy an apartment. It was around this time I was asked if I wanted to play at Circoloco because they wanted female DJs on the terrace, so it was me, Tanya Volcano and Marysol, they wanted Charlie to get involved in promoting the club because it wasn’t that busy at the time, so we got the English side and started to build it up from there. We were there for 6 years, working with Andrea, Antonio and Charlie.
So that was around 2000/2001, we got everyone on the island to go there. It didn’t take much time because it was such a magnetic space you know, so raw and underground. At the time it was all about the resident DJs and we would all have a role to play and the crowd wanted to hear us, which was great. We would have guest DJs but everyone played for free, all the big names. I loved playing there because of how terrific it was, when we first started it was this exciting thing, because it was this super club, outside.
around 2000/2001, we got everyone on the island to go there. It didn’t take much time because it was such a magnetic space you know, so raw and underground. At the time it was all about the resident DJs and we would all have a role to play and the crowd wanted to hear us, which was great
it was brilliant, and always about the music, we were just a big family then it just got bigger. Normally Cirillo would be playing at 6 in the morning we would show up at that time, start off inside and then go outside on the terrace and it would just go off, and we’d stay all day, we would be all together, it was amazing. I complied the first Circo Loco double album cd with Cirillo which is something I’m proud of and a good trip down memory lane!
MM: Did the Island lose its underground aspect to the VIP?
JM: No, I am on the side that things have to progress, otherwise we would be left behind. There’s plenty of underground things going on. DC10 is still underground as far as I’m concerned and there are fantastic DJs, it’s always evolving and it will never be ruined by this. It was just the part that had to progress I think, just a factor of life, but the scene is pretty untouched in some areas and it is a beautiful island, still very traditional. When people come here, they work hard enough, so all these big stigmas about people having money, bloody hell, they work hard enough to enjoy themselves. I think it is pretty much the same around the world, when I come to England, I find London quite expensive. It depends where you go, what you do.
MM: How were the political changes recently over here with the clampdown of noise levels.
JM: It’s quite strange because it was all in the news last year, and this year we haven’t sort of heard anything about it. I’d been down to Nassau where they were really coming down on last year, and I was there last week and it was bloody loud! Maybe because it was the closing but I haven’t been anywhere where you could notice that it was quiet.
I haven’t heard any bad stories regarding this year, but really sad things were going on last year, there was protesting because it was ruining businesses. A friend who has some hotels, opened up another one in San Antonio, beautiful boutique hotel, which is amazing for the island, he had a welcoming party and was fined because of the noise levels in his own hotel, that was last year. But as far as I’ve heard it was just to make a point and it didn’t happen at all this year.
we don’t have this commitment anymore of going to the record shop to buy new music, the expense of it, you know. It was a real investment
MM: Let’s go back a bit to you, what’s the maddest party you’ve been to DJ?
JM: There have been quite a few! But mainly in Circoloco. One time I was at the terrace and there was torrential rain, we had awnings across the roof you know with gaps, I was DJing and somebody had to hold up a coca-cola parasol over the top of the decks and while he’s doing that the wall collapsed behind me, and we were like “No, we’re not giving up!”
Also, one of the best moments actually of my career was when I was DJing and one of the DJs didn’t turn up so I ended up playing for 5 hours straight and Danny Tenaglia was there, dancing away. After that, I couldn’t believe it because he was my hero and he came up to me and asked if I would play for him in New York and he flew me there and I played in his club Vinyl.
Another one was on Charlie’s 40th, Rocky was playing and he played Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder and a friend we called Elvis because he was an impersonator climbed in front of the booth and it blew my mind because it was only about 10 inches wide of concrete that he stood on and basically started the ‘stage diving’ that day. Then Charlie did it and it just started a trend. I’ve got a picture of me doing it, everyone had to do it after that, that was such a buzz.
MM: Anybody hit the deck?
JM: No, can you imagine how mental were we to trust all these crazy people to catch us, but we did! One of the worst moments was that I went to Cologne to go record shopping, and packed my bag full of new vinyl, and some bastard in Berlin stole all my records on the way back home my heart sank. The worst is that I had to borrow music because I had 3 or 4 gigs, so it was a nightmare and I had to buy them all again. It sounds ridiculous but I was devastated.
MM: Same today for DJs when they lose their USB stick and have no backup.
JM: Exactly, but today you are more likely to have a backup. When this happened I lost so much money. Crazy how times change. I’m not sure you would be allowed to fly with that much vinyl now, I used to take boxes everywhere. Once, I went to play for Circoloco in Sydney and a DJ wanted to bring vinyl and they didn’t let him bring them, they couldn’t bring the records to Australia because of the weight or something and that was in 2009.
MM: How do you feel about that? Do you think that we lost something from the vinyl days?
JM: Yes, I feel like that we’ve lost a lot because we don’t have this commitment anymore of going to the record shop and buy new music, the expense of it, you know. It was a real investment, when I was working in Flying Records in 1990, it was 6 quid a record. But it’s not just about the money but also how it works if you really want that track. I’m guilty of when I want to buy some music and I end buying far too much, on Beatport or whatever, but if you go to the record shop you are really gonna buy it to play it, take the time to listen to it properly and you’re building a set rather than buying loads of tracks, that all sound bloody similar now.
MM: Isn’t it the argument that the people say that back in the day when it was vinyl you had much more quality control from record companies because they certainly wouldn’t invest and press it on vinyl if it was bad. Whereas today anyone can send any track to bad digital labels and it’ll get released?
JM: Exactly, all I hear sounds the fucking same. We’re talking about 1000s of tracks going out now every week, it’s just regurgitating the same ole same ole, there’s no finesse in there, really bland, no soul to it. And like you were saying to press vinyl was an investment. I used to work for a distribution company as well, and I remember if we didn’t sell the tracks we would press it was a massive loss. You had to be more careful.
MM: And the tangible things like the smell of vinyl, of the print of the artwork, the bit of information you could have about the band or whatever.
JM: Yeah, it’s crazy, when I was working at Flying records from 1990 to 95, I used to do the mail orders, I would have these DJs around the world that would give me their credit card number and I would send them 50£ worth of vinyl, they would listen to it and send back what they didn’t want. I had to carry all those records to the post office and post them all, but what was great is that they trusted me to send them what I thought they would like, no computer, no Internet. Feels so old fashioned now. Even people that didn’t want to be DJs and just loved the music would put so much time and money to find records. I miss record shops.
MM: Most DJs or people involved in the scene say the same thing, this ritual of going to your favorite record shop and spend all day there to find records, with your mates, and if you knew people working there they would give you the choicest cuts and all.
JM: Yes, it was so exciting the whole era was fantastic the vibe, the parties the scene, and the buzz in the shop. I knew everything about every track, from working at that record shop, it was great. I just loved the way that everything looked different you know, like the Italian imports, the American ones, the artwork the smell and feel of the vinyl.
Charlie brought his Flying party to Ibiza in 1990 with English DJs for 3 weeks in various different venues it was very prolific and part of clubland history, with this, came one of the most-watched youth Culture documentaries on channel 4, “A short film about Chillin ” filmed in Ibiza, 13 million tuned in on boxing day to watch it that year.
MM: Tell us about what you got coming up then, & Essential Ibiza?
JM: I’m looking forward to the launch of my new night on the island DECIBEL every Friday starting 24th January, at Cana Pepeta, a beautiful quirky Ibizan restaurant with a room for dancing after dinner! Also, I’ve gone back to the studio, I just love production, making music. I’m working with an Ibizan DJ called Dylan Debut, he’s very good Also myself and Matti Schwartz who is my production partner on 4tune 500 are in contact with a label from Cologne to re-release our 4 Tune 500 track – Dancing in the dark which was a big classic in the early 2000s, so we’re releasing that with remixes.
So Essential Ibiza, we’re heavily involved with the music scene on the island, we cover everything from the gigs to the club tables, we support all the big club brands, hotels, and restaurants with our marketing packages. We’re also launching a print on demand merchandise superstore for clubs. You print the number of t-shirts you want, even 1 if you want. It’s a great way of getting the brands out there as exporting outside Ibiza can be really expensive. So that’s really exciting. We’re looking to launch that in Spring.
We cover everything from concierge, spas, private boats, etc. Before we started everybody would ask us the same thing anyway so after 30 years of being here we just wanted to set up a company.
And we also got this is the pipeline – Charlie brought his Flying party to Ibiza in 1990 with English DJs for 3 weeks in various different venues it was very prolific and part of clubland history, with this, came one of the most-watched youth Culture documentaries on channel 4, “A short film about Chillin ” filmed in Ibiza, 13 million tuned in on boxing day to watch it that year. So 2020 it’s going to be 30 years that it happened and we are talking with some of the originals DJs from that program, to do an Ibiza 20 as in 2020. Not so retro but infusing some of that vibe, those DJs. So we’re talking to Terry Farley, Rocky & Diesel, they were the original DJs on Ibiza 90, and we’ll see what happens. Also, it is the 10 years of our Essential Ibiza business and I turn 50!
MM: Great interview Jo
JM: Nice one Mike it was