Dub Magazine and Sven Vath look back on the last ten years of Cocoon in Ibiza, from humble beginnings to kings of club land.
dub: 10 years of Cocoon Ibiza, that is a hell of a long time. How did all this start and where does the name Cocoon come from?
The name Cocoon was born out of an idea I had after seeing the 'Fura dels Baus' in 1994 in Berlin at the Tempeldrom. They performed a show containing a sort of metamorphosis with hanging 'cocoons' filled with water out of which naked human bodies emerged. There I realized that the only constant thing in life is the metamorphosis, or better said the change. So I left the theatre with the idea of calling my next project 'Cocoon'. So in 1996 I started with four parties with a circus group from England performing something similar. The line-up included very special acts like Underworld, DJ Hell, The Advent, DJ Kudo from Japan, B12 and more. At this point I was very idealistic and had no sponsor, so I paid it all out of my own pocket and it was a big financial disaster… So I gave it a break, and finally after separating from my labels Harthouse and EyeQ in 1997 and the closing of Omen in Frankfurt in 1998 I founded Cocoon in 1999. Then Mar-T from Amnesia told me the Monday would be available so we did four test parties in Amnesia the very same year. We presented a Butu dancer who had a shell and a bleeding ear, a very powerful but silent message saying 'the power lies in tranquillity'. What I want to say is people could see that something new was being born, and both our posse from Frankfurt and the locals were very excited. And that was the beginning of the Cocoon Era :-). From 2000 on we did the full season and the rest is history.
dub: Cocoon is not only a party, it’s a brand with many faces. Tell us more about it.
For me first of all Cocoon is a feeling, it is club culture, event culture is how I see it, for more than 20 years now I was always into creating platforms or networks where people come together to create something. In the beginning it was Talida, my booker, and me, developing the different branches of Cocoon step-by-step. It was first the booking agency, then the parties, the label and so on. All this was designed to spread our vision and the culture of electronic music throughout the world. And with the necessary vision, consistency, authenticity, love and passion you can reach a high quality level without the help of any commercial support. In 2000 we had T-Mobile as a sponsor and I think we worked very well together; we are all a mobile generation so we could accept this kind of sponsoring, always with aiming to create a fruitful partnership for both sides, like this it is more than just commercial support.
Talking more about the different facets of Cocoon, today we have the artist agency which includes Ricardo Villalobos, Tobi Neumann, Andre Galluzzi and more recently Cassy, Onur Özer and so on, an event agency managing our international events, and, very important, Johannes controlling the Ibiza appearance. He grew into all this and today he is a very important pillar for Cocoon.
dub: Talking about the staff, how many people are involved in the making of each party?
Well this starts very early on, we have a preparation time or, let's say, after the season is before the season. After each season my job starts, I release the mixed CD of each summer, 'The sound of the Season' in combination with a world tour, and during this period my wife, Johannes, some creatives and myself already work on the concept for the next season. I have an idea in my head and together we bring it to life. Then, in a kind of brain pool we work with stylists and photographers to give it a name, a motto. So from February on we are in constant creation and Johannes and I talk already about the bookings which is not easy at all because you have to leave some behind so as to invite new faces, but this is part of the job… Then finally the whole Ibiza machinery starts to work, I guess there are around 40 people working on the realization, from decoration and doors to VIP, postering and flyering, PRs, dancers, assembling, disassembling etc. etc. We don’t want to keep getting bigger and bigger, our ambition is to evolve in small steps so we can guarantee quality in all aspects. That is also why we always said to Martin (Ferrer, owner of Amnesia) to change the terrace, and I guess we can say we were a big influence on how it finally changed to what it is today, where everybody wants to play the terrace in Amnesia.
dub: Your career as a DJ is way older, when did you start and why? What are your roots?
Funnily enough it was my mother’s idea that I play in my parents’ English pub. It had a small dance floor and so in 1980 I became the DJ, or it would be better to say 'Disc jockey' as this was how everybody spelt it at that time I was 16 years old and within one year could enter various clubs and visited Ibiza for the first time, making it clear to me that being a DJ was my dream job. And with the support of my mother I had heaven on earth… After I had worked on my technical skills I went to Dorian Gray in Frankfurt to spy on the Djs spinning there and this legendary club became my second home and was where I presented my break-dance ‘Electric Boogie’ shows. Then in 1982 I finally got asked if I want to play the Dorian Gray and got in contact with lots of other Djs such as Michael Münzing and Luca Anzillotti. After the club we would go more and more into our small home-recording studio so I got involved very early on in the process of producing electronic music, learning how to build up a dance track and what it needs to make it work on the floor. Then in 1985, after returning from Ibiza, we produced our first off record called ‘Bad News’ which turned out to be good news because my big dream was to present this record to DJs Alfredo, Pippi and César and to hear it played in Ibiza…
dub: Did they play it?
YES they did, my most faithful was DJ Pippi, he always played my tracks, and the following year I returned with 'Electrica Salsa' which became this massive hit everywhere, starting in Spain and spreading to the rest of the world. With this record I had two careers running, Pop star and DJ… I sang in the Arena di Verona and the French Guayana, I performed with Kim Wilde, Vanessa Paradis, Junior and Axel Bauer and it was a big craze for me being just 22 years old!
dub: Where do you still get the inspiration and energy to stand all this craziness?
That is a question I also ask myself… (biiig laugh). I guess it's because I am right at the source, which is my heart. There I get the power to do what I truly love, to live my passion for music. I never lost interest; I think I can say I am a pioneer of electronic music and my parents equipped me well with good endurance and power. I think I found the right thing to do at the right time and I always want to reinvent myself because I get bored very easily, so I am constantly changing. Another very important factor is travelling, you get inspired by what you experience, be it different cultures, nature, art, high end technology and so on. It is also very important how you structure your time for yourself, you need time for yourself, you need to live a conscious, healthy life besides all the craziness, what you eat is very important. And I got married so I feed my heart and soul as well :-), so all this completes itself, I think if I did the same thing all year long I would wear myself out.
dub: You are known for your endless sets, how many hours was the longest?
There are definitely some Djs out there who’ve played longer sets than me, my aim was never to play the longest, but my personal one was at the Love Parade in the 90's, I played the Parade on Friday and started the after party Saturday evening and did not stop until Monday night… and I had people following me all the way through on the dance floor!
In those days it was nothing so special, in the early days there was one DJ in the club playing five days from the beginning till the end of the night. There was no running order of different Djs, it was a common thing to play so many hours. If you are so deep into it you need to have a big musical repertoire and experience in mixing and creating a story, like this you can create an endless trip and bewitch the crowd. If you know your music well and are able to cross genres you can 'paint' any kind of story. Ricardo (Villalobos) is another of those that are able to play endless sets, he was raised in the same 'school' that was Frankfurt in those days, others celebrating their sets are e.g. Frank Lorber, Pascal F.E.O.S. or Mark Spoon.
dub: Cocoon in 10 years?
The core of Cocoon is music, and the ambition is to present this music in the best way possible, be it a club, an event, a festival or so on. Cocoon will still be a global player for ambitious electronic music, open to new impulses as well as giving new impulses to the world, not only in music but in working together with artists of other art forms as well, like the cooperation with Andreas Gursky and his photos of the Cocoon club. As for myself I see no end either, I will still play and produce, I guess there is no limit. Talking about Ibiza I would wish to maybe find the terrace open again, also maybe rock the island on some infamous beach parties – I will always be faithful to this island…
dub: 3 most important things one needs to become a DJ?
First of all you need the feeling for music, rhythm, then you have to assume the responsibility to rock a crowd and you have to be ready to always search for new music, not just reproduce what other Djs do. You have to be the selector, not just look at play lists. One more thing is you should have your heart in the right place, develop the talent to make other people dance, spread good temper, be a servant and not the cool DJ with lots of groupies around. For me a cool DJ is the one still playing vinyl, but that depends on your point of view… I will always play vinyl and will go on producing it, maybe it will not be available in all countries in the future but I will always support it.
dub: Is Ibiza still the capital of electronic music during the summer?
Definitely, there is no place like Ibiza, so the question answers itself… Thanks to Cocoon (biiig laughter) Ibiza is still very interesting when it comes to music, I do not want to be arrogant, but I think with our line-ups we’ve inspired other promoters and the island to evolve music wise in a very positive way, so I guess it is more than ever the true capital of electronic dance music.
dub: Your favourite places in Ibiza?
Mondays at Amnesia (even biiiiigger laughter), and the rest is my secret…
dub: Thanx a lot Sven, and we can't wait for the opening, see you sooooon!