As Do Not Sleep embark on a 16-week season at Space Ibiza, we catch up with resident Darius Syrossian and promoter Neil Evans to try and unearth the secrets of their success...
Last year, a brand new party was the surprise success story of the Ibiza season. Following Darius Syrossian's departure from Sankeys, he hooked up with new kids on the block Do Not Sleep for a peripatetic series of events that crowds lapped up. This year, Do Not Sleep is back - but with a few changes.
Syrossian will now be the main resident DJ for the club's 16 weeks at Space, joined on a monthly basis by Nick Curly and Alan Fitzpatrick. The three-way sessions with Sidney Charles and Santé are now a thing of the past, the idea being that by having less residents, the club can welcome more guest DJs. And they've got quite a line-up of those awaiting your dancing pleasure, including Derrick Carter, Deetron, Huxley, Hector Couto, Kolsch, Matador, Yousef, Anja Schneider and more.
And that's not to mention the UK club tour they recently undertook under a 'Road To Ibiza' banner, the stages they're hosting at various festivals all across Europe, or the new Do Not Sleep record label, radio show and compilation series. Clearly, Do Not Sleep is a brand that's on the up.
We spoke to Darius and promoter Neil Evans to get the full story...
Neil, can you start by bringing us up to speed on the Do Not Sleep story so far?
NE: "Last year, we were asked to start a new night at Privilege and we had some pretty cool line-ups sorted out. Then there was a situation with Darius, Sidney and Sante where they left Sankeys, so we had the chance to bring them in as residents, back-to-back-to-back. So we changed the line-ups to bring them in, and it just flew from Day 1, really! We found a bit of a niche in the market - we made DNS more of a workers' night, and because of the way promotion works in Ibiza, if a worker tells a tourist where to go they tend to listen. So it kind of just grew organically through the workers base and it was pretty much an overnight success, which was great because normally it takes two or three years to build something in Ibiza.
"Since then it's just gone from strength to strength. This year we've moved to Space, and we decided it was better to drop down to just one resident so we could bring in more guests. And we've been touring heavily in the UK and some overseas festivals as well - we've got three or four European festival stages this year and we're being booked into next year as well."
And Darius, you're now the main resident, is that right?
DS: "Yes, but Nick Curly has come in as a monthly resident as well, and Nathan Barato and Hector Couto have come in for four shows each. But we've actually got more guests than we did last year, because last year all it was was three DJs playing for four hours, and one guest. This year we can have three guests, plus a resident. It's just the residents rotate this summer."
So no more back-to-back sets?
DS: "Well, we do still do them sometimes, like Harvard Bass came in and we did three hours back-to-back and it went down really well. Me and Nick have done a couple, and also Hector Couto's coming in, who I couldn't play with last year but who I've got a lot of history with: it was actually me and him that started off the back-to-back thing at Sankeys. But Hector couldn't play last year because he was contracted to other nights, so it's great that this year we can bring him in."
What do you enjoy about playing back-to-back?
DS: "Actually, if I'm being honest I prefer playing on my own! Music is art and you're trying to tell your story, you know? With back-to-back-to-back, it was becoming a bit of a gimmick. We had offers to carry it on elsewhere, but for me, playing one track then waiting 15 minutes till you play the next one isn't really DJing! So now I play my set, and then at the end if there's an hour we'll jump back on and do back-to-back because it's a bit of a laugh. But it's all about balance and mixing it up."
And are we right in thinking you're more involved with the actual running of the night now?
DS: "Yeah. Last year I was just a DJ, same as Sidney and Sante, and Do Not Sleep was the other guys. But when our manager wanted us to leave, I stayed on with Do Not Sleep and now I'm the fourth member of the team, not just a DJ for them. And I've started the Do Not Sleep record label now, and the radio show, so we have the label, the show and the party hand-in-hand and we all work together on it, every aspect."
And do you enjoy that? After all, many DJs prefer to just spin their tunes, and leave the promotion to others...
DS: "Yeah, but that's the easy way out. If I'd left Do Not Sleep I could have gone for the easy life: turn up somewhere, play my tunes for big money and go. But for me, I've always loved to be a resident. When you guest, you get bigger money and you're more the focus of the night, but I'd rather play one party, every week, and build that party up. See the same crowd coming in, week after week. It's not about me, it's about everyone involved, and that's what makes me happy: seeing a night grow, and seeing a whole team working together.
"So yes, I enjoy every aspect, even doing the soundcheck before, where we're going to put the visuals this week… I want everything to be perfect."
What guests are you particularly excited about this season?
DS: "Well obviously we've got the residents: Alan Fitzpatrick who plays more techno, Nick, Hector Couto and Nathan Barato, I'm well excited about them. But we had Kolsch who was amazing… Harvard Bass is an artist I'm really feeling the sound of so it's great to have him… and it was good to have Derrick Carter as well. We've got Patrick Topping coming up, plus we're putting together a great line-up for the closing party which I can't really talk about just yet. But basically it's people who've made their name on music, not just the obvious festival circuit DJs."
"Another thing is we're trying to focus on upcoming talent as well, so we've had people in like Mirko Di Florio, Marquis Hawkes, Jey Kurmis… we like to find good artists and give them a bit of a focus."
You've been doing club tours and festival stages as well as the Ibiza party. What's the main focus for you - and how do you ensure you're not over-reaching yourselves and trying to do too much, too soon?
NE: "It's difficult, certainly. But we felt that, because it was growing so fast, we needed to continue the momentum, and now I think they're all just as important as each other. We're looking at the US and Australia now as well, off the back of the new compilation series that we're starting with Balance. That's going to kick off in Oz in October, and then for November-December Darius has some solo US shows but the LA, New York and Miami shows will be under the Do Not Sleep banner, so we're trying to kick it off over there as well. All we can do is lay the foundations down to make sure that we do keep going, so we're not just a 16-week Ibiza club night. Because people have tried that, and they think it's enough but it's not.
"But I think if we have that follow-through in the winter and tour it enough, to get the brand known, we should be safe enough to carry on for more seasons. If you only concentrate on Ibiza you can get lost very quickly because out of 52 weeks you're only here 16, and if you're not in other markets people won't be aware of you. Obviously we started in Ibiza and it's been successful, but we need to be everywhere else to make sure we can come back here."
Now for the 64 million dollar question... what would you say is the secret of Do Not Sleep's success?
NE: "Hard work and a little bit of luck! I don't know, we were lucky to be able to find some residents that had come out of something else with a very strong following. And I think Ibiza's been in need of a few changes residents-wise over the past few years, you see DJs reach a really successful level but then the wind changes and things die off. We were lucky to find a resident who was on his way up. But mostly it's just hard work: you've got to dig your heels in. Like you said, though, it's the 64 million dollar question - if I could answer it properly I'd do half a dozen other nights!"
Finally, Darius - can you sum up Do Not Sleep in five words?
DS: "Exhilarating, exhausting, exciting, and... fucking great!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Do Not Sleep is on Sundays at Space until 25 September