Ibiza House Orchestra, Interview with Mike Wake

  • Claire B

“Ibiza’s incredible 14-piece band the Ibiza House Orchestra headlined at Ocean Beach in San Antonio on Sunday August 19. Before they played, I had a quick chat with IHO founder, drummer and island resident Mike Wake to get the lowdown on the orchestra and what they are up to.

  • CB: So, you’re back at Ocean Beach having played here last year, what’s your memory of that last gig here?

MW: Oh just the vibe, the vibe was wicked, like really, really cool. It was the first time we played here obviously, and to be playing with Miss Moneypenny’s for their 25th anniversary was just like, mega. So yeah, it was just great vibes, really ,really good vibes and really busy. It worked really well with the Moneypenny’s crowd because what we do ties in with the old school vibe. So yeah, it was just a great first outing at Ocean Beach.

  • CB: You’re happy to be back again today?

MW: I’m very happy to be back again today.

  • CB: There’s 14 of you in the band, yeah? So who plays what and where are they all from?

MW: So the great thing about it is that we’re all island based, we all live here. So obviously you’ve got me on drums, originally from the UK. Dan on percussion, he’s originally from the UK. Alex on keyboards, he’s originally from Ireland. Yeshe who is on the other keyboards, but he also sings as well; his parents are Spanish and English, but he was born here so he’s kind of Ibicenco, but he’s half Spanish half English. Then you’ve got Rick on guitar and he’s Spanish but not from Ibiza. Then the brass section – we’ve got Johan on trumpet he’s French; Wiebke on trumpet, she is German; Vicent on trombone, who is Ibicenco, 100% so he’s from the island. We’ve also got Claire on bass, she’s originally from the UK. So then the strings, we have depending on who’s available, we have different string players but our original string players are all Ibicenco from what I remember. Then we’ve got two violins, Laura and Maria and then Raquel and Rosa on cello, and I might be wrong but I’m sure all of them are Ibicenco, but if not, they are all Spanish. And last but not least, singer Simonne is from Australia but has lived in Ibiza for the last 20 years.

  • CB: So truly international then?

MW: Truly international, but all living full time in Ibiza.

MW: Everyone’s pretty much core then except for the strings and the string players differ depending on who is free at the time?

MW: Yeah, so those 4 that I mentioned are our original players, so they are our go-to players. If one or some of them aren’t available then we’ve got others that we can approach to fit in.

  • CB: So where did the idea for the orchestra come from?

MW: That’s a question I’ve been asked many a time.

  • CB: I’m sure.

MW: So, yeah, and I’ve never hidden from the fact that I saw Pete Tong doing his Ibiza Classics show. I saw that on YouTube, I think that was four years ago now. We’ve been going three, so no, three years ago that I first saw that on YouTube, his first ever performance with the orchestra at the Albert Hall in London. And it just blew me away. But I should point out I’d already been playing in some bands on the island anyway and I’d already thought about the fact that no one was doing anything around the electronic music, there were no live bands having that crossover with electronic music. So, I already kind of had it in my head to consider doing that. Then I saw the Pete Tong thing and that’s when I thought, right, well I’ve already had an idea of doing just a normal band, how about we try and incorporate strings and brass as well and just do a really big thing. So that’s where the kind of ideas spawned, I was already thinking about crossing over the live music with electronic, seeing Pete Tong and then thinking how can we replicate that but in a smaller version.

  • CB: Where did you get all the other musicians from, was it people you knew, did you advertise?

MW: So, no advertising, it’s such a small island and it’s kind of like word of mouth, but obviously I had already been playing in bands so there were, I can’t remember, six or seven of us I already knew I wanted to be involved in it, and then the rest came through people recommending people. The strings were recommended, the trombonist as well. So, it’s kind of like a mix of having core musicians and then introductions to the rest and just gradually piecing everyone together.

  • CB: You didn’t have any problems finding the musicians that you wanted?

MW: No, no, no, not at all, we were really lucky that we just got everyone we wanted, at the right time. It was cool.

  • CB: How do you decide which songs to do?

MW: Oh god, it was so hard. I mean, the original set that we had, I chose all the tracks. And of course, when you delve into classic house tracks it’s just endless. Our set ranges from stuff from nearly 30 years ago to much more recent, to a couple years ago. So, it’s such a broad spectrum, and I just kind of selected a massive bunch of tracks and then whittled it down more and more until we ended up with the set. The other thing is it’s not just picking your favourite tracks, it’s also thinking about how they’re going to work within a set. I approached it as a DJ set first, how would that flow as a nice DJ set with peaks and troughs, and you’ve then got to think well although it’s going to be like a DJ set, we’re actually doing it live as a band, so then you’ve got to think how it will flow from one track to another as a live band doing it. So, it was kind of a big thing in many ways, how do you pick from all these amazing tracks, then how do you pick tracks that are going to work seamlessly as a set, played like a DJ but with live musicians. So, it was kind of not easy, and then more recently we’ve got new tracks for today.

  • CB: I was going to ask you about that. Is there anything new today?

MW: Yeah, there is, there’s three new tracks today and two of those have come from suggestions from the band so it’s kind of like, guys, what do you fancy doing? And yeah that’s kind of the way I want to move forward now, every time I want to do a new track, consider what people, if there’s any ideas the others have got, who will feature more in those tracks, you know. But yep, we’re super excited.

  • CB: Can you tell me what they are? Obviously, this will be published after the gig, so it won’t spoil the surprise.

MW: I can, of course. So, one is Black Water by Octave One, which is a very old track, but a great track – amazing strings in it and a really killer chorus that people will sing along to. Snap, I’ve Got The Power, which is really cool. It’s sounding great live, because obviously that track is so well known but not really known as a live track, and it’s sounding really, really cool. And then our encore is Such a Good Feeling, which is just so good, it’s such a happy uplifting track. So yeah, we’ve got three really cool new tracks and it kind of really changes the feel of the set as well. Even though it’s only three new tracks it’s kind of completely changed the dynamic of the set. So, for us playing it, it really feels like a refreshing new set, it’s cool.

  • CB: Where do you rehearse? Do have problems finding somewhere that you can all get into?

MW: Thanks so much to Dan our percussionist and his wife and his kids, we rehearse at his house in Santa Eulalia, but we don’t rehearse with the strings or the brass because they will read from charts, they will read the music when they play. The rest of the band play by ear, so we’ve learned the tracks by ear. So, in terms of rehearsing, it’s important that we still rehearse stuff that we’re just playing from memory. The strings and brass, effectively they can kind of sight read so they don’t need to rehearse as much, so it means that during the winter when we’re rehearsing or in the summer when we’re rehearsing before a gig, it can be anything from five of us up to eight or nine of us, but not the full band.

  • CB: I’d like to ask you about your view on the controls being imposed on the volume of music and the effect that is having on live music on the island.

MW: Yeah, very sad, very sad. Not just live music, DJs as well you know.

  • CB: Of course, you’re a DJ as well aren’t you?

MW: Yeah. I’m not playing out much on that front myself, but for the friends I know that do … so far, it’s not affecting the clubs indoors because it’s contained but all the beach bars that have had DJs for years and years, and then obviously live music. It’s, I don’t know what to say really, I don’t want to say the wrong thing or too much, but from a musician’s point of view it’s very sad and a shame, and for the DJs as well, and I can understand there has to be, at the end of the day there has to be some control and maybe it has got a bit out of hand over recent years in certain areas outdoors. And so things do need to be controlled, but it feels like maybe if it was controlled more consistently every year rather than leaving it for a long time to get out of hand and then suddenly making a drastic cut which is kind of just pushing it out. I don’t know the politics. And I can understand completely, especially as we live here, that for people who are Ibicenco or people that have lived on the island for years and years and years and in areas where it’s loud, of course I completely understand how frustrating that must be. I agree that there has to be some sort of control, but I think there needs to be a happy medium because you can’t push the music out.

  • CB: Well what they’re doing, they’re just imposing a decibel limit aren’t they which doesn’t really work for live music?

MW: It doesn’t work for live music and even for DJs. If it really gets to a point where it has to stay at that decibel level, DJs can’t really DJ because it’s too quiet to even mix, and bands for sure, you can’t have live music because it’s just, you either have one person playing a guitar and sing and that’s about it, 65 decibels is so quiet. It’s impossible to actually perform. My opinion is for a happy medium, you’ve got to respect that people live here and it can get out of hand. But then also the island has been about music for as long as we all know, before we all used to come here and even before some of us were born. It’s always been about music. So I really hope it’s not going in the direction where they’re trying to just completely take away that vibe, because it’s such an important and integral part of the island.

  • CB: Do you think the restrictions have actually had an impact on your bookings this year, stopping people from wanting to put on live music?

MW: Yeah, for sure. We’ve actually had to cancel one show, which was a private booking, just through the expectation that it will probably get cancelled because of the noise. So yeah and that’s a gig that was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, but the anticipation from the site visit was just, the location of it, it was more than likely that we’d start playing and then it would get cancelled. You know, we’re an expensive outfit to book and it was an expensive event with a lot of named DJs as well, and it was just a fear that us playing would get the whole event cancelled. So yeah that’s affected us, on that front. And also, we don’t know, we’ve got less bookings this year and it could be a key reason, but it’s difficult to know, I can’t say yes, that’s why. So yeah, I just feel like everything goes in cycles and I just hope this is a really short cycle where it’s going in this direction and that hopefully some sort of happy medium will bring it back to a sensible level for everyone.

  • CB: What are your plans for the future?

MW: We had a fantastic gig in Dubai last winter, last December. Obviously, we plan on going back there this winter and hopefully maybe some other places within that sort of region.

  • CB: You’re planning to play off the island over the winter?

MW: So, moving forward, yeah hopefully this winter we’ll be off the island for some shows.