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Interview | CAMELPHAT keep moving forward at Ushuaïa

The decorated duo from Merseyside are always thinking about the next step.

Whichever way you angle it, CAMELPHAT are currently one of the biggest names in electronic music. For the uninformed, it's tempting to think that the project came from nowhere (should you overlook their other roles in the business and work under different aliases and solo projects).

Since Cola became the track of summer in 2017, it's easy to assume they've had an unparalleled rise to the top (again, only if you turn a blind eye to their earlier releases).

When Eric Prydz decided not to renew his residency for a third term after summer 2018, The Night League (TNL) had a ready made replacement to step in.

Alongside allies Solardo, CAMELPHAT turned Tuesdays at Hï Ibiza into an instant success. Despite only lasting a season, the party was one of the runaway success stories of 2019, packing out week after week. Bigger things were calling though.

Confident it was onto a winner, TNL made the flip across the road to Ushuaïa. CAMELPHAT were now considered worthy of taking on Playa d'en Bossa’s 7,000 capacity outdoor Mecca.

Five weeks into the season, we caught up with Dave Whelan and Mike Di Scala to discuss how the new, self-named party had been going and what they have planned for the near future.

CAMELPHAT by Valerie Reilly

Putting the party together

Hi guys, thanks for talking to us. We appreciate how busy you are. Are you guys still flying in-and-out for shows? Or do you have a more permanent base here now?

DW: "We do. This is actually the first year where we're staying in Ibiza.

For our residencies in the past, we've always commuted in and out. With the way the airports are at the moment in the UK, it's a safety net in case we miss our set and we're not rushing to get back from our weekend gigs."

You're about a month into this year's residency now, how are you finding things?

DW: "We're still finding our feet."

MDS: "We started a bit earlier in the season than we have done in the past, so it gave us a bit of an opportunity to iron some things out. I feel like we're hitting the ground running now, just before the holiday season kicks off."

We've had a two year hiatus, but before you were over the road at Hï Ibiza with BODYWORKS. How have you found the transition, moving from a night party inside a club to a daytime party outdoors?

DW: "I suppose, I feel like we're more of a live artist than a DJ in this environment. Before it felt like we were DJs on a line-up with other DJs, you know? I just feel this is a bit more of a stage. I mean, it's an actual stage. It's got the production, the lights, the sound - it has everything.

There's a bit more going on and you have to programme your sets for that. It's like a festival every Tuesday and we're the headline act. So it's definitely a slightly different mentality."

Is there a bit more pressure this time, being that the party is actually called CAMELPHAT?

MDS: "You're always going to feel it a little bit, let's face it. It is, of course, but it's good pressure."

DW: "It's good pressure, yeah. We’re developing as an act. Hï Ibiza was great in 2019 and we had however many thousand in there each week and it was amazing. But this felt like the natural next stage of our development. You know, what's next?"

MDS: "You've got to put yourself out of your comfort zone. You've got to move forward."

Obviously you guys have massive global appeal, but what I find incredible at your shows, especially when you pair up with the Solardo boys, is the number of accents from the North West UK you hear.

That must be quite comforting to know you can rely on this regional support wherever you play?

DW: "I think being from Liverpool, there's this mentality that you do go to support and will travel for other artists from Liverpool. We could literally do a set on the Moon and you can guarantee some Scousers will turn up!

The city has that kind of loyalty. It's the same with the Manchester crowd and Solardo. We're lucky in that sense. It's good to know that section of support will always be there."

"For where we are in our career, we're really trying to push into global markets. It's great to have that support and we're very thankful for it. But when you're talking about a venue as big as Ushuaïa, you can't rely on that alone to fill it."

MDS: "We're putting the ground work in."

DW: "Yeah, we're doing a lot of tours to America this year, put it that way."

Talking of tours, you've just wrapped up the Dark Matter tour, which culminated at Wembley Arena. How was that?

DW: "I don't even know how big it is."

MDS: "I was too scared to ask! The good thing about Wembley is the production. The people that we used, High Scream, are the same team that we work with here at Ushuaïa. So it was like having a trial run of what was going to happen during the summer.

They got to know us; we got to know them."

DW: "It tied-in quite nicely. As Mike said earlier, we really felt like we hit the ground running. Especially on the production side of things, because we had that experience for the last six months with the Dark Matter tour. Not only Wembley, but up in Liverpool, Glasgow, all over, these are massive shows. And they just nailed the production. It matters so much."

Are you quite hands on when it comes to what production you want?

DW: "Yeah. I mean, we voice what we don't like!"

MDS: "I think the thing is, High Scream are passionate about it. They get it and you can't buy that. They really do love what they do and they love what we do. The feeling is mutual, so the collaboration works well."

Curating the line-up

Despite the growing global appeal of Dave and Mike's runaway project, the pair are keen to impress that CAMELPHAT is not the only draw playing Tuesdays. From week one to week sixteen, you can catch a diverse range of names from the electronic music sphere.

Still to comes, there's names like ARTBAT, Patrice Bäumel, Layla Benitez and Kölsch, but we couldn't begin anywhere else but asking them about their compadres, frequent collaborators and weekly residents, Solardo.

Last week you had an earlier but extended set time, where you played back-to-back with Solardo. Obviously you guys have great chemistry together and have worked together lots in the past. Was that the first time you've played b2b this summer?

MDS: "Yeah."

DW: "First time this year, I think. Since lockdown, maybe?"

Today on the line-up, you had Cristoph, who's had a similar Ibiza journey to you: working under Eric Prydz, then joining you at Hï Ibiza, also being somebody you've worked in the studio with. How important was it to have that continuity?

MDS: "I mean, you don’t forget who you've worked with. Who you have rapport with. We're all in it together."

DW: "In terms of Cristoph, the door is still massively open for him. He's an exceptional producer and an unbelievable DJ. We still play a lot of his music in our sets. He can pull an idea out of anywhere. And we'll be all over it. Like, try to jump on it and collab with him."

Thinking about the rest of the guests you have booked, you have quite a diverse roster: DJs that are known for their Tech House, DJs from the melodic Techno realm, guys like Shizma who's more Afro House.

How did you select which guests to invite?

DW: "We just wanted a dynamic, cutting-edge line-up that wasn't being represented anywhere else on the island.

We were quite conscious of the fact, that these acts we're booking, are probably going to be future headline acts in the next couple of years. For us to say, well this is where they started, it’s a big deal for us as well."

Guests have included Tale Of Us (top), Mathame (bottom) and weekly residents Solardo (right)

MDS: "Get down here - nice and early. We've got all these amazing guests. Don't come later just to see us, because you're missing out on these talented DJs. It's important for us that people get down and see them."

DW: "We're always looking to the future. We're always thinking ahead. Two or three summers down the road, but that's the same as how we produce music or shows. It’s always been about what comes after - the next one."

At the opening party you had Tale Of Us as your special guests. They’re returning the favour by inviting you to Afterlife later in summer, and you're also playing on their stage at We Are FSTVL next month too, right?

MDS: "Actually, we're doing a back-to-back with them."

Wow. Would you say there's increasingly an overlap in your sounds nowadays?

MDS: "I think we've always dabbled with it anyway over the years. It might be brand new to some people, but we have been playing that sound since the beginning."

DW: "Yeah. We've always been progressive. We've always loved that sound.

Maybe today it's getting labelled as melodic Techno, but we've always preferred it in a way.

I think at the start, we made a lot of Tech House to get our name out there. It did help get our foot in the door, so to speak. But there was never a passion for it. We got accepted and then we moved on."

CAMELPHAT's most recent release - a collab with Afterlife associates and past guests, Mathame

"We've actually got a new track coming out with one of the Tale Of Us guys, Matteo who goes by the solo name Anyma. That’s going to get released on Afterlife in September, so we're already kind of in bed with them in that respect. It’s definitely a direction we want to explore more."

MDS: "We like to do different things, you know. You can't pigeonhole yourself. Especially in the modern scene."

What the future holds

Not ones to retread old ground, it's clear that the boys have a desire to push into new directions, to challenge themselves to come up with something fresh. Stagnation is fatal and attention spans are short. CAMELPHAT are wary that they never get predictable or stop evolving.

I think it's quite funny when people talk about 'the CAMELPHAT sound' - what does that mean? Is it Constellations? Is it Cola? Or Hanging Out With Charlie? Or Rabbit Hole?

They're all so different. You have a diverse back-catalogue.

MDS: "We're all over the place!"

DW: "That can kind of be a problem for us when we do actually do our own shows, because we can never please everyone. There’s always somebody saying, 'but you didn’t play that tune from five years ago!'"

MDS: "'Play Cola!'"

DW: "There's that much to play, but you can't please everybody."

Somewhat unbelievably, your album, Dark Matter, has almost been out for two years now. Can we expect a remix package anytime soon?

MDS: "There's a new album coming!"

DW: "Allegedly! Yeah, by this year, there will be a new album - and it's gonna come out of nowhere. We can't tell you anymore than that right now."

Well, that's a nice little teaser to end on I think. Mike, Dave, thank you for your time. All the best for tonight's set and the rest of summer.

What's clear, is that in the same way that veteran clubbers talk about Orbital, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy, CAMELPHAT are this generation's dance music icons.

If you want to be a part of Tuesday's sense-feast at Ushuaïa, head below to find your dates, view confirmed line-ups and grab your tickets.

INTERVIEW IMAGES | by Valerie Reilly

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