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Yann Pissenem talks Ushuaïa Ibiza

Ushuaïa founder leads the discussion on Ibiza's biggest talking points

We're into the second day of the International Music Summit and while we're still replaying Pepe Roselló, Carl Cox and Lynn Cosgrave's poignant words on the 27-year history of Space, we heard from the man at the lead of its imminent takeover, Yann Pissenem, who was expertly interviewed by Spotlight's own, Grego O'Halloran. In the last eight years, the Frenchman, who hails from a little village in the country's North East corner, has had more influence on the Ibiza landscape than any other promoter with Ushuaïa's ultrasonic rise to dominance on a global level. After 15 years of immersing himself in Barcelona's underground nightlife scene, his ambition became embedded in his dream of having a beach club on an island and Ibiza was his chosen land.

He retold his account of having a misguided preconception that Ibiza was about open-air parties, only to find the dark corners of its seven nightclubs, where only the younger generation roamed. Spurred on by this unexpected eye-opening, what he wanted to do was turn the status quo on its head by creating something for both the adult crowd and the younger generation. Opening an open-air venue with drinks and good music, at an hour that would have all ages enjoying the liberating, pleasure-seeking soul of the island, was a completely new concept. The little beach bar and restaurant in Playa d'en Bossa, took the afternoon/evening position, which was a decision dipped in instant success. His underground dance music connections played right into his hands, with the likes of Sasha being one of his guests, along with Richie Hawtin, Luciano and Loco Dice, who all played at his first closing party, in the process drawing a mass gathering of thousands – impressive considering that Space's climactic closing was held on the same day.

Fast forward to 2011, and he revealed that after a trailblazing first year, he tackled pressure from local people and businesses in the following years, which led to him joining forces with the Matutes family. His concept was transformed and rehomed to become Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel – the beach club and luxury hotel that's all set for its big opening on Saturday 28 May before it storms through another hectic season of daylight electronic shows.

When pushed for his view on the mass opinion that Ushuaïa is an EDM club, he admitted that he understood the comment, but offered that to run a big business like this, you need to have a balance in representing different music channels. He added, “We try to give the best experience everyday choosing the best headliners across the world and giving the right proportion of underground and commercial." Working with his brother, whose background is in theatre, his idea has always been to create “beautiful actions and shows with music” because of Ushuaia's amphitheatre layout. David Guetta's giant balloon was highlighted as one of the craziest productions hatched by the Ushuaïa team, with Yann disclosing that every year, he pushes for them to be even bigger and better than the previous. Guetta's addition to Ushuaïa's event schedule was also groundbreaking at the time, as rarely were big artists shared between different venues. Danny Whittle, a leading name on the island during his tenure a Pacha's brand director, was the one to convince DJs that you could have residencies at different clubs without it being career suicide.

He touched on his commitment to developing his homegrown underground brand ANTS, before tackling the ever-prickly, controversial topic of Ibiza's widespread VIP culture. He stood in the line of defense, harking back to the early days with KU being a VIP attraction for the likes of Freddie Mercury, and likened clubbing hotspots to theatres and opera houses because what you fork out depends on where you're sat. Reflecting on Ushuaïa's VIP poshpit, he said: “Kids are at the front row partying, but if you're a 40-year old, you don't want to be among that crowd.”

Ushuaïa's takeover of the club that will soon be formally known as Space was the topic that pulled in 99.9% of his audience and the venue's future, under whatever guise it dons, remains in a cloud of haze. He, as expected, let a little love spill for the club and Pepe Roselló, gave us some emotional material, stating that “it's a big honour” and “a big opportunity to give the island a new era of an amazing club”. Grilled on its name change, he remained tightlipped, but did douse any fears that it'd be taking a big hit from a demolition squad.

WORDS | Aimee Lawrence PHOTOGRAPHY | James Chapman

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