While there are purveyors of all varieties of hedonism in Ibiza, few have the history, vibe and cool cache of Pikes.
Located up a bumpy road in a rural swath of the island, the hotel has been attracting the jet-setting glitterati for four decades. The sprawling complex of hotel rooms, a pool, restaurant, bar, nightclub and dirt parking lot is named for its founder Tony Pike, a legendary gadabout who hosted supermodels, rock stars and other characters both famous and infamous during his nearly 30 years operating the hotel.
The place is cemented in musical history as the setting for Wham!'s 1983 video for "Club Tropicana," in which you can see a shirtless Tony Pike sporting a straw hat, neckerchief and impressive mustache at the 42-second mark. In 1987, Pikes hosted Freddie Mercury's 41st birthday party, for which 700 people — including Grace Jones, Jon Bon Jovi and Boy George — turned up. The fireworks display was visible from the neighboring island. Pikes' nightclub, Freddie's, served as Mercury's suite when he came to stay and play.
Perhaps no artist fits this legendary but low-key cool factor more than its resident music man, DJ Harvey. On Monday nights for the last five seasons, the British producer has hosted his Mercury Rising parties inside Freddie's, playing Balearic sounds (and the occasional Eagles remix) for packed crowds in the small, dark, air conditioning-free room. In conjunction with this residency, Harvey (who also has an Ibiza residency at Hï's disco party Glitterbox) has released two Mercury Rising compilations, the second of which came out last month and served as an homage to Pike, who passed away in March at age of 85. Harvey was a longtime friend of Pike's, with the two men often meeting for poolside breakfast at the hotel, where Pike lived until his death.
"DJ Harvey’s Mercury Rising event at Pikes is the jewel in the Ibiza season crown," says Pikes' creative director Dawn Hindle. "Harvey is our Pikes cultural attaché, our main man and key music player. Pikes authentic Ibiza spirit, sums up the best of Ibiza past and present, and no other DJ could encapsulate a soundtrack so credible and fitting to our summer. The DJ’s DJ, our musical hero. Every Monday he takes us on a musical journey. It’s the go-to event of the summer. "
With Ibiza's 2019 season wrapping earlier this month, DJ Harvey reflects on Pikes, Mercury Rising and how Ibiza has (and hasn't) changed in the 30 years he's been touching down on the island.
Billboard Dance: When did you first visit Pikes?
DJ Harvey: I can say that I first visited Pikes in 1990 and just sort of hung out around the pool. I remember sitting up very late with the bartender. That was my first visit, and then I popped in every now again during the '90s, hanging out. I suppose officially playing there started only years ago. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that I played there before the Mercury Rising residency.
How did that project begin and evolve?
I’d been what I suppose I’d describe as an undocumented alien in America for 10 years, so I hadn’t left the States for 10 years. When I finally got my green card, on my return to the rest of the world, I came out to Ibiza and visited Pikes and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I was doing a little party here?” So I approached Dawn and Andy, who were basically the caretakers of Pikes during Tony’s final few years, and they agreed to let me come play some music. The first one was a great success, and we just went from there.
You play at other places on the island — most notably, your residency with Hï at Glitterbox. Does playing at Pikes feel in any way different?
The thing is, I’m a professional DJ and an entertainer, and I try to make the majority of the people in front of me happy. I try to play to the crowd. I’m not a one-trick pony. I’m not trying to educate anyone. I’m just trying to play the best music for the situation. Glitterbox for me is more of a disco environment. A better word, although it’s sort of thrown about a bit too much these days, I’d say that Pikes is a sort of classic Balearic dance environment. But I find the categories really only help journalists. They don’t really help me. [laughs] I’m just trying to put some good music together for the situation.
What was your relationship like with Tony Pike?
I suppose we were friends, in a sort of gentle way. He was a sort of spectacular character, with an awful lot of rock and roll history behind him. The stories are endless. But he was actually a very nice, gentle guy. I’d often meet him for breakfast at Pikes when I was on the island and we would just sit, and he’d tell me the same stories over and over. He told me stories about the murder of his son and having with all sorts of unmentionable people.
One day he came into Freddie’s and said, “Where the fuck is the music coming from?” He was in his mid-80s and high as a kite and couldn’t see the new speakers. But sometimes I also wake up in the morning and I ask myself where the music is coming from. [laughs]
How have you seen Ibiza change in the three decades you’ve been going to the island?
The roads are better, and the nouveau riche have arrived. They seem to be pushing out quite a lot of the people who were responsible for making them their money in the first place, the sort of general holiday making population. Whereas now, it’s basically financially inhibiting [to go]. It’s an island so everything’s an import, and it has become quite expensive. Somewhere there’s a conscious force working on that algorithm, basically to try to make more rich people spend more money.
When I first came to Ibiza, it was to sit at Café Del Mar and watch the sunset and also watch a working class kid from Manchester — who'd probably never seen a sunset before, let alone seen a sunset on ecstasy, have his mind blown. People were crying at the beauty of it while listening to techno records. That was the magic of it. It’s maybe not as fresh as it might have been back then, for a lot of people.
But amongst all of that, I feel that in some respects nothing has changed, because Ibiza has always been a party. Since the mid-'70s it’s been a party industry, and that has just gained momentum and rolled with the times. So, a few things have changed, and a lot of things have stayed the same, just like anything I suppose. I haven’t seen too many major shifts. It seems to be just sort of chugging along.
What’s most exciting to you when you go there now to play?
Obviously I like DJing at Pikes and all the rest of it, but I like a little bit of peace and quiet and going out with friends that I haven’t seen for a year or so. Really, I like to go and eat fish stew and rice. Simple. [laughs]