Darius Syrossian has never been afraid to speak out and has often caused controversy in an industry where too many DJs toe the party line with boring, PR-approved sound bites. As his new night DO NOT SLEEP opened at the Vista Club at Privilege in Ibiza he gave his first in-depth interview since departing from Sankeys in April to THUMP's John Lucas, talking Ibiza club politics, EDM and the truth about his feud with club impresario David Vincent.
It is 2 am at the opening night of DO NOT SLEEP, Darius Syrossian, Sidney Charles' and Santé's new residency at Vista Club at Privilege, Ibiza. As Catz n Dogz's remix of DoP's "Close Up" pounds out of the Funktion One soundsystem and the crowd — an international mix of punters spanning everything from flat-capped trendies to sleek girls in gold dresses — lose themselves in this neon-barred, pyramidal temple of sound, Darius Syrossian smiles a wry smile. Tonight represents professional vindication on a grand scale, and he's loving every minute of it.
Darius hit the headlines back in April when David Vincent — the overseer of the Sankeys mini-empire — sacked him for supposedly "bringing the club and brand into disrepute". A war of words quickly erupted on social media with Darius tweeting "I always said, if Sankeys continue to over sell tickets & then abuse + turn away fans who have travelled for miles I'll leave, simple as that!" and refusing to play what he called "childish games." Darius, who had made Sankey's Tribal Sessions party a huge hit in both Manchester and on the White Isle, was followed by his friends and fellow residents Santé and Sidney Charles who decided to quit their own weekly residencies there in a show of support.
"Friendship was more important than business," Darius tells me a couple of days later over slithers of prosciutto in the Dolce Vita restaurant off Playa d'en Bossa's sundrenched tourist strip. It's an Italian restaurant that Luciano and the Martinez Brothers regularly visit, a decent little joint close to an avenue of cheap off-licences, club memorabilia stores and novelty blow-up sex doll emporia. We're here to chat about music, Ibiza and a career detour that saw Darius masterminding one of the most exciting openings of the 2015 season. Wearing a white t-shirt and shades, and fielding calls from Privilege, Darius is keen to talk, answering questions in his rapid Yorkshire accent.
"So many people have tried to get me to speak about the Sankeys thing. But I never felt I needed to speak out because I don't wish anything bad on Sankeys. I worked so hard for that place, it means a lot to me, but I did need to defend myself," he says. "After I left, Sidney and Santé left and then Sneak as well. And then to be fair, David Vincent text me saying he had a moment of madness and asked me to go back, and that we were bro's. But how could after how I was sacked over absolutely nothing? For refusing to let the doormen abuse clubbers who had traveled for miles and paid good money to see me play? I never did anything but promote the club. There were other things they did which I knew were damaging its reputation but I took the flack by being associated with the place and still promoted it. But abusing clubbers on the door not only tarnished my name, it also made me very uncomfortable. I genuinely mean it when I say that the most important people to me in the industry are those on the dance floor. It became a case of 'how much longer can this continue?'"
"We had six sell-out Tribal Sessions shows in Manchester a month and I helped bring the name successfully to Ibiza. We did all of that and then slowly things started getting taken away from me. I was musical director at first, until it got to the point where I couldn't even do the set times. It was like, 'why did you bring me in to do this party to take everything away from me?'"
Roped into a short-lived residency at the ill-fated Sankeys venture in New York and losing money amid rumours of fellow DJs being treated badly for taking on gigs with other clubs, the final straw was over Darius's concern about the alleged mistreatment of fans who had travelled for miles with tickets only to be declined entry to gigs. How does he feel about it all now?
THUMP: With eighteen hundred people attending your opening night it's pretty clear support for you is strong. That must feel amazing, right?
Darius Syrossian: Massively. But again, we never wanted to leave Sankeys – they pushed us out.
Nevertheless, it would seem that you had outgrown it. Ironic, as there were rumours that David Vincent said that you would never play Ibiza again.
Yes! How did you know about that? Well, look at that billboard over there — it says clearly I'm playing here every week! We played Space's opening night — we closed the main room. We've done three other Space shows and have a weekly residency with DO NOT SLEEP. But I didn't want and don't want to be sitting here having to feel vindicated. I loved what I was doing at Sankeys but I wasn't going to just roll over and let someone take enjoyment from ending my career. It was a bit sadistic, especially after all the blood sweat and tears I put into helping build the very club they are now proud of. I honestly do not get it at all. Why?
What's your relationship with David Vincent now?
I don't speak to him. The last time I spoke to him was on the phone when he asked us to go back. We had a few conversations and he said 'come back, you'll be like Luis Suarez at Liverpool, they pushed him out and he came back and nearly won them the league! It will be a big media story!' I told him that I don't want a media story, I just want to do my music. But when I spoke with Sidney and Santé afterwards and asked what they thought they both said they didn't think it was a good idea.
Then Sidney told me they had approached him to be new resident if they got rid of me last summer! For me that was it. I had been working myself to the bone so why were they planning my replacement behind my back? Personally I think what Sankeys wanted me to do and what my manager and agent wanted me to do were two very different things. My personal guess is that Sankeys wanted me gone, but with a damaged reputation, so I couldn't go elsewhere. I may be wrong but this is what my guess is.
So what's it like running a party in Ibiza? There must be a lot of politics?
We've had other nights not allow us to book DJs. It's hard to book DJs when you're a new party. Plus everyone's exclusive to one party or another, so agents block you from trying to get certain DJ's as they see you as a threat. But I'd say the biggest thing politics-wise that bothered me in my time in Ibiza was what happened last summer. In 2014 Tribal Sessions and Jamie Jones's Paradise were on the same night, so there was a bit of tension. Then I found out that Sankeys had sent their graffiti person down to DC10 to spray 'Are You Tribal' on their walls!
Yes! No joke! I found out about this a couple of weeks after it had happened. It was a horrible feeling. I was like 'what are you doing? You've just potentially spoilt my relations with the Hot Creations guys.' I had played for Paradise at DC10 for the previous two summers. It was me who originally hooked up Steve Lawler with those guys through Nick Yates who I used to play for in Manchester. I've done some of my biggest tracks for the label like my Who's the Douche EP. And I respect all of them — Jamie Jones and the others — and then I get associated with this! That was the beginning of my problems with some people at Sankeys. Richy Ahmed is a really good mate as is Patrick Topping as is wAFF and Russ Yallop. Richy Ahmed is such a top guy — he made a big statement by playing for me the other night at DO NOT SLEEP.
Let's talk about DO NOT SLEEP. The concept is back-to-backs, right?
I don't know where that came from. Us three play back-to-back-to-back because there's good chemistry. We played the "Road to Ibiza" tour and we learned a lot about each other. It's like a team going into the World Cup, playing a lot of friendlies and becoming fine-tuned. We're totally fine-tuned for this season.
How do you feel about Ibiza in 2015 generally?
I just think if you ignore all that American, EDM invasion then it's cool. Music is art, and good art normally comes from hardship. House music came from America, and in the eighties it came from two groups of people — black people and gay people. Back then those groups were still having a hard time – there was a lot of racism, a lot of homophobia. Derrick Carter, Frankie Knuckles, Chez Damier– that music came from the heart. That's what made it so special. America now, unfortunately, gives us manufactured bullshit. Whereas me and the guys have always been organic. Kind of a mixture of old US house with the darker elements of European techno. Mix it all together and that's what you get. But these days there are so many clubs with VIP and so on. We want to be one of the few nights not bowing down to that.
Some DJs complain that crowds are getting younger these days. Does that bother you?
Absolutely not. Why would it? I don't know why some DJs give a shit. I think it's a good thing. I remember when I was eighteen, and what I felt when I went out and heard the music! Let them feel it too. Isn't that why we do this, play music to make people feel good? And if they're feeling good, why do they have to be older? Age doesn't mean shit to me. I'm old as fuck. But with experience you learn to read a crowd better. It's not just about what tracks you play, but when you play them. What mood is in that room. House is a feeling, as the saying goes.
And how do you feel about music today?
It's healthy. And because of the internet — primarily SoundCloud and YouTube — websites can't control what people should like anymore. Whereas before some music sites would tell you what you should like, it's kind of irrelevant now. Because people can listen to what they want, a lot of different styles can co-exist. So Adam Beyer can be massive alongside Jeff Mills but at the same time you can have real house music like Apollonia. No one sound has to take over everything, so it's healthy. Websites can record but they can't control. Everyone can like everything. And that's cool.
And with that our time is up – Darius has another interview to get to. He's clearly a man in demand. While some have been critical of his propensity to speak his mind no matter what in the past, it's refreshing that one of the Ibiza's biggest success stories to date this season is helmed by a man who is both passionate about music and humble while being completely unafraid to step out of the PR comfort zone and wear his heart firmly on his sleeve.
You've been with your girlfriend for over a year now, right? How is it to have a relationship on this scene?
It doesn't really work until you meet the girl that understands what you do for a job. And Lauren does, she's also met my family. Which is important. Plus she properly knows her music. Sometimes during my set she gives great input. I keep telling her she'd make a great DJ – she reads the crowd, she knows what tracks would work well. Plus she understands the touring side, how difficult it really can be. She's not this DJ groupie-type in the booth at all.
Do Not Sleep is every Sunday at Vista club (Privilege), Ibiza until the end of summer.
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