"I've seen everything from gangland turf wars to drunken fools thinking they can take on seven-foot-tall bouncers."
Being a bouncer is never an easy gig no matter where you are. The job is basically hour after hour of dealing with wasted people, some of whom will want to fight you, while maintaining your composure. So imagine being a bouncer on Ibiza, the Spanish island that is a Mecca of European summer nightlife.
Tourists swarm to the island from all corners of the globe to attend its mega-clubs: venues that fit thousands of people, host the world's top DJs, and stay open until way past sunrise. If the clubs of Ibiza are some of the biggest in the world, and the DJs on the island are some of the most famous in the world, then the bouncers of Ibiza must be the biggest, baddest, and most capable motherfuckers around, right?
We wanted to know what work was like for the guys who hold down the fort at these spots. Photographer Alexander Coggin spoke to five bouncers from four clubs that recently opened for the summer party season.
Robert from XOYO
VICE: How long have you been a bouncer?
Robert: Well it's my second year here but I've also worked in Barcelona.
Is it different working here?
Yes, of course. The customers are especially different. In Barcelona it's normally Spanish or Catalan people but people here are from all around the world. People come to Ibiza from Dubai, England, America, Russia, and everyone has a different kind of craziness.
In terms of security, how difficult is it?
Every day is a carnival here. You have to have at least one security person at every place in Ibiza—even if it's a restaurant or hotel.
Do you have a standard for letting people in?
We let everyone in because it's Ibiza and people come from around the world to visit. You can't say yes or no based on race or style. It's not like that. Everybody's the same here.
What's the craziest thing you've ever seen here?
One time, a girl took a shit in the jacuzzi. Lots of things—orgies in the clubs or at hotels or private parties. People party for five or six hours at clubs and then afterwards they're just crazy. You never know what to expect. You expect one thing in Ibiza and then it always goes ten times further, it's amazing.
Have you ever had to turn anyone away?
Yeah, because people are very hostile or very drunk—if you're too drunk you're not going to buy any more drinks and there's no point to letting someone come in.
How do you deal with people that get out of hand? Is security aggressive?
You have to talk to people with a smile because there's no other way. If they refuse to cooperate, then you have to bring in the big security. But they normally come to Ibiza to have a good time, so if you smile and tell them whatever they did was wrong then they usually understand.
Stevie from Pub Joy
VICE: How long have you worked here?
Stevie: I started working here this year but I've been coming to Ibiza for seven years. I worked last year at another place and then the year before that I had enough savings to not work.
What's the craziest thing you've seen while on the job?
I've seen crazy shit, some real crazy shit. I mean Ibiza on the whole is a really peaceful place, there's not a lot of violence going on. It just doesn't fit with the culture. That being said, I've seen people stabbed numerous times on Bora Bora beach. On Sunday at Bora Bora it's supposed to be a beach party, but I've seen gangland rivalries or people competing to sell drugs. They're usually not from Ibiza—they're mainly British guys that live out here during the summer and they compete in drug gangs.
And they bring their British issues here?
Right—so you got guys from London and guys from Liverpool who have these turf wars and they fight about who controls drugs in any given area. And that's mainly going on in San Antonio [the second-largest town in Ibiza], but then they come to the club side of the island on Sundays.
[Speaking to some people leaving the club] Guys, I'll see you soon! Come back for a drink... is it Lou, Dave, and Alicia? Cool. Come back and I'll give you some free shots, alright?
How do you remember everyone's name so well?
It's part of the job, man. I forgot your name though. I try to establish this connection with them and then they buy drinks, they buy club tickets and everything else.
So back to the story—I've seen everything from gangland turf wars to drunken fools thinking they can take on seven-foot-tall bouncers. I mean, even myself, six or seven years ago I would come here as a tourist and drink a lot. I've had the shit kicked out of me in clubs by bouncers and thrown out on the street. I mean like literally thrown out on to the curb. It happens.
And when did you switch from partygoer to employee?
Two or three years ago. I'm from London, and in London being a doorman is a super hard job 'cause there are just assholes everywhere, people want to fight you, and everyone drinks too much. In Ibiza, we're quite fortunate that everyone's on mind altering substances which normally make you into a zombie person or full of love.
What are the common drugs now?
Ecstasy, MDMA, ketamine, coke, whatever.
But in those situations how do you deal with people? Aren't they more unpredictable?
I mean on the whole people on those substances don't really want to fight. But people that are drinking, they want to fight.
Why do bouncers become bouncers?
Well my theory is that some bouncers become bouncers out of necessity because that's the only job available to them because they were blessed with brawn but not brains: these big guys aren't really skilled at many things. Then there's another type of guy that likes the authority and having that over people. A lot of bouncers do take massive amounts of steroids. And for some people, it's just a job.
On a very busy night, how many major instances would you say you deal with?
Not a lot at all—let's put it this way: The strip's been open for two weeks now and there's only been one altercation where a German guy tried to leave without paying for the drinks and the team told him that he had to go back and pay. He got a little bit leery and put his hand on one of the staff and he was dealt with appropriately. When it gets to peak season, mid-summer, you'll have anything from two girls fighting to groups of girls fighting to all-out gang fights.
Yeah, lots of puking. That's nothing, man. Like for instance I was at a season closing party last year and this Italian DJ from Napoli named Marco Corola was performing. He attracts a large Napoli Italian crowd and people from Napoli don't so much get along with other groups—like the guys from Rome, the guys from Ibiza, there's war in between the groups. I saw like six or seven guys getting stabbed in the middle of the crowd.
Well for me it's not terrifying. I've seen that shit before in London... I've been stabbed six times, I've been beaten up, I've been shot at...
On the whole, Ibiza is a very peaceful place—my theory is that wherever there is an awful lot of money to be made, there will always attract a criminal fraternity and there's always gonna be more than one group that tries to monopolize a situation. When that happens, you have tension and when tension reaches a breaking point something bad happens and some shit goes down. You know?
Alex from Top 21
VICE: Where are you from?
Alex: San Paolo, Brazil.
How long have you worked here?
What's the craziest thing you've seen?
I've seen too many crazy things. Once five English guys—I don't know what the hell they took—all came in naked and a bit chub. They sat down at the bar and asked for drinks. We told them that they were naked and they said that they were not naked. Again, we said they were naked, and they left in peace, but the whole time they thought that were not naked.
What do you think they took?
I'm not sure, some weird combination of drugs probably. About two or three years ago, there was a 70-year-old couple proposing a threesome to everyone in the bar.
Did they get it?
I don't know. I left before they did. They asked me, they asked my cousin, they asked all the guys that worked there. Seventy years old. They were Canadians.
What's the best way to not get into a club?
Well we're in Ibiza, everyone here likes to party, everyone's gonna be peaceful, you know. People that come here to get into trouble and fight, they shouldn't be welcome here man. We're here to party, have a good time and listen to music, man.
Do you think there's one nationality that really goes too hard?
Ibiza brings the best and worst out of every nationality. When English people get too drunk they really like to fight.
We keep hearing that.
At the end of it, there's one word that ends most aggression. It's please.
Yes. When a guys getting aggressive just say, "Hey man, please. Please. We're here to have fun. Please."
And what if that doesn't work?
We just keep calm. The calmer one is usually the stronger one. If they get real aggressive, it happens a few times, we call the police.
Yeah, sometimes. Less often then men, but when it does happen they go crazier than the men do.
Is there difficulty getting into clubs here?
Ibiza's a massive place and the entrance fees are very high so whoever buys a ticket can usually get in. There's no politics or door policy. There's not even a dress code.
Is that a good thing that anyone can get into the clubs?
The big clubs can hold 15,000 people. If you don't let everyone in it wouldn't feel like Ibiza. And the good part is that everyone is able to have fun that wants to have fun. It doesn't matter where you're from, if you're religious, or whatever.
Nick and Ochoa from Sankey's
How long have you guys been doormen?
Nick: Four years, about eight to 12 hours a day. In different places but always in Ibiza.
Are you guys from Ibiza?
Nick No, Madrid, but we work the season here.
What's the craziest thing you've seen here?
Nick: Drugs is a big problem here. The people are crazy with the drugs.
Ochoa: It's more of a psychological job. I work with drunk people and you see people change after drinking alcohol. But it's always the same, you speak nicely with the people: please and por favor. Only with respect, OK? You speak with respect and you give respect.
What's the most difficult situation you've dealt with?
Ochoa: It changes with the situation. When people have this "fish look"—drugs. They're on drugs and they look like fish. You have big eyes. You have more cooperation with the smaller guys on drugs, because you see they're scared and people think you're strong.
Does your job change later in the season?
Nick: Yes, we are more tired and we work later. The people are coming with the same energy but we're tired.
What do you check for when you pat people down?
Nick: Drugs, bottles.
How many times a night do you find drugs?
Nick: All times, all days. People think Ibiza is a free-for-all.
To see more of Alexander's work, visit his website here.