Dance Music legend Trevor Fung talks about the changing face of Ibiza and the birth of Acid House
The birth of the Acid House scene has been well documented since it first burst forth in the late 80s.
This no real surprise for two main reasons; the first of these is that it kick started perhaps the last great youth culture, the ripples of which are still being felt today.
From the EDM phenomenon in America with DJs earning tens of millions of dollars each year, to the likes of Chemical Brothers still bothering arenas and stadiums the world over. It is no exaggeration to say that dance music changed the world.
Secondly, it is a story that reads like something of a film script, a story that would suit the widescreen treatment and would come complete with its own banging soundtrack. The story would read – a group of young lads head of to Ibiza for a coming of age holiday and are transformed by the music, the drugs and the Island’s unique atmosphere, before bringing it back to Britain and igniting a whole new culture that would, in time, swallow the world.
What is perhaps less well known about this life changing holiday is that those who were later regarded as the bearers of the Balearic flame first went to the white island at the behest of one Trevor Fung. Trevor had already been DJing on Ibiza since 1977 and returned throughout the years, getting involved with the local scene and laying tracks for what was to follow. If there actually was a film of these events, it would start with Trevor Fung.
Trevor Fung began his DJing career at the age of 16 and was quickly earned a reputation for his taste and knowledge of both UK and American Soul, Funk and Jazz. In 1984, he was invited to play at the Ibizan superclub Amnesia to spin his mixed up style of dance music, predating the arrival of legendary Amnesia resident and fellow Balearic pioneer DJ Alfredo.
Skipping forward a few years, in the heady days of 1987, Trevor took his infamous Project club to Ibiza. Unknown to himself at the time, his blend of danceable indie music, rare groove, early House music and anything else he thought suitable was to become known as ‘Balearic Beat’. It was this that was Acid House’s precursor and can be said to be where the revolution began.
Back in Blighty, things were kicking off. Those who had their minds opened to new sounds and feelings came back to London and started new clubs, to try to recreate their Ibiza epiphany on their home turf. Trevor was again in the thick of things, playing the emerging Acid House clubs and raves during the second summer of love, including the legendary Sunrise and Energy open air events, along with playing the first night at the equally legendary Shoom club.
It is plain to see that Trevor’s role and influence were pivotal to what became the dance music explosion.
These days, the avuncular Mr Fung is still plying his trade behind the decks of the world’s biggest and best clubs.
Ispoke to Trevor about his story so far. For a figure so key in what has become a billion dollar industry, he comes across as open, pleasant and amusing. His is an easy charm and a friendly manner, we may as well be chatting over a pint in the local before heading on out, and I have to keep remembering that I am talking to a bona fide legend.
His knowledge and enthusiasm for music still shine bright and his recall is needle sharp. In the age of the overpaid EDM DJ, it is a pleasure to talk to someone so key and still so grounded.
Thanks to Trevor, Getintothis has two tickets to give away for this not to be missed event. All you have to do to be with a chance of winning is Like the Getintothis’ Facebook page, share this post and tag two friends in the comments section.
So, as Julie Andrews would say, let’s start at the very beginning.
I do find myself fascinated by, if you like, the pre-history of Acid House and how it all started, and it seems to me that you were pretty much the first person to kick it all off.
“Well it does tie in with lots of other things that were making waves into acid house at the time. I first went to Ibiza in 1977, I was 16 years old at the time.
It was a free holiday and I loved it, and then I was going out two or three times a year, then when it was the 80s I was going out a lot more, I was going out like once a month. Flights were forty or fifty quid return, so I was playing the bars and clubs.
I wasn’t playing the big clubs, I was based in San An at the time, but in London I was working for a guy who bought [Ibiza superclub] Amnesia and he asked me to work out there in the summer of ’83. So I did, but I lasted less than three weeks, because nobody was coming to the club, and it actually didn’t even open for the rest of the summer”
So you killed it off!
“Yeah I killed it before it had even started (laughs). So then I carried on working in San An. By that time I was getting well in with the people and coming to and from England, getting loads of promo stuff from people like Pete Tong at FFRR and taking them over with me. The following summer I did the same again, passing records around.
I didn’t spend a full summer in Ibiza for the next few years because I’d started up a club with Paul Oakenfold, my best buddy at the time, we started up a club called Ziggy’s, which we later renamed Project. Me and Paul used to run it and Carl Cox used to bring his sound system and warm up for us. We used to play soul back then, and Salt N Pepa, Run DMC rap stuff. By ’87 I thought “Right, the club’s going really well, I want to branch out.” Before then, me and Paul were trying to do parties like Ibiza, but it just wasn’t happening, nobody was going for it. So I had an opportunity to open a bar/club in Ibiza and we named it Project.
So I ran this bar/club for the whole summer and that’s when I really started getting into the bigger clubs. We were selling t-shirts and tickets, like they do now in Ibiza but on a smaller scale. It went really well, we’d have two or three hundred people every night. The crowds included people like [Terry] Farley and Andy Weatherall.
We played a real mixture of things, like Prince or early House music. Every time I came back home I was picking up new imports and new promos and taking them out with me. I’d hit the clubs first, sell them to the DJs there, whatever I had left I’d take them to the two records shops in Ibiza.
That was in ’87. And I invited Paul [Oakenfold], Danny [Rampling] and Nicky [Holloway] over for my birthday, so they could see what was going on. I compiled the Balearic Beat album with Pete Tong for FFRR records, to show the sort of music that was going on. It was mainly indie music from the North really, plus Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, that sort of stuff. And… the rest is history”
So you must feel kind of like the Godfather of the whole scene?
“Well, you just follow your heart don’t you, if you love music you just follow your heart. It’s amazing that we’re sitting here 40 years later still talking about it. I was thinking just the other day that the ‘Balearic’ genre was something I’d created. Originally it was called Ibiza Dance, but I said to Tongy “No, Balearic Beat is much better”, and that’s where we got the term really.
Between the years ’84 and ’87, we were doing trips down Nottingham, to a club called The Kit Kat Club, which Graeme Park was running, and he’d come up to us. So we were slowly getting into the Housey thing then, the start of House, early House”
You must have seen some huge changes in Ibiza over the years.
“Massive! And one of the biggest changes really was when the clubs had to put roofs on. It completely changed it. I go back every year, and it’s changed a hell of a lot. There’s more of my friends live in Ibiza than in England nowadays [laughs]. In the early days, to get off the island you had to get the last flight [of the summer] to Barcelona and shoot back home from there.
In the summer of ’87 we stayed there until November, we were lucky to get off the island! [laughs] But yeah, a lot of changes. Even the infrastructure, the roads. One of the biggest shocks was seeing the first billboards for people like Masters At Work. When you think about it, at that time, the Americans weren’t big DJs, we made them big in the UK, and then that spread over to Europe.
I remember when there was only a handful of magazines in the UK, NME, Melody Maker, just a handful. And now there are how many? How many online, how many record companies? It’s a massive business now, but it was tiny when we were around. I remember when we were fighting to have Dance music in the charts, and now you can’t stop it”
Your mixes on Mixcloud are very smooth and very soulful House.
“Yeah, that’s my roots really. I can go different ways depending on what sort of gigs they are, to me my music is selecting the best of all genres. I still love music and I love picking the cream and trying to put them all in together, instead of staying in one genre of music, which I tend not to do. I love music and I always follow it, and right up to this day I still play all new music.
And in the old days it wasn’t just straight 4/4 mixing, it was using intros and using breaks that people would recognize. And I love going to Rough Trade and picking up stuff to mix in with the dance music.”
So when you came back from Ibiza and it had all started to take hold I the UK and spread out, you were still heavily involved with it all. What happened then?
“I think the scene was born out of recession really, it was born out of the Thatcher years, no work, depression and everyone just wanted to get out.
When they first started the Land of Oz in [London nightclub] Heaven, there was 200 people in there. Next week they had 600 people and the third they had 1500. It was that fast. And they came from Aberdeen, Manchester, Coventry, they came from everywhere.
It just started from Ibiza workers really, they’d worked there all summer and then just kicked on from there. I think people were just fed up with the times, where you had to wear trousers and a shirt just to get into a pub. That’s why we all wore dungarees and whatever else, just to let your hair down [laughs]. I think people were just fed up with it, and the music was boring. And that why I wanted to do something different”
Do you ever look back at it all and think “We changed the world!”
“I do, more now than then. You can’t know that then can you? But now I’m sitting here thinking we’ve taken it all over the world. It’s great that it all gone round the world. It is interesting, I never thought that just playing records would have gone this far.
It unified people really, I still have friends from way back then. That’s the brilliant side of it, although sadly you lose a few as well. Sometimes people just go too far, there’s been a lot of drugs around. I’m glad I gave all that up long ago. But I’m amazed at how well it’s done, but it ain’t down to me, it’s down to lots of people and I’m glad to be part of it”
Has technology changed things?
“I was saying to some earlier that I travelled all over the world in the 90s and I didn’t even have a mobile phone! [laughs] I don’t know how I did it. Nowadays I have a phone and I just have everything on it! We used to have to use phone boxes and pagers. My god! I don’t know how we managed it, but we did.
It’s a little bit different now when you go to gigs, you’ve literally got about 200 people standing around taking photographs of you, and you think that’s not what it’s supposed to be about, you’re supposed to be having a dance and a great time [laughs]”
So just to finish, can you recommend some tunes that you’re playing at the moment?
“Yeah, what I’m listening to is Steve McRready’s Acid Music, Ashley Beedle’s Unmask Me, they’re the things that are banging for me at the moment”
And, already looking Trevor’s recommendations up on Soundcloud, we must say farewell.
But not for long. This man’s love of music means that he will be out playing his songs again as soon as the situation allows.