October 04 2018

An Ibiza Tale with Leo Mas

New York-Le Bain
We chat with Milan's master selector and balearic hero, Leo Mas, before he plays Le Bain on Saturday, October 20th.

LE BAIN: It’s another legendary selector from Ibiza, Alfredo, who inspired you to become a DJ. You said, “we both described ourselves as freaks and we were left-wing". What was it to be a ‘left-wing freak' in your hometown Milan in the early 80’s?
LEO MAS: It means being a lover of personal freedom, and a defender of the freedom of all people. It's about being curious, a follower of the alternative scene and the countercultures within art, music, cinema, theatre, publishing, fashion. Keeping the eyes open to the avant-garde, and always dreaming to make a job out of your passions. Milan in the early 80s was a really creative city, you could find a lot of people that shared that same attitude, meeting in clubs, Plastic in particular, or in concerts.

Were you as radical with your records as you were with your politics?
Yes, I can say I’ve always been radical and brave in music, quality for me is the most important thing, and my ears are linked to my heart and my musical culture.


The Standard
"House music had the same effect [as Punk] in the dance world."

You were resident DJ at Amnesia in Ibiza in the mid-80s, how was it different from other clubs?
At the time Amnesia was the after spot for those who went to Pacha and KU earlier in the night. It was an open-air club, and people would dance under the stars until the sun came up. It wasn’t glamorous but was certainly the freest and most democratic in Ibiza. There wasn’t a VIP area but it was forbidden to take photos. You would always end up dancing beside famous actors, directors, pop stars, pushers, hippies, gypsies. There also weren't any bars inside the club, only ones on the side of it rented by locals who invited their regulars. Everything was very family-oriented. Alfredo and I were playing every night of the season, with just one day off during the week, and there weren’t any guest DJs. 

You said your and Alfredo's style was special because you were bringing your records from Milan. 
Milan was the capital of music in Italy. In 1982 I was buying records for a big distributor called No Stop. When Alfredo was in Milan and stayed at my place, in the very early 1980s, I brought him with me to buy stuff that we would then play at Amnesia during the summer. All the big Amnesia classics were coming from Milan, from Elkin & Nelson's "Jibaro" to William Pitt's "City Lights", The Residents' "Kaw Liga", Enzo Avitabile's "Blackout", and It's Immaterial's "Driving Away From Home." We went to a lot of record stores in Milan too, we loved Supporti Fonografici, it's where we bought The Woodentops' "Why Why Why", a big Amnesia hit and a seminal record for what will be called Balearic.


"At that moment a revolution started, the most important, and long-lived, in dance music history."

In 1988, house music took Ibiza by storm, it’s what it's called the second 'Summer of Love,' what was it like?
The truth is that Ibiza, and us at Amnesia, took house music and made it known to UK DJs like Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold the year before, in the summer of 1987. We used to play three intense hours of house music produced in Chicago, Detroit, NY, and the UK, before anywhere in Europe. The actual second Summer Of Love in 1988 is a direct consequence of that time. The house music boom and the spread of ecstasy completely inspired the DJs from England who opened clubs playing all the records that we had played at Amnesia in Ibiza. London was the reference point for music and trends, it changed the world. 

Tell us one of your most striking memories from that summer.
It was at Amnesia, everyone had their hands in the air when we played The House Master Boyz And The Rude Boy Of House's "House Nation." You understood at that moment that a revolution had started, the most important, and long-lived in dance music history.

You have compared house and punk, saying they had the “same devastating effect,” what do you mean by that? 
Punk was something new that shocked the music world. It was an inspiration for new bands and musicians, you didn’t have to come from conservatory to make music. Punk gave every possibility to approach music without limits and in a democratic way. House music did the same in the dance world. Before then you had to be a great musician to produce a good dance record, a great arranger or producer. House music let you do that without a recording studio, in your home, with a little drum machine, a simple keyboard, and a sampler. You didn't need a particularly technical background to create something artistic.


Leo Mas' Mediterraneo Minimix


This revolution is still happening today, some musicians only use their laptops!
It's just what happened and it’s a great revolution. I remember the first time I heard Phuture's "Acid Tracks" or Rhythm Is Rhythm's "Nude Photo," it was the same feeling as when I first listened to "Anarchy In The UK" by the Sex Pistols. 

Some people say the Balearic vibe can be found anywhere. Do you agree?
Isla Blanca changed a lot since the 1980s. Clubs are an industry nowadays, but if you search you can still find the original spirit in clubs such as Hostal La Torre or Pikes. Ibiza is still a unique and magical place. I've found beautiful and interesting "Balearic-type experiences" in the UK, Denmark, and in Italy too. But to be honest, that feeling, that original emotion, I can only get in my home, with my friends, in front of my collection of records.


On Saturday, October 20th, Le Bain presents Leo Mas
with Danilo Braca | 10pm | The Standard, High Line

Header photo: in the Amnesia DJ booth with Alfredo (right) and Leo Mas (Raiders hat)