Graham Sahara is Ibiza’s most resourceful resident DJ and punster - My Ibiza

Graham Sahara is Ibiza’s most resourceful resident DJ and punster

The long-time Pacha favourite talks Ibiza, the role of a resident DJ on the island and how it has helped him evolve as an artist.

“I took the missus to a Robbie Williams concert last night. We got talking to the woman sat next to us, and it turned out she was actually an insurance salesperson. And through it all, she offered me protection…”

Not too far away, you can see a tumbleweed rolling past as crickets begin to chirp. We kid of course, whilst Graham Sahara’s famous dad jokes can sometimes feel like an unexpected kick in the balls, they’re actually miles better than your trivial fish got battered punchline.

And whilst some of our ears might require protection from Graham’s groan-inducing one-liners, it’s safe to say the same doesn’t apply to his musical taste. After all, he was banned from Lidl, San Antonio once because of his sick beets…

Okay, enough dad jokes for today… A long-time Ibiza favourite, Graham has and continues to provide an endless supply of soundtracks to a wealth of different nights at Pacha as the club’s resident.

Playing with an array of heavyweight underground names over the years, the malleable Brummie has demonstrated his versatility time and time again. Finely furnished with the ability to play in any kind of situation, it’s no surprise he won Best Ibiza DJ at the 2017 DJ Awards.

Not restricted to just rocking the dance floor, the Seamless Records chief also boasts a long history of productions and collaborations with such respected names as Richard Dinsdale, Danny Freakazoid and Kiki Navarro.

In addition to this, Graham is also a Director at Pioneer DJ Radio which, with having to remain regiment with what’s current and what’s not, goes hand-in-hand with his role as a resident DJ.

We recently caught up with the Pacha resident and discussed how he initially got involved with being a resident DJ in Ibiza, how a club resident’s role has changed in terms of the relationship between clubs and brands and how the freedom of the role has helped him evolve as an artist.

For almost two decades now, you have been a resident on the White Isle. What is it you love the most about this magical island the most and why?

I love the people and the island. It’s a beautiful place to live, in the summer, there’s sunshine 99.9% of the time, people smiling and a great vibe on the island. In the winter, it is more relaxed and there’s amazing places to go for walks, local “fiestas del pueblo” (Village Parties) and loads of amazing culture to enjoy and explore, and plenty of time to hang out and enjoy time with my friends.

Tell us about some of your favourite memories here from your earliest years in Ibiza…

I’ve had so many it’s hard to narrow them down. I would say on the party side, Manumission and the Carry On parties were so much fun. In terms of work-related memories, I would say starting life playing at Pacha in the Funky Room and Main Room were some of my best times here. This is where I first began to play with a who’s who in the scene. On a personal note, getting introduced to a beautiful woman when I was playing in a bar called Izay, who is now my wife and mother to our beautiful kids.

You’ve been a long-term resident for the likes of Pacha and KM5 during your time here. How did you those resident opportunities first come about?

With Pacha, I started out as a resident at Base Bar in the Port of Ibiza, and next door was the Rock Bar. Vaughan, the promoter of the Funky Room, was a partner in the Rock Bar, and most days would hear me playing in the bar next door. This was back in the days when music was allowed to be projected on the to the street in the port before the limiters (they were introduced in the port to stop music being projected into the street in about 2005/2006). Yes they’ve been around for longer than most people realise. It’s nothing new!).

But yeah, Vaughan would hear me playing and then he asked me to come and play in the Funky Room, and from there, I just played more and more often until one day he said “Yo! You’re our new resident” and that was about 2001/2002, and I’ve been playing in Pacha ever since.

Km5 was actually due to my old next door neighbour, Mino. He used to come downstairs from his flat, and I was always practicing in my back room and he would come and knock on the window. At first, I thought he wanted me to turn it down, but he would ask me to turn it up so he could enjoy listening to me play whilst sunbathing in the back garden! (Top neighbour!) Anyway, he was the manager at Km5, and one day came and knocked on my door and ask me to come down one night and play. I came, played and obviously impressed as I was a resident there for about 12 years.

How would you say your role as Pacha resident has changed over the years, especially with the island’s constantly changing musical landscape?

I would say the role itself hasn’t changed much, we’re still there to open, some days close the club, and sometimes cover if someone does a no show and all at the drop of a hat.

In general, and this is in the whole world over and not just in Pacha or even just in Ibiza, a club resident’s role has changed mainly in terms of the relationship between the club and the brands/headliners. Many brands and headliners are understandably focused on their pushing their own sound, label and agencies, and they like to keep things in their house so to speak, which I totally understand and respect.

You are more predominantly associated with spinning tunes over at Pacha through the years. What is your favourite aspect of playing at the club and why?

I love starting the night off to be honest, and the longer the better. It’s like a lorry driver who’s got a delivery and you think I’m starting here, but I have to end up there (the following DJs sound). What route am I going to take to get there?

When you do a lot of warm ups, it’s so enjoyable as you can go on a different journey every day, and get to drop a lot of different macro genres and different style tracks to get where the next DJ can take over in a fluid style, and each night it’s with a different crowd. Each headliner has their own style, and its great creating a vibe for them to smash the life out of it afterwards, it is their night after all.

What are your thoughts on its recent refurbishment?

I think they’ve done a good job, they adjusted it to make it more modern but without losing the essence of the last 45 years that have passed within the walls of the club.

Being recognised as a Pacha resident means you aren’t restricted to playing one genre of music, you can adapt to all different tastes. How do you think such versatility has helped you evolve as a DJ overall?

It gives you a good understanding of the energy and feeling in music and what works and what should be played at certain times of the night. I suppose it has given me more respect for a good tune is a good tune, irrespective of the genre. Whilst a particular track might not be my first love, I can respect the fact it is still a good track.

Being a resident, you’re not being booked so much for your sound per se. However, you are being booked for your understanding of reading the crowd and knowing how to handle the crowd that comes to the club before the headliner.

The resident is there to warm up, and sometimes closes. You’re there to create the right atmosphere for the headliner or artist after you and not to steal the limelight. The correct music should be played in a warm up, and a good warm up is key to a great night and every good resident understands this.

Whilst very versatile in your mixing ability, your preferred taste lies with house music. When did you first discover house and who were your earliest influences?

The first time I listened to house music was in Bakers in Birmingham in about 1994. My early influences were people like Jeremy Healy, Jon Pleased Wimmin, Paul Oakenfold, Graeme Park, Scott Bond, Danny Rampling, Elliot Eastwick and Miles Hollway at Hard Times.

What have been your three go-to house tracks to play this summer and why?

Tough one this as this depends purely on the crowd I’m playing to. For more accessible crowds these three never fail… big basslines, and catchy vocal hooks.

Au/Ra, CamelPhat – ‘Panic Room’
Fisher – ‘Losing It’
David Penn & KPD – ‘Disc Jockey’

For more underground crowds, these three have served me proud. They are more melodic, deeper, and when dropped at the right time in a set, each one lifts the crowd to another level of ecstasy.

Butch – ‘Countach’
Darin Epsilon – ‘Midgard’ (Sébastien Léger remix)
Collé & Oluhle – ‘Owami’

You are also heavily involved with Pioneer DJ Radio… what is your role there and how has that evolved over the years?

I’m one of the directors at the radio, they brought me in to choose all the content and at what time it gets played, the live broadcasts that we will do etc.

Putting together weekly radio show schedules must be quite the task… what is the selection process behind that? What different factors influence your decision making?

It’s kind of like being a resident in a club, you need to know what works at what time music to connect with the audience. Obviously, I have to sort music out 24/7 for the entire year of broadcasting. I need to keep up on current sounds what’s coming through, what’s now not so hot etc. You’ve just got to keep up with the times, much like you do as a resident DJ.

Finally, where do you see the island in five years time from now and do you see yourself here in the near future?

I definitely see myself here. I don’t see myself leaving. I love it here. I have many friends, my kids go to school here, so I’d find it hard to move somewhere else after being here for so long. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived in the UK.

Where do I see the island? Now that is a good question. The island is constantly evolving, so people may not like change, but change is good, otherwise things become stale and boring and people won’t come.

Some people may not come due to those changes, however the thing with change is it gives people things to talk about. There’s something new to talk about and discuss which keeps Ibiza in the forefront of the mind. Apathy for something is the worst thing, so as long as people have opinions be it good or bad, it shows they have an interest, and that is never bad.


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