Dave Swindells

The king of London clubland now brings us the most beautiful portrayal of the craziest clubbing isle in the world…


Dave, bloody great to see you still involved in clubland, a proper institution! Your clubbing guide in Time Out magazine was an essential part of the week for thousands of clubbers, just like Pete Tong on Friday night on Radio1. So what came first – the photography – the journalism or the love of dance music?

“It’s great to be still involved Dan. What first got me excited was dance music, even if that was dancing to cheesy disco in a function room above a pub out in Somerset. While I was at university in Sheffield I began writing for the student newspaper and learning how to take photos. And then nepotism played a part, as when I came down to London my brother Steve, who’d been running clubs since 1983 (the ground-breaking polysexual party The Lift), helped get me a job working behind the bar at Fooberts. Mind you, most of the time my job was to pick up the glasses from under the feet of the Goths at the Kit Kat club or Philip Sallon’s Mud Club, but while doing that I started to taking more photos, which were later published in i-D magazine.”

I have to admit, I used to plagiarise your listing column for my own in Mixmag – now come on tell us the  truth – were you out every night checking these places out?

“No way. You can’t be out every night and in the office each day for years on end. Well, I couldn’t. I usually went out two nights a week, and of course, just like you at Mixmag, I also relied on speaking to people whose opinions I could trust. What kept me going for years was taking photos because it keeps you involved with the clubbers, otherwise it’s too easy to end up only talking to promoters and DJs.

Did the office ever see you on a Monday morning?

“Haha. I was always there on Monday. For years it was my deadline day, so there was no choice, and anyway, if I’d missed Monday Tuesday would have been a disaster…”

The fabulous new book ‘Spirit of Ibiza 89’ is a beautiful portrayal of Ibiza when its music and drug choice inspired Britain’s biggest cultural phenomenon since punk. So, what…records can you remember from that Summer?

“The most obvious one is ‘French Kiss’ by Lil Louis, because it was played so often. One night at Ku we heard it three times, which was funny as that enormous club only had a few hundred people in that night (it was early in the season) and there was an electrical storm with a lot of lightning and heavy rain – the Spanish bar staff were amazed to see English clubbers dancing in the rain. 1989 was famous for those ‘Italia screamers’ and piano house like Black Box’s ‘Ride On Time’ too, which were fine, but watching the new ‘Weekender’ film recently reminded me what a great tune Kariya’s ‘Let Me Love You For Tonight’ is. Soul II Soul soundtracked the summer in London (and in the States) with tunes like ‘Back To Life’ and ‘Keep On Movin’ and their weekly night at The Fridge was sensational as it felt like a carnival sound system every Friday. There were so many great soulful tracks from Ten City, Adeva, The Chymes, Innercity, Alyson Williams. In Ibiza, though, tracks like Jibaro and Sueno Latino were huge but some of the best moments were when Alfredo played tracks which weren’t dancefloor faves at all, dropping the Hill Street Blues theme tune as the morning sun lit up the dance floor was a real arms-in-the-air moment.”

What clubs blew you away?

“Ku, because of its sheer scale (the venue now known as Privilege held 7,000 and was the world’s largest club at the time), Amnesia for the joy of dancing in the open air and hearing a proper Balearic selection from Alfredo. It delivered on the promises which I’d heard all about from Paul, Danny, Nicky and Johnny the year before. And, for different reasons, Es Paradis, because it was previously unheralded yet such a statement venue with the dancefloor surrounded by enormous Roman columns and bougainvillea blooms. And Pacha was a lot of fun for its sheer cosmopolitan appeal. At that time, most London venues attracted up to 500 but in Ibiza there were superclubs (with all the CDs, souvenirs and brand-management that this suggests) a decade before the name was used in the UK.”

What DJs were doing it?

Alfredo at Amnesia. I’ve always admired DJs who are brave enough to do the unexpected, who followed their whim and weren’t afraid to play a tue that was already popular in another genre. DJing is about a lot more than just playing the latest tune.

What one moment will you never forget from that trip?

“There were amazing dance floor moments but we’d expected to experience those. The day after we’d been out at Ku I took a photo of a British clubber, Mark ‘Spit’ Fenton, reading The Sun’s front-page ‘Ecstasy Island’ shock-horror story about Ibiza. He was sat outside the Café del Mar and at that moment we knew that we had our story sewn up right there.”

You know London’s clubland like no other. What have been the best 10 clubs you have covered over the years and why?

“My God, what a (good) question! I could be here all night. First of all I should say that for me the best clubs are music-driven – where people are brought together by a shared love of music – but the most important factor is still the atmosphere that is generated by the people, the music, the venue and whatever substances clubbers throw down their necks to get them happy. What’s also really important is a sense of the unexpected, and sometimes of drama too, because if you walk into a club and you know exactly what will happen over the next six hours you might as well go straight back home.

Downbeat 1985-1987. A tiny piano bar in Soho with trannies behind the bar and Eric Robinson and great guest singers (Victoria Wilson James, Leee John, Jimmy Somerville and many many more who were regulars, or dropped by) singing classic Motown and Philly soul, jazz and blues. My brother ran the night and it was where I met my wife, so it was a family affair too.

Shoom, The Future, Spectrum Love, The Clink and The Trip. (1988). The Trip took the acid house and Balearic scene overground, but all of these nights were special and pioneering in their own ways.

Kinky Gerlinky (1989-1992). Michael and Gerlinde Kostiff began it as a reaction to the dressed-down acid and rave culture: they wanted people to glam up again and they sure did at this monthly parade. Part drag-fest and tranny shack, it welcomed people of every gender and drew around 2,000 to The Empire in Leicester Square. On a Monday night.

High On Hope at Dingwalls 1989-1990. Norman Jay and Patrick Lilley got this going and it was sensationally good for fans of soulful (house) music. Tony Humphries, Lil Louis and *everybody* played there. Amazing atmosphere.

Talking Loud Saying Something. Dingwalls 1989-1993. Gilles Peterson DJed and / or hosted weekly club nights in London from about 1985 to about 2006 at the Electric Ballroom, The Wag, Dingwalls and Bar Rumba. They were all good, fired up by his magpie musicality, his courageous championing of leftfield and difficult (dance) music, the people he brought in to play live and the dancers who came each week, but the Sunday sessions at Dingwalls were especially special.

Smashing 1991-1998. For the fun of it. It developed into a Britpop hangout but it was still brilliant whether Jarvis and Damon were there or not (Pulp filmed their ‘Disco 2000 video’ there). What made it so good was that four characters, Matthew Glamorre, Michael Murphy, Martin Green and Adrian Webb co-promoted and DJed there and the music was totally diverse and brilliantly entertaining.

Kash Point and Nag Nag Nag 2003-05. They rode in on the electroclash wave, and like that scene these clubs were 1980s DIY dress-up clubs born again for the noughties. But these relatively tiny events were much more than bandwagon jumpers, Finally London clubbers were dressing creatively again, and for a year or so they were in every magazine…

The End. 1995-2008. From start to finish it was run properly, almost like a family business, and everything they did was quality, from the all-star techno nights to Erol Alkan’s Trash and Durrr.

Fabric 1999-date. Created because of the passion of Keith Reilly, and sustained by a belief that they can always deliver the best that’s out there. Twelve years after they started their line-ups still make me wish I had the energy to go more often.

YoYo at the Notting Hill Arts Club. 2002-date. One of the best weekly nights in London where Seb Chew and Leo Greeslade spin hip hop to UK funky, grime and house to an underground, cosmopolitan crowd. Also the place where Mark Ronson, Lily Allen and La Roux made their names in London.

OMG – I haven’t mentioned Taboo yet. Oh well, apologies for all the great places I’ve missed out.”

Where is home now – and are you allowed any of your photographs on the wall?

“Home is in Clapton in east London, a great place to be as there are ace venues just a mile or so away. The club pictures have been on the wall but they used to scare the children (literally) so now it’s my landscape photos instead.”

Why do you think Ibiza still remains the party destination in the world?

“I think the competition keeps the standards high. This year Amnesia has Annie Mac, which I think is primarily because they know they’ve got to keep moving forward and represent all styles of electronica. Everybody loves a summer holiday in a beautiful location and if you factor in some of the best superclubs on the planet it’s not hard to see why it works, despite the high door and drink prices and all the restrictions that have been brought in over recent years”

Who in your time as Clubs Editor at Time Out were the club promoters that really stood out from the crowd – and why?

“There are so many. One that particularly comes to mind is Matthew Glamorre. I met him in the queue outside Taboo in 1985 and he was later in Leigh Bowery’s band Minty. He was always interested in big ideas as well as hedonism, so his clubs which included Smashing, Harder Faster Louder (it was scarily loud), a classical music night, Chasing The Dragon (only music produced in languages other than English was played); and Kash Point among them, were ideas- and character-driven, but also could be every silly. I loved all these superfreaks and outsider artists dancing to The Ol’ Bamboo and doing the hokey-cokey at Smashing in 1992…If you can’t be silly when you go out, stay at home.”

What London club night or venue have you been sad to see close?

“The End. Because every time I went there I had a good time and that applied to so many different styles of music and crowd. Also I always felt welcome there, which as anybody knows, is one of the best ways to start a night.”

What music do you listen to in the car?

“Everything from Adele to SBTRKT, but often I listen to BBC 5Live or the World Service too.”

Is clubbing as good as it ever was?

“God yeah. Right up until so many London clubs began to close in the late noughties I’d thought it was always getting better, as people have so much choice about the kind of nightlife they want to experience (or immerse themselves in), but the West End of London is almost a club desert now. “

The Spirit of Ibiza photos are on being exhibuted at the Hotel Es Vive in Platja d’en Bossa, Ibiza until the end of September. www.hotelesvive.com.
There will be a special launch parties for the Spirit of Ibiza ’89 book at Hotel Es Vive in Ibiza on Sunday September 18 and an all-star London party at the Red Gallery on Rivington Street, Shoreditch EC2  in London on Saturday October 8. 

The Spirit of Ibiza ’89 book is published by {ourhistory}. 
For more info on the book see www.culthist.com or www.daveswindells.com