Interview by Bridget Mills-Powell. Originally published in Mixmag in June 2009.
It’s the end of an era. For the first time in over 15 years there will be no Manumission on Ibiza. Creative masterminds, legendary party people and sometime performance art sex icons Mike and Claire are moving on. Will Ibiza survive without the club that brought live sex shows, disappearing Radio 1 DJs, 36-hour parties and squirting milkmaids to the island? And can Mike and Claire survive without Ibiza?
Why has Manumission left Ibiza?
Mike: Manumission was a glorious and amazing part of Ibiza, but the last couple of years it felt like we were running up and down escalators. When we fell out with Privilege [in 2007] we were planning it to be our last year of Manumission anyway, and I think some good came out if it. Manumission was good in Amnesia [last year], but it was great in Privilege. We’ve had 15 incredible years in Ibiza and my brother Andy would have carried it on, but I haven’t got on with him for years. I would rather leave it than try again.
What happened with Privilege?
Mike: We got sabotaged. They just closed the doors one night. It was Claire’s birthday and we couldn’t even get in! We were very sad to leave Privilege, but what they did to us was appalling and meant we could no longer trust them. After throwing amazing parties and filling their venue for 14 years, we were treated very badly, too badly to ever go back. We had two days to set up for the move to Amnesia, right in the middle of the season, but we carried on and had a great summer. It was a financial disaster, but we survived.
Has the island changed?
Mike: I remember the days when we used to do 36-hour parties: street parades through town to the motel, then Manumission at 11, then on to Space at 5am!
Claire: It was actually Johnny Golden, ‘The Manumission Dwarf’, who discovered Bora Bora. Not content to finish the party after a mere 24 hours, he strolled over to this little unknown beach bar. The next week he told Mike about it. Mike decided to join him, along with everyone from the Manumission Carry On. That was the beginning of Bora Bora – pints of sandy shandy and scary transvestites dancing to ridiculously banging music on a Tuesday afternoon.
Mike: The island is still great, but it’s changed politically. The powers that be want to clean up the image. There’s now a €60,000 fine if you have a party in your villa first thing in the morning. It should go back to the live and let live freedom of what it used to be. My good friend died at the age of 77 in DC10. He was a happy old man, he died surrounded by beautiful women. Ibiza accepts all ages and a real mix of people. The people here are really tolerant, but the politicians have been spoilt by huge economic growth.
Are you going to take Manumission on the road?
Mike: Yes, we’re planning a world tour and are looking to go to Moscow, Bali and Romania, to name but a few. As for events in the UK, we’re open to ideas but ideally we want to take Manumission around the world. We’ll still have the odd party, but what we really want to do now is make films, and we want to devote all our time to it. Our ideas are similar to the black and white silent films we used to watch in the club, influenced by Charlie Chaplin. We have a really important story to tell – we’re writing the screenplay now and it’s based on truth. Ibiza for us is like Hollywood used to be 80 years ago: similar weather and less restricted. I’ll have a cameo role and Claire will be in it. We’ll direct together but I see myself more as an overviewer. I see the film being quite art-housey, yes, but I want it to be a big, successful film and I’ve got plans to show it in cinema. There’s a lot of films being made and a lot of money being put into the films at the moment, but the quality isn’t that great. I think it will take a few years to make, and once the screenplay’s finished then we will get it produced.
Where are you based now?
Claire: We live out in the country in Ibiza and plan to stay here. We have three kids now, aged five, seven and eight. We are going to stay here as a family. We live on a farm – you can hear our cockerel in the background. Yes, life in the country is quite different from life at the motel!
What was your Manumission highlight?
Claire: There are loads! The toga party for Carl Cox’s birthday was great – it was a ‘bring your own bedsheet’ party and Carl DJd all night in his. We made a giant cake that I climbed out of singing ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’. We persuaded Stuart Price and Mike to come on stage blindfold where me and the dancers, all dressed as milkmaids, drenched them in gallons of milk in front of 10,000 people. Or Fatboy Slim falling in love with Zoe Ball. Or in 1998 when the motel was at its peak – we’d taken over what was basically a run-down brothel [and turned it into the hardest-partying hotel in history]. Lisa I’Anson disappeared there [she was later sacked from Radio 1 for missing her Ibiza show], we had Primal Scream staying there, Irvine Welsh. It was something so intense that it couldn’t carry on. It would have killed us if we had stayed there any longer. A priest closed it down in the end. We lived there for six months and by 1999 we were in such a mess!
Mike: At the very beginning, I spent six weeks living with a heroin addict and two drag queens in a small apartment in the old town. In the day I’d hitchhike around the island putting up posters and every night I’d go around inviting people to the first party. I had everyone wearing ‘I Love Manumission’ T-shirts, including the Pacha dancers, before anyone knew what Manumission was. Every day at Café del Mar I’d have to replace the posters because people would cross out the ‘Manumission’ in ‘I Love Manumission’ and replace it with ‘Chelsea’! Years later Baz Lurhmann, the director of Moulin Rouge, said that the Moulin Rouge in Paris was the Manumission of its time. When he asked Norman Cook to make the Can Can track, he told him he wanted it to make the audience feel ‘like they were walking into Manumission.’
Any regrets from your time running the most exciting club in the world?
Claire: 1999, because 1998 was so excessive and all the money had gone, we lost confidence and had a lot of stress. It was our busiest season, but no one was doing the accounts! Also 2005 wasn’t great; we had a partnership with Fischerspooner, and they signed a contract saying they had creative control. This was very difficult for us and even the rehearsals before the shows were rubbish.
Was it all hard work?
Mike: I met the designer Phillipe Starck once, and said, ‘I love your work’. He said ‘It’s not work!’ I always wanted to stop Manumission while it was strong – I was never doing it for the money.
Claire: We’ve had a great time creating a legend.