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Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (& Manumission) ::

Reported by Trackitdown TID on August 9, 2004

 “Manumission, the biggest, greatest, most debauched club in the world. You know, the one with the dance music. And the dwarves. And the people on stilts. And the fire-eaters. And the live sex show. And the KILLER RAVE DRUGS.” (NME)

Manumission; “a notorious Ibiza nightclub, once famous for live sex shows.” (News Of The World)

10 years after they started (and six since they packed in the sex shows) Manumission remains synonymous with sex, drugs and rock & roll as well as with Ibiza and the club culture that defines today’s island. Happening every Monday night throughout the summer at the 10,000 capacity Privilege, the club remains Ibiza’s biggest and most influential event, its performances and productions consistently outshining all other rivals as it backrooms serve the freaks, a combination that’s worked wonderfully throughout the last ten years.

Though marking their first decade recently with a one-off Friday event, the club appear set on embracing a dramatic new change, specifically over their music: after ten years of house, they’re about to go rock & roll.

“Ibiza’s at a crossroads, as is the club culture,” says Andy Manumission.

“I believe that the next progression for Ibiza is mixing dance music with live music, and the fusion between them. We need to build up the live scene here because until it gets bigger we’re not going to get that exciting fusions of DJs and live.” 

Or the live sex again, it seems.

“The sex thing has always been very important though it reached the point where it hijacked our agenda and we stopped the live sex shows six years ago for that reason,” he explains.

 “There’s always been and they’ll always be a sexual element to Manumission, it just can’t be allowed to dominate otherwise nothing else can develop. The balance is fantastic now, there’s lots of nudity and stripping but it’s art rather than sex shows.” 

SEX & . . .

“Her management company has banned Charlotte from going to the Manumission club because of its association with live sex shows, which might damage her image”. The Sun on teenage opera singer Charlotte Church’s holiday rules, August 2004.

Ever since reality documentary show Ibiza Uncovered featured Manumission’s live sex shows on TV, the club’s remained tabloid fodder for sex and celebrity scandals and arriving tonight at 3am to catch the end of the first stage show it’s easy to see why. Over 50 lithe, semi naked (and fully naked) girls gyrate and thrust to instrumental versions of Thriller and Peaches’ Fuck The Pain Away, drawing all eyes to the front to watch what’s a highly choreographed theatrical S&M tinged stage show. With professional strippers included in the cast, it’s certainly titillating though as ex dancer Sharmila points out, there’s considerably more to being a Manumission girls than first meets the eye.

“I think it’s quite an honour being a Manumission girl, it’s a privilege to do it and it’s a very hard job to get, not many girls get chosen and the ones that do are selected for different qualities,” she points out.

“Some are chosen for their PR skills, others for their looks or dancing abilities.”

Sharmilla, an Australian (very beautiful) dancer who holidayed on the island in 1999 before falling in love and staying, is certainly one to know, given that she nowadays helps audition the 300 or so wannabees that apply for jobs each year as well as promoting Manumission’s after-party Carry On At Space. She’s also aware that few clubbers ogling the show tonight have a realistic chance of getting near them, certainly not romantically.

“A lot of the girls are single but the thing is, clubbers come and go, they’re never here long enough,” she points out. “The girls usually get involved with people who work on the island.”

In between performances, the dancers circulate throughout the club, dancing on the small stage alongside Justin Robertson in the side room or just generally looking gorgeous wherever they pause.  Manumission’s crowd tonight is heavily British (it changes week by week) and most revellers seem more intent on meeting each other. A recent study on Brits in Ibiza suggest holidaying Brits pull more partners in a week than they do in six months and it’s a fair bet more than a few of the one night stands germinate here.

Despite the heavy Brit presence, the vibe is friendly rather than fierce, something Andy reckons might be down to the (sky high) drinks prices.

“People always criticise the English for having fights in clubs, though we haven’t had one incident involving an English customer in ten years, not one,” he proudly points out.

“We’ve had a few involving hot blooded Italian and Spanish people getting into punch-ups but nothing serious and, touch wood, not one death. Now I wonder if the drinks had been considerably cheaper, whether I’d have been able to say that?”

Drinks in Ibiza are hideously expensive as Andy’s the first admit (as a promoter rather than venue owners he makes zero money from bars- his profits come via the 45-60 euro door charges) with single vodka/ mixers starting at 10 euros each (tiny bottles of water are 6E). Even multi-millionaire rapper P Diddy recently complained to a local magazine that ‘crazy prices are spoiling it’ though in truth Ibiza’s always been expensive. And complaining about it has always been a part of the Ibiza experience. 

& DRUGS . . .

According to a recent issue of Mixmag ‘Ibiza drug lords have the blood of Europe’s 9/11 on their hands’ and drug-using clubbers are funding both Al Qaeda and gangs who threaten the island’s entire nightlife, claims both local website Ibiza Spotlight and Andy Manumission are puzzled about more than impressed.

Gangsters are certainly present, as they are in every major nightlife destination, though from Andy’s experiences, his greatest threat came in Manchester soon after he started promoting in 1993.

“It’s hard to remember but when we were in Manchester in the early 90s we were living in an atmosphere of serious homophobia and there were an awful lot of people that wouldn’t be seen dead in the gay village area of Manchester, because it would obviously mean others would they were gay, ie clearly having something wrong with them so all their friends would never talk to them again,” he recalls.

“At the time, gangs were running all the doors at all the clubs in Manchester, except for those in the gay village, because all the gangsters were subscribing to that homophobic attitude too, so when we came into the village we didn’t have a problem with them, initially.”  

“ We launched as an openly mixed gay/ straight night, doing some overtly gay advertising but we were also saying ‘you don’t need to be gay to come here but your attitude needs to be right. You have to be able to deal with the fact that some of our customers might fancy you and if they do, you don’t have to do anything about it but you have to understand that that’s fine, and get on with your life.”

As the open-minded philosophy worked, however, the media picked up on the club, similarly attracting the curiosity of the now not quite so homophobic drug gangs.

“There was one particular character who we wouldn’t let in one night and he ended up battering the door down and pouring petrol through the door,” Andy recalls.

“I foolishly ran upstairs to negotiate and he responded by dousing petrol all over me and throwing me down the stairs, shouting, ‘light the fucker’. I ran away while he was looking for matches, went and hid behind Griff, then we evacuated the club immediately. We’d had an incident a week before so we’d bought loudhailers and we closed the club, there and then, on the spot. That was the last Manumission in Manchester, we went to Ibiza on holiday and that’s how this whole thing started. Although it was a horrible incident, if it hadn’t been for that gangster I doubt any of these last ten years would have happened for us.”

& ROCK & ROLL . . .

“Smokin Jo’s just done our tenth birthday party as has Tim Sheridan. It’s healthy for her to move and it’s healthy for us; we lose two great DJs but we gain Tasty Tim; Wow, it’s not all bad.” Andy Manumission.

With his peacock wig, rouge lipstick, electric eyegloss and haughty, somewhat intimidating demeanour, London italo-electro queen Tasty Tim is a perfect cipher for Manumission’s future, his image and in-your-face character adding an unusual aspect to the role of the DJ.  Like every travelling jock, Tim takes precautions against losing his records at the airport carousel, though unlike all the rest, he chooses hold over hand luggage every time, packing them in tightly alongside his wigs, make-up and general tranny gear. His logic is simple: losing the records is bad while losing the costume worse; but losing the costume but not his records would be a disaster: he’d have to perform as a man.

It’s a philosophy that’s inconceivable to the it’s-all-about-the-music types who’ve controlled much of club culture for the last 10 years, though at Manumission tonight Tim’s totally in synch with the misfits and characters that make the club. Whether it’s Johnny the dwarf, Fernando the (self) cock sucking star or even Claire and Dawn Manumission getting drunk and dancing on the bar, everybody’s caught up in Tim’s vibe, his electro-disco-campness adding that oh-so-hard-to-find X Factor that makes a good club great and a great club special. And dancing to Tasty Tim’s camp and seamlessly mixed electro-house this morning, everybody clearly compliments his vibe as much as he compliments them.

Speaking after his set, Tim, who’s not been on the island for almost ten years, admits he’s been pleasantly surprised.

“I was expecting some kind of hideous Ibiza Uncovered style zoo, it isn't like that at all. Ibiza’s beautiful and Manumission, in particular, is fantabulash,” he coos.

“They were really up for my tunes and the energy level was amazing as well as it being quite a challenge for me playing in the Glass room, when the sun was coming up. Flawless makeup and burning hot sun are not a good combination; powder, powder, powder,” he laughs, adding slyly, “ on the nose, not up it.”

Tim’s starring role in Manumission’s reinvention also makes sense given his own multi-coloured clubbing history which includes pioneering gender bending in London in the 80s, leading to a residency at the Wag, where he became one of London’s top DJs (before acid house). Going on to do the door at Kinky Gerlinky in the 90s, he ended up a professional drag queen for Michael Alig’s New York club kids, before returning to DJing at the end of the decade at clubs like DTPM. More recently, he’s come full circle, hanging with Boy George (the pair are collaborating on tracks) as well as becoming resident at the Cock, London’s premium electro gay hangout.

Tonight though, he highlights his eminently sensible quit-while-your-ahead approach to partying, deciding to skip part 2 at Space as well as the beach.

“Flawless makeup and burning hot sun are NOT a good combination,” he advises.

“And as for the sea and the sun, I don't do either; alcohol alone is not enough to preserve ones looks. one MUST stay out of the sun”.

With that he’s off, leaving a sizeable contingent of stragglers to make their way to part 2: Manumission’s Carry On at Space.

Carrying On To Space:

Opening at 8am and running through til 4, Carry On At Space is more like the main club’s back room Coco Loco (‘everyone let’s their guard down a bit more and loosens up a little,” promoter Sharmila suggests) and attracts overspill from the main event plus significant numbers who’ve gone just for Space. On this morning (and apparently others) Space also attracts another bunch of much less welcome guests- the police. 

Like London, Ibiza’s generally easy going on smoking a spliff wherever you like, though if there’s one spot on the island that this doesn’t apply it’s Space. The club’s security are notorious for constantly monitoring the crowd and forcefully ejecting miscreants  (also taking passport details if you’re unlucky) while today, the cops are doing the same in the car park. One unlucky Dutch DJ is caught with some puff (she’s flabbergasted, she’s from Amsterdam) while several others ditch their stashes just in time. It’s a reminder that while Ibiza is the only place in the world where you can genuinely party 24/7, 7 days a week, keeping your wits about is always essential. 

& ROCK & ROLL (Part 2)

“The 10th anniversary marks a real musical turning point for Manumission with 2 Many DJs and LCD Sound System performing. Tasty Tim came over to play the Coco Loco room because we wanted to extend the new music policy by using a London based electro/house DJ. Particularly because he’s from The Cock so we could also appeal to the gay crowd that have always been an integral part of the space.”  (Derren Manumission, Music Box promoter)

Looking after bookings in the backroom area known as the Music Box, Derren’s the man responsible for bringing names like Junior Sanchez, Avenue D, Tiefschwarz and Loose Cannons into the mix, which fits given his track record co-promoting London’s City Rockers as well as (briefly) managing Nag, Nag, Nag duo Jonny and Fil (aka Atomizer) makes sense. The two rooms are very much the heart of the club (in fact, most celebs and club characters congregate here, in preference to the miles away way VIP room) and Andy Manumission’s acutely aware of its importance

“When you pick up a flyer or poster and you ask people what date is this flyer if it’s difficult to date it between 1994, 99 and 2004 then you’ve got a problem,” he suggests.


Whilst there’s nothing wrong with using the same DJs as five years ago I still think you need a healthy balance of music and performers from the present and the future.”

This year’s recognisable name on the flyers are the Ju Ju Babies, holding the weekly residency that last year catapulted Har Mar Superstar to international fame and band leader David is certainly enjoying the trip.

“Ibiza’s a great place as are the people and the weather; and as for Manumission, you have to go yourself to really appreciate it,” he recommends.

“It´s a non-stop visual and aural extravaganza; it’s just such an event, always pushing the boundaries further, especially from a musical aspect. Put that together in such a large venue filled with 10,000 clubbers and you get a buzz that probably can’t be recreated anywhere else,” he says.

Ironically, the club are about to attempt to do exactly that, with ambitious plans to launch a season in New York, this Fall.

We’re in talks with all sorts of people in New York right now, there’s a lot of hunger and interest in us, which is great but we’re just trying to make sure we do the right thing.

“We love the idea of coming into New York and launching within a week or two of the US elections,” says Andy.

“I think the energy is totally right in New York at this moment in time, the club scene having been hammered so hard is just starting to turn again, with big clubs starting to open again. We think there’s going to be a backlash against Conservative America. I think you can only suppress a city like New York for so long,” he predicts.

For now, though, his focus remains Ibiza.

“We’re not saying we stand behind any particular scene with the musical changes, instead we’re saying ‘we

live in Ibiza, we stand behind the party scene in Ibiza,” he concludes.

“We’re going to adapt and move and change and survive and don’t be surprised if that means there are radical changes in the future. We’re gonna’ do what we think is right to keep the party going.”

Jonty Skrufff (