As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m always arranging performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day, the reports I get back from my DJs sound like the kind of wild adventures that I rarely get to be a part of as a desk – rather than a disk – jockey. The people who go to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this monthly column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this first 4AM DJ Tour Diary, you’ll read about red-hot house DJ Orazio Rispo’s month-long tour, which brought him from the Hamptons to Ibiza, throughout Italy, and back home to NYC – with an enviable roster of super-exclusive parties in between. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.
DJ Orazio Rispo’s 4AM DJ Tour Diary
I began my summer DJing mainly in the Hamptons at the brand new RdV. East, but I planned to go to Europe in August for business and more than a little pleasure. I rented a villa in Ibiza and invited around 15 friends. We found an amazing house in St. Miguel in the middle of a beautiful, isolated field. I have been going to Ibiza for the past six years and naturally dreamed of playing at Pacha. In June, I was fortunate enough to play Pacha New York—another longtime dream—so for the Pacha Ibiza booking to follow so shortly after, well, it was Christmas in July. I landed in Ibiza on August 1st with only one confirmed DJ booking on the island: August 11th at Pacha with my manager and friend DJ Jus Ske of 4AM DJs, thanks to Eddie Dean and Erick Morillo, who’s party it was.
On the third day, I linked up with a friend from New York who invited me to play an after-hours at his villa. Following what seemed at the time to be directions to a hidden treasure, I arrived with my group to the villa at 8am. I DJed for four hours as the sun rose and the rest of the world’s day began. Diddy and Erick Morillo showed up with their entourages in tow and rocked out with me. It was a thrill.
The next day, August 5th, my friend Corey Lane asked me to play at the Kiss and Fly annual beach party at The Sands. I attended that party the year before and kind of knew what to expect. My set started at 4pm and was supposed to go until 7, but I played for an extra hour until my friend DJ Vanjee got there and rocked it. When I got to The Sands and started setting up all my equipment, I suddenly began to panic as I realized I had no quarter-inch adapter for my headphones, essentially leaving me without headphones. The resident DJ was on before me, so as she was putting on her last couple of songs, I asked her if she could lend me her adapter after her set. She quickly obliged and explained to me that she had to stick around anyways, so it would be no trouble at all. Sands was everything I hoped it would be: the perfect combination of a lazy, beach atmosphere with the excitement that happens naturally as Ibiza gradually turns to night. By the end of my set, people were off their beach chairs and in the main bar area dancing.
As I played the last songs in my set, the resident DJ came to me in the booth and told me she wanted to talk to me for a second. This was my first official gig in Ibiza, and although I could confidently say I had a good set, I felt the way I did when I was called into the principal’s office as a youngster. We sat down on a beach cabana and she began to unfold her proposition. She told me her name was Clara Da Costa, and she had been living on the island and working as a DJ for the past 15 years. She told me she was the resident at The Sands, Es Vive, and Space for openings, and most importantly, she had her own weekly radio show on Ibiza Sonica Radio, the island’s most popular radio station. Clara told me that she loved my set and that, for the first time ever, she wanted to offer me her personal slot on her radio show. She had booked another DJ to be the guest so there were no other slots left but her own, and she wanted me to have it.
The Ibiza Sonica Radio offices are located in a modest office complex in the center of the island. The studio had all the cutting edge DJ and broadcasting equipment, and the booth was situated right in front a huge glass window with a view of the hills and waterfront. Clara was in her natural habitat. She immediately began to set up all the equipment to her liking as only a veteran could. I played deep for the first hour and then back-to-back with her for the second hour. My friends and fellow 4AM DJs listened online in NYC, and I saw them tweeting about it. Two days later, Clara invited me to play at Es Vive with her. The Es Vive CDs were some of the first electronic compilations I had ever listened to. It was a middle-of-the-afternoon pool atmosphere, lazy and lounge-y.
The next night I was asked to play a party at Stefano Chitis’ villa. It was truly a unique experience. We got to his house around 3pm, ate lunch, jumped in the ocean, and then I began to play around 5. From 5-9, we watched the sun gradually fade in front of us—an orange ball slowly sinking into the horizon—to a deep, tech house setting. DJs fantasize about parties like this. The house was one of the most incredible architectural feats I’ve seen in Ibiza. Once in the front door, you see nothing but white stone and an infinity pool directly in front of you, juxtaposed with the open sea. The house was built decades ago on the cliff of a public beach, something which today would never be permitted. Top models and tennis players attended the party and we all danced until the sun fully disappeared.
The big day finally arrived: I was playing Pacha that night. My manager, Adam Alpert of 4AM, BBMed me that the Pacha guys wanted me to come do a little pre-party at Cafe Mambo. I’ve always heard about its legendary pre-parties, and to actually play there as the pre-party for my night at Pacha made it all the more special. I played with the Pacha NYC crew, led by Eddie Dean and Rob Fernandez. I played alongside NYC-natives DJ David Berrie, Pauly Raffaele, and Theo. The part of San Antonio beach that Mambo is situated on was packed for its daily sunset celebration. People were walking up and down the boardwalk and stopping to dance when they passed Mambo’s DJ booth. Luckily I got to play one of the later sets, but I cut it close, ending with exactly enough time to jump in a taxi and be at Pacha for my big set.
Pacha was special. For years I wanted to play that club, on that island. To be able to finally do so with a crew of friends from Pacha New York made the experience all the more significant. Originally I was scheduled to play the opening set from 1-2am, but DJ Jus Ske gave me his 4-5am set time, giving me two, one-hour long sets to play. Things just kept on getting better. Everyone was dancing. All my friends from the villa, New York, and everywhere else were in the room dancing in front of me. I played George Morel’s “Just Groove,” and the room blew up. Those four epic cymbal crashes before the drop never sounded as good as they did that night. The Italians were all cheering and chanting, as they often do. I got home and did not begin to fully recap all the night’s events until I was in bed at 11am the next morning.
For years people in New York told me not to play certain tracks in certain genres, saying they were “too Ibiza.” This summer, I was fortunate enough to be able to play what I wanted at every party I worked. People in Ibiza generally come with a passion or a curiosity when it comes to electronic music. Their willingness to trust the DJ and stay with him for the duration of a set makes DJs feel comfortable wherever they play on the island.
After two full weeks in Ibiza, we packed up and left our villa behind. I headed to Italy for my last few gigs. I played at Sottovento nightclub in Portocervo for the second year in a row. I got such a great reaction from the crowd, using mostly vocal European house. Tuccillo’s remix of “Hey Hey” blew that room up. Rai television was in the booth filming and doing an interview.
Towards the end of my trip I went to Capri for two nights to attend a friend’s party. Immediately after getting off the hydrofoil, my friends and I did what everyone does at 7pm in Italy: Aperitivo! We went to Il Panterei, ordered a drink, and began to feel like something was missing. I went to the owner and asked him if he would let me replace his classical music CD with something a little more deep. He gave me carte blanche and shortly after, I was already playing again in Capri. We sent the word out and filled the club with our friends while I played for two hours. We took over a well-known venue and basically threw a house party.
And finally Panarea, one of the two or three places in the world I could call home. I played at the historic Raya “discoteca,” the best (and only) club on the island, but also in the entire Eolian region. Raya holds roughly 600 people and is consistently packed in the summer months. The star-studded crowd was a mixture of longtime friends and family members, 90% of whom were Italian. Days later someone sent me an article that the party had been in Page 6. I was shocked! The fact that this one-night affair, in a tiny island in the Mediterranean, could end up in a newspaper back home, was powerful. It read: “Masterpiece art dealer Gerard Faggionato’s 50th birthday was packed with wealthy guests. The London-based dealer, who runs Faggionato Fine Art and represents Francis Bacon’s estate, hosted 300 friends at an ultra-private dance party at nightclub Raya in Panarea, Italy, on Friday. DJ Orazio Rispo mixed for Stavros Niarchos, Princess of Monaco Charlotte Casiraghi, Mark Getty and Uma Thurman and her boyfriend Arpad Busson, who stayed until the lights came on at 4a.m.”
It had been such an amazing summer. I didn’t want to come home. I called the Alitalia and postponed my flight home by 4 days. An hour later, Adam called me to tell me that we have a walkthrough scheduled at the brand new Lavo in New York City, where I would be starting my new Saturday night residency for Jason Strauss, Noah Tepperberg, Rocco Ancorola, and Jayma Cordoso. Nothing could be better than concluding an incomparable summer European tour than the excitement of having the biggest residency at the hottest new nightclub in NYC. I was so sad to leave and so happy to be home!
For more info on Orazio, go here.