As we sit on the terrace looking out onto the freshly ploughed, stony red soil of the Ibiza countryside, an Ibicenco farmer passes through his field of fruit trees and raises a weathered arm to the steel blue skies in recognition of us. A rusty tractor adds to the ambient noise of the normally peaceful environment, slightly perturbing my host Mark Barrott, who has just sat down to talk with me about his music, work and life in Ibiza. Now at 48 years of age, Barrott is to the forefront of the Balearic music scene not just in Ibiza, but worldwide. He is one of the very few artists producing music on the island which he now calls home. His home, or compound as he likes to call it, is centred deep in the idyllic Ibiza campo, where the sun rises over the wheat fields to his east and its orange luminescence glow sets behind the pine covered hills to his west. It’s a beautiful place to produce music, pristine in its simple essence and wholesome naturality. One can understand why Mark prefers to spend much of his time here rather than connect with the boisterous and fast paced world outside the compound gates.
With Mark’s wife serving us peppermint tea and olives, we talk about Ibiza and the Balearic scene. “I was playing drum and bass up North and although I was the first live artist to play it on Radio 1, it was very much a closed scene” comments Mark. “It was all happening in London and I felt like an outsider looking in” It was this drive to be an influential player that lifted Barrott out of a middle class existence in Sheffield, and it was to manifest itself again with the establishment of the independent record label International Feel Recordings. “I was sitting in Uruguay having just recorded the single Hands Of Love and couldn’t get anybody to sign it. I believed in it so much and I was not willing to let it go, so I created International Feel to release it ” The year was 2008 and vinyl sales were on the decline but Hands Of Love bucked that trend and sold over 4000 copies with remixes from DJ Harvey, Gatto Fritto and Reverso 68 included on the 4 track EP. With its success pressed into the rich and earthy analog waveform of vinyl, International Feel had just made a big statement in sound and in doing so, announced itself onto the Balearic scene. The industry sat up and noticed and soon after vinyl started to make a comeback. Today, the few vinyl presses that are still in existence are working at full capacity to keep up with demand.
My first encounter with Mark’s music was through his Sketches from an Island series. Both albums were recorded less than a few feet from where I was now sitting on his terrace. “At home I have a summer studio and a winter one which is darker and helps me focus on the mood”. As an artist, Mark is always dueling with the dark side of the human psyche. One of my stand out tracks on Sketches is, Forgotten Island, which Mark wrote as the soundtrack to his funeral, offering us a glimpse inside the author’s mind. Both Sketches albums are beautiful auditory experiences, but Sketches two has much more emotion to it along with precision production. The album succeeds in capturing the sound of silence so eloquently “ White noise is music to my ears. I love listening to it for hours” comments Mark as a warm smile stretches across his face. Barrott works with some of the best sound engineers in the world, meticulously mastering and mixing his music to have it not just good, but perfect. From the artistic album sleeves pressed onto the best quality 180g vinyl, his attention to detail is thorough. This is where the integrity and authenticity of Barrett’s work shines through – bespoke craftsmanship.
As our conversation weaves through the fields of music we come across the landmark that is the sound of the Balearic beat. The main thrust of my interview, which was to ask the man now seen as to the forefront of its development, what it means to him. “ I have been to all the Balearic islands and none of them offer the same energy or power that Ibiza has. It is unique and something special, you can’t put it into words but it is here and you feel it always has been” comments Mark. “ It’s the only place in the world where you can have a hippy living in a cave and not more than a few miles up the road a DJ is being paid €150,000 for 3 hours work playing other people’s music”. I smile to myself and think that without the contribution of producers like Barrott some industry built superstar DJ’s would have no product to remix or play. “For me the Balearic beat or sound is all about freedom of expression” states Mark as he tries to grapple with its essence. “ Ibiza and its people have always nurtured that core identity of welcome and freedom, being acceptant of all cultures and diversity and when you blend them all together you get a feel for the sound of the Balearic”.
Classically trained on the piano from a young age, Barrott’s unconventional style is unique and with 20 years experience in the business he has few peers on the Balearic scene which he now calls home. He does not drink alcohol or smoke and enjoys the healthy pleasures of a Vegan diet. Some may call him a Maverick but I would prefer to call him a perfectionist with a finely tuned ear for crisp and warm waves in sound. He is a cult figure in Japan and fans from the land of the Rising Sun, travel to the island of the setting one to hear him play every Thursday at Hostal La Torre on Cap Negret where its magnificent views inspire creativity. So what does the future hold for Barrott. “ I think it’s time for me to get off the publicity treadmill and go back into the studio this winter and record some more music” What’s it going to be I ask, another Sketches Album?” Barrott smiles back and says “ Let’s just see what happens”