Manumission Motel

Manumission Motel

Any hedonist who raved in the ‘90s will be familiar with the Manumission and the club’s infamous creators, Mike and Claire. Over 14 years, over 1.5 million people partied at Manumission in Ibiza. It was the biggest weekly party on earth. This epic accolade led to a place in the Guinness World Records, outraged tabloid hysteria and endless urban myths of Balearic debauchery.

Claire Manumission has penned a memoir focussing on The Motel- an abandoned brothel on the edge of Ibiza town, which they opened as an after-hours venue and handy hotel for guest DJs, A-list luminaries and a kaleidoscopic circus of revellers.

I spoke to Mike and Claire about the publication of The Motel-  High Times in ‘90s Ibiza.

It’s been a long time, why now?

C – Something struck me during our conversation. It’s almost as if we have a duty – as do you Stewart – to tell our stories – provide context, insight, wisdom and direction for generations to come, who might want to achieve something outstanding in their world.  If you don`t stand up, and take credit for your work, then somebody else will.

The memoir serves to revisit a moment in time, for those of us who lived and breathed it and to hopefully inspire a new generation to find their own Motel state of mind.

M – Plus the kids have grown up!!!

Mike & Claire by Michel Figuet. 1996

Manumission was subversive- but the global nature of the brand invited a broad audience, was that ever an issue?

M – No, it may surprise you that it wasn’t. Manumission brought out a different side of people. They came to have their minds blown.

C – and so left their prejudices in their suitcases!

M – We invited them into our world.

C – and treated them like they were at a party in our house. It just happened to be a very big house! There were never any incidents.

How would you describe the Manumission vibe?

M – The ethos behind Manumission was – be free to do whatever you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone else.

M – As the party went on, it’s only the real diehards left at the end of the 36 hour session. And then they are your band of merry men. It was very different to the ivory towers that DJs exist in now. Up there like Gods. It really does change the dynamic of the situation.

The Balearic lifestyle must have put a strain on your relationship- how did you survive that?

C – We felt like Bogart and Bacall. Nobody lived it like we did. We were head over heels in love, but Mike was not as naturally monogamous as I am. But when I did the first live shows with Renata, she was a 6 foot Helmut Newton-esque dancer – that proved to be an interesting shift in the dynamic.

Mike and I adopted a little street dog called Chuli. He was our anchor, our ‘wedding ring’. We may not have made it through without him. He looked up at us with his big brown eyes when we argued.

Plus we have always done everything together. That is one of our secrets.

Mike, Howard Marks and Claire in the Pink Pussy by Philip Silcock

How did you become involved with Trade and Laurence Malice?

M – The club owner changed the name of the venue from KU to Privilege, and in ‘99 he fell out with the Art Director, Brasilio.

M – The drag queens were part of Brasiliio’s loyal family. They were also a huge part of Manumission. José Marie, Ku’s owner, slapped a huge tax bill on Brasilio, so he left, and took them all to Amnesia.

Brasillio banned his loyal gay crowd from going to Manumission, because he was angry with Jose Maria. It hurt us at the time, but we understood. At that point, we turned to Laurence – and Trade.

What did Malice bring to the party?

C – Laurence is an inspiration. He’s always aware of the cutting edge, constantly searching. A brilliant mind, a beautiful soul.

C – Laurence bought a fresh wave of wild and beautiful open-minded souls with him. He also bought a highly credible line-up. Not many people know this, but thanks to Laurence and Trade, Manumission was the first club to play techno on the island.

La Prohibida at Manumission 1996 by Josean

How did you survive the extreme hedonism?

C – We lived in a farmhouse in the San Juan Valley. Walking barefoot in nature was the perfect respite to stilettos in the old town. And in 2000 we started our own family. The Motel lifestyle was over for me. No more drugs – ever again.

But the party was still rocking at capacity. It took a huge amount of time and energy to sustain it. But the winters were spent in the valley with our three beautiful children. We had 100 chickens, 7 potbelly pigs, a family of Egyptian ducks, 4 dogs and 20 cats.

It was that earthy balance that kept us alive. We have escaped some very dangerous situations, including several serious car accidents. It is a hardcore, hazardous life! We count our blessings and try not to take that for granted. 

What incidents at the Motel did you consider leaving out of the book?

C – The whole thing! It took years before we were ready to revisit the history. Press were banned, and the whole ethos was about being free to let your hair down. There was a huge element of trust. And we’ve not wanted to betray that. On the other hand, it is a time that needs to be celebrated. Especially now!

In nightclubs, big business tends to attract big criminals – was that a problem?

M – Ibiza is a small island, and everyone always knew what was going on. If you were dealing drugs- there were always informants! Everyone knew who sold. And they all knew we didn’t. So we had that protection. Also, most of the serious criminals who came to the island, came to have a good time, so we really only ever saw their best sides.

C – They also knew we drew huge crowds to the island to enjoy our parties, at the centre of which was some almighty scandal. But you have to remember the island is pagan and we reflected in what we were doing.

Claire & Dan Macmillan by Philip Silcock

Who was the most unexpected person you found partying at the Motel?

C – The one-eyed cleaning lady pole dancing was an eye opener! Smoking a joint with Shaun Ryder, who was sitting next to Elle MacPherson. Finding Bez swinging in a hammock on the roof as the sun rose over the old town.  

What did you see or experience at the Motel that crossed a line for you?

C- There was a perfect balance to Manumission, we designed it to wipe everyone out – a 36 hour party once a week. But then came the Motel. There was no respite. And things became a little too Balearic!

The customary three hours sleep we’d been surviving on during the eight weeks since we moved in to the Motel started to take effect on the pair of lab rats we had become. We were willing participants in our own self-created experiment: the alcohol, the stimulants, the sleep deprivation, the fresh wave of DJ’s and guests to entertain nightly.

The fact that we were a couple trying to hold it together under that pink roof became more and more of a problem. The drugs, the fading grasp on reality. The lack of food and clothing! In a way it broke us, and without us, it was broken. There was also jealousy from the outside. It was a chocolate box of illegal activity.

There was a police raid one morning whilst we were all at Carry On, our after-hours party at Space. When we returned there was a very dark energy. Irvine Welsh said that something like the Motel was just too strong to last – he was right!

The Motel- High Times in ’90s Ibiza by Claire Manumission

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