Interview With Stephen Hussey

USO Founder, Stephen Hussey, conductor, arranger and musical producer for Classic Ibiza, has worked for over 25 years alongside many dance music greats, including Groove Armada, Robert Miles and Nightmares On Wax.

Many thanks for taking the time to chat to me ahead of this year’s Classic Ibiza. Are these events something the USO look forward to each year?

Thanks for having me. Touring Classic Ibiza is a bit like going on a brilliant road trip with your mates. Beautiful venues, playing the best music to loyal and appreciative audiences who come back year after year. What’s not to love?

The shows are so atmospheric, and the music is sensational. How easy/difficult is it to select tracks for the shows and more importantly create the set list?

It’s actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. Firstly, house music has such a rich back-catalogue, dating back to the tunes coming out of Chicago in the 80s. Much of it lends itself perfectly to that wall of sound treatment that an orchestra can offer.

In terms of the track selection, a small group of us get together every year with our suggestions. Like our audience, we all absolutely love dance music. Then, there’s our annual track poll where we ask our audience to vote for the tracks they want to hear. That’s always very popular.

When it comes to reinventing the tracks, it’s important to re-use a lot of their original essence, like hooks, riffs, melodies and motifs, but the process is also about imagining what I’d have put on the original recording. It’s a great opportunity for artistic expression, especially when you’ve got such a varied orchestral palette to choose from.

Do any of the set lists change depending on the venue, and how important are the locations in selecting what to play?

The venues we perform at are certainly a major part of what makes Classic Ibiza so special. Take Bowood, for example, with Capability Brown’s stunningly designed gardens. When I’m creating the show, I imagine the audience, the setting, and it inspires me. I think, “what would I want to hear if I was there?”

But there’s also a crazy juxtaposition going on. Who’d have thought a few years back that we’d be having posh raves in the back gardens of the landed gentry!

Do you have any favourite tracks from the set list?

Difficult one, but I guess I’d go for Superstylin’ by Groove Armada – it’s one of the tracks in this summer’s set which we’ve rested for a couple years. I love their mix of steppers meets house, with some killer dub horns and amazing vocals. I remember them playing it to me at the studio when we were recording other tracks on the ‘Goodbye Country, Hello Nightclub’ album. It blew me away at the time and has done ever since.

Having been to a number of your shows, there are certainly some fan favourites (Insomnia), do any of the tracks give you goosebumps when they are played?

Next year we’ll be celebrating 10 years of Classic Ibiza, and over that time we’ve accumulated a huge repertoire of over 130 tracks. Apart from Superstylin’, my favourites are the epic bangers: ‘Sandstorm’, ‘Adagio’, ‘We Come 1’, ‘Waiting All Night’ and of course ‘Insomnia’.

These tracks create a powerful connection between us and the audience. Seeing thousands of people singing along and having a great time emits this incredible energy, which takes our performance to a whole different level. When it happens, it’s truly magical.

Are there any tracks you would love to include for future tours?

Believe it or not, we’re going to be playing 16 completely new tracks this year, many of which we’ve been dying to perform for ages. I don’t want to ruin the surprise at this stage, but this year’s show of 40 house classics is without doubt our best yet.

And before people write in, I can confirm that we will be playing Insomnia!

Come rain or shine, the crowds love the whole vibe Classic Ibiza creates and a lot of that comes down to the amazing USO. Where else can we see you playing in 2024?

That’s very kind. In addition to the two nights at Bowood on 19 & 20 July, we’re going to be at six other incredible venues over the summer. Best bet is to head over to where you can check out details of the full tour.

If you can’t wait that long, we’ll also be releasing our third Classic Ibiza album in early May. It’s a live album recorded across 6 shows on our 2023 tour. You’ll be able to listen to it on all major music platforms.

This interview originally appeared in the April issue of InBath magazine.




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