There is something engagingly democratic about Andy McKay – the boss and founder of one of the coolest brands in the entertainment industry. Mallorca Rocks is the younger sibling of Ibiza Rocks and the brainchild of McKay and, for someone who is probably more responsible for Ibiza’s “party island” label than anyone else, he is surprisingly low key, intensely intelligent and very direct.
In the reception area of Magaluf’s Mallorca Rocks Hotel – as scores of his young staff are busying themselves getting organized for the evening’s gig – he calmly accedes to our photographer’s demands, whilst most of his youthful staff seem to be intrigued as to who he might be. Andy McKay’s whole demeanour is that of a rather cerebral record producer on-a-mission, he also has an aura of quiet authority about him that is vaguely unsettling. He silently watches everything and everybody, yet seems to miss nothing, which if you think about it, must be a prime requirement for a promoter and businessman in the cut-throat world of club life – whether it is in Manchester, San Antonio or nowadays the boondocks of Magaluf.
Brought up on an RAF base in Lincolnshire, where his father was a serving officer, Andy McKay eventually studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Leeds University. After resisting a career in the Royal Air Force he hooked up with his older brother Mike and organized club nights in and around Manchester. When holidaying in Ibiza in the early 1990s, they decide to try their Manumission club concept in Ibiza. Manumission means freedom from slavery: “The idea was that it would be a night that would free people from the slavery of everyday life.” After a number of years of “piggybacking” his club ideas very successfully with a number of venues on that island, he launched the Ibiza Rocks brand in 2004 and the rest, as they say, is history. In answering my question as to what drives him, McKay is very succinct in his philosophy: “You have to totally believe in what you’re doing and must have the faith to carry it through.” He also talks of the hard times he has been through with his ventures – almost going bust when involved in lengthy litigation and, once in Manchester, being doused with petrol by an unhappy local gangster.
At the age of forty, with a wife and three children, Andy McKay perhaps could be forgiven if he were to concentrate on various business projects he is involved in on the “White Island.” However, in the spring of 2010 Ibiza Rocks – in partnership with the Fiesta Hotel Group – bought a hotel on the fringes of Magaluf (328 rooms and a central courtyard that will take 4,000 revellers) and decided to try and replicate the astonishing success of the Ibiza Rocks Hotel operation in its entirety. Not that he approves of replication; McKay conquered Ibiza by doing things differently. He outraged many clubbers by re-introducing live bands and challenged the hegemony of more established clubs by daring to be “innovative and different.”
Was his move to Magaluf universally popular? “Most people have been supportive, but some understandably don’t like change; what we have to offer I believe to be good for both local business and tourism. There is nothing to fear from Mallorca Rocks, the thousands of people that come to our gigs on a Tuesday night will spill out onto the streets of Magaluf at midnight and be looking for somewhere else to go.” Clearly, McKay sees Mallorca Rocks as a valuable addition to the tourism mix that will enhance Mallorca’s appeal – particularly to the young. I ask if Mallorca and Ibiza are similar in terms of business, culture and politics. “No, they are very different culturally and in many other ways, so it would be wrong to try and treat them in the same way and we will not be making that mistake.”
Interestingly, McKay thinks that, in terms of his target audience, Magaluf/Mallorca is a little more “mainstream” in its taste for club music than Ibiza and the present profile of potential clientele is a couple of years younger. Clearly he loves what he does and saves his strongest criticism for people and businesses that he considers “don’t have a creative bone in their body.”
In returning to the subject of other similar enterprises locally not being that keen on having the Mallorca Rocks Hotel juggernaut on their doorstep, he is surprisingly sanguine: “Sure there will be those who have selfish reasons to fear our arrival here, but most I think have genuine concerns that I believe are misplaced.” The thrust of his argument being that the Mallorca Rocks Hotel will be a good thing for all concerned – whether it is occasional or dedicated clubbers, local business of all descriptions, or the micro and macro visitor benefits of having such a recognized marque as “Mallorca Rocks” available to the island’s tourist industry. One thing is for certain, since the end of May on every Tuesday night, Mallorca Rocks has produced and presented top-class gigs for thousands of young people. I wondered what keeps him going; doesn’t he ever get bored? “I have a real thirst for change. Most people are scared of change, but I thrive on it and really enjoy it.”
The current season ends in September with a sign-off gig by iconic British band Madness . . . and by then I suspect that even Mallorca Rocks’ most grudging critics may have been won over by its positive presence. But you never know!