Jonny Lee: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life


Music can change the world. DJs can save lives. And in clubland, Jonny Lee is something of a saint.

TWO-AND-A-HALF years ago Lee – DJ, party promoter, fundraiser and sometime woods-cavorter – harnessed his passion for peace and music by establishing Last Night a DJ Saved My Life. The foundation does exactly what it says on the tin: ‘unity, community and serious fun’; it is the gift that keeps on giving – raising funds through unadulterated fun for humanitarian and environmental causes.

The charity works by cherry-picking organisations in need of support and is largely funded by the public through events with the support of music industry stalwarts like Fatboy Slim, James Lavelle, Carl Cox and Sasha. The idea first came to Lee in 2009 when he “woke up with the name one morning and a big grin on my face. I immediately approached Danny Rampling to become the first trustee. Once Danny agreed at the IMS it all became a reality”.

Lee first came to Ibiza, aged two, in 1971 with his parents and proceeded to return every year until 1991 when he launched the Vinyl Cafe club in Koh Phangan, Thailand. He ran a radio station, Autonomous Zone, in the Himalayas and set up the first pirate station in Bombay.

Then, gravitating toward the burgeoning electronic music scene in Europe (“it was a natural progression”), he settled here with his wife, Cyd, in 1999. “Experiencing Ibiza and the birth of the acid house explosion was enough to involve me from a very early stage,” Lee says. “DJing a more Balearic style for many a year has confirmed my love for music and the dance community we are all involved in, especially here in Ibiza.”

His fundraisers to-date have included Earthrun, which raised awareness for environmental schemes with 200 people running five kilometres around San Antonio Bay, and Earthdance, a global synchronised dance event that took place in over 60 countries and 200 locations worldwide; both raising over €5000 for local causes.

This summer he teamed up with We Love… at Space and raised €2600 from the guestlist. The same initiative will be repeated this Sunday at the We Love… closing party when Rejane Magloire (who sang the original Last Night a DJ Saved My Life track with Indeep in 1982) will fly in from New York to perform on the sunset terrace. €5 will be collected from all non-paying guests and the funds will aid the Ibiza Preservation Fund. “The dance community is a global phenomena and one which has a lot of positive energy around it,” Lee says. “Our goal is to harness some of that energy into positive change.”

Why did you feel there was a need in Ibiza for a foundation like Last Night a DJ Saved My Life?
“I felt a big need for there to be a charitable focus for the dance community which related to all charitable causes and there didn’t seem to be one. It wasn’t so much with Ibiza in mind but more the globe. Ibiza represented a major part in the birth of this global community and it is nice for Ibiza to represent something from the heart rather than the commercial side of the business.”

How does it fundamentally work?
“In a nut shell we are approaching promoters to support charitable causes, using our foundation to help find that focus and deliver a charitable method for their night which suits the club environment. We have DJs who are performing at some of our events for free in order to help us raise funds for charity on the night.”

There is obviously money on the island, but do people in Ibiza have deep pockets?
“My experience so far is it’s not an easy place to fundraise from those that live here. The whole concept of charity is one which is not as widespread in Spanish culture as it is in the British culture. Over the past two years though I have started to see more activity happening, and the international community here getting involved in charitable events and fundraising activities.”

What about some of the artists you collaborate with – how did they become involved?
“Alfredo was the first DJ we approached to become involved as a patron and he has DJ’d for us at the launch parties in Ibiza and London. Most of the DJs have either come to us and offered to get involved or we already knew them. Danny Rampling is an old friend and has been on board form the off and worked with us a lot in making the charity move forward. Fatboy Slim is a very close friend of our creative director and has offered his support whenever the time comes to ask him to perform at a big event. DJ Ease, our patron, has offered the support of the Wax On label and in the near future we will be launching a scheme with other labels to bring a different EP out each month which will be downloadable to raise funds.”

Which areas do you think really need support right now?
“In Ibiza we can see that environmentally there doesn’t seem to be great support. My work alongside Greenheart and asking councils for money to support good projects proved to us there is a great lack of funding for any environmental projects, so we have decided to raise these funds ourselves to help finance these projects, which will have a positive effect on the environment of our beautiful island.”

What are some of LNADJ’s most significant accomplishments?
“Our launch party in London, the Acid House Effect, was amazing bringing together the acid house legends followed by the all-dayer Balearic Mystique party was equally uplifting. Getting our charitable status on June 20 for sure is the biggest to-date.”

What projects do you have in the pipeline?
“One which really inspires me is our partnership with Global Enduro who do classic car and bike rallies all over the world. We are teaming up to create adventure party people and will be running our first charity challenge in October 2012 where we will be travelling down the south of India around 1000 kilometres with up to 140 Royal Enfield motor bikes and 20 ambassador cars.

“There will be numerous DJs taking part and a documentary being filmed as we go along. This will no doubt raise a lot of funds along the way and we have many more trips which will be going ahead.”

How can people get involved?
“The best way, whoever you are, is to get in touch via the email and explain what you do, or in what way do you want to get involved. We are very open for people to join in and volunteer a number of skills which all help to keep costs down and can mean we can move forward with the concept and be effective at fundraising. DJs, promoters, agents, venues can all help out by putting their names down as supporters of the foundation and help spread the word.”

Which faces and places in Ibiza have been most supportive in their fight for the cause?
“We Love… has been amazing from the off this season and enabled us to fundraise within Space. Jon Sa Trinxa has DJ’d for us many a time for local events. All at Casita Verde have given us lots of support in many ways. Jill and Elaine at Fix Ibiza have also been very helpful along the way. David at IbiCasa has been a great supporter and provided us with lots of editorial when we have needed it. The IMS has given us the ability to be a part of that also.

“There are too many people to list but we can say that everyone we approach offers us some level of support which has proven that the concept is working and we are very grateful for that.”

How can music save the world?
“I think music can help inspire change and is certainly a way of engaging the youth in more awareness-raising events and fundraising to help others. The world I am sure will save itself but those on it need to certainly become part of the change rather than being spectators. I also think lyrically we can inspire people to love.”

What do you think makes Ibiza so unique?
“The many cultures which have passed through such a small island have left a real mix of cultures. There is certainly a hedonistic way of life here which can continue as normal and be embraced rather than scorned upon. What Ibiza has created within the dance community is amazing and will continue to inspire clubbers and clubs worldwide.”

First published on I Voice, Ibiza, September 2011.
© Abbey Stirling