“This festival is at your own pace,” someone purrs on the phone in a voice note to a friend. It’s the third and final day of the inaugural Defected Malta and festival goers have gathered for a day of raves in Fort St Elmo. “I hate being the bearer of bad news,” she adds, queuing at the glitter stand. “Next year, jump on it.”
The sun is at its peak when we arrive, but that does not prevent some from giving full on the dancefloor. Most have played it safe, staking out the shadows, but others stand front and center, soaking up the afternoon heat and reveling in honeyed melodies. The venue’s decor dominates the crowd – Glitterbox flags hang gonfalon-style from the fort’s interior walls, some with the brand’s heart, others with photo prints reminiscent of a young Brigitte Nielsen.
The stage, flanked by soaring columns of mirrors, features a catwalk podium – for the dancers, who will arrive later – and a sound system that carries far beyond the walls of the building. And then there’s the crowd, many of whom literally sparkle – beards, cheeks and arms covered in glitter. As we settle into the makeshift green room, Fat Tony walks around, gives someone a friendly middle finger, and glides to the stage, all in one act.
Defected is a tribe. As the UK’s biggest house label – and arguably claiming the title of the most influential in the world – its global reach and fanbase set it apart in underground circles. It’s a world where the pleasures are guilt-free and where super fans can, if they wish, attend a label event any month of the year. With parties in places as far-flung as South Africa and Indonesia, regular tours in the United States and Australia, and legendary residencies in Ibiza – not to mention his annual six-day trip to Croatia – he’s never There’s not much this label won’t do. Malta, however, is new unknown – some 50 DJs have been flown in to entertain the tribe at five locations over three days, and while Defected Croatia is located at one site, in Malta the locations are spread across the country. island.
We sit down with Wez Saunders, the new CEO and co-owner of Defected, who has been with the label since 2014, to talk logistics. “The returns have been pretty incredible for the first year,” he told DJ Mag at St Elmo, the disco blaring in the background. “People really trust us to throw great parties and find cool places.”