Notice how important dance music is now? Thank this guy.
The technological revolution has changed the EDM game considerably in the past five years. So what does it take to separate one producer from a planet occupied by a sea of Ableton armies? Just ask the biggest player in the game, the voice behind “h. t. t. p. Colon. Forward slash. Forward slash. W-W-W. Dot. B.B.C. Radio. 1. Dot ‘co.’ Dot ‘uk.’”: Pete Tong.
Every single week for the past 20 years, Tong’s been picking “the world’s best DJs,” and the newest, most cutting-edge producers (including Boston’s own Soul Clap) to play BBC Radio 1′s definitive destination for dance music artists and lovers alike. Earlier this month, he launched “All Gone Pete Tong” for iHeartRadio, which is on every weekday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Along with Diplo, Eats Everything, and Wolfgang Gartner, Tong is a part of Clear Channel Media’s brand new all-EDM channel, Evolution, created to celebrate the impossible-to-ignore explosion of dance music in the U.S.
So FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, here’s a Dig interview with Mr. Tong himself.
Aside from good selection, what makes a good DJ, or a good “Essential Mix?”
When a DJ comes along and plays some of their music and remixes others—essentially DJing in the purest form—and they can create a sound, I think that’s pretty incredible. People that can find things and just string them together so you know, after two hours, that you’re listening to that person—that’s what we look for, for the Mix. Like Maya Jane Coles, recently, or Eats Everything. Obviously they do play music that they make, but they play other songs. They’re turning people on to other artists, but they sound like ‘The DJ.’
What’s an Essential Mix that was overlooked, or that people might not remember, that you feel was a really good one?
I think Solomun’s remains amazing.
Solomun – Essential Mix (2012-07-28) by EverybodywantstobetheDJ
And there’s another one that Ame did, about four or five years ago, that I always thought was really underrated. The Deetron one recently was amazing.
Deetron – Essential Mix (2012-11-17) by EverybodywantstobetheDJ
What would you say is unique about the dance music scene in the UK, besides it being so diverse? Because it seems very young to me.
It ebbs and flows. The whole culture of clubbing really did start in the UK between the years of ’87 and ’90, ’91. Even though a lot of music was coming from America, we kind of made up the game (laughs)—and the rest of the world caught up.
In the last two or three years, we’ve had a really big revival, and it’s totally coming from the underground. The Germans probably carried it, and the South Americans, for the past four or five years, but the English are really melding with it now. From Jamie Jones to Damian Lazarus and the whole Crosstown Rebels crew, and the really young end of it is Disclosure, and the new sound that has come half out of British underground urban music—you know, drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep, and now they’re playing four-to-the-floor house music. So then, a lot of young kids who were into dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass are now checking out Jamie Jones. So, I wouldn’t say [England’s] king of the underground right now, but it’s in a really good place for creativity.
With “All Gone Pete Tong,” you‘re playing the most important EDM tracks in the world right now. What about the classic stuff? Do you think it’s important for kids in the U.S. who are just getting into EDM to learn more about its history?
In America, there was a line drawn in the sand a few years ago, and America’s kind of started again with a whole new audience coming into it [that was] initially brought in by the most popular DJs.
We’ll see how the station evolves, but I don’t know if the new audience is that into history. (laughs)
BBC Radio is state-run. What are the advantages of that? Like, “In New DJs We Trust.” We don’t hear any of that in the U.S.
I’d say there’s nothing like it in the rest of the world, when it comes to Radio 1. It’s amazing.
They play pop music, but they also have this huge commitment to new music and new DJs, so in navigating that power for 40, 50 years, that’s been their mission statement—that’s what makes it so powerful. They’ve always wanted a big audience because they felt, what’s the point of being elitist?
There isn’t anything like that in America.
But now with streaming platforms—the boon of new technology—suddenly you’ve got a whole new generation. And some of them don’t even know what radio is.
In America there’s an opportunity to change the game a little bit. At the moment, the only thing that really exists are services like Pandora, which only give the people what they’re comfortable with. They’re not going to move anything along or break any new bounds, and that’s what iHeartRadio is all about, and that’s what Evolution’s all about. We’re going to try to move everything on and see if we can be a support network for new bands, new DJs, new artists.
Do you think this new station will make U.S. radio suck less? Because it totally sucks compared to BBC.
If someone asked me, ‘Would it be great to see it on terrestrial radio?’ my knee-jerk reaction would be, ‘Yes, it’d be lovely to have an outlet on terrestrial radio.’ But would you have to water it down, or homogenize it too much, to make it palatable? Would it be worth it? That’s the question. And I don’t know.
Your new compilation is called Future Sounds, and a lot of young producers don’t define themselves by one genre. Is the future going to be less genre-focused?
And usually they’re really honest, just doing it to please themselves, and it happens to be popular with other people. The whole thing’s much more genuine.
Every week I find people making their own musical statements. Sometimes they’ll come out at the wrong tempo and go, “Oh my god!” But it doesn’t really matter, if it’s really good.
One of the records that came out over the summer was 116 BPM, and people sped it up, but the fact is it stood out—like a shining light—because it was unique.
This label, French Express, coming out of New York right now, you’d never guess in a million years it was coming from America. You’d guess from a basement in Berlin, or Paris, or London, but not America. But it is, and it’s so refreshing that they’re doing something fresh and unique, and it’s slow, and it’s soulful, and it’s immediately turning people on.
To give credit where credit’s due, there’s a million people trying to be Swedish House Mafia, but there will always only be one Swedish House Mafia, because they kind of did it first. (laughs) Their DJ careers for the previous ten, fifteen years were all rolled up into that one moment where they dropped One, and there was no one that made any record like that before. They were the first ones to do that, and now look at people. Everybody’s trying to sound like them. Some are doing quite successful, but no one will ever do what they do, not with that sound.
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