Pete Tong is running late. Our interview has been pushed back twice, but we’ll forgive him. Tong is a world-recognized British electronic music artist, starting with his career as a house music and radio DJ, first for Invicta Radio before moving to BBC Radio 1 with his Friday night show, The Big Beat. In 1991, he reformatted the show into the Essential Selection, which became Europe’s premier music broadcast for 15 years. Tong still works with BBC 1 and broadcasts the Evolution show on the channel he helped launch for Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio.
Tong also travels and DJs extensively. Now best known for his presence in Ibiza, where he ran “Pure Pacha” nights until 2007, then “Wonderland” at Eden, before returning to Pacha in 2011 to host the popular weekly party, “It’s All Gone Pete Tong” (cockney rhyming slang for “wrong”). A little over a week pre-Movement, Tong gives us our summer playlist.
Metro Times: You’ve been hosting Radio 1 on the weekends since, is it since 1991? Is that correct?
Pete Tong: That’s right, yeah.
MT: And it’s been, well, I’ve been listening to it on the Internet for a long time and I would say it’s been primarily house music — or would you disagree with that statement?
Tong: Really, it’s just focused around electronic dance music. But back in ’91 when I was literally the only show on the station that was covering that kind of music, it would be very varied. I mean house music obviously dominated it, but I would play drum and bass, I would play hip-hop, actually as well, if it was from a kind of intelligent side of it and more experimental side of it. It was whatever was interesting really — breaks, everything. But then as Radio 1 evolved and their commitment to the electronic space got more depth to it and we got more shows on the station and more specialist presenters, then for instance, I wouldn’t be playing hip-hop and I wouldn’t be playing drum and bass or stuff like that. I would still, if I heard what I thought was the best, you know, breaks record or drum and bass record I’d ever heard, I would play it on my show. I’ve never been closed … I hate narrowcasting, I hate genres, really.
MT: You’ve introduced people to a lot of different things, because everyone, through the vehicle of your show, you know everyone has come to you, which makes you respected in your own right aside from your DJ’ing. Over the years, what would you say your favorite thing that you’ve created notoriety for has been?
Tong: It’s great when people seek me out, it’s always an honor and a thrill and it makes the whole job worth doing and probably explains more than any reason why I still do it. Why I still have the enthusiasm to do it. When someone comes up, when they make a record and they’ve literally just made it and they come because they want you to play it first or they want me to be the one that kind of decides whether it comes out or not sometimes. You know, I get kind of humbled by that. I think it’s kind of silly, but you know it’s good. So, yeah, the crazy situations over the years… well, I’ll always remember when Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk kind of sought me out in Paris and like brought me like literally one of the first copies of “Music Sounds Better With You” that was pressed of the Stardust record. He was really concerned and wanted me to have it first and for me to play it first on the radio. He signed it and I’ve still got it actually. So, things like that will always be really special moments.
MT: Well, yeah, of course. In your capacity as a DJ, how many times, if you know, how many times have you played here in Detroit?
Tong: I lost count, I don’t know. Quite a few. I have never done Movement, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival; it’s always clashed with the opening of Ibiza. They’ve invited me, asked me now consistently for the last four or five years and I’ve never been able to do it, so I’m pretty delighted to finally be doing it for the first time. We’ve managed to make it work. But obviously it’s such a rich heritage in Detroit and it’s had such a massive influence on me. I was never really part of the core techno gang back in the day, but I’ve always played the music and enjoyed playing when I have played here.
MT: What are some of your favorite tracks out right now?
Tong: There’s the man from Detroit, Seth Troxler who’s actually been quite quiet on the music front. He gave me two tracks last week both amazing. One is a remix he’s done of Hercules & Love Affair and the other one is of a Douglas Greed track. Typical Seth, I haven’t even got the title. The Douglas Greed track is “Driven.” The new Hot Since 82 is pretty amazing, “Don’t Touch the Alarm,” and then my own new track has been going down really well, called “Hear Me Now.” I’m working on a new one actually, which I’ve just been testing. It’s called “2AM.” I’ll play it in Detroit when it’s more evolved. That’s been going down really well. There’s a record by an artist called Igor Vicente, and it’s called “Knight,” and it’s the Electric Jones Mix, on Hot Creations. There you go, if you can get them.
Pete Tong plays the Movement Electronic Music Festival’s Beatport Stage at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 26; Hart Plaza, Detroit; 3-Day Pass, $130.
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