When Pete Tong talks, you listen. The same goes for when the U.K.’s electronic music legend hosts his BBC Radio 1 show and—most importantly—plays music you’ve never heard in a club. He’s long been the go-to guy for breaking records, but Tong is also a master of amassing the best of the best from established underground artists while championing unknown talent. Tong fills us in on how XS will go All Gone on Nov. 25.
This is your first time bringing the All Gone tour to America. What will the experience entail?
I’ve obviously been playing in America for many, many years, but this gives me a chance to set the night up a little bit better. When I normally come to America—outside of playing festivals—you’re dropped into the middle of the club’s world. The biggest change with All Gone is that the people are dropped a bit more into my world; I’m taking more control of the night in terms of the aesthetics and the experience and—most importantly—musically, from the minute you get there until the minute you leave.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can change the way people experience the music, just being able to set a tone from the minute the doors open. Often you find yourself battling against what the DJ has done before [you go on]—not that they necessarily have done anything wrong, but it might not be the best music to set up what I’m about to play. It’s a chance to champion some new and up-and-coming talent; it enables dance music to go up a gear. I’m bringing Eats Everything with me, a really hot up-and-coming DJ/producer in the U.K.
Is it fair to say that there’s a definite goal with Future Sounds, your new mix album with Reboot?
I’ve always enjoyed doing mix CDs from back in the day doing mix tapes. It’s such an honest way of getting across what you’re all about. They don’t necessarily sell like they did 20 years ago, but they do set the tone and send the right message. … Now we’re championing a lot of new producers and looking ahead to 2013 to some of these names becoming bigger and more popular and making a contribution—that’s the theme to this album. Reboot is one of my heroes; I’ve always been a fan of his.
What are your thoughts on the primary sound electronic dance music has become in 2012?
The events are getting bigger and bigger, the press spin for the last two or three years has been that “America’s exploding,” or, “America’s finally caught up with the rest of the world,” which is one way to look at it, and it’s good news. Under the surface, if we were doing this interview just a year ago, “EDM” would have a 100 percent positive impression, or it would be a word that everybody would understand what it meant. Now, it’s actually become descriptive of a particular type of dance music, which is that very large, cheesy, commercial, instantly satisfying, lowest-common-denominator crowd aligned with Vegas in particular actually, and it has a negative connotation. It’s become quite a divisive word: It attracts as many people as it puts off. There’s obviously a lot more to dance and electronic music than the very commercial that’s broken through in the U.S.
That’s why now, doing the All Gone party, it’s even more important to me to be able to shape the whole course of the night, because I want to get across some new or different music. I fancy a lot of those guys on the radio, but it’s not what I’m personally about in the club. I think that American audiences are starting to get fragmented, more sophisticated; they’re starting to seek out other types of music, just like we’ve seen in the rest of the world. You’re going to have to start creating different environments to get that music across.
Techno/minimal DJ/producer Richie Hawtin Tweeted recently that maybe we should call the music right now “EPM,” as in electronic pop music. Would that be a more accurate description?
I just got off the phone with his manager actually; he’s a very good friend of mine. “EPM,” yeah, we’re looking for something to bash it, aren’t we? We’re looking for a derogatory term, but it’s very accurate. It is the most popular end of electronic music, the commercial bit. I’ve championed this scene my whole life, so you’ll very rarely ever find me dissing that world. Where I get worried is big business and such has really bought into electronic music—when you see the amount of money being invested in it in Vegas, and the theory that the minute you try something more subtle than that kind of music is, “Will they have the patience to run with it?”
You suspect that a lot of the casinos have invested all this money in moving four-to-the-floor music in and the hip-hop out, [they] are probably more preoccupied with how many champagne bottles they sell more than they care if you’re playing cool music or not. That’s where the fear comes in, when the scene gets stuck the way it is, in its infrastructure, and even the people making those records have decided it’s time to move on. That’s the way you get stuck in a bit of a recurring nightmare of disco. To keep the business going, people kept making cheesy music. One day someone stands up and just goes, “Enough! Back to hip-hop.”