Music

20 Questions: Pete Tong

Alan Ranta

You'd never guess what the world-famous DJ and David Lynch have in common . . .

If you know the name of any electronic music producers or DJs, or if you have ever been to Ibiza, you have probably heard the name Pete Tong. He's been a BBC Radio 1 host for close to two decades, hosting the famed Essential Mix and, until 2006, Essential Selection, which subsequently became simply Pete Tong. But, he was a big part of the scene long before that, writing for Blues & Soul in the late '70s and early '80s, being written about in early issues of Mixmag, and mixing records for crowds both large and influential. As the founder of FFRR Records, Tong also helped to bring some of the most important electronic artists and albums of all time to the forefront of popular culture, releasing the finest works of Orbital, Goldie, and the Brand New Heavies and helping usher in monolithic genres like house and drum & bass. Though he never actually wrote much music himself, his ability to continually find the "next big thing" and flawlessly integrate it into his next set has made him one of the biggest names in the business. Suffice to say, the world would have been a much different place without him.

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Ivansxtc . . . independent film directed by Bernard Rose back in 2000, kind of dark prequel to Californification and Entourage. The lead character's hopeless situation at the end bought tears to my eyes. A lesson to everyone who fancies living the high life.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Peter Pan. You've read the one about how nobody wants to grow old in the 21st century. Well, DJs have been having that problem for a while! We are a generation whose business has never got old before. Fortunately, my work brings so much variety that I have no intention of stopping just yet!

3. The greatest album, ever?

You know DJs' brains explode when asked this question. I think today its Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Timeless and so futuristic, it still sounds amazingly on point today . . . and last summer I got to meet Nick Mason in Ibiza!!

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars . . . timeless and iconic, beautifully designed, and anyone who invented Chewbacca wins hands down. George Lucas was the first real "technical" director and then came James Cameron.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Stimulating reading, beautiful music, a long bike ride, and family time. You have to give yourself a break.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Having children. It's the most magical thing. Challenging, thrilling, and full of love.

7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?

Being trusted. I think that's ultimately what being a DJ, husband, and father is all about.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

In the early days DJs like Chris Hill, Robbie Vincent in the UK, and Larry Levan in NYC were all part of my education and inspiration. Berry Gordy, Ahmet Ertegun, Chris Blackwell, Russell Simmons as record company and cultural pioneers.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson . . . that would have been cool!

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

Cycling . . . I'm a late starter but Lance Armstrong, watch out! I stumbled into his bike shop in Austin during South by Southwest (Johnny Melo) and was blown away.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Follow your instincts and don't follow the crowd and live in the now; the future will take care of itself. Enjoy the journey!

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

I love my Specialized Tarmac Expert . . . and I recently borrowed an SSL X-Desk from Solid State Logic for my studio!

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?

Levis . . . I like classic clothing and I am a jeans trainspotter! America or Japan are the best places to buy jeans.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Nelson Mandela, Martin Scorsese, Penelope Cruz, and David Lynch.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

1969: Apollo 11, sitting next to Neil Armstrong on the way to the moon . . . anything to beat Richard Branson at something!

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Spa vacation . . . the Maldives or the new Aman in Montenegro.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?

Coffee. Me and David Lynch, we have a thing going on. Best value in the world? An espresso machine!

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I'm lucky that I can enjoy both. A village in the city is best. Places like Hampstead or Wimbledon or Barnes in London; by the river is even better. However, the escape to Ibiza in the summer is essential.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Sort out health care. Sort out schools. Encourage and engage with business. Don't drive the best brains out of the country!

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

A book, a TV show, new music, and a new music company. A busy year ahead.


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