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Pete Tong Interview
Interview with Pete Tong
Related links: Tribal Sessions Sankeys

Pete Tong was born in 1960 in Dartford, so he'll be celebrating his fourty seventh birthday this year. With a career that began at the tender age of fifteen, that's a whopping 32 years as a DJ.

The world of Superstar DJs and huge fees was a long way off in the early 1980s. Realising that the money simply wasn't there he used his skills as a journalist to get a job at Radio One, working with Peter Powell's show. His age and inexperience worked against him and he was unable to hold down his own show at the fledgling radio station, which was suffering an indentity crisis and through it's love of pop music it lacked credibility. Looking to bloster his skills he moved to regional radio for four years, where he spent his time learning the black art of presenting and managing a successful show.

In the end it was Rap music that would turn out to be his saviour. As American labels like Def Jam began to sell records to the UK, the public image of the DJ began to change, as did the money that they were paid for each gig. It was a great time to be involved in making music, so Pete moved to Capital Records in London and he started his own label FFRR in 1998.

Now a subsidiary of London Records, FFRR (Full Frequency Range Recordings) has an enviable lists of releases. The more credible acts include Goldie, CJ Bolland, Brand New Heavies, Armand Van Helden, Utah Saints, Carl Cox and Orbital, but he's also release for the likes of Salt n Pepa (whom he discovered), the Lisa Marie Experience and even the artful Dodger.

A year later and he was back where he began. Radio One desperately wanted to cater for the youth market: Pete was well respected within the industry, he had a string of hits under his belt and supplemented his income with DJing and promoting.
They made him an offer that he simply couldn't refuse: Work for a station that had an audience of 17million and - unlike many of the other DJs at the BBC - he had complete control of the music he played. The Essential Selection was born.

This weekly Friday nighter, and the spin off show The Essential Mix, has been running almost non-stop for sixteen years, with the winning combination of Pete's laid back style and an enviable array of artists who were willing to submit mixes, or play live at clubs up and down the country. Since the dawn of the millenium the show has increasingly moved out of the studio, taking in the Miami Music Conference for the first time in 2002, and they regularly hit the road for the UK festivals, and of course they broadcast from Ibiza.

The end result, for Mr Tong, has been a hugely successful career and a place at the head of the table. He has a relevant claim as the Godfather of House, and his influence on the genre has been significant, from both behind the decks and behind the desk.

But it wasn?t always easy for him.

"When I started, DJing was a consuming hobby at the time, and it was something that I really wanted to do and that I almost dare not think could become a full time job. When I started DJs weren't full time jobs. The most famous DJs that I knew were the early soul and funk DJs in the south. Everybody had another job, so when I first started and was playing in early clubs in Kent, I knew I had to get another job!"

As a London-born, London-based DJ, you could forgive him for not knowing that much about Manchester, but his work 'behind the scenes' brought him in contact with many of Manchesters artists and labels, including Factory.

"I never played at the Hacienda but I went to the club a few times and there were parties that I went to in Manchester and promoters that I used to know who I would visit and end up at their events. When I was at London Records we worked with Factory and I met Tony Wilson and London Records ended up taking the Factory artists so I ended up working with the Happy Mondays!".

And what does he think about the modern day clubs in Manchester?

"I've a good relationship with clubs like Sankeys and it's great to be going back to Manchester. The last time I played was early 2006 and I'm looking forward to getting back up there. "
Adding another string to his bow, Pete has become more involved with the movie making business, specifically the music behind it. His role on Human Traffic, which featured friend and label-mate Carl Cox, led to the now infamous 'It's All Gone Pete Tong' with Paul Kaye.

"When we did Human Traffic it was a movie about clubbers and what they would go through each week to make sure they had money for tickets to their favourite club and money for a pill!. After that we wanted to do something that showed the opposite, the excess of being a DJ in the nineties and we waited a long time for the right script and the right director. When it came together with Paul Kaye it was hugely enjoyable for me, and I was worried at the start about putting my name in such a big way to a movie that, at the time, had no director and I hadn't seen the script, but in the end it worked out well."

I asked him whether he prefers to pick records out for a movie, or for a club.

"There are so many records that you hear that are more suited to a movie and you know this instinctively. Working on a movie in this role [Executive Music Producer] is hugely rewarding and I wish I could do more of it! It gives me a chance to play the music that isn't suited to a club, tracks that are you would hear at an after party or at a chill out club and I find it rewarding to give these artists exposure when I would previously have struggled."

Despite his enthusiasm for movies, he's passion for DJing is still evident with a packed diary and gigs all over the world. He was a little coy about his plans for 2007, but we managed to get this out of him:

"There's a lot going on with Radio One that's still under-wraps so I can't say tell you too much about that but it's going to be an exciting year for us. I'm going to be playing around the world and I'll be in Ibiza this summer so it's business as usual for me!"

You can catch Pete this Friday at the relaunch of Tribal Sessions at Sankeys Soap.
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