GOT POWER
PETE TONG

by Dan Prince May 2017 MUSIC Read in PDF format N13/2017
GOT POWER The most influential man in dance music

Let’s kick off with IMS, Pete. What has been the most satisfying part of the last decade in Ibiza?

I think giving Ibiza another dimension. The whole motivation behind IMS was five friends who collectively had all invested so much in the island and knew how important Ibiza was. But we would get so frustrated about the perception of Ibiza within the media and industry. How did the likes of fellow party locations such as Miami and Amsterdam get taken so seriously while Ibiza was always treated as something of a joke?

Even though the island has helped launch a million careers…

Exactly. There would have been no David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia or the many artists who were inspired by them – and arguably, for better or worse, no EDM without Ibiza. If Will.i.am hadn’t walked into Pacha that night and been inspired by what he saw, ‘I Gotta Feeling’ wouldn’t have been made and nor would the sound that then swept the States. The world of electronic music owes a huge debt to Ibiza.

The first few years of IMS didn’t really set the world on fire, you were located in St. Eulalia and even used the tennis court at Pikes for a location. What was the turning point?

I knew we needed a better angle. Miami WMC had South Beach as its backdrop, NMS had the New York skyline and even Manchester’s In The City had a great urban nightlife scene. Getting permission to do the party in Dalt Vila changed everything for us; all of a sudden we were putting on events in a World Heritage site that was the jewel in Ibiza’s crown. Dalt Vila quite simply sold IMS all around the world.

What have been some of your personal highlights from IMS?

I have interviewed people all my working life and even though I still get nervous, one on one is my domain. I’ve had some fabulous moments; Nile Rodgers spilling the beans about the Daft Punk album for the first time and Erick Morillo’s frankness about his problems with drugs and party lifestyle. Having our first remote interview with David Lynch was incredible, while getting U2’s manager Paul McGuinness to come down was wonderful. It makes my heart jump when we attract people from so far afield musically.

You caught us all by surprise with your announcement of your Sunday Sessions party at Blue Marlin this summer, it’s about time you had a residency here again…

That’s just what I thought, I feel like people will know I am in Ibiza this year. However much I’ve enjoyed guesting at places like Solomun+1 and Ushuaïa in recent years, it just didn’t feel like I was part of the island. And with the success of Classics, I just felt the time was right this summer.

So why Blue Marlin and who have you booked to play?

Although occasionally I am, I don’t really want to still be in a nightclub at 6am. So I thought to myself is there a different way to ‘do Ibiza’? I love being here in the sunshine and seeing day turning into night at a great party, so I suppose I’m going back to the DNA of Ibiza and the days of Nicky, Paul, Danny and Johnny doing the same when they discovered the White Isle in the ‘80s. As for the music, I’ve reached out to DJs who are basically record collectors. People who have stories to tell with their music, real connoisseurs if you like. And I have managed to get most of the guys I wanted; the likes of Sasha, Derrick Carter, Lauren Lane, Stacey Pullen…that kind of vibe.

Your love affair with the island stretches back over three decades. As the new season opens, do you think Ibiza is still one of the capitals for fresh exciting music?

My main worry with Ibiza is whether all the young artists making new music will have a dancefloor following them or not. The island is becoming more and more of a middle class VIP destination and that doesn’t bode well for somewhere where new talent needs to shine. There seems to be too many great parties and not enough real music heads, with the fact remaining that the underground still relies too heavily on VIP tables being sold to keep the all of the clubs healthy and afloat.

You just mentioned Ibiza Classics, which took the world by storm in 2016. It all began with an invitation from the BBC to do a Proms night, how did you feel on the run up to the show?

I was absolutely bricking it. We only had six months to prepare and it was a blank canvas for all of us. I curated the whole set with Jules Buckley, but it was quite disconcerting because it was all put down on manuscripts – there was a lot of trust going on. Then the rehearsals came round. I can remember standing there watching the orchestra amble in with their cups of tea looking bored as hell and I remember thinking to myself, this could be the biggest mistake of your life, Pete. Then suddenly Jules’ baton snapped into life and the air was filled with the most glorious house music. It was just electrifying.

You must be overjoyed by its ongoing success?

Everyone has responded so well and it has been so organic. We are doing some great festivals this summer including V, Common People and Electric Picnic plus Australia and five UK arenas at Christmas which have just about sold out. It has been a remarkable journey in such a short time.

Your IMS partner Ben Turner recently claimed in an interview that the EDM scene in America is experiencing a “moment of retraction”. Would you agree?

I think the US is undergoing something of a market correction at the moment, which is what the UK experienced after millennium. Things got so mainstream that there was nowhere else for it to go and the biggest acts like Calvin just moved into a new playing field. But did people stop dancing? No. In the States the scene has just had to dial back and reinvent.

It’s obvious you still love the scene and our disco world wouldn’t be the same without you. What else is left to achieve?

Christ, that’s putting me on the spot. Well, I’ve been given an amazing opportunity so late in life with the orchestra and I really want to push that and see how far I can go with it creatively. I watched Hans Zimmer at Coachella and he’s filled me with so much inspiration. We obviously play the classics, but can we do old tunes in a new way? I‘m fascinated by the world we live in and all the possibilities technology offers us.

And finally, I have to ask. You are the second longest serving presenter on Radio 1, Founder of IMS, creator of Ibiza Classics, producer, DJ, promoter, husband, father. How do you manage to keep the wheels turning so well?

I haven’t been drinking for a while now, and I cycle and hike a lot, so keeping healthy is the easy answer. That and having a great team around me. I am 57 this year and the only way to survive this hectic life is to look after myself properly. Dealing with my life is relentless and takes its toll; the way I travel and never going to bed means you have to be wise out there, just the same way Coxy, Tenaglia and Sasha are doing. So to keep active and challenge myself every day, there’s your answer, Dan.

www.facebook.com/petetong | www.internationalmusicsummit.com

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