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Pete Tong On The Future Of Clubbing, Ageing DJs & Cocaine

Author: Jonty Adderley
Saturday, 15 March 2003
"A perfect club for me today would include 25% of people who like electroclash, 25% into French funky daft house, 25% who like adventurous music and the rest being those who would otherwise have gone to see Sasha or Digweed but still want to smile."

Still smiling after 15 years at the top of the DJ tree, Pete Tong remains dance culture's most powerful DJ, principally due to his enormously influential weekly Radio 1 show, the Essential Selection. And what's kept him at the top, whether through his radio show, club DJ sets or record company activities has been his musical taste and enthusiasm for change.

"If you could reduce everything I do down to one sentence, you could say I 'sieve' music out for people," he tells Skrufff's Jonty Adderley.

That's what I've always done, whether as an A&R, radio presenter or DJ."

Chatting in the rarified confines of private members club Soho House, he's reserved though articulate, speaking in great chunks of monologue, about everything to the state of clubland (' dance music's not dead, it's just moved to a different place') to DJing ('I'm still a trainspotter underneath it all')

He's also here to discuss two forthcoming mix CDs (Fashion TV Presents Pete Tong and his first Essential Selection CD for online marketers TrustthedJ.com), his first foray's back into the compilation business, since walking away from the Warners/AOL owned FFRR last year despite spending 17 years building the label from scratch.

Skrufff (Jonty Adderley): Both of your upcoming mix CDs are your first compilations since leaving FFRR last year, what approach have you taken with each-

Pete Tong: "Firstly, we're going through a massively changing time in the music business generally and in the dance business in particular while secondly my life is also going through a period of change, personally. Up until last Autumn I was still involved with a major record company, Warners, then left my association with them and since then have been thinking about what I wanted to do next, or even if I wanted to do anything next, other than what publicly most people know me for, which is the radio show and being a DJ."

Skrufff: What approach did you take in compiling the CDs-

Pete Tong: "As a DJ doing compilation albums it's gone full circle from the early 90s days of doing the first Cream album through to a quite long run I had doing them for Ministry. I had phenomenal success with Ministry's Annual compilations, with Boy George, but at that time everything was novel, we were like kids in a candy store, with everything fresh and honest, without cynicism. Towards to end of the 90s the whole compilation market got bigger and bigger, and became more and more overcrowded, so in my position as 'Pete Tong the establishment DJ', I ended up operating in the upper echelons of the market in terms of sales, which meant doing albums that were usually TV advertised and influenced by the level of marketing budgets going into them. There was a constant pressure of trying to walk the tightrope between mass sales and some sort of credibility. The bubble eventually burst a few years ago."

Skrufff: How do you view those past compilations now-

Pete Tong: "I don't regret what I've done, because I've sold lots of records and got paid for them but I think long-term the effect that those CDs had on people's perception of me as a DJ is that all I do is that (kind of music). It was quite important for me to spend a couple of years afterwards putting out material that wasn't subject to too many commercial pressures. Now I'm out of all those old compilation deals and the industry is in a terrible mess these two unique opportunities came along at the same time, from Fashion TV and Trustthedj. The Fashion TV one is already available in France, while the Trustthedj one will be shipping off their website shortly and there's no particular agenda to either of them. Fashion TV are so much NOT part of the dance musi
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