Pete Tong

Essential Selection's Pete Tong spins his beloved house music at Cielo.

There probably aren’t too many radio personalities whose names have made it into the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. As a matter of fact, there’s probably only one: Pete Tong, via the cockney rhyming slang “it’s all gone Pete Tong,” translated into plain old English as “it’s wrong.” (There also aren’t many radio personalities whose names have appeared in movie titles; in Tong’s case, it’s the 2004 mockumentary It’s All Gone Pete Tong, about a superstar spinner who’s losing his hearing.) But the U.K.’s Tong is no ordinary radio jock; he’s considered to be one of the house-music world’s ultimate tastemakers, largely via his long-running Essential Selection show on BBC Radio One. The program runs the gamut of house sounds, from big-room-style thumpers (he was an early Deadmau5 adopter) to the resolutely underground (he’s a champion of techno artist Luciano, for example). He’s also the ultimate dance-music industry insider: He ran the influential London Records subsidiary FFRR; he helped create the William Morris Agency’s electronic-artist division; and he’s worked on the scores and soundtracks of major films, including the upcoming Michael Caine vehicle Harry Brown.

But what Tong really does is deejay, plain and simple. Well, maybe not so simple; he recently finished up a summer residency in Ibiza, where his guests included the likes of Lady Gaga, Fatboy Slim and Faithless. But the superstar likes to spin slightly more low-key affairs as well, and on Sunday 25, he’ll be kicking off a North American tour at the intimate Cielo. (Aspiring producer alert: The gig is part of the superstar’s Tong Factor project, for which he accepts CD submissions from the crowd for possible release.) TONY happily took a phone call from Tong, 49, as he partied at a Deadmau5 bash in London; being a radio dude, he likes to talk, so we’ll let him take it from here.

On New York City
“New York’s always been a special city for me. It was the first place I visited in America many years ago—many years ago. I was lucky enough to go to the Paradise Garage, in 1979, I think. Larry [Levan] was playing, and it was of course incredible. Nowadays, for a European DJ, New York’s kind of spoiled. I mean, it’s seen everything, had everything, done everything, but in the last few years, maybe it hasn’t had so much. Twilo went, Crobar went, Spirit went and all the others. So this time around, we figured, Why not do an intimate show on a Sunday?”

On the state of house music
“It sounds like a stupid thing to say, but house music has come back in fashion. All these new producers like Luciano—who you might think only listens to Berlin techno or whatever—his favorite tracks are like the B-side of old Frankie Knuckles or Eric Kupper records. People like him play the coolest, latest techno, of course, but when they have a long set, they play things that are heavily influenced by the kind of obscure house music that was coming out in America years ago. The house-music spirit of New York, Chicago and Detroit is alive and kicking right now.”

On Lady Gaga
“She was totally incredible when she did our party. I really like her; under the surface of those big hits, she’s fascinated by the kind of New York performance art that you used to see down on the Lower East Side in the ’80s, which was some pretty wicked shit. Who was that weird girl that used to scare everyone—Karen someone? Karen Finley! Those kinds of people always had ties to the club scene. I remember going to Area and it was a fucking freak show. Lady Gaga is obviously too young to have seen that, but in a way, that’s her heritage, and that comes across in her show. She’s much more cutting-edge and wacky than the paparazzi pop star that you see on MTV. In a weird way, she’s for real.”

On his name entering the vernacular
“I’ve always been of the old-school thought that anything that gets your name out there is a good thing. And that has certainly done the job, hasn’t it? The only problem is that some people assume I’m the character from the movie. They hold up signs for me to read while I’m deejaying, like I’m deaf.”

Pete Tong spins Dance.Here.Now. at ">Cielo Sun 25.

Pete Tong

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