Pete Tong interview: Clubbing legend talks Creamfields, scousers and more
As Creamfields gets underway for its 20th year, Your Move catches up with one of the stars of 2017’s event – clubbing legend Pete Tong.
A veteran of the music scene, the DJ and producer has also been a BBC radio host since the ‘90s, a champion of rising talent and a popular fixture at world-famous festivals.
He reflects on his long history with Liverpool super club Cream and considers how the music scene has changed during his long and successful career.
Interview by Rhiannon Ireland
It’s the 20th anniversary of Creamfields. How are you planning on celebrating it this weekend?
Going there and running my ‘All Gone Pete Tong’ stage on the Saturday is one of the highlights, and there’s an incredible line up this year. That’s my contribution!
You have been involved with Creamfields from the very beginning. What makes you want to return year after year?
The North was such an important part of the music scene.
I’m from London and I made my name as a DJ there but people didn’t zoom around the world as they do now and the North seemed to be miles ahead of the South from a clubbing perspective.
I’m also good friends with the guys who run Creamfields; we have a good working relationship.
At the time it started up people were experimenting with music, some gigs were great and some not so great. Creamfields was the first one to fly the flag for the scene and I wanted to be a part of that because of my history with Cream.
“The North was where the clubbing scene was building up and Cream was a big part of that.”
You have a long history of playing at the club Cream too, which is also marking its 25th year in 2017. Why do you think it has been such an industry favourite?
I’d built up a great rapport with Cream the club at the start and worked there on a regular basis when dance music started playing a bigger role in festivals.
Like I said, the North was where the clubbing scene was building up and Cream was a big part of that.
You live in Los Angeles now. How does the music scene there differ from the way it is in the UK?
It’s not full of Scousers! There’s a little less energy, but the world is so connected now with social media and the internet.
The music isn’t that different from what is played in the UK but culturally it is very different. As always, different music is popular in different clubs and some of the music I play in LA would not be appreciated in the UK.
You have obviously been in the music industry for many years. Do you think the house music genre has changed a lot during this time?
The essence of what we’re all trying to do is the same – we’re just trying to have a great time.
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s everything was new. Getting to make music was a lot more challenging from a financial perspective and getting to entry level was a lot more difficult.
You had to get noticed and signed, the whole process took longer and it cost more money. Now everything is accessible and music is so global that you can find like-minded people all over the world. The core of it all remains the same and so does what I’m trying to do.
You’ve had your own radio show and record label for a long time. How have these served as platforms for discovering new talent?
I use them to share talent. My show has always been about discovering music and championing new talent and I have a reputation for doing this.
As for my label, it’s the same sort of thing. You find artists who you want to put music out and get heard. It’s a business, so you have to find people with the potential to become popular.
Everything about my career has been about trying to break talent.
Which events or places to perform at have been your favourite?
Ibiza! I come back every year because in terms of DJing it’s like the World Cup final.
To a certain extent it is still a place where you feel you have to prove and constantly reinvent yourself. It’s the one place where the world comes to see you.
When I’m travelling around and playing in different cities the place is often dominated by the local community, whereas Ibiza is so international.
I am lucky to have travelled to so many places and to be able to live in America. Living somewhere is very different from flying in for 10 days, you really get to experience the culture.
I also think South America is great, I love playing in Brazil and Chile.
During your career so far you’ve played all over the world and been awarded an MBE. What would you still like to achieve in the future?
I’d like to find new challenges or continue telling a story in a different way. That’s what I’ve done with the ‘Classics’ project and that’s what is dominating my life right now.
The Ibiza Classics project has recently started in Ibiza and is then travelling around the world, from V Festival to Australia to the USA and then back to England.