British DJ Pete Tong has seen it all, having started in the ’70s before house music even existed. Today, the man known as the Lord of the Dance (no, he won’t move his feet like Michael Flatley) is on a constant mission to bring us the freshest in electronic music as host of BBC Radio 1’s “Essential Selection” show. The Winter Music Conference and Ibiza mainstay, who brings his collection of new underground dance tracks to Mokai (235 23rd St., Miami Beach) on Wednesday, talked to Miami.com about the show.
You just turned 50, but are still touring and performing all the time. What keeps you interested?
Passion for new music, passion for new challenges – I think in a way, I’ve had a busy career but I’ve never overdone it. I’ve always had other jobs – I came from a time when DJing wasn’t considered a career, not like it is now for the people that reach the very top. When I started in the late-’70s, early-’80s, you had to get another job – the only way to make a living being a DJ was to end up on the radio. So I think as much as I’ve done, I’ve never been able to go on a six-month tour like Sasha or go around the world for a year like Carl Cox or do 265 gigs in 365 days like David Guetta’s done – I’ve always done a slower pace. So I never got burned out.
For your radio show, how much time per week do you spend listening to new music to discover new tracks to play?
It’s kind of nonstop. Sometimes you have more inspiring moments than others. I’ve tried every which way, but leaving everything all week for the day before you do a show doesn’t work for me because you just kind of go deaf to it. I find some time every day to listen to music – it’s not really set times. That way I find I enjoy the music better and discover more things. There’s a massive networking that’s been going on over the past 10 years with the advent of the Internet – there’s so much information backward and forward among my friends and DJs and listening to the audience. Nothing’s exclusive now.
What do you most look for in a new track?
Some sort of soul. And I don’t mean that in a black music, R&B sense, but music to me has got to move me, give me goosebumps. A kind of sixth sense – I’ve tried to describe it a million times, but it comes down to a kind of instinct, knowing something’s a bit special. Some music is good, some music is not meant to change the world and be around forever, some music’s very of-the-moment, and that can be very valid. But then occasionally, something comes along that’s truly special, and you know you’ve come across something that’s gonna mean something for 10 or 20 years.
What can we expect from your show at Mokai?
Well I think I’ve got good experience in Miami – I’ve played in the small clubs, played in the big clubs, played at Space and at Ultra. I love playing in Miami – it’s just gotten better and better. It’s less of a seasonal place now – it’s more of a constant. It’s always fun playing Winter Music Conference or the big holidays – I played Halloween there last year and it was great – but I’ll play sexy house music. Always trying to get people to go crazy, trying to find the highs with the new things. I’ve been making a lot of new music, a bunch of tracks that will come out just before Christmas, so the first time I’ll be playing them out will be on this little tour.
You just finished up a summer in Ibiza. How does Miami compare?
Winter Music Conference is similar in the sense that it’s overwhelming, the amount of stuff that’s going on. I think there’s a bit of an imbalance at the moment in Miami, with it being still geared a little bit too much toward the VIP scene and the table scene. Having said that, that scene has embraced house music and electronic music in a big way in the last few years and kind of moved away from hip-hop, so I’ve got to salute that. But the Miami of old I remember, Danny Tenaglia and the parties at Space, the original Space, and the more underground stuff downtown – I wish there was a bit more of that, and then it’d be more like Ibiza. The core scene in Ibiza still revolves around the dance floor and not the tables. Miami used to have a lot of that with the old Crobar and Shadow Lounge, but SET, Mansion, Mynt and LIV – they’re glamour clubs which tend to revolve around more of the commercial side of electronic music.