IDM caught up with the magnanimous Pete Bones ahead of his gig at Origin Festival 2014. The house DJ and producer has led a colourful life, having spent more than 20 years behind the decks, spreading his music to all corners of the globe. Changing musical direction at the peak of his career in the 90’s, he has a carved out a DJ career built on doing what many would envy; playing the music he wants to without pandering to the masses, writing music and seeing the world.
First off; why’d you get expelled from school at 15?
PETE BONES: Ha, well, I wasn’t expecting that one. I suppose it was a combination of all my bad behaviour, it had been getting worse over the course of a year or 2, and something had to give. I was a bit out of control; I’d left school one summer as a model student and returned 6 weeks later as a West London Skinhead. I must stress it was [being a Skinhead] a music, not racial thing back in those days. Needless to say I became more interested in being a rebel than furthering my education. A lot of stuff went down that I’m not particularly proud of, but maybe it was just part of the rich tapestry of life heh?
The 90’s was a pretty hedonistic era in dance music; tons of ecstasy and loved up parties. Do you miss that sense of adventure and how underground it was back then?
PETE BONES: In the late 80s and early 90s, house music changed a lot of people’s lives, mine included. No-one really saw it coming, and a perfect storm of 3 or 4 ingredients coming together made it a time that few of us will ever forget. I don’t really need to prattle on about Ibiza like an old fart, but things were fresh and exciting in a way that is hard to describe unless you were caught up in it all at the time. My own career has never strayed too far from the underground. I suppose that’s been my choice and again without getting too deep, I never saw my music as a job or career, [it’s] just something I loved.
You had great success as The Shaker in the 90’s… What prompted you to reinvent yourself and establish Red Ant Records which also represented a new sound and direction for you?
PETE BONES: The Shaker tracks that were big in the 90’s were underground at the time of release in my opinion. I still think that most of them sound good today, the production has moved on a lot of course. But I found that I was ‘expected’ to play them every time I got booked to DJ. I had toured a few times with a percussionist, another keyboardist and 2 dancers as the Shaker live PA, but it was never something I felt comfortable with. I think that the club sound of the mid 90s became a bit too commercial, mine included, and as soon as I felt that I was being pulled and pushed by managers and agents to deliver what they wanted, not what I did, it was time to pull the chord, and start from scratch again.
Retrospectively was it a good decision?
PETE BONES: No musical regrets, not one. I had some choices to make like I said, and the timing for Red Ant was good. My profile was rising very quickly in the US, and it almost felt like I was re-living all the excitement that I’d experienced in London 5 or 6 years earlier. It wasn’t too long before I packed up and moved over to the States; it just felt right at the time.
In today’s digital world, despite the ‘nowness’ of online and the fact that one can reach more people than with a physical vinyl release, it’s kind of ironic that it’s actually harder to get a track noticed now…
PETE BONES: This is a tough one in a way; the debate that nowadays there is more chance of new artists to have their music heard is a load of bollocks. There is simply way too much stuff out there to go through, so really it’s only the music that is marketed and promoted that sees the light of day. When vinyl was the format, it was all good and well to have complete faith in your amazing production skills, but you also needed your distributor to feel the same way, as they were normally the ones paying for manufacture, transport, and paying staff to play the records down the phone to record shops in Minneapolis and Brisbane.
Staying on the subject of Red Ant Records, I believe you have some SA talent you’re considering for release this year…
PETE BONES: Yes, I have signed Andrew Winer’s outfit, Sadhu Sensi, unexclusively to Red Ant. I’m releasing the first single ‘Down to the Beach’ with remixes from Hair Band Drop-Out and my good self, in March, with more to follow in the year ahead I hope.
You seem to almost indefinitely be travelling somewhere for a series of gigs. It sounds like a fun life but must cause havoc for relationships and settling down…
PETE BONES: I travel a lot and I almost always travel alone, and when I’m working on music, again it’s almost entirely just me and my laptop, so life can get a bit lonesome. But before you all get your miniature violins out, yes I know how lucky I am to see so many different places and have friends in so many cities. As for settling down, well, let’s just say I’m not averse to having that someone special; it’s probably not something I’ve been ready for until fairly recently. As far as kids go, not so sure, I’m ‘uncle Bonesy’ to about 200 of them around the globe, so I think I’m putting in my shift where entertaining the little buggers is concerned…
EDM is the new trend in dance music now that the USA has caught on and coined this phrase as theirs. Is EDM a good or bad idea?
PETE BONES: I don’t consider EDM to be house music in any way, shape or form; it’s just pop music for the lowest common denominator to fist pump or twerk to, perhaps in a Vegas nightclub. Living in Florida for most of the year I sometimes notice a few of the bigger name button pushers pull through to stadium shows and what-not, but a lot of the time I don’t even find out until after, it really is that unconnected to what I do. I don’t listen to cheesy radio or watch much TV, so I have very minimal exposure to it, thank fuck. EDM has really just exacerbated that scenario, the kids were re-introduced, but the sound was new and completely without soul. You have to feel a bit sorry for them when you look back over the last 25 years and reflect upon some of the amazing music we grew up to…
You’ve actually been playing in the USA for years now and I’m assuming quite underground since dance music was never massive there. Has anything changed for you personally with regard to ‘your scene’ over there with the whole EDM craze?
PETE BONES: The US thing is a bit strange really, it peaked at the end of the 90’s and was a very healthy underground scene, but then the lawmakers stepped in and everything changed. Access to the kind of music I make and play was cut off to the youngsters. ‘Raves’ got shut down, club opening times were curtailed.
What’s better today than the 90’s in dance music?
PETE BONES: Um, production technology? I can’t really think of anything else. The hype machine has taken over and a conveyer belt of chiselled, very serious looking Producer/DJs (I put producer first for a reason) seem to come and go. Everything seems to have gotten a bit more rushed and throwaway.
PETE BONES: If you’re referring solely to the 90s, and therefore vinyl, I would have to say being able to immediately pick out the tune I wanted to play next on sight, from the sleeve or label art. Nowadays, in a dark club, with my 40 year old eyes, and handwritten CDs or a flash stick with endless lists of names, it gets a bit confusing/time consuming [chuckles].
Technology in the DJ booth; hate it, love it… makes no difference to you?
PETE BONES: Technology in the booth eh, well being a producer you have to keep up with technology, so of course I’m not averse to it in the booth. But I do feel that some kind of performance is still important, so someone slouched over a lap-top doesn’t really do it for me. Get stuck in, have your controller, your CDJs, turntables, whatever, and make sure you are working it!
Origin Festival. You’ve been a regular over the years. How’d you describe the event and in fact parties in South Africa to your mates overseas…?
PETE BONES: Origin is something I consider myself to be part of really. I’ve played almost every one, and become good friends with the organisers and a lot of the staff over the years, not to mention met a lot of my Cape Town friends there. I’m not a fan of psytrance, but like it or not, you have to say that it brings out the good, fun people in their thousands. It is our job at the beats stage to convert them permanently to house and techno [laughs]… I’m being slightly flippant, I’d be happy for it to stay the same way into the long distant future, a beautiful part of the world, with 5000+ party goers having a wicked old weekend in the southern hemisphere summer sun, who wouldnt?
Where to for Pete Bones after South Africa?
PETE BONES: So for me it will be back to London, after a few days in Kenya, playing for the first time, a couple gigs around the UK, then off to the west side to start my next tour of the States.
Pete Bones Details