“I’m lucky enough to be a constant in people’s lives…”
Pete Tong, what are some of your memories of South Africa?
The first time you come to a country like that, it’s obviously the scale of it… Seeing the shanty towns for the first time, and then [going to] downtown Cape Town, which was a bit of a reality check. Then, when I went to Jo’burg for the first time, you don’t necessarily see the public in quite the same way, but you see the fact that all the houses are like fortresses (laughs)… Just getting in touch with the reality of the situation. I think it’s changed a bit now, but that’s the way it was in the late ’90s/turn of the century…
You’re playing 2 cities on New Year’s Eve; it’s bound to be exhilarating to jet between Ballito and Cape Town. What sort of a rush does this give you?
It’s exciting to be able to be in 2 places at one time. I just want to deliver, really. I say it’s more the pressure of just delivering to people’s expectations. These situations tend to go by so quickly that the other thing you need to remember is to enjoy them (chuckles); that’s why we’re going to try to make the journey between the 2 places a little bit more fun with competition winners and media and stuff like that. But, for me, quite often jumping on a jet is the only time you get any rest – but the biggest priority is being preoccupied with making sure you deliver the best you can do.
Your radio show has become incredibly popular in South Africa. After so many years on-air, how do you manage to keep the show so fresh and interesting?
I think it’s my natural inclination to always be looking to what’s going on… on the street, on the dance floor, looking for the next thing musically [and] checking out all the new trends coming through… It keeps me young and rolling to that extent. Also, the environment of [BBC] Radio 1 is a challenging one – the whole station is about championing new music. That also helps, because it keeps you on your toes. It’s not like being at a station, which’s happy to grow old with its audience and keep doing the same thing; [BBC Radio 1] still wants to be relevant to a core age group. So, it’s a combination of all those things and the fact that I still DJ so much – I was a club DJ when I started, and radio came on top of that – but I always feel like what I’m doing on the radio is representative of what’s happening in clubs. I’m still enjoying playing in clubs, which I can’t quite believe, but I do (laughs).
Do you ever think about your legacy in dance music?
I don’t really think about it, no (laughs). I suppose I’m lucky enough to be a constant in people’s lives. Therefore, that’s grown my reputation and had an effect on people over time. When you stay in the same place doing something for a long time, like I have on the radio, then you do build up some clout and people’s trust, and that enables you to break records and introduce people to music better than someone else. That’s the biggest legacy for me.
On another note: You were one of the first international DJs to give South Africa’s Goldfish the thumbs up. Do you still keep tabs on what they’re up to?
Yeah. I see them all the time, because they’re always in Ibiza. I feel connected to Goldfish; they’re almost mates. I was very impressed; it was one of those things that you had to see it, as well as hear it, when they first started, to really get that they were truly artists – not just another couple of Djs.
NEW YEAR’S EVE LIVE CITY LINKUP takes place on 31 December 2012 at Ballito’s New Year’s Eve Street Party at The Village Centre (5pm to 5am) and the Waterfront Rooftop Party, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. (7pm to 4am).
Pete Tong Details