Pete Tong opens up about ‘The American EDM sound,’ deep house revolution in recent interview
With the recent influx of dance music veterans venting over what the American movement means for the industry, none is as well versed or qualified to offer an opinion than Mr. Pete Tong. The man has been a part of the culture for more than 30 years, involved in everything from A&R to mixing to producing globally influential radio shows such as Essential Selection and Essential Mix, leaving a far-reaching legacy behind him. Tong sat down with music publication The Daily Swarm to discuss his views on the recent phenomenon.
Pete starts out by explaining the three elements he believed contributed to the movement’s explosion including the influence of festivals, the often-cited track “I Got A Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas with David Guetta’s production expertise, as well as Daft Punk’s performance at Coachella:
There was a cultural element because of the raves and the one-off huge festivals that had been championed by the likes of Insomniac [the producer of Electric Daisy Carnival] and Ultra for ten-plus years, and they made a massive contribution over time. You can’t get into a club when you’re under 21 in the U.S., so the one-off events were phenomenally important in creating that candy-raver kind of thing; I suppose that’s where the youth-culture element comes from. They didn’t necessarily know who was playing the music, who the music was by, or what the records were; they just wanted to be at those events cause that’s where their friends went.
On top of that came the success at pop radio. Suddenly hip-hop and R&B didn’t dominate pop music anymore: the soundtrack changed to a 4/4 beat courtesy of David Guetta and Will.I.Am. [via songs like The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”]. The whole sound of American pop radio changed to dance music. Pop artists started wanting Guetta, Calvin [Harris], and the Swedish House Mafia writing for them, not Pharrell and Dr. Dre. That had a massive impact.
Then the third element was the professionalism and the entertainment – the sheer unbridled, unequaled, “Fuck me! What have we just seen” when people saw the Daft Punk pyramid for the first time at Coachella. It said that these DJs put on a show that’s worth watching, and could now compete with the biggest rock bands and acts in the world. Obviously, that really works in America. So, it was these three things coming together that got us to the place we’re at today.
It’s funny how the term EDM has metamorphosized more quickly than any term in dance music since I can remember, meaning one thing one year and something else the next. If somebody used it in an interview two years ago, it would have meant all of us – dance music in general, electronic music, call it what you want. Now it means something cheesy, very large, very Vegas, in your face – it defines a specific type of music, not all of us anymore. That’s very much due to what’s happened in America; in fact, for the rest of the world, [EDM] means the American sound.
The topic turns to how Pete goes about promoting new sounds to the American market, particularly the deeper styles such as one of his favorite tunes “So Good To Me” by Chris Malinchak. The interviewer asks where America is in its evolution, and if it’s ready to hear a less “EDMish” style:
I already sense a little bit of a ripple happening in America where certain people are changing. If a year ago everyone in pop music would want a track from David Guetta or the Swedes or Calvin, I feel now that wouldn’t necessarily be the case. It might be quite soon that people are looking to Malinchak or Disclosure or something. I am listening to Timberlake’s new record right now, and I sense that it’s just around the corner. It’s not gonna be long before the biggest acts in the world, the best A&R people, the best managers will want something else. People aren’t stupid – they’re watching what’s going on. I feel validated in that sense: [with the new artists I support] I am not knocking on a door that’s never going to open.
Tong gives his opinion on who the next generation of superstar DJs will be, and the diversification that will come along with it. He doesn’t think there is much room left for big producers like Swedish House Mafia and Guetta, instead there’ll be an uprise of talent who are a playing different style such as Dillon Francis, Skrillex or Zedd. At the same time, there will be a noticeable interest in acts such as Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler and Brooklyn-based labels like French Express and Soul Clap.
To wrap up, he brings up the underground scene and its slightly different vibe that will take some time to break in America, as well as touching on what younger fans will crave from live shows :
…the underground relies a lot more on environment – the underground needs to be delivered in a slightly different way. It isn’t going to come off the main stage at Ultra with fireworks and explosions. Ibiza is a great melting pot for all that. In Ibiza, you can go to a Guetta gig and see everyone go mad and get their cameras out; then you can go to a Marco Carola gig at Amnesia and see just as many people going just as mad, even though you won’t hear a lyric and you won’t know a song. But Marco goes for environment in the way he plays, and the very particular way he sets up that room that he plays in. That’s the way it used to be at the beginning of house music, with all those legendary clubs – more like what we were talking about in England circa ’86-’87. You’ve got to ask yourself, is America going to do that? Does it want that? Is it ready for that? It was vilified back in the day as being part of the gay scene – and it was only New York, Chicago and Miami that were playing on that level. Places like Danceteria and Paradise Garage were social clubs, where drag queens mixed with straight people, and all of them loving house music.
But I’d like to think that with all these millions of new people interested in the scene, some of them will grow up with it – that they’d want it to evolve into something different. It’s like what you see in England right now: there the mainstream, the main room, has been dominated by the likes of Guetta for the last 5-7 years, but now the next 17-18 year-olds are coming along and saying, “You know, that’s not for me.” They’re listening to Jamie Jones – it’s not just the old people; with the deeper sound, the audience has always typically been a little older, but now it’s not. It’s very young again! So you’ve got young people mixing with 30 year-olds who wouldn’t want to dance to David Guetta. Eventually that’s probably going to happen in America. If you batter the kids every day with the biggest DJs that are always on the radio, that are always headlining shows, the same ten people everywhere you go, then one day just through evolution and age groups changing that moment will come along. I suppose in a way it happened already when kids decided that Skrillex was cooler than, I don’t know, Paul van Dyk.
The good thing is that it feels like it’s not going away in America, that it’s there to stay. It might ebb and flow a little bit, but…. I’d be curious to see if Vegas can carry on the momentum of its function.
via: The Daily Swarm