Exclusive Interview : Pete Tong – What appealed to me with Ibiza when I went in the late 80s was all the things you couldn’t do in the UK like dancing in the daytime; dancing in the open air on a terrace without a roof.

Following the incredible success of the BBC Radio 1’s Ibiza Prom at the Royal Albert Hall last summer, Pete Tong will bring Ibiza Classics along with The Heritage Orchestra to The O2, London this December. The prom was a musical homage to Ibiza. With its infectious, energetic brand of club music reworked by the 60-piece Heritage Orchestra, singers, and synths, directed by the acclaimed conductor Jules Buckley, this new arena show will promise once again to bring an unforgettable dance-party to London. As the voice of Radio 1’s prestigious dance programming, Pete has held a commanding presence over the industry for more than two decades. His unique position has earned him a reputation as the global ambassador of dance music.

Pete will be joined by Conductor Jules Buckley, Artistic Director Chris Wheeler and The Heritage Orchestra. Composer, orchestrator and conductor Jules Buckley has made a name for himself as one of Europe’s most in-demand conductors of hip contemporary orchestral projects. Currently the Chief Conductor of Holland’s renowned Metropole Orkest and the Musical Director of the UK’s Heritage Orchestra, his daring approach to crossing and linking musical genres has brought him widespread acclaim.

Decoded Magazine had exclusive access to Pete for a rare interview to discuss the new show, Ibiza and his all time favourite Ibiza classic.

Hi Pete, it’s an absolute pleasure to chat to you today, I know you rarely give interviews, so thanks for choosing Decoded Magazine. After the success of the Ibiza Prom last summer, we understand you’re taking the concept one step further…

When BBC Radio 1 approached me about the idea, it was Jan 2015 and we embraced it. I mean, I’m not the first person to do dance music with a classical orchestra, but to do it on that scale, in the Albert Hall, it was an adventure into the unknown. Once we’d done it and came off stage that night, we looked at each other and instantly wanted to do it again. It’s such a difficult thing to co-ordinate and organise that I’m thrilled to announce we that we’re going to do it again at the O2 on the 1st of December 2016. It was definitely one of the best things I’ve been involved in.

Can you talk us through the process behind choosing the tracks featured.

For the first six months, it involved me picking the tracks, and then I’d talk to Jules Buckley about what the process was going to be from conception to performance. They wanted me to put the tracks in an order for them to play, so I went away and worked on it. I ended up coming up with a list of about 70 tracks which was like a minute a track for the 75 minute performance. Jules rang me up a few days later and said “Yes its very nice, but we won’t be performing this until about 2020 if we do it this way!” because of how he would have to score the tracks, so I had to rapidly edited it down to about 20, 22 tracks, and that’s what we did.

It was an amazing feeling actually. I mean I was picking them, I sorted out the order and sent them a mix, then Jules would change the order a bit for scoring, but for literally 6 months everything was in my head, so at least I hear the original tunes, but the sheet music and the arrangements were in Jules’ head.

I kept asking him if I could hear it, and he would say it wouldn’t make much sense as he’s “just plonking around on a computer“, so I didn’t get to hear it until the day before the show. It was such a complicated thing to put together, coordinating 65 people in an orchestra, finding a space to perform, so literally it all came together the day before, and my part – throwing in loops – I didn’t get to practice until the morning of the show!

Sounds pretty intense. We understand the show will be in London, are there plans to tour at all?

We’ll see how it goes. Logistically, it’s a complex game of 3 dimensional chess moving all the parts around, and it isn’t cheap. Plus the vast majority of the orchestra live in or around London, so that really the only reason we chose to do the show in London. If it goes well, and people show the kind of enthusiasm we saw at the Proms, then yeah we could look at moving it around. But I don’t want to have to play with 20 people, it’s the size of the orchestra that made it so impressive.

Pete Ibiza Classics


Have you had a chance to chat to the guys at the Hacienda or Cream about how their shows were received?

I haven’t no, I live in the US now, but I know they’ve done a few in Manchester and Liverpool. For us, it’s a little bit different, we were overwhelmed by the response we got from the Albert Hall show. Lots of offers came in about how to do it again, but its complicated to do it on the scale we are doing. Heritage Orchestra is 65 musicians and I didn’t want to water that down.

Now having done it, we have a good idea on how to improve things, and even after the first show, Jules and I were coming up with ideas about how to enhance it. So as exciting as it was, when we came off stage that night, the first thing we all wanted to do was go straight back out and do it again! In that sense it was quite frustrating. So for this show we won’t be so restricted on time, and we kinda know what we’re dealing with now, so we’ve all got ideas to chip in.

Ibiza classics will be the focus once more for the show, but do you think the word classic or anthem has become overused or misinterpreted over the years?

I don’t think so in this sense, because the word ‘classics’ is framing what we’re trying to achieve. So in the context of what we’re doing its spot on. Although its fair to say some tunes aren’t maybe as classic as they suggest they are, because there’s been so many lists and compilations over the years they have to fill them with something. I don’t think we’re going to run out though, because Ibiza’s been going since the late 80’s, and as I said, when I first started this project I had a list of 70 tracks.

Totally on the spot, can you pick one favourite anthem from the 100’s out there?

Stardust ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ would always stand up for me. What appealed to me with Ibiza when I went in the late 80’s was all the things you couldn’t do in the UK like dancing in the daytime; dancing in the open air on a terrace without a roof. So I think those kind of tunes are the ones that resonate with me and represent Ibiza at its best, and I think that Stardust tune is about as good as it gets.

I was very proud on the night we did the Albert Hall show that we could do the more Mambo/sunset kinda tunes as well, so the fact that Smokebelch 2 went down so well bodes well for what we have in store in December, because I think we’ll find a couple more moments like that.

The commercial side of dance music is undergoing a sea change at the moment. Did you see it coming, and do you think it’s damaging to the scene as a whole?

It’s difficult time. It’s a time of consolidation, and I feel in a way, like I’ve lived through a mini version of this in the late 90s, when the business became over inflated to a certain extent. Things slowed down. Some magazine shut down; some labels shut down their dance departments, so it was a re calibration. I think this is a slightly different thing, I mean its unfortunate that the music business gets a bad rep for someones crazy idea.

I think there was a lot of people in the industry with raised eyebrows when the SFXE roll out was going on, so its not the biggest surprise to many, but it doesn’t help us. Beatport’s a very important part of many peoples lives in terms of if you run a label, so I hope that all gets worked out because its everybody’s outlet. It reminds me of the 90’s when physical distribution went bust. And certainly if you are trying to raise money for our community, or were talking to venture capitalists the thing that would come up is SFXE and that’s where it hurts you.

Can you tell us about your plans for the summer? And what of the future for Ibiza, with many brands hosting one last season, is our love affair with the island coming to an end?

I’ll be playing shows in Ibiza in July and August, but it all starts with the IMS at the end of May which we’ve been doing now for 7 or 8 years. That’s the season opener for me. As for the future of the island, it’s evolving. It’s certainly different from when I first went there in the late 80’s, but I think it’s really important to remember everybody’s first time there is so special, and that every year its someone first time.

New generations and new people discovering the island; it takes on a different meaning for each of them. It’s still a very creative space, it’s still very underground. I mean as much as Ibiza gets a reputation and a lot of those big DJs play there, the actual underground is still a huge showcase. Most of the night times are still dominated by the underground scene, and not so much the mainstream.


Decoded Magazine would like to thank SJM Concerts for arranging our interview. Tickets for Pete Tong presents Ibiza Classics go on sale Friday 11th March at 9.30amherehere and here. Pre orders are available from the Facebook event page. Special guests to be announced soon.