Clubs: Careers master

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Pete Tong's extensive CV means that he will always have something to fall back on, which might explain his uniquely relaxed approach to DJing

Pete Tong runs his own record label, kicks off the weekend with his Friday evening Essential Selection on Radio 1, and has seen Ministry of Sound's Annual III and his own Essential Selection compilation go gold. He commands a massive following on airwaves and dancefloors alike, and on New Year's Eve headlines at the UK's most successful club, MoS. Not bad for a man who considers DJing a "hobby".

"Maybe I've lasted so long because I've always treated it as such," he muses. "I was never really under pressure to earn the rent from DJ work alone."

In 1983, he began his first London club residency before joining London Records. His work with the company has been constant despite numerous excursions into DJing. "Most people know me as a radio and club DJ, but really I consider that stuff to be a laugh, albeit a very successful laugh.

"I go into Radio 1 every Friday night with the attitude that I'm just going up there to play a bunch of my favourite records."

After talking for a while with Tong, it is hard to suppress the feeling that clubland holds few surprises for him any more. You might think that any DJ who doesn't get a buzz from playing live to thousands of people is probably dead, yet Tong's nonchalance stems from the fact that he's seen it, heard it and played it, and has left the building looking for a new sound.

"I only go to clubs for two reasons," he says. "To play or to check out something new. I was never the sort of person to do three gigs a night every weekend.

"DJs like [Jeremy] Healy and [Judge] Jules obviously say `I'm only going to be at the top of this game for so long, so I'd better do as much as possible'. They obviously give value for money. But because I've always had this job with the record company, it's a different challenge.

"If I'm going to play I want it to be in a nice place with nice people and good equipment. The minute anything goes wrong I get a massive guilt trip for not being at home with my wife and kids or my friends. It's just a waste of time.

"If something comes along in my life that gives me the same buzz then I might give it up."

Like other top DJs of his generation, such as Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold, Tong's success is based on the ability to recognise fresh musical influences and adapt accordingly. From jazz funk to hip-hop, acid house to drum 'n' bass, his DJ career has always championed black music while remaining open to other influences. His work outside clubland proves more diverse, with Goldie just one of the artists he has promoted.

His New Year's Eve set will place him in front of an audience of thousands in London, Manchester and New York via ISDN technology and Radio 1's airwaves, but his eyes only light up when he talks about his recording artists. It is at this point that you catch a glimpse of what really drives him.

"I can't see myself being like John Peel on Radio 1 or DJing in clubs 10 years from now, so hopefully I'll be retired somewhere," he says. "My big passion is working with artists. It's the excitement of finding Goldie and then signing him to a deal. You get to nurture something that is totally opposite from everything else that goes on. I see that as a way to grow old gracefully.

"Dance music validates my role in the record company. I won't be the person who discovers the next Oasis but I might discover the new Prodigy."