"It's always inspiring, it's complex and it's not cheap!" - Pete Tong talks his new collection Chilled Classics
When it was announced back in 2015 that veteran DJ Pete Tong had teamed up with conductor Jules Buckley and a full orchestra to bring a night of Ibiza classics to the Royal Albert Hall as part of 2015 BBC Proms, it was largely dismissed as a stunt and a provocation. But the reaction on the night turned out to be rather different.
So successful in fact was the performance that Tong compiled an album the following year of many of the night's highlights re-recorded in a studio. That sold handsomely, and, in the years since, a further collection, huge festival performances and a string of arena tours have followed.
The latest in the series, Chilled Classics, takes things to the next level. Mixed in with new takes on floor fillers like Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat', Groove Armada's 'At The River' and Underworld's 'Born Slippy, are four original tracks.
There are also a stellar line-up of guests, including Wiley, Nina Nesbitt, Boy George, Zara Larsson and Sinead Hartnett.
We spoke to Tong about the new collection and why he's amazed at the success the series has enjoyed...
Have you been surprised by the success of your Classic series? It’s caught fire in such a big way…
"At the beginning, Yes I was. The reaction from the crowd on the first night at The Royal Albert Hall for the Proms suggested something special was happening and I'm thrilled at the way the project has evolved. It's pretty surreal to think this is the fourth year running we are playing the likes of Manchester Arena and The O2."
Why did you decide on the chilled theme for this run?
"I was looking for a fresh angle and I don’t believe we could just do Ibiza Classics part two. We wanted to go further than that. The idea came from the way we are adapting tunes like 'Every Heartbeat' and 'Alright'. It was also inspired by daytime clubbing in Ibiza and at the great Sunset bars and clubs around the world."
How many tracks were in contention for this album? Did you have a big list to choose from?
"We had something like 30 tracks in various forms of development over the past couple of years. Some of these tunes we tried on last years tour and then we went and recorded them. We have ended up with 18 including four originals."
What is recording with an orchestra like? Have you got used to its power?
"It's always inspiring, it's complex and it's not cheap! You have to be really well organised by the time you get them in the studio, but they are such amazing players that you can get a lot done in a very short space of time. The virtuosity blows my mind!"
You’ve got some great collaborators on there, Wiley, Nina Nesbitt, Zara Larsson and Boy George, how were they to work with?
"It's been an honour and these collaborations give these recordings the extra X-Factor. Wiley is a don and he came up with something really unique for 'Born Slippy'. Boy George and I have some history together so it was great to reunite. Nina Nesbitt is someone I recently discovered and was really impressed with her voice."
"Zara is a superstar and it took a while to pin her down but I think we have made something that is pretty unique. I think it will surprise a few people and I don’t think her fans have heard her do something like this before. She’s also singing a song by one of her idols and mentors."
There are some original compositions on this album, how they were to put together?
"Jules and I having been talking about originals since the first album so we have had various ideas going back and forth between us and they finally came together in time to make it onto this record. 'Harmony', 'Symphony' and 'Go Crazy' are all ideas we composed and 'Darkest Days' is a song written by the incredibly talented Shungodzu and Stuart Crichton that we collaborated on."
You’re taking the album out on the road, you must be looking to the shows?
"The shows are the heart and soul of the project. It’s where all the magic happens and the interaction and mass community raving with the audience takes it to another level! It's a brand new show featuring some songs we haven’t recorded yet so watch out for the fourth album..."
How’s your 2020 shaping up? Is it going to be a busy year?
"Looking good. We will continue to promote the album and we just announced that we will be headlining the Isle Of Wight festival in June and I’ll definitely be checking out Glastonbury 50 and Ibiza. Busy enough..."