Peggy Gou & Jackmaster on the Art of Eclecticism: Exclusive Interview

David Holderbach
Jackmaster and  Peggy Gou.

There’s a certain aura orbiting Peggy Gou and Jackmaster at the moment. It’s the kind of glow that arises when a beloved underground figure gains a bit of global notoriety -- without sacrificing their integrity along the way.

Gou and Jackmaster are both in the midst of such a transition, equally adored by house and techno enthusiasts, yet also finding significant international acclaim as more than DJs but burgeoning cultural icons.

While hailing from different countries and different scenes -- Gou from South Korea and Jack from Scotland -- both artists have come to be defined by their uncompromising commitment to eclecticism in the DJ booth. Such is evident in the sheer variety of music played in both artists’ sets. Either performer is just as liable to dip into disco and deep house as they are jazz, funk or techno.

“Even I don’t know what’s coming next most of the time,” Jackmaster tells Billboard. Gou similarly quips: “I always have a desire to try and go against expectations. If they come to see me and expect house I want to play techno.”

The two first met in 2016, when Gou was playing at a pub in Bristol. Jackmaster happened to walk in, only to be blown away by the young performer. Jackmaster took to Facebook soon after, writing: “I randomly heard Peggy Gou DJ in a pub on a rare night off in Bristol and about half way into her set i was already emailing her agent to book her.” A friendship was thus born, with Gou joining Jackmaster for a number of performances at his acclaimed Mastermix parties.

More recently, the creative partnership culminated in a rare back-to-back set at IMS Dalt Vila Ibiza. The annual party on the White Isle -- which serves as the flagship musical accompaniment to the island’s International Music Summit gathering -- has become one of the year’s most anticipated events. The 2018 edition found Jackmaster and Gou joining the likes of Pete Tong, Sven Vath, Dubfire, Guy Gerber and more for the Ibiza season opener.

In celebration of the pair’s back-to-back performance from IMS Dalt Vila, as well as a successful 11th edition of the International Music Summit, Billboard spoke to both artists on their individual philosophies towards DJing and the importance of eclecticism in the booth.

What is your process for preparing for a gig? How does your preparation change depending on the show?

Peggy Gou: It always depends which city I am in, what kind of party it is, when my set is and who I am on the line up with. I always prepare different sets for each gig and make sure I have lots of different options for tracks depending on the situation. You have to go with the vibe of the moment - you might want to play some tracks but if they don’t fit the vibe you need to change things up.

Jackmaster: Most typically, I spend 30 minutes before my gig in the hotel or on the plane just arranging tracks into a crate that I think will fit the gig, or fit the town or time slot I’ve been given. The brevity isn’t down to the fact that I am complacent or I don’t give a fuck, it’s more to do with the fact that I have so many gigs, my playlists are usually pretty extensive and on my USB I am within easy reach of music to suit any situation. But yeah, I spend a bit of time before each show just making sure I am ready. Some gigs require more preparation than others. For example, a gig at Panorama Bar, I will spend the whole week prior ripping vinyl at home. I’m hunting for new music everyday on the internet, so there’s always a lot to choose from.

How would you describe the ‘narrative’ or ‘journey’ of one of your sets? Where do you want to take people over the course of a performance?

PG: I would say that these days I am trying to be more eclectic - I played mostly house and disco sets last year but now I try to play all different kinds of styles.

How I change genre in the set depends on how the DJ before me finished and the crowd’s vibe. I always have a desire to try and go against expectations - if they come to see me and expect house I want to play techno. Sometimes they go for it, but sometimes they don’t. There have been sets where I decide I want to take things in a different direction but I quickly see “ok this is not for them!” and go back.

J: It’s a rocky road. It just goes everywhere then back again. Even I don’t know what’s coming next most of the time. My sets at their most eclectic would include everything I like: house, techno, disco, Italo, dubstep, grime, 80s pop and everything in between.

How important to you is it to play undiscovered or under-appreciated music?

PG: It’s very important - I think most of the best DJs want to play tracks people don’t know about - they want to play a track people need to Shazam!  It is important because it shows you are making an effort to find under-appreciated tracks - it’s so easy to just find tracks on Beatport’s top 100.  I think a lot of DJs also feel like testing tracks before release is exciting too, to find out what a crowd thinks of something before they know what it is.

J: It’s important to give the people what they what, but also give them what they need. What they want, usually on most of today’s dancefloors, is to hear some kind of familiarity, some crescendos, a steady beat. Nowadays the crowd seems to like harder music but what they need is to be educated and for their minds to be opened, maybe exploded! It’s important for me to expose them to new stuff but mix it with the rest.

What genre or style of dance music do you think deserves more love -- and why?

PG: Sometimes I feel like people who love house music don’t fully appreciate how important disco is. I like to play disco in my sets, as do many others, but really great disco DJs are hard to find these days I think.

J: I think Dubstep gets a bad rap these days. There’s so much good in there if you know where to look. I must say even I neglect it a bit as it’s hard for me to segue it into my sets succinctly.

What excites you about this particular moment in electronic music?

PG: On a personal level, I am really excited about challenging myself to create timeless music - music that people in 2030 will still listen to. On a more general level, I love more female artists are coming through now - it’s important to have music coming from many different perspectives.

J: The most exciting thing for me is how many great DJs are being recommended to me that I’ve never heard. DJs who don’t produce music either. It seems like the art of DJing is a very recognized art form at the moment. I love that.

What inspires you most about DJing?

PG: I do this because I love music - I am giving what I love the most to people and when they receive it and feel the same way I find this super inspiring.

J: The buzz from the crowd of course. You can’t explain it. It’s a rush from the tip of your toes right up to your head. Manifested in a great big grin on your face. For me anyway. I try to let it be known when I’m enjoying myself on the decks.