We dissect the furiously rapid rise of one of the most hyped stars in recent years.
Big names are ten-a-penny in dance music. But real stars, the kind who can transcend the often carbon-copy world of DJs, are something different. Peggy Gou is one of those people.
The Korean born, Berlin-residing DJ better known as Peggy Gou has in two years come from seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the most hyped DJs of the decade.
Her stardom is built on three things: a short but impressive catalogue of productions that have appeared on key tastemaking labels like Rekids, Phonica White and Ninja Tune’s Technicolour. Her skill as a selector for blending prototype and leftfield electronic dance music with modern house, acid, and disco. And her unmistakable sense of fashion that lights up every DJ booth and photo she appears in.
Gou is a shining example of dance music's internet age. A multi-medium talent who has rocketed to success in a whirlwind of vinyl only releases, magazine covers, Boileroom sets, Instagram selfies, Facebook posts and Red Bull lectures. And most crucially of all, she is a rare artist who manages to be cool and credible AND accessible at the same time.
Although she may have appeared out of nowhere, Gou’s first release was the result of five years of hard work and sticking her neck on the line. She estimates that she made 500 unreleased tracks before sending 'Art Of War' out but like most artists, she ran into a wall of declines when sending out her first demo. “I sent the first record to many people, Gerd Janson, Juju & Jordash… they all said no,” she told Dummy Magazine in 2016. “It was like, nobody wants my music.”
She found refuge in Matt Radioslave’s Rekids, who deftly paired the then unknown artist’s first two released tracks with an eye catching remix from Galcher Lustwerk. While the New York lo-fi house star’s presence might have grabbed the attention of the cool kids, her original tracks ‘Troop’ and ‘In Sum” sounded like a veteran producer at work. The kind of record that Rush Hour might re-release after a discovering in a dusty record loft.
She credits her rapid ascent up the production ladder to self belief and not being afraid to ask for advice. “It’s important to take advice, it’s important to have a mentor but what’s [most] important is to believe in yourself and do what you want,” she said in a Red Bull Music Academy lecture. “In the beginning when I was making demos I sent them to many people and got a lot of negative feedback. But it’s important to know what to take and what to not take and it’s important to be open to criticism, it makes you grow better and grow stronger.”
It’s no surprise Giraffes are her self confessed spirit animal. Peggy Gou stands out from the DJ crowd like a giraffe on acid. She was photographed hugging one on one of Mixmag’s most memorable ever covers, requests them on her rider and is regularly gifted toy giraffes by fans at her gigs.
The ability to throw yourself into the wind is a key attribute of stars of any medium. When she left her fashion job in London, the city where she spent her teens and twenties, to move to Berlin and concentrate on music, she worked in a record shop. Like many DJs who found their feet while selling records for a living, a knowledge and appreciation of many styles of music began to define her DJ sets.
“I don’t even know what my genre is! I get influenced by different things,” she told Hyponik in 2016. “When I started DJing professionally, I said, “I’m gonna play house, I’m gonna be a house DJ!” but most of the DJs that I look up to, they don’t care about genre, they can play whatever the fuck they want and it fits perfectly. It’s not about genre, it’s about how you play, what you play, and at what time – to take people on a journey.”
Gou developed a love affair with vinyl while shopping at London's nexus of vinyl, Phonica Records. After creating a stir with her first EP for Rekids, it now seems only natural that she would follow it up with an appearance on Phonica’s sub label, Phonica White. It may seem like an easy move now, but bagging a release on this extremely coveted and tastemaking label is no simple task.
Like her debut, it sounds remarkably old and new at the same time and combines samples with razor tight synthesizer and percussion sequences. 'Day Without Yesterday' samples D-Train’s disco classic, Keep On while the acid driven 'Six O Six' features Gou’s vocals for the first time. She is set to return to the label in April with a follow up single entitled ‘Travelling Without Arriving.’
Sifting through Peggy Gou’s Tumblr, it becomes quickly apparent that Gou could probably look cool in pretty much anything. Her Tumblr and Instagram are full of selfies and photos of her rocking the kind of clothing ensembles that clearly hint at her former career in fashion. Before blowing up as a DJ, she was regularly featured on street blogs like Facehunter or Le-21eme. While working as a London correspondent for Harper’s Bazaar Korea, she was interviewed for online fashion magazine Bast, in 2014 where she announced her intention to start producing.
She’s been featured in Vogue Magazine where she admitted that she started to lose her way in her studies at the London College of Fashion while skipping class to learn production from South African born, deep house producer Esa.
Very few DJs in dance music have super fans. Not just people who buy the music and come to the gigs, but the kind who take their obsession with an artist up to the next level. Gou’s fans started a tradition of waving her shoes in the air during her DJ sets and gift her toy giraffes. She returned the favour by designing them a fan.
Scoring nearly half a million views, Gou’s appearance on Dekmantel’s critically influential Boiler Room show proved to be a watershed moment in the ascendant DJ’s career. And yes it includes another shoe moment for her fans.
Gou demo’ing 'It Makes You Forget (Itgehene)' in 2017.
Coldcut’s Technicolour label is an offshoot of their hugely influential Ninja Tune label and has become a key home for some of dance music’s hottest artists of the 2010s. Gou’s appearance on the label in 2016 with the ‘Seek For Maktoop’ EP completed a triumvirate of white hot label alliance that multiplied her gig appearances and allowed her to top bills alongside DJs like The Black Madonna or her hero, Moodymann.
She returned to the label with vocal electro single, 'Han Jan', in February and then again a month later with another single, ‘Once'. The latter’s lead track ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehene),’ features Gou singing for the first time in Korean. Second track, 'Hundres Times' manages to sound peak time and downtempo at the same time while on 'Han Jan' Gou raps in Korean over an electro beat and typically Gou-tight sequenced bass and percussion and warm synth melodies.
Notching up dance music’s key podcasts and radio sets is a key objective of any tactically minded dance music artist. Few have mixed so many in such a short space of time as Gou however. Her RA podcast is already one of the series’ most played podcasts and she is the first Korean artist to appear on the Essential Mix.
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