The phrase “It’s all gone Pete Tong” was a cliché even back in the 2000s. However, for dance music producers, getting support from the venerated DJ is proof that you’ve made it.
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This past year, Tong named duo TIBASKO among dance music’s “Future Stars,” and this fall, they’ve lived up to that hype with tracks “ICARO,” out in October, and “Hibiscus,” which dropped in early December.
Tong’s recognition is just the latest for this rapidly rising duo. Their tracks received support from Denis Sulta, The Blessed Madonna, John Digweed, and Danny Howard, and in June, Billboard Dance named them among the genre’s Emerging Artists.
TIBASKO is the pairing of Ken Petalcorin and Andy Bowden, who got started – in a less-traditional way these days – DJing on vinyl.
Both growing up in London, they began separately as producers before joining up briefly to blend their pop and orchestral influences in a dance music context.
Still, there’s no reason to stop growing as artists, and after finding a bit of success early on, Ken and Andy went their separate ways to travel in Southeast Asia.
That period brought additional influences and sounds into the fold, which they recorded through FaceTime and Dropbox.
Since that detour, they’ve put out releases on Toolroom, Another Rhythm, Street Tracks, and Stress, and have been touring in 2021, with dates lasting to the end of the year.
Blending melodic house with the structure of techno, they’ve developed a sound that appeals to both the mainstream festival set and the more discerning – and sometimes old-school leaning – underground. We had a chance to discuss their latest singles and career to date.
How did you get started with production? How did you both end up working together?
We’ve both known each other since we were in secondary school. Growing up in the same friendship group, we’d never have imagined that we would be making music together and playing in front of crowds.
Ken was always into music production from the off: He played as lead guitarist and singer for indie bands whilst I (Andy) would DJ electronic music from an early age.
We had talked about making some electronic music together for a while, and when we had finally finished university, we got together and made a track, it quickly got signed, and we’ve just continued the grind since then.
You both come from different musical backgrounds. How does this play out as you’re putting together a track?
I’d say Ken coming from a live music background, where playing instruments is a crucial part of the music process, gives our tracks the musicality and complexity that you can hear in a lot of our tracks.
The diversity in our musical upbringing gives us the range and scope of different sounds. This allows us to bounce ideas off one another and lean on each other’s strengths
What was your inspiration behind “ICARO”?
As lockdown was coming to an end and clubs and festivals were in sight, we wanted to create a track that would bring so much energy and awe to the dance floors.
We found the amazing vocal sample that carries a lot of the track, and once we’d pieced it together, we decided that the driving part of the track would be the kick. It’s powerful and unforgiving and really makes the track standalone in sets.
How does it feel to be named among Pete Tong’s “Future Stars”?
Pete had been supporting us for a while before this but to be named as Future Stars was an absolute honor, for us one of the pioneers in world electronic music is Pete Tong, so to be complimented in such a way was truly an amazing thing to experience.
We’re so thankful for all the support the whole Radio 1 team have given us over the years, starting with Jaguar, Annie, Danny, Sarah Story, and of course Pete.
You also started on vinyl: How do the current digital technologies compare, and what’s your favorite for DJing?
I think the topic of vinyl vs. digital is such a polarizing one; ego can be a factor on this from both sides as well. With the busy schedule of a lot of DJs these days, vinyl just isn’t a viable way to tour, unfortunately.
I can carry around 12,000 tracks on my USBs and carry three or four spares with me. For us, vinyl will always be a way to hold physical copies of the music we love, in the same light you would buy merchandise from a band at a concert.
It’s a way of supporting artists you love, too. We love digging for vinyl in charity chops, record stores, and markets.
Your travels also factor into the music you make. What influences you as you travel, and how does this emerge through your tracks?
We’ve both traveled extensively before Covid. Traveling the world opens you up to different cultures and in doing so open you up to vast amounts of different music.
One thing we would love doing is sampling street sounds from around the world and then integrating them into the background of our tracks.
You have more releases coming on Three Six Zero. What should listeners expect?
We had a new release come out December 9 entitled “Hibiscus.” It carries on a theme of worldly vocal samples that we’ve found on our searches, accompanied by a bassline that drives the track forward.
This culminates in a big synth lead drop that comes quite suddenly. We’ve played it out a lot in our sets and it always catches people off guard.
You’ve also modeled for Cosy Vintage. What’s your perspective on fashion, particularly the increasing interest in sustainability through second-hand?
We’re both quite into our fashion and particularly sustainable fashion, too. Most of our clothes are thrifted through vintage clothes stores. The idea of wearing something unique and your own is such a cool concept.
Fashion, much like music, is an opportunity to express yourself in ways words can’t. We also love supporting smaller stores such as Cosy Vintage, so anytime we get the chance to work with them again, we will.
You’re touring through the end of the year. How does it feel to tour again, and what should clubgoers expect during your sets?
It feels great to be out and playing in front of people again. We went through such a wild couple of years of uncertainty, which really plays on your mind. Our whole production plan was switched up as clubs weren’t set to open.
Clubgoers should expect high energy from both of us and the music we’re playing. They should also look out for a lot of our unreleased music that we’ve culminated in our downtime that’ll be released throughout 2022.