Peggy Gou on Berlin, Korea, Scotland and her new EP
Is there currently a DJ on the circuit more beloved than Peggy Gou? With upcoming shows at Nightvision's Terminal V Festival and Glasgow's SWG3, and a fresh new EP under her belt, we speak to the South Korean talent who has won over the world
Peggy Gou is an excellent multi-tasker. As her profile continues to soar, with it comes an intense touring schedule – last year, she played over 100 international shows. She has just released her latest EP Once via Ninja Tune, and a peek at her social media accounts reveals a constant stream of projects, whether it's crafting guest mixes, learning new musical instruments, or collaborating with high end fashion brands. So it’s unsurprising that when we call through to talk to Gou, she is multi-tasking at a nail salon in Berlin. Gou explains: “Basically I just arrived [back] in Berlin today; even though I was in Korea I didn't have a chance to [get a] manicure because I was too busy, so now I'm at one of my favourite nail shops in Berlin. I think it's appropriate for this interview – 'Peggy Gou at the nail shop',” she laughs.
This wry self-awareness is just one of Gou’s many endearing traits. As an interviewee she’s open, friendly, and very funny; this likeable personality seems to speak directly to her audiences. Many of her shows are drowned out by the crowd roaring her name, or by chants of ‘Peggy Shoe’ accompanied by shoes held aloft in a (slightly bizarre) appreciation of her talent. She’s quick to show off her silly side via social media – case in point, a recent and rather adorable video that shows her dancing with her mum to one of her new tracks.
"In school, I was just kind of one of those girls that was always... so loud! The one that everybody likes, but everybody hates," she explains with a laugh. "You know what I mean? But the thing about me sharing on social media and things like that, I do share a lot. Maybe sometimes it's too much information. TMI!" she laughs.
"My friend, he's a joker, he criticises me all the time, he's like 'I don't wanna know what you eat!" she laughs. "But by sharing," she says, "I feel like I'm connected with people. It's like, some of the things I'm sharing, it's things that you can do [too]. I think it's important to be approachable. In the end, you're all human, you know?"
Though now based in Berlin, it was in London – where she was studying fashion – that Gou realised she wanted to pursue a career in music. In a 2016 interview with Skiddle, Gou said: "London taught me each different genre of music, but Berlin upgraded it." Though her South Korean heritage proudly plays a part in her music – It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) from Once features her vocals in Korean – she admits that growing up, Seoul was not a major influence.
"Seoul is not the city where I got influenced in what I do as a DJ and producer right now. I was always interested in music when I was young, but I moved out when I was 14. There I was listening to hip-hop and some music – I wouldn't even know what genre it was – I was so young. I got into the DJ scene, the music scene, when I went to London, so I don't think Korea has an influence on me."
When you're thinking about music or making music, which language do you tend to think in, we ask? "That's a good question! People ask me sometimes, 'when you dream, do you dream in Korean'? I get asked that question all of the time, and I actually don't know!
"I think I'm European when I'm in Europe, because I make music in Europe. Sometimes when I write music, there is no language involved," she states. "Even the idea of singing in Korean came up in English, you know what I mean? Like I said, there's no language involved. It's me, in the studio, alone... just go with the flow, without thinking about it."
Once is Gou's second Ninja Tune release, and comes after a gap in production after her last EP, 2016's Seek for Maktoop. Blending a range of styles, Gou has concocted a vivacious house sound that also brings in touches of disco and acid. The three tracks are described as each catering to a specific context: open air, warm-up and ‘proper party’, but Gou describes herself as still very much a “club person”. She explains: “I play differently in the club to [a] festival; the festival, it depends what time you play, and where you play, and which city you play in... I'm more a club person. I like to be close to the crowd. I like to feel connected. Maybe this will change," she laughs, "who knows!"
"In school, I was one of those girls that was always so loud! The one that everybody likes, but everybody hates..."
Gou is, however, excited to return to Scotland. She plays Terminal V’s Easter Sunday festival in Edinburgh, before making her way through to Glasgow that same evening for a show at SWG3. "Scotland is one of my favourite places [in the UK],” she enthuses. “The last time I was there, one of my favourite gigs – top three of all time – was Sub Club. It's an amazing place, the vibe, the people... they love music, they know how to party. I'm always excited to go back. Not to mention that a Glasgow hero was one of the big followers of mine from the beginning – Jackmaster."
Gou met Jackmaster after seeing a show at a small venue in Bristol – “it was not even a club, it was a pub," Gou stresses comically. The Glaswegian DJ subsequently invited Gou to play at his Numbers and Mastermix parties, and has become a champion of her work, as well as a close friend.
She muses for a second. "You know what? Jack sometimes tells me 'some people think I have a big head', but he's not actually like that; he has a really, really good heart," she enthuses. "If you walk in the street, he will never walk past a homeless person. I'm pretty good at reading people! I always tell people, 'I've got a gift'," she laughs. "I can read people very easily. But with Jack, I can say, a lot of people might get him wrong, but he actually is a very good person. He's a sweetheart."
Supporters aside, there’s no doubt that Gou has worked incredibly hard for her success. As recently as 2015, she was a relatively unknown DJ who had played just a handful of international shows – to say her rise has been meteoric is an understatement. Tough-skinned in a male dominated industry, she also has an admirable work ethic: “You know, even if I was not a DJ, I would probably find something and keep myself busy every single day. One of my friends said that I'm a workaholic, but this year I'm cutting my gigs down and focusing on [producing] more music. There are other things I want to do. But working hard makes me feel alive. Even if I have a day to do nothing, I go home, I stand still, and then end up doing something!" she laughs. "I think it's just my personality."
With Gou still mid-manicure at the nail salon, the conversation meanders into a chat about art – Gou is also an artist, and cites French graphic designer Jean Jullien and Spanish artist Joan Cornellà as current favourites – and inevitably, tattoos. “Because it's so easy," she tells us. "I've been saying my giraffe tattoo is my favourite, but I think that's quite boring." OK, we ask, how about the second favourite? She describes a tattoo on her arm that’s based on a fairytale illustration. "I can send you a picture after! I can even send you an Instagram video of me explaining this tattoo." True to her word, she sends through a link, and a picture of her arm accompanied by the crying laughter emoji. As a DJ, talent will only get you so far; personality is also key to domination behind the decks. In Peggy Gou’s case, she has an abundance of both.
Once is out now via Ninja Tune
Peggy Gou plays Terminal V, Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh and SWG3, Glasgow, both 1 Apr