You’ll know when Peggy Gou is in the building. Her husky — and inexplicably calming — voice travels the room before you even glimpse that dark, curly mane and the quirky outfit she’s decked in for the day. In the last two years, Gou, a Berlin-based Korean-Italian DJ (previously a stylist and trained in fashion design) has increasingly become the name-to-know in the music scene — a result of her feel good sets at festivals and clubs (she’s played Berlin’s legendary Berghain), her original tracks sampling an intriguing mixed bag of sound influences, stints DJing at fashion events and, of course, that eclectic sense of style.
And while she was in fact in Singapore to DJ at Tag Heuer’s F1 event, Gou too, has no doubt arrived in the metaphorical sense. You’ll find her in South Korea playing a show one minute and in Europe the next, bouncing from fashion show to yet another music festival; her whistle-stop tour of the world testament to just how in demand she is in both music and fashion domains.
Before the rising star took the deck that evening, we chatted to the tastemaker about her effortlessly cool style, her desire to start a record label to support other promising music talents, and the fact that she truly believes in unabashedly asking for what she wants.
Has your background in fashion design and styling shaped your really stylish persona as a DJ?
I think the relation between my fashion background and my career as a DJ now is really taste. Fashion doesn’t influence my music, but yes, it does the way I present myself. Although when I performed in the past, I wanted to look serious — I never used to dress up. Now, it is a part of me; a package.
Why did you want to look serious when DJing previously?
I did it because a lot of people judged me. They would say that I’m a fashion person, and assume that I don’t know much about music — that I’m not serious about it. But when I wear just a white tee for example, I don’t feel like that’s me. I decided I wasn’t happy and changed that because it’s important to be yourself. Fashion has always been a part of me.
What do you aim to bring people with your music, and what do you think makes a good set?
I leave every set thinking if I’ve done well, and I think about why I’d played certain songs. There are shows where you go back to your hotel room feeling so happy and for me, if I’m still thinking about it and smiling about it the next morning, I know it’s good. It’s more about the feeling for me. When you mention Singapore, I get butterflies because my shows here have been amazing. Also, if I’m unhappy with a show, that stays with me too because I care. Again, I’d think about why I’d played certain songs. I think that’s a good thing though because I come back the next time wanting to do better.
You’ve said that your music at each set is different because you react to the crowd. What do you think Singapore is ready for at your show this December?
Singapore to me is a very special city. I can express myself however I want and the crowd will understand. I have freedom. I can play house, techno and then disco. I’ve played here three times and the first, I was really surprised by the crowd. The second, I actually broke a record and played the longest set in Singapore — six hours. I didn’t want to stop as I loved the crowd that had amazing energy. In December, the people who booked me are looking for a very special location — a pilot school — and if it happens, I want to make it special.
“When I think I’m wearing cool clothes, it gives me confidence.”
You’ve been doing this for a couple of years — does the pressure of performing ever get easier?
No. I get nervous every time. People think I’m lying, but it never gets easier. They even make jokes that I’ll be fine because I’m Korean — that Korean people always do things perfectly. I still get butterflies and I don’t want to lose that. Ever. When things get easy for me, I move on because my life was never easy. And as soon as I feel comfortable, I don’t find it fun.
Does your outfit influence your mood at a show?
Yes, one time I chose an outfit that I wasn’t happy with and I went back to change. What you wear gives you confidence. When I think I’m wearing cool clothes, it gives me confidence. I think that people now also want to see what I’ll wear during my shows. Sometimes when I can’t be bothered to dress up and end up wearing a simple white T-shirt, I’d still match it with some crazy colours, a cool hat or earrings. I know what looks good on me and what doesn’t, and it’s important to be aware of that. I get so excited to dress up for festivals — it’s my favourite thing.
Are you overpacker, or disciplined when travelling?
My aim in 2018 was to always travel light. I think it will never happen (laughs). I’d have like four luggages and think to myself, “Why is my life so complicated?”
You’re working on a clothing label of your own. What can we expect?
The [production and distribution] company New Guards Group (NGG) — that does Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Palm Angels, and Heron Preston — approached me and said that they wanted to help me make clothing that I like. I always wanted to have a fashion brand and it occured to me that I’d be in good hands, so I said yes. Everything is signed and I’m going to start on it properly in September. I’ll launch with womenswear but eventually, I want it to be a unisex high-end street brand as I like shirts, printed stuff and colours. When they approached me, they asked me this question: “Which celebrity do you want to wear your clothes?” I said no one. What I want is to look at my clothing and think, “I’ll wear that.” I don’t think I should launch a fashion line with the Kardashians in mind, for example. It’s my vision and what I like. And if people don’t like it, then that’s too bad (laughs).
Speaking of endeavours, word is that you’re also thinking of starting your own record label. Who are the Singaporean or Asian musicians you’re keeping your eye on?
There’s a Korean artiste — she’s Italian-Asian like me — whom I saw perform at a couple of her live shows and thought she’s very cool. I want to support the Asian market, but it also doesn’t necessarily matter where you’re from. If I like your music, you’re signed, but I am very picky so it’s going to be difficult. I’m doing this as I want to be the boss with my own music, and also support others — to provide a platform to new people. There are a lot of talented DJs and artistes living in Korea who don’t have a chance to break through. I want to help as I came from that.
It’s growth for you.
Yes, and I think that when I reach a point where I can [help others], why not?
What advice do you have for people trying to make in creative scenes like music, fashion or art?
It’s easy to say and harder to do, but never limit yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. That’s very important to me as I believe that in this world, you don’t get something if you don’t ask for it. I’m very good at asking (laughs). Whereas, I find that a lot of people are afraid to do so as they’re worried they might get a no. But even if you do, what do you really lose? I think you stand to gain.
What was the last thing you asked for, other than the coffee you’ve just had?
I was going to say that! A new watch from Tag Heuer (laughs).
And which is your favourite timepiece from the brand?
The Aquaracer. I chose it because of the colours. Just look at it. This blue, in mother of pearl… It’s perfect.
What are some of your favourite spots to chill out to good music in Asia?
There’s Koala in Tokyo, Japan, a tiny club with great music. Also, my friend has a bar called ATM (Against The Machine) in Korea where the music is always good with great drinks.
A couple of tunes you can’t get enough of at the moment?
I listen to chill out music when I’m at home — Mockingbird by Patrick Crowley and Silhouettes by Floating Points.
Lastly, what’s something most people don’t know about you?
I eat a lot! People call me ‘Peggy Portion’.
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