A master of what he terms joining the dots, Gilles weekly radio show Worldwide on BBC Radio 1, and his various compilation CDs (Incredible Sound of Gilles Peterson, Worldwide Programme 1, 2, and 3, and his 2 Trust the DJ comps) have paved the road for those of us searching for the strand of harmony that connects various, sometimes incongruous, genres of music. Every Wednesday, for two hours, Gilles takes his listeners on journeys through jazz, funk, hip-hop, and dance, through the old and dusty, the new and never-to-be-released, classics and classics-to-be. For his faithful listeners, Gilles sets not trends, but standards, conveying and inspiring above all else, a pure love and appreciation of music. Gilles taught me that music has a life all its own, and the best way to determine how to put songs together, is not only to listen, but to watch and feel how and where each tune grows. The dots come together naturally; youre just there to draw the line.
Emmerald: You must receive a ton of music a day. How do you decide what gets played and what doesnt get played?
Gilles Peterson: Well I tend to look at labels that I know first of all. And my radio show goes through a production company, so I have a producer--
Emm: Is that Karen?
Gilles: Yes, thats Karen. A lot of music gets sent to her and the real rubbish, shell clear out. So before it gets to me most of the rubbish is gone. But if ever I find out that Karens not given me a record that I like that she thought was rubbish, its always bad for her, (laughs) so it hasnt happened for a while. Ive only got two hours on the radio and its quite an influential radio show. There are a lot of bands and artists and producers coming through who want exposure. So I feel I have a responsibility to those people that I listen to their music. And that means that I play a lot more new music than I used to.
I try not to listen to too much music on the day of a show, so I tend to hit my music on Mondays and Tuesdays. Otherwise I could end up listening to music all day on a Wednesday. I do three different shows. I do the one on the BBC; I do a syndicated show which goes out to lots of different stations around the world, and I do a show which is for things like British Airways. I keep really busy with the shows and other things. For example, coming here in Miami this week, Ive had to record two Radio 1s, two syndicated shows, and a British Airways show all like in three days, which is a lot you know. So, anyway, to cut a long story short, I usually try to pace it with my music. I clear my music out regularly as well. I used to keep everything, and then I realized I cant do it. I just cant live with all this stuff. Im so badly organized as an individual anyway that if I had too much music there it would just kill me, so I do clear out my music often. I mean obviously the stuff that Ive played and I like, Ill keep, but all the other stuff thats half and half, I just clear out. Every now and again I realize Ive made a big mistake and Ive let something go that Ive heard some DJ playing somewhere in a club. Then Im like oh my God, I used to have that album and I got rid of it. That kind of thing happens but thats the way it goes.
Emm: How long have you and Karen worked together?
Gilles: Well I had a guy called Benji B who used to work with me. He came to me when I was working on Kiss FM. He was like fifteen then and he was still at school. And he said he wanted to work on my show and so I started got him into Kiss, and we just became really good friends. He came all the way through until I did Radio 1. Now hes become a DJ and a broadcaster himself, and so last year we had to basically let him go so he could do his own thing. When I started off at Radio 1 he brought in Karen as an assistant producer for himself so shes been there for a bit of a while. Shes given the show a really nice twist. She's my little angel.
Emm: How does your syndicated show differ from your Worldwide show?
Gilles: I do the syndicated show at my house. And theres less talking, more music.