“He even went and made a t-shirt that said, ‘Who the Fuck is Peggy Gou?”
Peggy is laughing about the first time she met Rich McGinnis, the booker at the Warehouse Project who has since made her resident. He’d been told by Jackmaster to book her in the middle of last year, but had no idea who she was. Still, McGinnis trusted Jackmaster’s word, put Peggy on in Liverpool with The Black Madonna and “has been really supportive ever since.”
In the following 12 months, there can be no one left in dance music who doesn't know Peggy. The 27 year old South Korean-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer is one of the breakout stars of 2017. She’s played more than 170 gigs everywhere from Bali to the US, Dekmantel to Panorama Bar. She backed up early EPs on Rekids and Phonica White with remixes for Black Butter Records and DMC, has just been named as one of Mixmag’s Top 5 DJs of the year. After the odd tradition first started at Glastonbury this summer, she even has her own fan club who chant ‘Peggy Shoe!’ at her when she plays.
Peggy’s come a long way from the unknown entity who first moved to Berlin in 2014 to pursue a dream. At that point, she had few friends and found the city a little lonely. She worked in a record shop and could be found in the same corner of Panorama Bar every Sunday. “That place was my school,” she says. “At first I just wanted to be a house DJ, house, house, house.” But now she explains her tastes have changed according to her experiences in the club, the people she meets, record shops she goes to and DJs she plays with.
It means a set from her will go from classic house to banging techno via acid grooves and back again in an instant, all with a big smile and plenty of energy. And that’s how she is we when speak: happy and easy going. She’s also still a little disbelieving that she is getting to live out her dream, but also keen to talk about future projects and how she intends to push herself.
After a non-stop year of gigging, 2018 will be the year she focusses more on music. A fan of using—and collecting—real synths, she is a classically trained pianist who knows how to lay down proper top lines, and also plans to go home to Korean next year to learn the gayageum, a traditional zither-like instrument with 12 strings. She says it will feature on her upcoming album, as well as potentially in the ensuing live show, and she has also started singing in Korean. The first evidence will come on a new EP on Nina Tune in the new year.
After her parents worried about her performance in school, 14 year old Peggy was sent from her hometown of Seoul in Korea to live with a guardian in London where she went on to study fashion. A promising career in that industry was within grasp, but having fallen in love with Roman Flügel’s Fatty Folders album, she decided to pursue her love of music, applied to study it, but was denied a VISA for what was seen as a lesser course, so head out to Berlin. At first, she wanted to make a clear distinction between music and fashion as she was worried she’d be seen as being in this for the wrong reasons.
“In the beginning I was thinking, ‘oh my god, I shouldn't dress well, I should just dress simple, because I don’t want people to think I’m not serious.’ But now I'm doing this for myself. That’s not my complex any more. I spoke to my friend and mentor DJ Gregory when playing at Concrete in Paris and he said, ‘change your weakness to strength and don’t worry.’ So I don’t. If I don’t [dress how I want] it doesn’t make me happy, so I no longer care what people think.”
It took a week of messages back and forth to finally catch up with Peggy. Since we first made contact she’s been to Milan to discuss a fashion project she doesn’t want to reveal yet, then Leeds, Amsterdam and Berlin. In the background I can hear the sound of a nail file sanding back and forth. She’s now at Studio 358 Nails getting a new polish for the weekend. Wearing a Supreme cap, silver bomber jacket, oversized scarf and aviator sunglasses, she’s perfected the dressed-up dressed down look. Thousands of people follower her every move on Instagram, including contemporary fashion deities like Acronym’s Errolson Hugh and Off White’s Virgil Abloh, whose recent Nike collaborations have sent the hype crew into overdrive.
“Every time I go to a different city it’s a mission for me to pack my bag,” she pretends to grumble. “For example, in November I went to Bali, Australia, Korea, America, then back to Berlin, so had to pack summer to winter clothes and everything in between. That’s hard!” When I say some DJs get basic clothes on their rider to avoid this problem, she baulks, “no, no, no, no!”
As a way of dealing with life on the road, Peggy recently got back into going to the gym. “Yesterday Honey [Dijon] sent me a picture of her and said, 'gurrl, you gotta work out' so she motivated me. I used to run 10kms a day, but then I hurt my back and stopped so I felt my body was changing without it.”
When on the road, she eats well and travels with lots of vitamins. In Berlin, she takes advantages of the many vegan, organic and bio places and tries not to eat too much meat, “although I’m Korean, and they eat everything,” she laughs, knowingly.
Admitting she finds it difficult to sleep on the road when “it’s not your home and you don’t like the bed,” one solution is to do as she did last weekend: change your flight for an earlier one even if you’ve only had two hours in your hotel room after your gig. The reason? To catch DJ Harvey playing back home at Berghain. And that sums Peggy up perfectly: she’s still a keen and wide-eyed music lover, giddy with excitement about her journey, about what’s to come and every new party she plays.
“Before every gig I get butterflies and my aim is to never loose this, ever. As soon as you don’t have them, you don’t care. If I do lose them I will aim to do something else.”
One place she certainly feels more at home is The Warehouse Project. As a season long resident, she has made Room Two her own. “I love it in there, it’s intimate, you’re closer to the crowd and I love the darkness of the space.” Still not believing she is a big name herself, she addresses her fellow New Year’s Day headlines—Hunee, Motor City Drum Ensemble, The Black Madonna—with deference. “I’ll be playing earlier, because the line-up’s crazy, those guys are huge. I’ve been going through records before I came to the nail shop today, actually, and I would love to do a disco set.”
Nowadays happy to allow her two main passions to interject, she says, “I use fashion stuff in the music world to get to a different crowd, but when I play the fashion gigs I play more what I play when I play Panorama Bar. They don't come and ask me 'can you play Rhianna?’ and if they ask me that, I’ll tell them to find another DJ.”
But of course they won’t. Peggy is the first Korean DJ to play outside of the county and her rising profile is making an impact back home. “The scene is growing,” she beams of the land where she first fell in love with all sorts of music, particularly hip hop. “People like Ben Klock and Seth Troxler have played there now and I can proudly say I’m part of it. People are now slowly getting sick of EDM, finally!”
Promising to return home much more next year to see her mum, Peggy’s continued rise through the ranks can only be a good thing for the underground scene in her homeland.
“My mum was a little emotional when she saw the Mixmag thing. At first she was like ‘you worked in fashion, now you want to do music, what will you say next?’ But now they get it and we're best friends. She was saying she wants to travel with me, she misses me, and even though I go home for one week or two weeks every so often, I have so much work to do in Korea [in both the TV and fashion worlds] when I'm there. So my New Year’s resolution is to spend more time with family, but music will always be my priority.”