CREATING MUSICAL EXPERIENCES and BUILDING COMMUNITIES.
AN INTERVIEW WITH NEW YORK’S UNDERGROUND PRINCE OF HOUSE MUSIC – DJ PETER PONY CLEMENT.
By Saida Mouradova.
There are curious souls who open the door to take a peek and then there are those who pursue life with endless hunger for creativity, who are not afraid to move crowds and touch you so deep inside you didn’t even know you were open on that level. I often speak of my my amazing tribe here on the blog and today you get to meet the one man who has successfully gotten me out of bed in the middle of the night on more than one occasion using only his magical tunes!
DJ PONY is one of my favorite artists, an underground DJ warrior who creates music that doesn’t only move your soul and limbs for hours at a time, but is also one of those rare artists who is booked to close parties, making the crowds stay until the sunrise and take my word for it – he will get you to continue shaking it even at 6 am, when you think you are ready for a fetus position in your warm a comfy bed, falling off your feet, looking for the credit card to close the bar tab! Some of you might have caught my interview with PONY back in the fall, when we sat down to discuss the city we love, the passions we pursue and the tribe we are proud to be a part of.
Today, you get to meet him anew. This time, I tried to compile a set of questions that might open the door for you into the magical world of music making, but also expose you to the amount of energy and hard work that it takes to make it in one of the best cities in the world. No one gets to be called Prince Of New York (PONY) and wear the crown without earning it first. So here’s to inspire you to live your best life, with no further delay- DJ PONY.
TFH: In three words or less define who you are!
DJ PONY: Curious. Mindful. Loving.
TFH: How would you describe the essence of your art form?
DJ PONY: It’s part musical experience, part community building. It’s a way for me to express myself and also give people, hopefully, a really good time, good memories.
TFH: How did your DJ name come about?
DJ PONY: I’m asked this a lot, and honestly it’s left open to interpretation on my end. It was given to me as a nickname in art school. Where it’s origin lies is unknown, some people say it’s because I had long hair at the time, or that it’s an acronym for “Prince Of New York”, or because I grew up with horses in rural America. I think all of these answers are correct, and I love when people come up with their own reasoning for it as well. I’m always amused by it.
“I describe music as a conversation, with myself, with the surroundings, and with the energies of the people in the audience. It’s all feeding each other, one piece of the energy feeding the other.”
TFH: At 29 you have already harvested a long list of accomplishments, but I know how hard you work and that part often gets overlooked by the audience as well as the media. It’s not an easy job and it requires a constant pursuit of inspiration. How do you find a healthy balance in all of this and what fuels your creativity?
DJ PONY: Thank you. Yeah, I know what you mean, but honestly, I don’t really pay attention to whether something is overlooked by others or not, and also, it’s not in my nature to reflect on the past very much. I prefer to focus on what I’m doing right now, and also what’s next. I’m always looking to the future, while attempting to stay as present as possible while doing so. I wouldn’t say my work is easy, and it’s not that I’m complaining at all, it does take a lot of work and focus and determination. But I’m also so incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I do, so when I am feeling worn down or overwhelmed, I find ways to remind myself to be grateful for all that I’ve been given and am able to do. Ultimately, at the end of the day, all my problems are first world problems, so I can’t complain. I find inspiration all around me, and am constantly trying to absorb as much around me as I can, so I can somehow let it be apart of what I’m doing and expressing. I’m like a sponge.
“… when I am feeling worn down or overwhelmed, I find ways to remind myself to be grateful for all that I’ve been given and am able to do. “
TFH: Most people on this planet live in a world of hard rules and restricting models for normality. You were lucky enough to grow up in a very liberal and open family. Can you tell me how that impacted who you are?
DJ PONY: It’s funny that many people think I had a very open and liberal upbringing, because I’m very close with certain members of my family now, and I talk about them a lot very openly. But in reality, my childhood was very conservative, very strict, religious, and sheltered. I grew up in very rural parts of the South and Midwest. and I could go on and on about my growing up there. It was a very strange place to me, and looking back on it, it’s almost like it was a completely different world than the one I inhabit now. When I was in high school I left it all behind and rekindled a close relationship with my father, something I wasn’t allowed up to that point, and since then people just associate my family with my dad. Which is true, because thats the part of my family I choose to be in contact with. They’re very open and honest and liberal and encourage me to be who I am. But it wasn’t that way in my early formative years, those were a very different experience altogether. I think having the juxtaposition of experiencing those two very different worlds definitely had an effect on who I am today though, and so regardless of the challenges I had along the way, I think it’s only made me stronger. It taught me that I can choose who to have in my life, and that includes blood relatives. I don’t believe one is beholden to one’s family just because of blood. Sometimes it’s not healthy to hold on to people who aren’t bringing anything but hurt into ones life, and it’s ok to let them go.
TFH: I often quote you on the blog, because I like your outspoken nature and your quirky honest posts on Facebook. I like that you utilize your social media channels to have a dialogue with your followers, rather than a platform to preach from. Can you share what you, in turn, get from having an ongoing conversation with your audience? What should other DJ’s pay more attention to when it comes to connecting with fans?
DJ PONY: I’m glad you enjoy my posts enough to share them with your readers! That’s always wonderful to hear. The world is changing, and has very recently with the way we interact with one another using social media and these new technologies. With that comes the responsibility to use these resources mindfully and for a good purpose. I’m not just going to use them to post pictures of my lunch. I am genuinely interested in hearing from people who follow my work and participate in it in whatever way they can. Then there’s the self-promotion angle, which I think only works if one is being engaging, and not just sharing work, but having a conversation about the work, and sharing ones thoughts and bits of ones life. People can connect with that. I try not to give advice, I share my experience. I would say pay attention to what your audience is saying, take in as much of it as you can, and do what you want from there. Just because someone is saying something doesn’t mean it has to affect who you are or what your doing, but more information into the minds of the people who are engaging with you is better than less. It shows you’re being present, aware of what’s going on, and even if it’s not something you want to engage with, at least you know it’s being said. Always do and say what is true to who you are, but take into consideration even if very briefly, what people who are paying your bills are telling you.
TFH: I call great DJ’s – modern day shamans. I think that aside from being able to put you in a happy or even ecstatic mood, great DJs will place you in a deep state of active meditation in the middle of the dance floor. Tell me where you go when you do your magic?
DJ PONY: I describe it as a conversation, with myself, with the surroundings, and with the energies of the people in the audience. It’s all feeding each other, one piece of the energy feeding the other. I find my energy swelling up sometimes as I start to play, and to get into the groove of the space. It’s a very natural feeling for me, but it’s also a little scary sometimes, while beautiful. I read energy pretty well I think, and I can feel when something isn’t right, or somethings off. But for the most part I kind of bask in the glow of that communal flow of joyful and electric energy. I’m usually emotionally exhausted by the time I’m done. I think if you’re doing it right, then that’s unavoidable. It’s a welcome feeling of being drained and exhilarated at the same time.
TFH: First music festivals like Woodstock, revolutionized festival culture in America, providing fertile breeding grounds for groundbreaking music and radical self-expression. Music festivals became gathering points for like-minded people who wanted to connect to others. How do you see this so-called “festival culture” evolve from here? And how do you see it transform the world?
DJ PONY: There are always going to be new festivals and new experiences to come, that tribal sense of gathering is something that is innate to us as humans. I’ve never been much into attending festivals, because they tend to be very big, the really popular ones. I don’t like large crowds of people. I enjoy playing in front of them, but I dislike very much being in the middle of it. I would however be really excited if I could go back in time to the original Woodstock festivals and experience that, I’d find a way to overcome by fear of large crowds. It’s great that people feel like they have a sense of community and a space to express themselves in these festival settings. I am more interested though in how that kind of applies to their lives outside of the festival context. I feel like the communities that I’ve helped build give people that sense of connection, and it’s magical to see their lives change and their mindset change because they feel safe and free to be themselves in their every day lives. If we change our minds, how we view ourselves, and one another, then we can change the world. One person to person connection at a time.
TFH: Paint me a picture of your perfect tomorrow!
DJ PONY: It will be perfect however it comes about. Part of the beauty of life is that we can only do our best to prepare for it, and see what happens, because ultimately it’s out of our control, right? Nothing I could picture in my mind will be as good or as real as what will be. And that’s what makes it worth living for. The possibilities are endless. If I could have a perfect day tomorrow it would probably involve a very grateful audience on my dance floor, a good cup of tea or two, and some nice sleep. And I have a feeling I’ll be enjoying all those things… So, the rest is out of my hands!
TFH: Name one dream collaboration?
DJ PONY: I have so many wonderful people that I collaborate with now, and have been blessed to work with over the years. If Tori Amos ever wants to do an appearance on piano or keyboards with some live vocals over one of my instrumental sets I think I could die at that moment a very happy man. She is my ultimate goddess muse mother!
TFH: Why did you choose New York?
DJ PONY: New York chose me! I came here very young, after being inspired to leave Middle America and go somewhere where I could be an artist. I didn’t know what that meant for me, I just knew I had to go somewhere where I could make something of myself. I quit high school early and spent my senior year working two jobs to save up money and move here. To me, NYC has always been the capitol city of the planet. There’s nowhere better to go to make your dreams come true than on the biggest stage in the world. Everyone’s watching here, and simultaneously, no ones watching. You can fall here, and no one cares. You can rise to the top here, and no one cares. But when you find the right space to inhabit in this city, make a space for yourself, it’s such an incredibly validating and encouraging space to hold. My love affair with the city never seems to fade, even after over twelve years here. I think even if I ever spend time in other places, NYC will always be home, and I’ll always keep a place in the city.
TFH: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
DJ PONY: I would eliminate all fear and replace it with love.
TFH: Five years from now where do you see yourself?
DJ PONY: Maybe doing what I’m doing now, only on an even larger scale. Who knows really though? If I went back in time and told myself at twenty four that I’d be doing this right now, would I have been surprised? Probably, I don’t think I ever really set out to do any one specific thing with my life. It’s been very much a natural progression of learning who I am and what I’ll be, what I have to offer. I’d like to think I’ll keep doing this as long as people will let me. There are many things that I’d like to do with my life, and we’ll see how I can put them all into play. Stay tuned, and thank you!