With the passing of time–the beat, the rhythm, the repetition–we forget that what we may now know by heart was not always second nature. And sometimes, what is hard to express is the only thing worth expressing. Maybe if we liked things a little less, the notions with which we associate our bliss would be easier to describe. See now, Berlin-based, South Korean DJ Peggy Gou, accepting her fate to explain the unexplainable.“I want the question to be a little more specific,” Peggy tells me, when Iask her about her first memories of music. And it continues this way—the more we explore the lyrical realm, the more elusive the words. The producer and artist views music not as another idea to be resolved, or something that needs context—to be dis-cussed—but an emotion to be felt.“Music for me is hard to rationalize,” she adds. “It’s just that I try to let my instinct or feeling[guide.] You know, when you like a song, how you immediately love it without reason sometimes? For me, it’s like that.”
Peggy Gou first found her love for electronic music in abasement club in the heart of East London’s glory days. It was in the dim lighting of the Plastic People that the then-LondonCollege of Fashion student decided to focus her energy on music production. After completing her course, Peggy quickly moved to the capital of techno, where she still resides, and commenced carefully crafting her nostalgic groove. She laughs,“London kind of opened up my vision for the music scene, and Berlin up-graded my taste.” Drawing inspiration from 70s disco, 80s feathery synths, and the early rave sounds of the 90s, her dance floor records commemorate the sounds she grew up listening to in underground venues at three in the morning—a nimble balance of ode to the past and a nod ahead.
2016 saw the release of Peggy’s first offerings, Art of War,Art of War (Part II), and Seek for Maktoop, featuring the simple pleasures of rich, textured house soundscapes. Two years lat-er, she debuted her Once EP, wherein the single“It Makes YouForget (Itgehane)” explores the cleansing energy of house with90s synth melodies and marks the first time the artist lends her voice to one of her tracks. A continuation of her previous extend-ed plays comes with 2019’s DJ-Kicks and Moment, in which her single,“Starry Night,” breezily calls upon what she has coined‘K-House’—and boasts a fluttering of rhythm and lush groove.Peggy sings, “Ocean, night, stars, song, moment / Ocean, star-light, moment, now, us,” as if depicting a supercut, cutting in and out of the things we hold most dear.
In 2019, Peggy began her dive into independence with her streetwear label KIRIN, and her music label, Gudu Records. A seemingly natural progression for the artist, Gudu, meaning ‘shoes’ in Korean, gives new artists the footing to explore with-out boundary or consequence.“I have worked with a label that supports me,” Peggy shares, “But I also have worked with labels that didn’t support me. And also in the beginning, I was thinking a lot of wanting to support more female artists or a Korean artist, but also I wanted to support all the legends that I love.” Gudu is home to new wave artists like JRMS, Brain de Palma, and Mogwaa, as well as electronic staples DMX Krew and Maurice Fulton, with whom she collaborated on“Jigoo” for his EP, Earth.
Peggy will soon grace Insomniac’s second edition of Sky-line LA, a two-day festival dedicated to underground dance and house music in Exposition Park. Headlining with names like Diplo, Charlotte De Witte, and Dom Dolla, Peggy only hopes for one thing.“I want them to take from my show good memories,” she says resolutely. “I want them to be able to say, ‘Hey, do you remember that night? Hey, remember when we went there? Hey, do you remember the way she played the song?’ That’s the only thing I want.” And for her, it is the same experience. “Every time I come to LA, it just gets only better and better. That’s the only thing I can say.”
Peggy headlined the massive Shrine Expo Hall last November, of which she says was a monumental manifestation to not only book, but completely sell out. “That meant so much to me,” she recalls, “to be able to do shows like that. And my agent was like, ‘You know we have to celebrate because this venue is also very hard to sell out.’” Peggy adds that the industry pressure was palpable at the Shrine, “A lot of people were doubting me, and they all told me that later on. So for me to have that sold-out show in LA at the Shrine, I was so emotional and I didn’t want to take this for granted. This meant so much to me, and now I feel a little more confident to go back there, to know there are a lot of people in LA supporting me, and also a lot of Asian community there.”
Countless eyes fixed upon you can be daunting for an artist, but for Peggy, she sees the scrutiny as a challenge. “I always tell people that if you want to do certain things, do it and fail at it properly. Don’t blame anything, and don’t make an excuse. You have to learn your lesson by doing it.” While the music industry boasts innumerable lessons to learn, sometimes the most important thing is finding a place to rest one’s head, if even for a moment. This is a feeling Peggy follows outside of mu - sic as well, finding solace and regeneration in her home and with her family in South Korea. “That’s why I like spending time in Korea,” she shares, “because this is where my family is; they give me peace. And you know, they will accept you for any kind of form you are at. So it makes me feel like I can be whoever I want, or I can show them any kind of shape of me, and they will always love me and support me, no matter what.”
It can be easy to become lost in searching for our desires— our intentions are not always calibrated on their true north. Peggy, always aiming for a sense of control, continues her path forward and through. Never fully stopping, she embraces the art of the pause, to admire and absorb her moments of transcendentalism along the way—the moments where she knew where she was fated to be. She tells me she was born for this, “I feel like I’m growing as a better artist and better person, I think—but a better person is more important than better artist.” Peggy takes her cues from the cosmos. “The universe has been telling me many, many messages,” she shares. “And I always think the universe is sending you some messages. It’s very easy to say, ‘things happen for a reason,’ or ‘that was meant to be.’ It’s hard for me to let things go that weren’t under my control because I’m such a perfectionist sometimes, and also a control freak. And that’s why it’s this year I’m focusing my energy on being present, and I have decided not to waste my energy and time on things that aren’t worth it.”
And while Peggy does have a list of things that aren’t worth her energy, (i.e. nonspecific questions or the idea of genres), that list is superseded by what does matter to the artist. And what matters is the matter of the heart, as that is what breathes life into her every note. “How do I keep my heart open?” she ponders, “I would say: by listening. Either it’s listening to music or other people. I think when you listen to other people, you have empathy, and having empathy is the way to open your heart.”
After we’ve said everything that was meant to be said, how do we continue forward when it’s all out on the table? Maybe with the reminder that some things can be left alone. Some things just exist and we mustn’t question them. The artist punctuates the notion: “Sometimes I get a little bit frustrated when people ask me the same but very vague question. When someone is like, ‘What is music to you?’ I’m like: it’s so hard to explain.”
Photographed by Hong Jang Hyun
Styled by Lee Pillsung
Written by Bree Castillo
Hair: Jo Eun Hye
Make-up: Lee Sol
Prop Stylist: Darak
1st Assistant: Chin So Yeon
2nd Assistant: Shin Dong Woo
3rd Assistant: Park Sang Woo
Style Assistants: Ju Ha Yoon and Oh Ye Jin
Hair Assistant: Kim Min Hong
Flaunt Film: Core A Creative
Location: Yong Jang Kwan Studio