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Fascinated with everything electronic, Chicago’s DJ Pierre grew up tinkering with things. His interest in fixing everything from radios to watches soon led to him fiddling with a Roland 303 drum machine – and in doing so he invented acid house, known for its distinctive squelchy sound. In his younger years, Pierre lived in the suburbs, cut off from Chicago’s growing scene. However, his friend Spanky would keep him in the loop, telling him all about the city’s latest sounds. Then, in 1985, Pierre, Spanky and their friend Herb J formed Phuture. Their game-changing debut single, ‘Acid Tracks’ (1987), was immensely popular in the Windy City thanks to Ron Hardy’s endorsement at The Music Box, but it was also soon in the bag of influential DJs across the world who would use it to spearhead the acid house revolution at clubs like The Haçienda here in the UK. Pierre continued to drop squelchy acid bombs throughout the 90s and 00s, but the last few years have seen him become more innovative, and more relevant, than ever. Tracks such as his huge remix of Simian Mobile Disco’s ‘Cruel Intentions’, and his new ‘Acid/Jack Da Groove’ EP on Boys Noize, showcase his trademark sound while sounding as epic as the biggest names in dance.
Do you ever get bored of talking about acid house?
No way! It just amazes me that it’s still involved in the most cutting-edge music today as it was back in ’85 or ’86. I listen to tracks today that aren’t house, but are certainly acid.
Skrillex and the US dubstep sound are very acid aren’t they? Even though they haven’t been made with a 303.
Totally. In fact, Skrillex just did a track with a Roland 303. We were hanging in his trailer because he was doing a show in Chicago and I was there – I was introduced to him and he said, “Yo, come back and listen to some stuff I just did.” He’s a really humble dude. I think we may be working together soon.
Yes, we spoke to him in the last issue, he was a real gent.
You know who else is humble? David Guetta. We’ve been talking recently and he said, “Pierre! Don’t you remember? I was the first one to bring you to France – to the Queen Club back in the day. I was like ‘Oh yeah! Wow!’
A lot of people forget that Guetta was an underground house DJ.
The dude knows the music. People need to cut out the hate. If there’s someone you should respect it’s a man who has been in the game for twenty years.
But would you enjoy one of his DJ sets now though?
He does what he has to do. Imagine him playing a proper deep house set; people would be like, ‘Boo!’ He’s got to play what people expect from him, you can’t just play something different.
Do you feel like that? Like you’re bound to acid?
I love playing acid. What I don’t like is playing only old-skool acid. I play the new stuff, and while I don’t mind dropping a few classics I don’t ever want to play a completely old-skool set. Banging, high energy sets with up-front new music, that’s what I do, and that’s what I release.
That’s why Boys Noize is a ideal home for you. How did you join the label?
I was at a party at ADE two years ago and a guy came up to me and said, “Hey, Pierre, I’m Boys Noize’.” I was confused for a moment; I didn’t realise it was just one guy. There was a track called ‘Avalanche’ that I was playing at the time. I like electro – I gravitate to any music that’s hard. Alex (Boys Noize) said, “We should do something together.” I sent him a track called ‘Acid’ and he loved
it. Even 2ManyDJs did an edit of it.
Was there a period in the 2000s when you and other house legends went out of favour a bit?
There was a time when the music was progressing in a direction towards software when I was still using a lot of hardware, and I realised that I had to learn to use this new stuff. I love staying cutting-edge and doing new things. After all, that way of thinking led to the creation of acid. But you know, I’m a big fan of Michael Jordan [the basketball player]. He says, “I may have missed nine shots in a row but I know the next one is gonna go in.” So I don’t care if I make ten or twenty tracks that don’t seem to do anything, because I always know that I’m just a track away from making something amazing.
Do your parents understand what you do?
Heck no! They don’t know what ‘acid’ is! [laughs]. They just say, “My son is a famous musician.” I’m like, “Dad, why are you telling this to the banker? I’m not sure he knows me!’
Talking about old people... Marshall Jefferson.
Ha! What about him?
He made the track ‘Mushrooms’, and you created acid. Did you guys take a lot of acid and mushrooms back in the day?
No man, not me!
How did house fans dress back then?
Baggy clothes, paisley shirts and high-top fades. And you’d ask, “Who you checking? Ron Hardy or Frankie Knuckles?” And you would know that that question was a volatile question, because at first you would see the unity and then the division. The next thing you knew there was beef!
So is hip hop today what house was then?
Hip hop was more of a crew thing: people would get into fights and battles. That said, I also did DJ battles, even when I was playing house in 1985. I would come with my DJ setup and two other DJs would come with theirs, too. We would be in a big gym, everyone’s set-up would be in each corner and every DJ would have a chance to play. People would judge the winner on the tracks he played and how good the soundsystem was.
Have you been working on anything exciting recently?
For sure! I just did something with reggae legend Rory Stone Love which is going to be crazy; its a real slamming track. I have a weekly show with some guys from Jamaica, and they set it up for me. Also, I’ve just done a remix of ‘Hail Bop’ for Django Django. They’re from the UK and have just come out with their first album. Some people want to keep me in one place, but that’s boring to me. I don’t want to feel like I’m making the same track I made ten years ago! I keep things fresh.
How old are your children? Are they into acid house?
My daughter is twenty and she’s into electronic music in general. She works at Marvel comics. My nineteen-year-old son is more into the new electronic hip hop scene so he’s a hybrid, kind of into both. I also have a four and a five year old, and when my wife plays some r’n’b in the car they say, “We wanna hear Daddy’s music!” So I guess they’re into it too!
DJ Pierre releases ‘We Are Phuture’ with re-rubs from Carl Cox and Acid Face in August on Bush Records. Check his Afro Acid party at ADE in October and new Phuture LP next year