Acid takes control…
As the baltic conditions continue unabated both sides of the big pond, R$N caught up over an at times sporadic Skype connection - ah the wonder of this thing called modern technology - with the gentleman who invented house music… well acid at least - Nathaniel Pierre Jones aka DJ Pierre - ahead of his Acid House Warehouse all-nighter with SOCIETY this weekend. R$N was also privy to exclusive new material he has coming out on Dim Mak and Boys Noize over the next few months too. What strikes you about Pierre is that with his massive history in is his willing to retread the questions we all want to know about. "It's funny how people try to rephrase the same questions about acid but you know that's cool because there are people that don't know about it"
Pierre also did us a rather amazing all acid mix a few weeks back. Click play on this below whilst your eyes survey the words from a true pioneer and master.
Acid music, its instruments and its distinctive sounds are fairly limited in scope yet highly effective time and time again for a lot of people. The great pop culture writer Simon Reynolds In his book Generation Ecstasy, describes Acid as an “amnesiac hook: totally compelling you to listen but hard to memorize or reproduce after the event.” What do you think it is that makes the sound so seductive for everyone? To get the expert's perspective on it... would be a nice thing to know.
The funny thing is acid can sound many different ways but on way many people don't associate it with sexy; I first heard that with 151 by Armando. That song sounds sexy. If they were to throw some moans over that, it would be French Kiss. The other way it can sound is funky. I have a record coming out on Boys Noize Records simply called ACID. That sounds funky and I didn't realize until I was listening to it that the bassline had a funkiness to it.
It's amazing how the 303 and what you do it can sound different in so many different ways. I mean I understand the texture of the sound is called acid is because it's so unique and nothing sounds like it but It's what you do to the 303.
Me, doing what I was doing to the 303, I was twisting nobs and doing that technique to other machines before the 303 but people don't really give credit to how that happened.
It wasn't the machine that made the noise it was us controlling the 303. We were doing if you like 'The acid move' . It was a process I went through because I really like twisting nobs and obviously it had to happen with a sound that is unique like the 303 but it was the marriage of the two. You'll see it when I DJ too, using the filters.
Which leads me onto the fact that you pioneered EQing only the treble in your mixes. To the unitiated tell us a little bit about this.
That's how the Wild Pitch sound came about. I did the same thing with the EQs on the mixing boards and then I'm not trying to take credit for filtering but I was doing that on the mixing boards and I came out with Masterblaster which was just me filtering those nobs on a mixer. Then I hear DJ Sneak and I'm like what kind of mixing board does he have, because he's filtering them even better.. and I found out it was a whole box, module. I don't think no one made a connection between what I was doing and those records.
The EQing thing came from the early DJs like Ron Hardy. They would drop the bass and bring it back in. That was the whole idea of how I even wanted to twist nobs cos I wanted to drop the bass. But what happened is I started doing that with every nob I can grab. I was just twisting nobs. To understand what i'm doing and thinking. When the music is playing and I'm twisting the nobs, in my mind I'm just trying to warp the sound. Not just drop the bass like Ron Hardy used to do. I have to twist more than one nob to make the sound, sound weird!
What was it like hearing Ron Hardy play Acid Trax at the Music Box for the first time?
It was amazing to hear him play it. I was there to hear him play it the very first time - he played it four times in a night!
It was amazing and also disappointing because no one liked it the first time he played. I don't think Ron Hardy get enough credit for pushing acid and acid blowing up.
He was the only the person pushing it back then. The first time he played it that evening people parted ways! He didn't have to play it again... but then he played it again and again. He played it a fourth time and that time the crowd erupted and started going insane. Dancing, jumping around. Doing stuff I've never seen anyone do in a club before.
Guys getting on their back on the floor. People just didn't know what to do, put it like that. The music in a club is mostly funky and you move a certain way to certain types of music and sounds so they were totally thrown off.
And then the whole slam dancing came about. I can't say we started it but they started doing that. Acid may never have blown up if it weren't for Ron Hardy playing it four times that night.
Is it true they used to actually lace the water supply in the club with acid or is that the stuff of myth?
Well they definitely did say they used to put it in the water... I don't if that's true or not. I never had any of the water... It could be true, rumours usually start from some truth.
You cite Acid Trax as being named after Acid Rock. What Acid Rock tracks in particular was it that inspired the AT?
It didn't inspire acid because like I said it was something I was doing anyway...
But you gotta understand how the name came around: People were going around recording Ron Hardy's sets with their micro-recorders. Different ones would go around and then word got around that there was this track that Ron Hardy had that was like different from anything they'd heard. And then people were like you gotta hear this track it's called Ron Hardy's Acid Track. When i heard it I was like that's not Ron Hardy's Acid Track, that's my track. They were disbelieving. And so I played them my cassette and they were freakin' out. So when I actually released it I thought I'll just take Ron Hardy's name off it and called it Acid Trax.
At the time I thought they were just saying Acid because of Acid Rock, Acid Jazz but I never thought about why. I just thought they called it that because it was rough and grimey. I didn't even know that it was connected to drugs. So when I found that out on the b-side of the record I put Your Only Friend which is against drugs to balance things out.
"Software doesn’t lend itself as much to happy accidents as much as hardware does." DJ Pierre. Does this translate into your DJing too?
Software, you've basically gotta know how to work it. You're not going to have anything going if you don't know how to work it whereas with hardware, as long as you have it loaded up correctly and you hit play then something's going to happen. It's easier to have that happy accident. You're doing some much from your heart and your soul with hardware. With software it's too methodical, too planned out. Before you can do anything, you gotta know what you want to do.
I'm all software based these days. When i was switching over, it took a long time. I could not create for a long time. I had two setups in the studio, I would mess with the software for a minute and then I was ah skip that and went to the drum machines. But
I kept working with it and working with it and I realise that to keep up with today's music you need to do all these crazy tricks which software affords you... I also like the fact that from day to day you can recall the song you'd be working on. With hardware you're like I'm not even going to touch it because the next day it doesn't sound the same. For that reason I like software but you know with hardware you can do stuff live. Now, everything's planned out. It's just pre-planned.
I think the music is missing that feeling. But I meant this is the day and age we live in but you have to connect to those guidelines...
You're playing at the quickly becoming legendary SOCIETY Acid House Warehouse All Nighter in a few weeks time. What's your experience of the current UK scene? Do you listen to any of the current hybridisation of electronic music going on with the cross polination of the house and bass scenes at the moment. It's quite an exciting time again for dance musc.
I love a lot of the crazy noises and production going in bass music and I'm working some of these sounds and noises into my production. I get it. I really like it.
With the internet comes great choice and variety but coupled with that can often mean a distinct lack of quality and over exposure. Do you find it hard to filter out the wheat from the chaff these days?
This is what I think about the new way of buying music. I felt like I have been doing this for years, I've travelled the world and lived through both ages. Beforehand you could be unique in your music selection. You could have tracks no one else had. And you could insert your own personality and be different in your collection. You'll be shopping at different shops, in different countries with different pressings and mixes that aren't available elsewhere. I miss that.
WIth downloads, everyone's shopping at the same shop. Everyone's able to get the same tracks because pressing's aren't running out. That's a little bit of a negative as far . On one hand it's good, because you can always get what you want. But where's the individuality? In some ways it's you versus someone else getting the goodies! When I used to play, I knew the guy before me wasn't going to have what I had. Also before people wanted to hear something they've never heard but nowadays people only want to hear the classics.
Tell us about PIERRE LIVE in 2012 - it's described as a 'true live performance'?
It's not gonna be all live. It'll be 60/40 djing/live. I'll be mixing some other tracks in there too. I still love playing other people's music too much to just be playing all my own stuff.
There's no UK dates yet but once I've finished my bits and pieces with my Dim Mak and Boys Noize releases and my work with Carl Cox and Sean Paul by the end of February I should have some dates to announce.
Will we see the Phuture back together for this show?
It'll just be me.
Have you still got the tape edits you did of the Hot Mix Five radio shows you used to do? Can we hear them?! :)
Hah! I discovered how to edit by recording the shows on my boombox and I used to record the songs I liked and pause the shows. And then another song came on I liked and I lift up the pause button. So later on when I listened to what recorded and I was I was like wait a minute, that beat was playing perfectly into the other one and I was like wow, that was on beat. Something popped in my mind! So I had two cassette players on my boombox and so I started extended the beginnings of tracks and making my own mixes and that's how I started getting into mixing. That's what I thought at the time with the Hotmix shows I thought wow, he's pause button mixing, how does he get them in time all the time! I wish I still had those but I have no idea where they are.
You mentioned in an interview I was reading that you used to get into fights back in the early days over who was the better DJ Frankie Knuckles or Ron Hardy. Care to tell us who triumphed out of the two?!
We used to go out to the malls and there used to be 'house' dudes and we were house dudes. And it was big time in Chicago with their hairs and their clothes and they were like, yo y'all house? And we were like yeah we house? And sooner or later the questions going to come out What DJ you like? It was different times then. You knew there was certain DJs you needed to take a side on.
Lil Louis it was cool to like him even tho you like Ron Hardy or Frankie Knuckles. But if you were a Ron Hardy person, you couldn't like Frankie Knuckles. Anyone that goes to see Ron Hardy, is not going to see Frankie Knuckles. I was a Ron Hardy person. There could be like fights over who's the best DJ because there was such loyalty towards these DJs. Those were the days when like DJs were like kings. DJs could leave a club and take the whole crowd with them. That's why clubs stopped letting DJs dictate. The same thing happened with radio stations.
You've been consistently one of the hardest working men in house music for over 20 years. Where do you continue to get your energy from?!
It's something that I love to do. Music is my safe place. I realise that I need it for balance. If i'm not doing it, I'm a little bit of balance. Music must release some kind of chemical in brain that my brain needs.
Music is my drug!
Pick a word for each letter in A C I D to describe what Acid means to you.
We're still waiting for an answer to this one! :) If you're reading this Pierre… fill in the gaps for us would ya!
See you this weekend down the front at SOCIETY's Acid House Warehouse All Nighter.