Nicc Johnson on 16/10/12
Acid house pioneer and 'godfather' DJ Pierre is on his way back to Australia after a 3 year absence set to play gigs across the country which includes a secret rooftop party in Sydney for DigDeep. Here the legendary DJ and producer shares with Nicc Johnson his thoughts on technology and the current state of DJing as well as some history on his pal Marshall Jefferson and what career he would have chosen if the whole DJing thing hadn't worked out.
Pulse: Hi Pierre. It's great we have this opportunity to catch up with you before your gig for our launch of “A Quiet Night In With” in Sydney. DJ Pierre: Not a problem man. Looking forward to it. It's sweeter because it's a launch event.
It has been 3 years since your last visit. How was your experience then and what are you most excited about on this visit? Yeah it's been a while since I was here. Last visit was good. I didn't get to see much of Australia though so hopefully this time around I can get a moment and explore a bit. I'm excited about that. This visit is a bit different because i'm coming specifically for this event and so i'm a bit more focused and truly wanting to connect to the Pierre fans who come out. I don't come here very often so for that reason alone I want to make sure every single person who comes leaves a little different. Leaves with a smile on, you know.
Being one of the pioneers of house music, in particular acid house, you get asked a lot about what it was like back in the day and what you think of the scene now, which we will also get into in a bit, but first I wanted to ask you about the art of DJing itself. It seems these days with the technology and easy access to music, people claim to be DJs after only a couple of months, having mastered the basics of mixing or discovering the sync button. We know you embrace technology and you are endorsing Traktor, but how long did it take you to perfect your art and feel comfortable to start playing out? I do embrace the new technology because we have a responsibility as artists to adapt to and reach our audience at the point they are at now. I still play vinyl, but limited. I use a USB stick but still have my CDs. I have all the Traktor gear, but I'm planning on using that for my live show. I don't DJ out with Traktor...not yet. I still have to be 100% comfortable. I don't feel it as yet. I can't tell you when but when it happens it will happen. But whenever I use a controller you better believe I will NEVER use a sync button. I don't respect that. Learn the craft for real. I do feel the art of DJng is dying a bit. It's not evolving. I know both worlds so I am in position to say that because I can and do use the modern technology, but i'm still mixing in on my own. I don't rely on it. My audience now when I tour are mostly 18-25 years olds. I still have a core audience of 35 and up and they keep me relevant. They are so loyal and I'm thankful for that. But these 18-25 yr olds, all they know is this new technology. They demand it. So I see my role as being very important.
I see myself as a teacher in a way. In my sets you may see me take on the modern technology a bit and I may play something I know they will go nuts on and then right after I will drop a classic track they may have never heard of, but the momentum is already there and so they always embrace it. I will purposely drop a classic house track after playing some hyped techno/acidy/electro type track. They go crazy.
You mentioned in previous interviews that your big DJ break came from Lil Louis at one of his events at the Bismarck in Chicago. How important was that set in establishing yourself as a permanent fixture on the scene? I was known in the south suburbs (about 35 mins out of Chicago) because I won most DJ competitions and did amazing things on 3-4 turntables. They called me 'Scratching Pierre' then. I met Louis in Chicago and got connected. What followed was me opening for him playing up to 6 hours at the Bismarck. I became DJ Pierre then. It was the best training ground and set the stage for me. We talked about that recently.
I recently read an interview you did on Skrufff´s blog, in which you say “EDM is the biggest genre on the planet right now. There would be no EDM if it were not for the Mark Farinas, all of Chicago, Dennis Ferrer and all the other foundation guys," following the whole Migs/Farina fiasco in Las Vegas. Where do you see DJ culture and how healthy do you think the scene is right now? It's not healthy at all. I'm very happy that our art has been given an equal if not bigger stage to mainstream artists but corporations and big tour companies are sucking the soul out of the music. Everyone wants to be part of the sound we helped to create and that's driving people to destroy the essence we all love in house music.
Can you share your top track of the moment with us? I'm going to be a bit self centered and say my top track is my new track 'Strobe Lights Laser Disco' feat Venus Flytraxx with remixes from Tommie Sunshine and Downlow'd. It's out on DiM MAK now, which is interesting because it's one of the most commercial labels for me. But I stuck to my method of making music and they still wanted to get down. I'm also getting lots of attention when I play the remake of 'We Are Phuture' out on Bush Records. Eric [Powell of Bush Records] was instrumental in making that happen. Carl Cox is on with a remix as well.
Marshall Jefferson is playing for DigDeep too on 27th of October. What can you tell us about Marshall that we might not know and how big of an influence was he to you? You may not now that Marshall was once ranked in the top ten in the world on the video game "Age of Empire". LOL. He was and is an amazing influence in my career. He taught me not to make music for DJs. I learned from him that I should make a DJ adapt to my music. He told me to slow 'Acid Trax' from 128bpm to 122bpm or something like that. I had it at 128 because I felt like the DJs wanted it faster at that time because that was the trend. He said, "Pierre...slow it down. If the DJs want to speed it up, let them". Classic. So he had a hand in the final version of 'Acid Trax'.
On a completely different note, what would have been your career path if the DJing thing had not worked out? I would've been some sort of engineer. The way my mind works is suited for that. I think out the box and try to figure things out. I try to take things apart and put them back together. When I was an 8 year old kid I fixed all the broken watches on the block and then in my teens I was putting lights in the speakers of boom boxes that blinked to the beat. So my mind is not suited for a 9-5 office job. I was created to create.
We are very excited that you are playing a special acid house set for us. We have made sure the sound system is crystal clear thumping for you to take over. The sound system better be off the chain! I may blow a speaker or two. I'm looking forward to it. ACIEEED!!!
Thank you for your time Pierre and we will see you very soon! Respect man. See you in a bit.
DJ Pierre plays a special acid house set for "A Quiet Night In" on a secret rooftop in Sydney (tix here). Pulse and DigDeep Promotions are giving you the chance to win one of two double passes to the party. To be in the running, email us here with your answer to the following question:
"DJ Pierre was an A&R man for a famous dance label in the 90s, which label was it?"
Winners will be notified via email on Thursday 22nd November.
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