Interview: DJ Pierre for Connie’s Acid House Party

DJ Pierre has been a part of the underground dance music scene for nearly 20 years now and in that time his impact on the scene has been immeasurable. He cites the radio show Hot Mix 5 as one of his biggest early influences and it was the shows exploratory nature that would push Pierre to be more adventurous in his own music. As a part of Phuture, Pierre would release the ‘Acid Tracks EP’ in 1987 and in doing so he would help create the acid house genre of music. The EP would go on to become and undisputed classic and from that point in his career Pierre has always been considered a pioneering figure in the underground scene, from Chicago to New York he has often positioned himself at the forefront of developing musical trends whilst keeping his feet firmly rooted in the underground proper.

Next month DJ Pierre will come to Manchester to play in support of the charitable event, Connie’s Acid House party. The event is run by the Tiny Steps charity that was established by Connie’s parents, two extremely devoted and discerning parents who have the admirable goal of building a “sensory play area and social cafe” for other children in Connie’s position. Last years event was orchestrated by a family friend, Steven Dobson, who literally suggested an ‘acid house party’.

The event snowballed and Dobson managed to get in touch with DJ Pierre who agreed to play the first event for free. This year the whole team is back at it, running another acid house party to help raise money for Connie and the Tiny Steps organization. Joining DJ Pierre on the bill are Manchester legends Chad Jackson and Jay Wearden. We caught up with DJ Pierre ahead of his next UK performance.

DJ Pierre with Connie.

Q. Today Manchester still has a thriving underground music scene but back in the late eighties it was a hotbed for activity and one of the driving forces behind the ‘second summer of love’ movement. What have your past experiences playing in Manchester been like?
A. The Hacienda, the summer of love and acid house all owe a lot to the energy Manchester gave them. It’s still in my opinion one of the best places to play in the UK.  Last time I played was with Marshall Jefferson and A Guy called Gerald. I mean you can only imagine what that was like. My luggage didn’t make it so I played in the clothes on my back, so that was an early sign that the night called for real grass roots effort.

Q. What has motivated you to play in support of Connie’s charity? You also performed last year for the team – does the crowd who have consciously paid for charity differ from the typical promoters’ crowd?
A. Well if you are given the ability to reach tons of people simultaneously and you make a living from it, then it is your responsibility to take care of those who are led to you through music. Connie was placed in my path. My agent connected with a friend of her family’s and it led to me going over and just playing at no fee for her. She is the cutest thing. The first one was okay, but I don’t think people supported it the way it deserved to be supported. So here we are again. I do hope people come out and support this charity, and in the process make life easier for Connie and kids like her.

Phuture doing their thing.Q. Acid House was a huge part of the ‘second summer of love movement’ and in general it went on to become unimaginably successful as a genre of music. I’ve heard you say many times that even if you and Spanky had been trying to do so, you could never have created something so successful. Do you feel as if there was an element of fate involved whilst you were putting ‘Acid Tracks’ together?
A. Absolutely. There is no doubt about it. The thing I’ve never said before is that it was recorded in a basement of a Church. So yes there was divine purpose behind how we came upon Acid Tracks, or rather how it came upon us.

Q. Your music became so inextricably linked to the rave scene, from the happiness to the seedy hedonism, do you think this was a fitting arena for your music to be displayed in or did you imagine it going in a different direction?
A. I’ve always been keen on being very vocal about what the original intent for Acid House was. This is why Phuture did tracks like ‘Your Only Friend’, to musically express to people the dangers of drug use. We did tracks like ‘Rise from Your Grave’  urging people to open their eyes and stop being self destructive. I do like the boldness of the music and the refusal to be boxed in, that I do love and cherish because I’m naturally a rebel myself. I rebel for the cause to express yourself but I believe there is a responsible way to do that. The hedonistic nature is something we’ve never really supported.  I think if people truly listen to the message they will be touched in a positive way.

Q. I’ve heard you mention ‘Hot Mix 5’ as a huge early influence of yours, what was so special about it, what is it they were doing that excited you and how is it different to what we hear on underground radio today?
A. Their mixes were like no other. We didn’t have anyone doing what they did. They were doing things I didn’t know how to do so I just listened and emulated them in my mind you know.

Q. I want to know a bit about your time in New York and the ‘wild pitch’ style you helped develop, why did you move away from Chicago, a city in which you’d had such great success and one that was at the forefront of the underground world?
A. Because Chicago was changing rapidly, the mayor stopped the events from running to late. The energy in the city was a bit toxic as people gained a certain popularity and I don’t thrive in that kind of environment. I was looking for a change and an opportunity came from Jive Records in NY. Wayne Williams actually signed myself, Mr. Lee and Adonis to a deal with Jive. So again, divine intervention said go. and I went. I got to NY and got connected to a promoter of these events in Brooklyn and they called them ‘Wildpitch’. I used to go to the events and loved the build-up of the night. So I made a track that would be somewhat layered, it’s almost like 3 tracks in one. It would build with new elements to a pitch. So I named it after the parties that inspired me to create music like that.

Q. Secondly, how did your time in Chicago help you out in New York?  Were you always going to keep going with the style regardless of success, just for the love of the music?
A. Chicago is like no other place to learn. You had to be the best at what you did, otherwise you had no chance. It’s like we were gladiators and only the best survived because there was a crazy amount of talent there. I will never change that for anything. It prepared me to think outside the box because I didn’t want to sound like everyone. So I went to NY with an open mind and a desire to explore and create new sounds.

Q. Do you notice a difference in the underground scene today from back when you started out as a DJ? Do you think there is still the same level of self-expression in the DJ’ing game today, given how much electronic music has seeped into the mainstream?
A. Self-expression is stifled unfortunately. The hustle is gone. The desire to learn the craft is barely non-existent. I really urge the up and coming DJs to learn the craft. You will enjoy what you do more, I promise you.

Q. I’ve heard you talk about music in an almost reverent fashion, is this a personal thing or do you believe that the music you, and similar producers, are making has a sort of spiritual quality to it?
A. Music is spiritual. There is a story in the Holy Bible where King Saul couldn’t sleep. He was troubled so he called for David to play his instrument. Once David began playing Saul was relieved. He was able to settle down and rest. I’ve seen for myself the energy in an entire room change and people become happier, as if their troubles were lifted. So there is a spiritual nature to music. I pray every time I DJ that I can be a vessel and that DJ Pierre takes a backseat to the bigger purpose. #truth

Quick-fire round:

Q.Who is your favourite UK based producer and/or DJ at the moment and why?
A. Doorly is my dawg. Real cool and talented cat. My Digital Enemy are amazing guys, I have a track out soon on Afro Acid with them called ‘The Underground’.

Q. What are your 5 hottest tracks (of any genre) at the moment?
A. All the classics. Adonis. Tyree Cooper. Josh Wink. Phuture.

For details of Connie’s Acid House Party, see the event page here: Connie’s Acid House Party 2

For details of DJ Pierre’s new album, see here: DJ Pierre & My Digital Enemy – The Underground.

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