Through the DJ sets, the Jocks & Nerds area at EE Festival aims to celebrate 40 years of club culture starting with the disco era. How much of an impact did disco have on your formative years?
Italo disco was what I started out playing. Chicago was a home for all things disco then. Before house music was defined that was what we soaked up and spat out. For me ,Italo disco tracks like Gino Soccio’s ‘Remember’, Telex ‘Rasied by Snakes’ and ‘Fun Fun’ by Happy Station were my go-to joints. Then [DJ] Spanky introduced me to the world of Ron Hardy and I was baptised into house music.
Your first gig in Chicago was with Lil Louis. Was he a DJ mentor? Which other Chicago DJs inspired you in those early days?
Well Louis gave me my first big break. It was unconventional because normally DJs from the ’burbs didn’t get on to something that big in the city; that was reserved for the DJs from Chicago so I appreciate that to this very day. He went out the box. He also threw me on stage and left me for six hours. I didn't have enough records so I started DJing out of his crate. Years later I asked why he chose to do that and he responded he saw something in me and wanted me to learn how to take the journey. So yeah, Louis has a hand in my story.
Chicago DJs always bring the heat. Is that the legacy of Ron Hardy?
So in Chicago you were either a Ron Hardy fan or Frankie Knuckles fan. Louis had the best of both worlds; everybody went to see Louis. But most people parted ways for Ron or Frankie. I saw Ron at the Music Box for the very first time after my friend Spanky, rest in peace, dragged me out to see him. I was mesmerised; he played anything and made it sound good. He had a bit more energy than Frankie and he was bold; that stuck with me to this very day.
I will go places with my sets. I will drop an Al Green ‘Love and Happiness’ remix after [Phuture’s] ’Acid Tracks’. Two totally different tracks in every way. Ron did that for me; he made me think as an explorer. He broke ‘Acid Tracks’; that's how much of a pioneer he was. That took courage, man. So by the time Louis came along I was ready. So yes, Ron inspired the Chicago army of DJs you see today.
You were a pioneer of both Acid and Wild Pitch house music. Why do you feel Acid has been explored by so many producers and is still hugely prevalent while Wild Pitch is hardly made anymore?
Well, Acid house isn't traceable; it was it's own thing - weird, squelching sounds totally from leftfield. You were not prepared for it. Also, it was intentional; we sought to create our own thing, our own sound.
So after trying out different drum machines and having gone through the trial and error process, we came upon the Roland TB303. The rest is history. So the intent was to create something Ron Hardy would play; something revolutionary. Wild Pitch was out of vibe, I felt; an idea from an already established sound. House music was fully defined by then and all I did was change the tempo and the way tracks were being formatted. I slowed it down and I made them longer, made the tracks build, layering them. So I just took what was already there and did my own thing. I named it after the Wild Pitch parties Greg Day used to throw in New York.
Acid house was a divine gift, I call it. I didn't go off anything else but my spiritual voice; it came from within. So I think that's why people want to tap into it. They want to connect to something that was birthed from nothing. Wild Pitch on the other hand was daring for the time; ahead of it's time actually, but not revolutionary. In fact the first Wild Pitch track was shelved for a year. [Record label] Strictly Rhythm needed a track and Little Louie Vega said “what about Pierre's ‘Generate Power’ track? That's hot. Put it out.” Gladys Pizzarro [co-founder of Strictly Rhythm] responded. No one really got it at first but once it hit the public it blew up. Louie Vega was part of the A&R team then. So I'm very happy he convinced them to release it.
As far as it not being as massive as Acid House, people are not as attracted to what they may see, or feel, as familiar. A little plug - Wild Pitch is making a comeback though. I have an album of all Wild Pitch tracks out on Get Physical soon. People still love it, man. I opened up an intimate spot in Atlanta and named it Wild Pitch. I think 2018 will be a big year for it.
Any Acid records that have been made you think “Damn, wish I'd made that”?
Yeah ‘Acid Over’. Tyree took it to another level, and anything by Adonis.
Tell us about your label Afro Acid.
Afro Acid was formed because people wanted Acid and Wild Pitch tracks from me. Or a track like my last big track. So I was saying, “People, I’m more than that. Please allow me to grow. Don't box me in”. So I started my own label which allows me to be deep, soulful, funky (Afro) but I'm also hard, daring, genre-bending and I will explore brave new worlds (Acid). So Afro Acid has no boundaries when combined together. If the music is good then we put it out.
Jack Trax is our sister label and we stick to the more traditional style there. We have an amazing group of artists that we are pushing now - Beyun, Lessnoise, DJ One Five and Alex Lucas. Look out for them. They all have releases on Jack Trax. Atlanta is a hotbed for House and Techno now, man. My studio there is trying to help that along.
We hope to hear many of your seminal records at EE Festival being such a huge part of our club culture. But which ones hold the most special place in your heart?
I hardly play my own tracks. All my tracks have their own story and are very special. My manager gets a bit upset because people are always asking for them but I have such a desire to share what I've been working on lately or introduce that new record I'm digging. If the promoter asks for a classic set I will drop ‘Generate Power’, ‘Box Energy’, ‘The Horn Song’, ‘Come Fly With Me’ and, of course, Phuture joints like ‘Acid Tracks’ and ‘Rise From Your Grave’.
I have to be in the moment. I don't pre-plan a set. So it really depends on how the night is going. You have to wait and see, man. I think the fact that I mix it up is what keeps me relevant. I can relate to the new ears. I give them a bit of what they know and I also teach them about the foundation tracks that came while they were in their mom's womb. Afro Acid style all day, man.
Where do you see house music this and next year for DJ Pierre?
Wow, I have so many amazing projects happening. The most enjoyable for me is my Wild Pitch project with Get Physical. I've developed a friendship with them and our work together is one of the most refreshing for me for many years so I’m eager for the world to hear it. I'm also happy about the team we are working with. I give a lot of me to them because I see raw talent. So I’m excited to see them make their mark next year; their success is my joy. For house music in 2017, I see it ever-changing. I do see some diluting though; genres popping up and it just sounds all wrong. Too many sub genres, man; that's the low side. On the up and up, house music is making a comeback. Classics are kicking down doors tight now along with disco. So 2017 is the year of revival.