It all started with a little silver box: the legendary TB-303 that unleashed the unrivaled “Acid Tracks” in 1987. Originally conceived to be used as a bass accompaniment for guitarists, the 303 did not yield the expected success and the production had to be stopped after 20 000 units.
In their small studio in Chicago, DJ Pierre and DJ Spank Spank manage to master the devilish machine, distorting basslines and creating a brand-new tone. First played at the Music Box by Ron Hardy, one of House’s founding fathers, “Acid Tracks” revolutionized electronic music all over the world. It didn’t take too long to convince Marshall Jefferson to put it on a record.
After a 23-years break, DJ Pierre and Spank Spank get back together, with a new draftee, namely Lothario Lee. Those that were present during their astonishing live at Weather Festival Summer can attest: Phuture has lost none of its superb. Hard Life took the opportunity of their venue to the Weather Festival Summer to solve some mysteries with the Godfather of Acid.
Hard Life • First, let’s go back a little before you two revolutionized electronic music. How did you meet?
DJ Pierre • We both went to Crete Monee High School out in the suburbs of Chicago. Spank knew I was a local DJ and would see me in the hallway and say one day he was going to make some beats and he would love for me to mix them in my sets. I would say “Ok…Whenever you are ready, let’s do it!” He did it and I started playing his beats. Then, he suggested that we actually start making our own tracks. I was only djing then, but always had a musical mind you know, so a musical production was not too difficult. So with Spank’s urging I moved from being a dj to actually producer as well. So our meeting was very important and divine really.
Hard Life •I think the name Phuture speaks for itself, acid sounds were pretty futuristic at the time, but what about the spelling “Ph”?
DJ Pierre • A friend of ours named Chauncy suggested we spell it differently. He wanted to manage us once he saw the potential.
Hard Life • There are a few stories telling about how acid got its name, whether it was from the drugs people were taking or because of your “Acid tracks”. How did you come up with a title so accurate that it gave its name to this music revolution?
DJ Pierre • Well, the people named the track. This acid house movement is organic from the start. We were just vessels but the people took it and made it into a revolution. Ron Hardy, local DJ in Chicago, broke Acid Track; he played it 4 times in one night until everyone there digested it and went crazy off it. People were dancing on their backs, bouncing off walls…And I guess it looked like they were on drugs. So I think the first reaction to the track brought about that title. People were calling it « Ron Hardy’s Acid Track » so we just dropped Ron Hardy and kept “Acid Tracks”. We found out later the drug connection to it and so I wrote “Your Only Friend” a B side to combat that, saying that we are anti-drugs and we think in the end it will be your only friend..
Hard Life • When did you really become aware that you had created one of the most influential music genre?
DJ Pierre • When we saw the impact it made worldwide. It didn’t blow up in Chicago. It influenced a bunch of other important acid house tracks from Armando, Tyree, Adonis… But we didn’t see the revolution until an interviewer from the UK tracked me down in Chicago and said “Man… This is the biggest thing in the UK! In fact, the Queen is banning the music there.” In those days we didn’t have the internet at our finger tips so it was tough to know that Trax records was illegally shipping out record abroad. We were told it was only local sales. But in the end, it worked out for us, for music, for all acid house fans.
Hard Life • What’s your opinion about the evolution of electronic music from the Chicago beginnings until the EDM blast?
DJ Pierre • I think everything has a beginning. Once we try to eliminate that fact, then we face the danger of a watered down version of something that was once great. Evolution is necessary and it’s natural. We were created to CREATE. So it’s only natural for us to take what we are given and make it better. EDM is the result of House music. Early on in the EDM scene, it was interesting to see the different additions or experiments going on. I like to stretch myself to do different things as well, so I saw nothing wrong with that. But as time went on, it was a big letdown because not only was everyone a dj now, the productions were becoming more and more about making the same exact track that hit #1 and made a dj a superstar. So the goal of the music changed. It became more about getting to superstardom than about the music. The Music took a back seat and creativity took a back seat. Again, I don’t mind different, BUT be original, be creative, reference where it all started. House music will always have a place in everything I do… even if it’s something “different” from what we are known for.
Hard Life • What about the evolution of your own music? Is there one particular fact that had changed your way of producing acid?
DJ Pierre • My music changes not with the times but with where I’m at musically. When I created the WildPitch style, everyone was into UK garage. It went against the grain. Acid house, nothing existed like that before Phuture. So always thinking outside the box and doing something different is the goal always. Acid house has always been grimy, raw. The same formula with the first track is the same formula today. People are re-discovering acid house and Phuture. This is why we are able to tour without an EP out. Young 20 something’s are doing their research and learning about the beginnings and they come upon acid house, and the revolution starts again. We will continue in that style. Our tools have evolved as well so we have more flexibility and dimension to what we were doing 25 years ago Stay tuned for the EP.
Hard Life • What would be the best acid track according to you, except from yours obviously?
DJ Pierre • That’s a tough one. So many greats that came after acid Tracks. I’m partial to Tyree Cooper’s “Acid Over” because he added an element that no other acid Track had. He had a piano joint in and I thought that was so creative because it softened up the edges a bit to the music.
Hard Life • Which city or country is the most receptive to acid music?
DJ Pierre • The UK was the birthplace of the acid house revolution. London in particular had a major hand in its growth. I often tell people it was birthed in Chicago but it grew up in the UK. So we have the most energetic sets in the UK. They feel connected to it as much as we do. Europe on a whole receives what we do well.
Hard Life • Do you think acid has changed a lot? Is there the same spirit?
DJ Pierre • I’m listening to some newer acid’s and it seems at time people forget what made acid house different from any other track that had the 303 bassline playing. To actually make acid house you have to manipulate the 303, you have to twist the knobs… So I hear tracks now with just the 303 playing and it’s labeled as acid house. It’s a bit disheartening because that’s not exactly true. I want people to get their hands dirty and get in there and feel where the twisting of the knobs takes them. Now the new TB 3 released by Roland a few years ago is touch screen, it’s a bit easier to manipulate. So yes, the spirit is a bit different because we have moved away from the proper definition of what makes “Acid”. Calvin Harris’ “Slow Acid” goes against what acid house wants to do. It wants to wake you up. It wants to challenge you. It wants to shock you. I’m not a Metal fan but it’s like calling Heavy Metal “Light Metal or “Easy Metal”. That would defeat the purpose of Heavy Metal psychologically. This is why we stick to the formula. Acid house is a wakeup call. That’s why kids gravitated to it because it was anti-mainstream. It motivated them to be different and challenge the system. “Rise From Your Grave” is a very popular track we perform in our live sets. It’s speaks to people opening their eyes to the ills of society. Not only is the music driving and gritty it had a social conscience as well, sort of what Rap music started out as.
Hard Life • Digging must have become a second nature to you. What are the latests artists you have come across?
DJ Pierre • I’ve been so wrapped up in my own world recently because I’m working on new music. I’m also very involved with the new artists on my label. I make myself accessible to them and that takes a lot of time. One of the artists on the label is Raskal. He’s super talented. Look out for him on the remix of my next track with duo SuperNova from Italy. Ralph & Louie are also local Atlantan artists about to drop a new track on the label. The kids will love them. Super kool dudes who know how to bridge the gap between house music and EDM. Harvard Bass’s tracks are dope. I’m rediscovering Robert Hood/Floorplan., he is a blessed soul.
Hard Life • Do you feel the same pleasure mixing today compared to when you started?
DJ Pierre • It’s different now. Back then it was unchartered territory and we could go anywhere the music took you. Today there are rules and boundaries. Back then it was inclusive. Today you see the same djs on the the same festivals year after year. Back then it was about technical ability today it’s about how well you can get a marketing package out there. Back then it was about the music. Today it’s about how much money one can make either as a dj or promoter. So I find joy when I get an amazing crowd and they allow me to take them on a journey. They follow me where ever I go. And I’ve been able to do so more often now.
Hard Life • What is the best party you’ve ever been invited to play to?
DJ Pierre • That’s the most difficult question to ask a dj or a performer who’s been doing it for over 30 years. This year alone we’ve done quite a few amazing gigs. Glastonbury, that was one for the books, the Genesys block 9 stage is amazing. Block Festival in the UK was amazing as well. Weather Festival in Paris one month ago was great because so many young people were into what we were doing. I love that we are making new fans.
Huge thanks to DJ Pierre for taking the time to answer our questions.
Conducted by Noémie BARBIER and Axel FENAUX