DJ Pierre is a house music legend. The pioneering Chicago DJ/producer/performer, who these days keeps busy DJ'ing round the globe, producing tracks, and running his recently formed Afro Acid Digital label, will always be known as a member of the 80's group Phuture, and as being one of the creators of acid house.
Acid house is a strain of house music that Pierre concocted on the Roland TB 303. He did this in the studio along with his partners in the trio, keyboardist Herb J and producer and Phuture founding member Spanky. In 1987 they unleashed this new sound on the world with the release of their revolutionary EP Acid Trax, which would have a major influence on house music for years to come.
The Roland TB 303 bass line synthesizer was manufactured by the company from '82 to '84 and was originally intended for guitarists to use as a bass accompaniment. Acid House was created almost accidentally by Phuture on the Roland TB 303, when the group was trying to get that unique "squelch" or "wiggly worm" or "funky worm" sound out of it. This sub-genre was particularly influential in the UK, a country that embraced American house music in all its musical mutations much more so than the scene back in the USA. However, there were always pockets of musical fanatics in the States who embraced the new electronic music, including in San Francisco, where the long gone I-Beam club on Haight Street (not far from where Amoeba SF is now) once hosted a night dedicated solely to playing the acid house sub-genre. Meanwhile, the UK had its big "summer of love" (house music honeymoon) in 1988, and acid was the preferred flavor, with other artists putting their spin on the 303-generated genre and scoring pop hits.
Besides Phuture, Pierre has recorded under the names Phuture Phantasy Club, Pierre's Pfantasy Club, and Photon Inc. I recently caught up with DJ Pierre on the phone from Europe where he was about to head out to a DJ a big party where he would be spinning all acid and old school house. It was to be one of the many overseas events he has spun at in this busy year already. Check out the video clip of him below at the Simply House Party in Miami or check out his two-hour Tuesday (4PM PST) radio show on PushFM.com, where he spins alongside Afro Acid Digital's DJ M-Traxxx.
I asked Pierre (born Nathaniel Pierre Jones) to take me back in time and tell me how it all started with that song "Acid Trax" and how exactly the acid sound was born. "Ha ha, the one that started it all," he laughed. "Let me tell you man, Spanky, who is like the guy who put the group together, he went out and bought that (Roland) 303 and we didn't know how to work it and I had just started to turn the knobs and it sounded good. And he put a beat behind it and we gave it to Ron Hardy. And that's how it happened."
Ron Hardy, the DJ who they gave the newly recorded track to first, was the influential Chicago house music ambassador. They understood when they gave him this new record that it was totally unlike the usual house sound to date, so they crossed their fingers, unsure if A) he would play it and B) if he did, what the reaction might be with the discriminating Chicago house music fans.
"When Ron Hardy played it at the beginning of the night, people just cleared the floor. But let me tell you, that night he played that track four times and by the fourth time, people were going nuts on that track," reminisced Pierre, adding that,"When I see the 303 nowadays I don't see a drum machine. I see history." Part of that history was how the 303 and Pierre and company's use of it took house music off into new territory. "A lot of things came out of acid house. Techno came out of acid house. Trance and minimal-tech and all that stuff came from acid house....When you think about acid, you think of it as a sound that's associated with an instrument, like a guitar or whatever. It's not like techno, where you can think of a million different sounds...but when you think of acid you think of one thing...that sound."
And what was it like back in the 80's in Chicago and being a central part of this new music? "You know, we only thought that house music was in Chicago, Detroit, and New York. We didn't really know about Europe. We felt like it was a private thing, like a very small thing and when we made music we thought that those were the only places that would like it."
These days, DJ Pierre makes and releases a music he has coined "afro acid house" on his own Afro Acid Digital label. "It is not really a new type of acid," he says. "Really, I developed the term because I consider Afro to be like the more soulful kind of house music and I consider Acid to be the hard edge of house music. So I said Afro Acid, which is kind of like everything in between." That includes acid, electro, deep house, underground house, and even elements of rock. "Basically, anything goes," adds former SF house DJ W-Jeremy, who now lives in NYC and is signed to Afro Acid Digital along with his musical partner (another former SF resident) Christy Love. Together, they record and perform music under the name House of Stank. For more information, visit the House of Stank website and for more info on DJ Pierre and Afro Acid Digital visit this site.