To the normal person…it doesn’t make sense. How can you hear a melody out of pure noise? My mind heard one.
Chicago house music pioneer DJ Pierre (Nathaniel Pierre Jones to his friends and family) has teamed up with fellow Chicagoan Green Velvet to recreate “Acid Trax”—the seminal ‘80s house record that invented the acid house genre. Pierre, as part of the group Phuture, created acid house using—or misusing—the Roland 303. Many genres, sub-genres and youth culture movements have been influenced by the aciiiid sound as a result. The 2011 re-work is just as frenetic and banging, with new drums, breakdowns and twists. Mixmag cited “Acid Tracks” the original, in their top 25 tracks that has shaped music history.
In addition to the DJ Pierre and Green Velvet remixes, Pierre has another “Acid Track” set to be released on Boys Noise Records. It’s called “ACiD.” Also be on the lookout for his collaboration with Carl Cox and Josh Wink on a remake of “We are Phuture,” which is coming out on Bush Records.
As far as DJing, Pierre has added a live element to his sets with the Roland 303 and has kicked off a series of events under the Afro Acid umbrella. The Afro Acid residency got underway in London on August 5th at East Village—a funky, well-respected spot. So far they’ve booked Juan Atkins for that. Every now and again Pierre will pop in but the residency is more for the artists on his label.
You can’t still be relevant 25-years later in any field if you are not flexible enough to realize that you dont know everything and still be humble enough to learn and grow.
We caught up with DJ Pierre for a quick chat about acid, music and life.
We know DJ Pierre, who is Nathaniel Jones?
If you met me for the first time you would think I’m not the person people say is responsible for the creation of another genre of house music, which is “Acid House”. I am not one to speak about myself…one would say I’m a bit of an introvert when I’m not on stage DJing but when I’m on the decks it’s like another element to me kicks in. I love anything creative or innovative. I almost never stick to rules or boundaries. This is why I was able to use the Roland 303 to do something it wasn’t intended to do when we created “Acid Tracks” in 1986. The way my brain is wired is always to push the envelope and figure out another way of doing things. This is why I think my productions are always either ahead of their time or different from what’s out at the moment. As far as who I am as a person on a daily level…I love when people are good to each other. I am a work in progress every day. Each day I try to live my life with thought and concern for those around me. I have 4 beautiful kids 2 college age and 2 toddlers. So the last 2 will get the best of me.
What percentage of your skills were you born with?
I am 90% musically inclined. 10% is for social interaction. My challenge is that I can be in a room with 100 people and all I’m thinking about is breaking down the production on the song that’s playing in the background. I am a work in progress with that. I am learning to be in the moment in regards to the things happening around me. I’m learning to take myself out of my own headspace and allow myself to be in the moment.
Favor us with a moment in life that changed the course of, or defined, your aesthetic philosophy.
I wrote a song called Jesus on My Mind which came out on Twisted Records. I think I was searching for something bigger than myself. The music was just playing and the words came all at once. I had everything that would make anyone happy…and complete but still felt a longing. So I wrote that song and it did more than I ever imagined. Shortly after I went through a divorce and that crushed me. It made me feel like a failure…like I didn’t live up to what was expected of me. So I felt like giving up…I didn’t want to be here anymore. I think that was my weakest moment ever. And that was the moment I realized that there was something bigger than me…and I followed my instincts and found out I am a spiritual being. We all are…we just are not aware until we take the blinders off. I guess you can say I had a spiritual experience where God became real to me. My life changed from that point on.
Discuss a musician or an era which has influenced you. When and how did you come upon what moved you?
I love the Big Band era by default. My uncle Nat played with the Duke Ellington’s band. So I grew up hearing about him and listening to a lot of that in my house. It wasn’t a choice really. But when I got older I loved the R&B funk of the ‘70s. It broke the mold of what came before it. It was funky.
Speak about the hierarchy of skill (craftsmanship), style (your unique aesthetic) and emotive content in your work—and/or in the work of those you admire.
The way I produce can’t be bottled. My mind thinks of things that people probably don’t ordinarily think of when it comes to music. I usually find a way to use whatever is in my reach to do more than what it was meant to do. Even when I DJ I do the same thing. I may change the flow of the entire night even though it’s risky…because I feel the people may be in this zombie like state hearing the same thing all night. So I feel like I need to rescue them…and it always takes the night up a notch. Hasn’t failed yet. When we [Phuture] created “Acid Tracks” the Roland 303 was made to emulate a bass guitar and accompany a lead guitar. When I got my hands on the knobs, I started twisting it to the beat Spanky had going that was already in the machine. We had no idea how to program it. But I kept twisting because in my mind I was hearing a flow and a melody and an actual track. So that’s how “Acid Tracks” came about. To the normal person…it doesn’t make sense. How can you hear a melody out of pure noise? My mind heard one. So my style can’t be explained. Same thing with WildPItch. When I moved to NY from Chicago I used to go to these WildPitch parties and they showed me much love. I made a Track called “Generate Power” and I dedicated it to the WildPitch parties and then the WildPitch sound was created. So I’m also known for creating the WildPitch style where you just slowly build a track to a crazy build up. That wasn’t happening at all before I did that. Also Google “String Free” by Phortune and you'll see the 1st big break in a house track! Me, Spank (from Phuture) and this dude named Darrel did that in ‘87 or ‘88. So I just follow where my mind and heart leads. One producer who I can say helped shaped the way I think as a producer is Lil Louis, DJ/producer from Chicago known for his track “French Kiss.” He was the first one to slow a track down like that in “French Kiss”…so he thinks outside the box as well. If you listen to my tracks you will hear elements of Lil Louis in there. Take Paris Collection feat. Hanna Hais. That’s all a Lil Louis influence.
How would you describe your sound to a deaf person?
I would smile and express to him that this music is making people smile.
If you were starting out now, would you do anything differently?
Yes for sure. I would definitely do a proper contract for the first track I did which is “Acid Trax.” That track went on to make millions. I would own my own publishing 100%. I would even try to trade mark the sound and own the name. lol!
Secret to your success?
Growth. Period. You can’t still be relevant 25-years later in any filed if you are not flexible enough to realize that you don't know everything and still be humble enough to learn and grow. My growth is not dictated by the current trends though. It has to be innate. It’s influenced by what’s happening around me but it usually is a result of a need or desire to try something new. I also think I was born to do this. I believe I was destined for this so success is a natural result. What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned? How did it make your life easier—or more difficult? Learning to listen to what events, people and situations had to teach me was the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn. Life has lots of lessons and we miss them because we don’t know how to truly listen and see what the messages are.
Look ahead for us, into the future. What will be/cause the next big shake up?
I flow man…I can’t predict what’s next. We see it happening slowly so I just keep updated on the latest for Mac/PC and whatever software that’s out there. I am even speaking to the Traktor/Native Instrument peeps to see how we can best work together and still keep my sound/DJ style authentic. So I am open to what’s next. I’m just careful not to lose myself in it you know.
Any travel tales of extreme excitement or extreme boredom that the average person might enjoy reading?
I do travel more than the norm. I’m Diamond class on Delta. That’s a lot of miles. I remember one year I was in Ireland and I was stuck there for a few days because of the conflict between Protestants and Catholics. I saw it firsthand. I remember going to Russia when it was still illegal to have privately own businesses so on this particular trip I actually was taken to a secret hotel that on the outside it looked like a run down building, but when I questioned where they were taking me they said your hotel…So I stepped in and I was shocked to see a brand new beautiful interior. AND I was their first guest ever! I had the entire hotel to myself. Also another story is when the people touch my hair and my skin because they hadn’t seen a black person face to face…so I was on my best behavior so I can represent well.
Your Acid blueprint influenced so many genres/subgenres of electronic music. At which point did you realize this sound was monumental and global, bigger than the Chicago underground?
I’ve been saying how influential it was in the early days when I heard it all around me. I heard elements of it and saw what was happening. When Trax released it I didn’t know how far it had gone. We didn’t know it was exported because Larry Sherman at Trax Records did what he did best…Lied. So when the press came looking for us we found out how far and big this track had grown. After that I truly saw the impact all around.
Thank you, Pierre!! We appreciate your time.
My pleasure. Thank you for reaching out and be blessed. oNe.