When we catch up over the phone, Pearce is talking fresh off the back of Amsterdam Dance Event, having been part of a more cerebral sounding panel discussion, before shelling out a typically riotous set at the Dockyard, albeit at a slightly higher tempo than he was expecting. “I was part of a panel on the Friday called from bedroom to big room, to give tips to people in the audience about how to get to where I’m at. ADE has so much to see and do. I had loads of meetings with Pioneer and Roland a few others, which I wouldn’t usually do,” he explains.
Down at the Dockyard he played on a stacked bill of heavyweights including Dubfire, Nic Fanciulli and Radio Slave, where the latter raised the BPM far beyond what you’d usually expect for a daytime festival. This brings about its own challenges, but Pearce’s musical versatility means it’s rarely too much of a problem. “Nic played at around 131, which was slightly different, but he was great. I started around the same and brought it down slightly. Dubfire is a good mate of mine so I didn’t want to leave him in the lurch. I did change my plan because of how Nic was playing. It was already booting off and I didn’t want to be the guy that ruined the party. I never really plan the tracks I’m going to play, but I usually have an idea. Playing a gig with people like Green Velvet and Patrick Topping to 4,000 people usually needs a certain style. But, when I play at fabric for example, the music will be totally different.”
“At certain times, you have to switch it up.”This is typical of a mentality that puts the dancefloor above all else. “Every DJ has a different take on what being a DJ is. For me, we get paid an extortionate amount of money to make people dance. Certain tracks might not be my go to favourites, but at times you have to sacrifice a little bit. Some DJs stick to a certain sound, and see it more as their craft, which is completely fair. But because I’ve been a raver, and not a professional DJ, for such a long time, I have a certain view. I was still going as a punter until I was 31. Having been on the other side, I don’t ever want to leave a crowd disappointed. So at Awakenings, it’ll be heads-down, rolling techno. But at certain times, you have to switch it up.”
If you caught him play over the summer, it’s likely you heard him drop his own remix of Miss Honey, a euphoric house banger that sounds like it was made for making festival crowds erupt. It’s one of the hits of the summer, but wasn’t always meant to be. “I made that as a bit of a joke,” he confesses. “Two years ago I played at Arcadia Festival in London, then Steelyard, then the afterparty and then onto Little Gay Brother. I’m good mates with those guys, and they really love tough, rolling house music. I knocked up a beat and put the Miss Honey vocals over the top, which have become an iconic catwalk anthem. I made it in my living room, played it on the night and it went crazy. I played in LA the next weekend, and thought ‘If this works, I’ll take it back to the studio and make something of it.’ It ended up being the biggest track of the night. My tour manager and I were both laughing, this video we’ve been watching for years has become this huge track, people are stopping me in airports and asking when it’s being released.”
“I’m rethinking everything.”It’s a question he gets asked a lot, but we’re inching closer to an answer. “We’re hoping to release it next year, but it depends whether it gets the clearance. I’m happy, it’s a tune that people have connected with. I make all kinds of music, techno, house, and I’ve just done a jungle remix for RAM Records. I’m still baffled by Miss Honey, but if I knew the formula of why tunes blow up, I’d do it every time.”
We soon move on to talk over some of this year’s other releases, and how they fit into his stacked back catalogue. “I’m happy with them all. The one for Loco Dice’s label went under the radar I think. I’ve been around a long time, and still have a certain mindset. Pete Tong would play a tune two months before it came out, it would get played in clubs and then you’d head down to the record shop and buy it. After that it was all about Beatport, but my attitude was always the same. My track for Desolat didn’t do as well on Beatport, but on Spotify it was one of the biggest. I went for lunch with Luke Soloman at ADE, who told me that his kids all got into rappers through Soundcloud. Like this girl Billie Eilish, her first track had been streamed nearly a billion times. So we looked at my Spotify and Soundcloud, and there were all these tunes that I don’t play because I thought they didn’t connect, but they were right up at the top. So now I’m rethinking everything.”
Pearce is equally reflective of his earlier releases for labels like Trubble and Entrance Song. “Of all of those tracks, Vertigo is the one I still play,” he tells us. “I’ve made a version which goes into Fast Eddie’s acid thunder, because the make up of the tunes is quite similar. I started playing it again and it boots off. Entrance Song got me where I am, and Trubble was very of the moment. It fit into a certain musical bracket in 2013, it was a long time ago. I used the vocal from Entrance Song, but the younger people that listen to me now won’t know that tune. They’ll know Flash or Let’s Go Dancin’. I’m happy with what I’ve produced. And my forthcoming releases are varied. I’ve got one on my own label, one on Intec and one on Ovum, Josh Wink’s label. So they’ll be much darker than you’d usually expect.”
Having recently launched a record label with Spanish producer Andres Campo, the pair now have the freedom to carve out their own signature sound. His forthcoming EP is one he has big plans for. “Everything I do is always 100% me from start to finish,” he says. “I’m meeting a mix engineer who worked on Massive Attack’s first two albums. So I’m taking six tracks to him. I’ve never wanted to relinquish any control at all, I feel a bit guilty, but I really want to see what he can do. I want to see his techniques. I’ve played them all recently and they all sounded massive, but if they can sound more massive then that’s great.”
“I first started raving to techno and jungle.”The label will carry the duo’s own releases, as well as tracks from rising stars such as Mita. The identity was born with a certain sound in mind. “I first started raving to techno and jungle. It was fast but not too hard, and always had a bit of a groove. There was always a bit of soul to it,” he explains. “We wanted an outlet where I could do techno that was a bit groovier and funkier. When we were setting the label up, Truncate was the first person we had in mind. For someone that can get so much out of so few elements, he’s unrivalled. It’s incredible what he can do, and the sound quality is next level. He manages to combine some Chicago grit with a Detroit sound. It’s hard to put your finger on. Nothing in the UK is putting stuff like that out. We wanted to have something both here and in Spain that nobody else was doing. Techno is a very serious place. And I get that. But dance music is supposed to be fun, a release. I’m not being disrespectful to anyone, but we’re idiots who want to have fun. We’re serious about what we do, and our music is seriously good, but we just have fun doing it.”
The story of how the two first met is one worth retelling – as Pearce remembers it, the pair were thrown into a booth together before they’d even said hello to one another. “Andres and I became mates straight away” he says. “We were thrown into this back-to-back, and it was as if I had eight arms. It was like playing back-to back-with myself. Wojtech from Catz ‘n Dogz has a similar style to me, but without being disrespectful to anyone else, Andres is the one I always like to play with. By the end of the first set we were bouncing around the DJ booth, he’d go to do something and I’d already be there doing it. Our hands would cross over each other. This makes it sound like one of the more romantic scenes from Ghost, but that’s genuinely how it felt.”
Pearce’s return to Farringdon, where EI8HT affiliates Campo and Truncate also play, is overdue. He speaks of us with a charming fondness. “I can’t wait, I’ve not played since New Year’s Eve 2017. Judy [Griffith, fabric Promotions Manager] and Andy [Blackett, fabric Promotions Manager] are good mates, and we always have a right laugh. fabric is one of the greatest clubs on the planet, an institution, ran by some of the soundest people. I’ve had some mad times there, and if you’d told me back when I was listening to Stanton Warriors that I would have my name to a fabric CD, I wouldn’t have believed it. To have this as part of my legacy, if that’s what you want to call it, is incredible. I’m forever indebted to fabric both as a punter and as a DJ.”
Outside of his date with us, Come Rave With Me will see him DJ at some of the country’s most revered clubs, as well as a few less familiar haunts. “I’ve not toured the UK for a while, and I wanted to get involved with people. I’ll go and get involved with people, so we thought we’d run a competition. I’m going to a lad’s house for a pre-party in Glasgow, then in Nottingham we’re going for breakfast the next day, and someone is coming to have a mix with me in Bristol. In Ireland we’re doing the beer bikes with a load of lads, we’re doing stuff to involve people instead of just playing records to them.”
The tour embodies the sort of community, DIY spirit which made him one of the most revered DJs on the circuit. Having previously brought his record bag into a chip shop and atop a London bus, none of this should come as a surprise. After a lifetime of raving, and well over a decade behind the decks, it’s likely he’ll continue to push boundaries wherever he finds a dancefloor.