This past weekend, I was able to sit down and speak with Pierce Fulton, one of the most prolific producers in the industry right now. Hailing from Vermont, Pierce Fulton has quickly risen to the top of the progressive house genre, and for good reason. He is one of the few artists left that continues to reinvent the genre, as well as his own sound. His set at Moonrise was absolutely electrifying, and I wouldn’t have expecting anything less. Familiarize yourself with Pierce Fulton quickly, as there is only more to come.
How did you first get into dance music? Do you have a musical background?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 6 years old, and I played in a bunch of bands and school orchestras growing up. Sophmore year of highschool, I met a venezualen exchange student who was a DJ, and I never didn’t know what house music was, I thought it was “techno” or whatever you wanna call it. He showed me a Carl Cox mix and I was just like wow. I had been producing hip hop for a little at that time, so i decided to try out dance music.
Was there a moment when you realized that dance music was what you wanted to do? Maybe a show you went to?
My friend actually snuck me into an Eric Prydz show, and i was 17 at the time when it was a 21+ show. It was in NYC back in 2010, and it was one of the rare times he came to the US before he moved here because he hates flying. It blew my mind.
When did you start producing? How did you balance producing and schoolwork while you were in college?
I had been producing before I went to college, and when I went to college it was definitely tougher. When I got to college, I wasn’t doing it as a career, it was more of a hobby for me at that point, but i wanted to pursue it somehow. I only went to college for 2 years, the first 3 semesters that I was there, my grades were alright, maybe like a B average. The last semester of my sophmore year, I signed with AM Only and started playing shows every weekend. Ironically, that was my best semester grade wise of my entire college career, and I never studied for anything! I remember coming back from playing Utra and being in Miami for a week and taking a geography test, and just crushing it.
When did you decide to leave school?
I decided to leave when I got offered a spot on Wolfgang Gartner’s bus tour back in 2011 or 2012. I was like alright fuck it, I gotta give it a shot.
“You can’t expect to get huge off of something that’s already been done. When something is popular, it’s already on its way out.”
What did your parents think?
My parents were always supportive. Although they were a bit skeptical at first, once they saw I could make enough to support myself and keep my finances in order, they were like alright this is a good career for you. When my parents came to my headlining show at XS about two years ago, that’s when they really understood it. No more criticism for Pierce!
We first started listening to you after your remix of "Runaways" by The Killers. How has your sound evolved from then?
The time gap for when I make tracks is so much more pronounced then what I think. I think between March and June, I made 40 unreleased idea’s that could’ve been made into full tracks. So if you think about 3 years, which is when I released that “Runaways” remix, that is a sickening amount of time. I literally make music every single day, wherever I am, be it in the studio, on a train or plane, whatever. I have hundreds of songs just lying around to the point that I just forget about songs. I even forget about songs that come out, I forgot about “The Runaways” remix.
I remember that "Come With Me" remix too.
That’s another one I forgot about as well. When I remixed that, the only thing I sampled were 3 words from Polina’s vocals, and that was “Come With Me”. She told me it was her favorite remix, and I only sampled 3 of her words! She liked the remix so much, that she wanted to collab on a track, and that’s how “Where We Were” happened.
Where did the inspiration for Kuaga come from?
The first version of Kuaga is actually called “Writing Shit”, because I was trying out a new writing structure for chords. For a long time, I was doing these over exaggerated chords that had so many different parts to them. Your chord structure doesn’t need that much complexity, you can have a couple pieces of harmony and that works. So Kuaga was a step towards a 3 chord structure, where the only inversion was on the 3rd chord for the second rendition of it. I was trying out new chords and it worked. The chanting in Kuaga was influenced by two of my favorite songs that have chants, “Prelude” by Above and Beyond, and “Reaper” by Pryda. So I came across these sample packs that had these African Chants in them, I repitched them, and it worked.
Kuaga has that really nice stutter in the drop as well.
Yeah, that was actually an accident. I was going through some presets to build a lead sound, and I turned on the arpeggiator on one of them and thought “well this sounds nice”. So I built the “stutter” off that.
What about "Lost Time", did you always want to make a vocal version of "Kuaga"?
The label the track is signed to essentially said they we’re going to make a vocal version out of it, with or without me. I didn’t want someone else slapping something onto my song, so I took it into my own hands.. I went through a bunch of pitches and found these two guys from the UK who had a really great idea for vocals. I ended up working on it with my friend Johhny from Ireland who goes by the name EDEN who is an amazing vocal writer. Johhny and I bounced ideas back and forth with the two guys in the UK and we eventually ended up with the vocal line. What’s really cool is that the vocals were sung by one of the guy’s 9 year old son, Reese.
9 Years old?
Yep, they did a bit of layering, but the main piece is a 9 year old.
A lot of producers talk about "finding their sound" Would you say you've found yours?
I’d say the past couple of months I’ve taken steps towards finding my sound. The latest remix I put out of Life of Dillon’s “Overdrive” is the first proper step I’ve taken towards finding something that’s really my own. “Kuaga” is unique, but it’s not something that hasn’t been done before. The “Overdrive” remix isn’t entirely unique either, but it’s something that I personally find more relatable- this acoustic but still electronic sound. I made it assuming it was going to be this chill/poppy track, but whenever I play it out it goes off just as much as my bigger songs.
Yea man, people went crazy for that at Moonrise!
Yea, I think that’s really the first step towards something my own, because I can’t really think of any other producers who are doing tracks like that at the moment, this house influenced pop. All the guitar on that track is me playing live, so it just makes it more personal for me. It’s something different.
More so about finding your sound, a lot of producers these days seem scared to "break the mold" of what fans expect from them. However, your remix of Overdrive was very different from Kuaga, Runaway, or the "When We Were Young" remix.
My thing is, I don’t like to be one that repeats myself. I don’t want to say it’s a regret, because from a business standpoint it was an excellent move, but take for example my Dillon Francis remix. I love the song, but they asked me “Can you do something like Kuaga”. Every time I sent them the remix, they’d say “something a little more”. From a business standpoint, Dillon Francis and Sultan & Shepard’s fans don’t know me necessarily, so to have that sound exposed to them gives me a whole new fan base. A few people were like “It sounds exactly like Kuaga”, but at the end of the day it was take a Dillon Francis remix or move on. Obviously, I wasn’t going to say no to a Dillon Francis Remix on Columbia. It wasn’t like somebody was drilling me, I agreed to release the final version I sent them. As I said before, it was definitely a smart business move, but it isn’t something I am ever trying to do again. The next couple of singles I have coming up are unlike anything I’ve put out, and they all sound different from each other. Moving forward, I want to do things that I’m exicited about. I have a sickening amount of new music to put out. Sometimes I’ll get small panic attacks about putting a track out because stuff will get so old before I can even put it out!
Wow, why does it take so long to come out?
Well it boils down to me being a perfectionist, and certain tracks take longer than others. Kuaga was made in like 2 days, sometimes the idea for a track will just shit itself out really quickly. That’s why In Reality was a free download. I sent it to a label and they didn’t want to put it out, and I didn’t feel like waiting around so I just said fuck it and put it out.
How did you get the idea to form "Shirt & Skins" with Ansolo? Are we going to see more releases from that group?
We played shows as Shirts & Skins in New York for maybe a year and a half now, usually at Le Bain in Manhattan. We played anonymously because we didn’t really think anything of it. Ansel loves basketball, and one day we were just riding in a cab and we passed by a basketball court and came up with the name Shirts & Skins. People are really into it, and we have an EP coming up as well as a new remix. We will also be doing a full fledged radio show with it.
So what about Get Weird Radio?
Get Weird sort of got to messy and I didn’t really have a sound with it, where as the Shirts & Skins radio is going to have a very distinct sound with it.
How did you meet Ansolo?
He’s been my roomate for about a year and a half now. He used to send me music way back in the day, and I met him because his older brother was in the same fraternity as one of my mananger’s at my management company, so they linked us up. He was trying to move out of his parent’s apartment, so we found a place in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and lived there for a year and a half. I actually just moved out last week because I am moving to LA.
What advice do you have for new producers, especially those still in college?
My main advice is that there’s obviously something educational in reproducing something that you like, but at the end of the day, there are never going to be two Skrillex’s. You need to do something different. You can’t expect to get huge off of something that’s already been done. When something is popular, it’s already on its way out. It can still exist, but there isn’t that much room left for it to expand. If you’re trying to be a tropical house producer, it’s going to be very hard to break into it because its got its group. There is a capacity to the amount of new acts in a certain sound. So my main advice is to just do everything different everyday. Never do the same thing everyday.
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