ShAnkari: Hello John aka Electronica Massiva, while we’re gonna chat together, your set for Octo Recs is on air here, a pure beauty I recommend warmly https://soundcloud.com/octorecords/electronica-massiva A word about this superb set ?
John Pierson : Yeah that was a labour of love. Isaque at Octo has been a great friend over the past couple of years and we are always comparing notes on how to make music (from him), and how to play and manipulate it (from me). I wanted to take lots of different sounds which were designed for different tempos and situaQons and put them together in a coherent mix. I had to try and do a good job, since I’ve been talking about it with him for so long, ha! In the end it took about 6 months and knew song choice would either make the set or break it. But in true super downtempo style, it seemed natural to let it evolve rather than just going through my track selecQon.
What do you think of the actual super prolific musical Downtempo scene?
First I’m gonna name a few that I take inspiraQon from, say Leichtigkeit Des Seins, Yem, Don Juan Mezcal, Najesh & ArQsoko, Fruiterama… but there are a lot of good dj’s. Some sets I listen make me feel like I am a beginner even though I have been playing for so many years.. in fact I’d say some of the way these guys play is quite humbling for me, and as well as spurring me on to do beFer next Qme, does make me appreciate my limitaQons. SomeQmes I think too hard about a parQcular set and be a liFle calculaQve – all of the things you don’t really get when playing live as there is a crowd to feed off of ! but of course there is always potenQal for things to go wrong there also ! I dunno, making a podcast is Qring… I mean really Qring… making one knocks me out for a while I must admit. There are just so many sets though right ? each one, or most, were probably painstakingly made and took a lot of Qme, and deserve at least a listen.. but there are a lot, plus new channels… and is increasing…
Can you tell us how you came to djing?
… not sure where my strong affiliation came from.. I used to go to parties when I was 17-18 and the music playing at them was really just pop hits of the time. I used to make tapes (actual tapes!) of more underground sounds then just take what was playing off, and put my stuff on. Generally didn’t get any complaints, ha! I started with two 1980’s belt driven turntables and a video editing mixer, this was round about 1988-89. I was into everything, early house music, disco, rap, R & B. I tried to scratch.. that wasn’t too successful.. But anyway, I progressed with the equipment, like you do.. got a few guest DJ slots, moved on to some residencies, and ended up playing all over the world playing at some incredible places. I was lucky, I was in with the ‘right crowd’ and my status was elevated a little bit easier than some. From the time I put in making the belt turntables work for me, letting loose on the Technics was natural transition. I’ve retired several times since then and always come back, just for the love of music.. I don’t generally play out any more as my life and responsibilities just don’t really allow for it these days.
Up to you, what makes a good set, what elements it should include, such as technical and artistic input? What would you advise a beginner?
What makes a good set and what would I say to any budding DJ’s just starting out.. it’s probably harder these days than it ever has been, because anyone can be a DJ now as long as you can use software on a computer. Beatmatching used to be an art, but the Sync button took care of that. A lot of music has also become very formulaic… easy for dj’s and the crowd gets the impression the dj is working wonders when they are really not. Anyone who wants to get noticed has to do something different and take chances. Again, that isn’t easy, but please don’t play what everyone else is or the Beatport top 40… it’s not gonna get you anywhere. When I started with this genre I found it, and still find it extremely difficult to work with because a lot of tracks start and finish with melodies… so how is the dj supposed to mix the next track in ? Melodies rarely work with one another so a lot of tracks that a dj would pick are just left out which is a shame. So.. a good set should tell a story.. it should not be a bunch of the dj’s favourite tracks ! This is equally important for a podcast, or a live set. The sign of a good set is that all the tracks come together as one. The listener should be able to close their eyes and feel themselves being taken away by the music. The individual tracks should not really be important.. it’s all about the set. In that regard, it’s odd (in my opinion) to hear a set starting at say 90 bpm, and ending after an hour or so on 120bpm.. I don’t get that.. it’s like trying to cram a whole nights musical experience into an hour or whatever. Doesn’t work for me. Also, length of set is important.. an hour is a little too short, and anything over an hour and a half is too long.. unless the set is a B2B. My mind can’t be ‘taken away’ for over and a half, and I tend to switch off.
Can I give examples of such sets ? yes… anything Javid has made. He is one of the finest producer/DJ’s I’ve ever heard. Absolutely amazing.. his UCR set, or Travel Diaries, particularly Part one, is some of the best music I have ever heard, in any genre, period. Add Fruiterama to that list !
You also produce beautiful edits : what’s your secret?
I do get asked about these… The answer goes back to 2004-2008 when I was playing in London, still on vinyl and I found it frustrating that due to the amazing quality of the guest DJ’s we had in our club, it was really difficult to stay ahead with the tunes and play something the crowd didn’t know. So I used to play a track that they probably knew, but use a DJ tool drum break, or bongo roll or something over the top. I would also sometimes have 2nd copies of the same main track and just chop them up, all live. I had people coming up and ask me whose remix it was that was playing. Funny, I’m sure they were drunk ! So when I started in the slow genre, it seemed natural to try and find way to manipulate tracks so that I could offer a version that perhaps the listener found interesting and a little different from what they would have hear elsewhere – my version of the dj law of attempting to be individual and different from the masses. Anyway, they seemed to be popular so I made a few. I think it’s around 500k listens on SC all told, so worth the effort!
Next to music, what drives you in life? I discovered you teach Martial Arts…
I teach Kickboxing.. have done for about 25 years ! I also like to ride challenging terrain on my mountain bike – luckily I live in the hills so can indulge a fair amount. I do like a challenge ! Not sure why, lol! I’m a bit old to do some of this stuff..
Time doesn’t exist : keep riding!
Thank you John for this instructive moment with you!
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