Troy Pierce talks Items and Things, his intro to music and upcoming show at Koko

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Having spent many of his formative years travelling between hometown Indiana and the nearby dance music metropolises of Chicago and Detroit, Troy Pierce describes his introduction to the scene as being “in the right place, the right time with the right people.”

However fortunate he was in this regard, it’s impossible to look upon the DJ and producer as simply a lucky artist, as the sound he has developed and the amazing quality of his output is deserving of far more credit.
Rooted in techno and embellished with elements from across the musical spectrum, Pierce’s is a sound that is immediately distinguishable and utterly captivating.

Having released almost exclusively on Richie Hawtin’s M-nus records label through the 2000’s, Pierce joined Magda and Mark Houle in successfully re-launching Items and Things in 2010. Four years on, the Berlin-based label has grown in stature and reputation, thanks to a string of high quality releases that are very much in line with Pierce’s own musical direction.

We are excited to have Troy Pierce joining LEFTFIELD, Model 500, A Guy Called Gerald, DJ Hell, Mixhell and iTAL tEK on the lineup for our next Playground night at Koko on 18th October, and caught up with him recently to chat about the upcoming night, his amazing introduction to music and his career in between.

Hi Troy, how are you and what have you been up to today?

Today? Well, I am in NYC at the moment. I went to crossfit at 7am, yoga at 10am… did a little shopping and went through tracks for a couple of podcasts. Also saw the new Nick Cave film/documentary, which is awesome, grabbed some sushi and passed out. I love New York!

We understand you grew up in Indiana, which is not all that far from Detroit – how were you first introduced to the world of techno and dance music?

The very first introduction would have been by a girl I was dating, she was super into Depeche Mode, Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb – late 80’s industrial-ish dance music… I didn’t get it at all. I went to clubs with her to hang out but it wasn’t my favorite night of the week. Later (via another girlfriend) I started to go to midwestern raves and as luck would have it her best friend was dating some DJ named Richie Hawtin. So some of the first “proper” parties I went to were with Rich, Jeff Mills, John Aquaviva, Derrick May, Derrick Carter, Plastikman Live… just like it was normal. Looking back it seems so crazy, I was so lucky to be in the right place, the right time with the right people.

That’s incredible, what an introduction! So from there, your music has taken you all around the world; can you tell us a little bit about some of the amazing venues and cities that you’ve played in?

There have been so many once in a lifetime scenarios I don’t really know where to start. Warung in Brazil is incredible, Womb in Tokyo, Fabric, Rex Club I love. Some of my favorite places out there, El Paso, Bogota, Mexico City, Lima and Buenos Aires.

You’ve developed an extremely recognisable sound, which we would describe as dark, intoxicating and fairly minimal. Do you agree with that description? What other adjectives would you throw into the mix when describing your own?

I can definitely agree with that description… I might add spooky and tough with a dash of sexy.

How did you arrive at this sound? What have been some of your biggest influences?

I always try to play what I would like to hear on the dance floor. The moments I always try to create are definitely rooted in Detroit, not for the sound necessarily but for the mood and attitude of the early parties I went to.

Alongside Magda and Marc Houle, you reinvented your Items and Things label back in 2011, and since then have put out a lot of really high quality music; what have been some of your favourite Items and Things releases?

I really love all of the Madato tracks, I am also really proud of the variables compilation that we released. So much cool music on that one.  ‘Nephastum’ from Danny Benedettinis’ first release is one of my favorite tracks ever! So good.

The label’s musical direction seems to be very clearly defined, is that difficult to maintain with three label heads? How does the decision making process work within the company?

It can be hard at times but we have made it work pretty well all things considered. We have been friends for a long time and are pretty reasonable individuals, we exchange opinions and ideas… no arguments!

So you had a pretty busy few moths with your North and South American tours as well as plenty of dates across Europe; what have been some of the highlights?

Tons of highs… and a few lows, it’s not all champagne and caviar you know…

Mexico City and Guadalajara awesome, Santiago was a disaster as my backpack with wallet, passport and phone was stolen… Billares Londres in Bogota was completely out of control, best gig in ages and Cali was also super good. Then I had two amazing gigs in Europe, Ljubljana and Vilnius. Tons of planes, trains and automobiles but fun people and great gigs.

You’re paying our next Playground night at KOKO on 18th October as part of a big lineup, what are your thoughts on the other artists on the bill?

It’s a bit crazy to be honest! I feel very honored to be on the same bill.  Some of the first records I can remember really digging for were from Model 500/Juan Atkins. At the time it wasn’t a “Detroit” style thing, it was about cool interesting music. Tracks like ‘Night Drive’, ‘No U.F.O.s’ and ‘Future’, so good. DJ Hell’s album on Disko B (1994) has always been a huge reference for me in terms of how a techno album should sound. There are slow triply melodic moments (Allerseelen) and tough dark tracks (My Life Is Hell). These two artists had a huge impact on me and my style of music.

And what can we expect from your set on the night?

Hopefully some dark, trippy and tough dance music that’s also fun for the girls!

I guess we wouldn’t expect anything less from you. What else do you have coming up in the near future? Are there any Troy Pierce releases on the horizon?

Yeah there are a few things I am working on at the moment, some new stuff with Heartthrob for his Isnisnt label and a solo EP for Items & Things.

Troy Pierce joins LEFTFIELD, Model 500, A Guy Called Gerald, DJ Hell, Mixhell and iTAL tEK on the lineup for our next Playground night at Koko on 18th October.

Head to the event page for info and tickets.

Written by Will Van de Pol