Troy Pierce Talks Soundtracks for Substance Use and His Square One Side Project

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Indiana-born, Berlin-based DJ/producer Troy Pierce is one of the great dark horses of contemporary techno. "Dark horse" meaning his rise through the international ranks in the last decade has been surreptitious, but also "dark" in the sense that he boasts one of the gloomiest and murkiest sounds in EDM. Louderbach, his acclaimed side project with vocalist Gibby Miller, is straight-up, self-described "gothic techno." And although carried by propulsive, funked-up grooves, his live sets are awash in shadowy and sinister atmospherics.

Despite hooking up with Minus label stars Richie Hawtin, Magda, and Marc Houle early on, Pierce landed in Berlin as a relative unknown in 2002. But it didn't take him long to conquer the city's burgeoning minimal techno scene and put his mark on esteemed imprints like Bpitch Control, Get Physical, and of course, Minus. His latest side-project, Square One, has seen Pierce partner-up with Minus producer Heartthrob, both in the studio and live. The duo will be alighting at the Electric Pickle this Sunday night for a world-class booking courtesy of LINK.

We caught up with Pierce in advance of his Friday night performance to talk about the pitfalls of music trends, making it in the EDM game, and his live M.O. 

New Times: How did a rural Indiana boy end up at the forefront of the Berlin techno scene?

Troy Pierce: I ask myself that question every once in a while. A little bit of luck, I think, is part of the equation, but also I was really committed to making it happen. I moved to Berlin almost seven years ago with next to nothing and put in a lot of hours in the studio and touring, trying to have fun, and stay focused.  

You boast a really dark sound and visual aesthetic. Are you generally drawn to gothic or dark wave themes?

I guess you could say that. I am definitely interested in music that moves me and that ends up on the darker end of the spectrum.  
 
A lot of former minimal DJ-producers have jumped on the deep house bandwagon in the last couple years. As a techno purist, do you think this is just a passing trend or does it reflect people's genuine desire for a return to more melodic and soulful dance music? Does minimal ever bore you?  

Boring music bores me and any bandwagon has its pitfalls, I suppose. I am a little disappointed or maybe confused when I hear music from a producer whom two years ago I really liked and now their style has morphed into some generic flavor of the moment. I think it's a stretch to call dance music soulful -- bongos and a choir of African kids chanting or some sample of a forgotten Spanish crooner hardly qualify in my opinion. To each his own, though. Styles change, people's interests or influences evolve. At the end of the day, it's a soundtrack for substance use. That may sound a little cynical, but that is really why people go out: to get wasted and have fun with their friends. I hope at least that the music I play and make can be a welcomed addition to the journey.   

You've enjoyed fruitful personal and professional relationships with some of the major players of international techno, e.g. Richie Hawtin, Magda, and Konrad Black. Do you think making it in the EDM game depends on who you know? How have your relationships in the industry shaped your career? 

I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to "making it" and who you know is definitely one of them. But it also takes a large amount of talent, hard work, perseverance, luck, and a positive attitude. That being said, Magda and Rich are incredibly talented and creative artists and great friends. We have known each other for more than ten years and our friendship was rooted in our interest in dance music and a shared aesthetic that went beyond techno. It was never about "making it," we had fun hanging out and the "international EDM" success came much later.  

How did Louderbach come about and what is the status of the project these days?

Gibby and I met in New York in 2001. We started working on music casually a few years later. We were into the same musical style. But [we were] from different camps, I guess you could say. Gibby came from a more post-punk/industrial sound and I was obviously more into techno. But both of our ears were tuned to the darker edge of the genres. After two albums, we have started working on some new music and video material that we will be putting together as part of a live show and installation.  

This year you've spent a lot of time in the studio with Minus label producer Heartthrob, with whom you're also sharing the bill as performance duo Square One on Friday. What can you tell us about this collaboration?

We have been working together since we both lived in New York, actually. We had a gig in Baltimore of all places, like nine years ago. Laptop jam session, nothing was hard-synced, just pressing start at the same time. I am sure it was a mess, but it was fun. Since then we have gotten a bit more organized and tech-savvy. We started working on new music while on vacation in Hawaii. We have fun (I think) in the studio, taking the piss and making weird music.  

What is Square One's live M.O. and how do these performances differ from your regular DJ sets?

I think what separates this from Heartthrob's live performance and my normal DJ set is that we play off of each other, adding or subtracting elements to give space or accent to the other. It's a similar concept to the Contakt shows we did last year, but obviously with less people. We use two laptops, one with Traktor and the other running Ableton Live. We also use Maschine for drum programming and the entire set up is synced over an ethernet connection.

What have been some of the highlights of 2010, and what do you have going on for the rest of the year?

Finishing the EP with Jesse [Heartthrob] felt good, we worked on it for quite a while and I am really happy with how it came out. I also have some new solo material that will be finished in the next month but won't be released until next year I imagine.  

What can Miami expect during your gig at Electric Pickle?   

An intoxicating bongo-free soundtrack, devoid of soul but full of sci-fi darkness.

Square One (Troy Pierce and Heartthrob). With LINK residents. 10 p.m. Sunday, October 3. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Ages 21 and up. 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com
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