This weekend I was fortunate enough to go to Minus Zero Festival on Stratton Mountain in Vermont. The beautiful ski town was completely taken over by dance music fanatics ready to see some stellar acts perform. Pierce Fulton was one of the headliners, and I was able to catch up with him before his set. His set at the festival was a special one considering Stratton, VT is his hometown. I sat with him in the artist lounge, which was just upstairs from where he used to eat his chili after skiing.
We discussed his upcoming debut album and the release of his newest track “Life In Letters” over the course of the interview as well as some insightful production tips. Take a read for yourself:
How does it feel to be back in your hometown playing Minus Zero?
As one can imagine, it’s pretty crazy. The thing is the scale of this kind of festival going on and where we are…how I came into electronic music growing up from here…It still doesn’t quite make sense to me. I was skiing today and heard some house song, it was a Martin Garrix song or something, and I was like WTF is going on! This is crazy! This is a mountain I’ve been going to for almost 20 years. I’ve been going here since I was like five years old. I moved here when I was really young, so I grew up here, went to high school here, went to college here, and now there’s a full blown festival that I can play at, next to the snowboard school where I learned how to snowboard. It’s very weird in the best way possible. Second year in a row, it still doesn’t make sense to me yet, but it’s…even where we’re doing this interview, I used to eat chili downstairs every year because they have the best chili in a bread bowl here. It’s so funny.
So I’m sure you have a lot of friends in the audience then?
I saw some people today that I went to highschool with and I was like holy crap. I live in LA now and I don’t really see anyone I went to school with since a lot of them are still on the east coast. I have a few old friends in LA, but I don’t just run into people I went to high school with. Even last year, I remember looking at the crowd and I was like OMG I know you, I know you, I know you. My high school music teacher was in the crowd just having a great time. It was nuts.
I remember a while back when I was getting into production, you had posted a video of you recording a burp and it went viral. On your upcoming album are there any bodily sounds that you recorded?
It’s funny because the way I’ve progressed as a producer is I feel like I went from the traditional route of learning all the right things to do. Then I started trying to get into recording things and following all the rules with that. Then I hit this breaking point where I was just like screw it. Half the stuff on my album is recorded on my iPhone. I remember I was mastering one of my songs with a professional engineer, sometimes I like to master my songs in a studio because it helps, and he’s like ‘damn these hi-hats sound so good, what mic were you using?’ And I was like an iPhone 7 and he was like ‘are you kidding me?!’ That’s how so many of these younger kids are getting so good at producing. They learn these tricks and you can turn any sound into something that sounds like a beautifully recorded instrument. I know kids that have strings or guitars in their songs and they’re all made from one sound that’s just resampled. If you know how to work it in the right way it’s insane. Dudes like Louis The Child, those guys just know how to craft every sound and it’s just so interesting to hear how they make music. I feel like they came in a generation of producers that really understand the software that everyone is using now, whereas I get a new plugin and I’m like oh wow this is so advanced I don’t know what I’m doing. But a lot of these kids grew up with that and I’m feeling old. I’m 24 and I’m feeling old! It’s really cool, it’s inspiring to hear all these new sounds, it’s exciting to see where production is going. Things are getting a lot more minimal, a lot more creative and people are lot more crafty. It’s very inspiring. But yeah, I like to record a lot of weird sounds that aren’t really professionally recorded because it’s fun.
“Life In Letters” came out this past Friday. How does that feel to have a single from the album out?
It’s awesome. It’s my first song of the year. I’ve had so much music sitting and I always want to just put it out.
Is the one coming out at the end of April considered a single from the album as well?
So what’s cool is the album is done technically. It’s nine songs right now. Two of them I might replace because part of me feels like if there’s something brand new on the album it will help it feel more alive to me. There’s something about when you just finish a song and it releases six months later…it’s hard for you to embrace the song because it feels so old. It’s kind of like having leftovers. It’s as if you made this beautiful meal and left it overnight and ate it the next day. It’s still good, but there’s a certain feeling to it sometimes. So I’m really pressuring myself to put something completely new and fresh out and delivering it like two weeks before it comes out. It’s the first album I’ve ever done. It’s a crazy process because the entire thing is written by me, some by my girlfriend, and one song with my old friend NVDES who was on Borrowed Lives. So I have another song with him on the new album and a few songs with my girlfriend and that’s it. So it’s very homegrown. It’s all from one melting pot and I like that. I know a lot of people work with so many writers and I get that might help sometimes, but to me it’s like anxiety. I don’t want to have to keep working with more people and keep asking for shit. I just rather get it all done, go through all the hard work myself, and the have a good outcome where it feels 100% organic.
I feel like you channeled that organic vibe with Borrowed Lives…
Yea, and I’m trying to just keep pushing that while also catering to my old sound. Even with my song “Life In Letters”, a lot of kids were like ‘what happened to the Kuaga sound?’. It’s funny because Tiesto actually played one of the songs from the album on his Club Life Radio show and a few people have put it on YouTube and I don’t really care. When you own all your own music and there’s no label being like ‘take it down’ I don’t care if it’s on YouTube. I want people to listen to it. It doesn’t matter if they pay for it as long as they’re listening I’m happy. So people complain and are like ‘what about Kuaga’ and all that and I just link them to that YouTube rip of Tiesto and I’m like don’t worry it’s coming on the album. I try to make everyone happy and make myself happy. I want to keep pushing my sound, but I also don’t want to be one of those artists that’s like whatever this is all old to me and I’m moving on to this new thing. No, I came from somewhere and I want to keep that in my music.
So are you going to play any live instrumentation tonight?
Still too soon for live instrumentation in my sets. I’m hoping this album will push it in that direction so that by fall I’m going to be doing a fully live tour. Tonight, my girlfriend is actually singing on a song during my set, so I’m trying to incorporate more live stuff already. It’s hard to get electronic fans onboard with live stuff. It’s very very difficult. It’s a good thing though, because it means people are passionate about the music that they like and that’s important. Because if they’re just like ‘oh whatever he’s not doing that anymore’ I would kind of be like…it’s like your ex girlfriend that you still kind of want and they don’t want you. It’s like damn I lost ‘em. So I definitely want to keep catering to both. So if I were to go out and do a full live show a lot of people would be like WTF is going on. So I’m going to try and do it in the most polite way possible. My job is very easy and I love it. It’s so fun and very relaxing to me. Doing these DJ shows is so fun and amazing to me, but it’s hard to navigate listeners in a certain way. It can be touchy. Porter Robinson did it and he did it in a way where, I’m sure some people are still a little angry that he doesn’t make electro anymore, but he took so much time and put so much passion into his album that his listeners were like ‘ok, I get this I’m on board.’ Not everyone can do that, it’s impossible almost. You have to be in the right place at the right time and do it before everyone else. It’s every man for himself. So it’s exciting and that’s the best part of it all. I could have kept doing progressive house, and I still am doing progressive house, but I don’t know where that would have got me. I might have just kept doing the same thing and kept gliding along. Until you change something you’re going to get the same thing. But at the same time if you change too much you could totally lose it all. So navigating that fine line is where the exciting part comes from and I think that’s where I’m getting into now.
I think Borrowed Lives was a good intro to that…
Yeah, and a lot of fans were kind of like ‘oh shit I like this but I miss your old stuff.’ Good, because now I’m going to give you some of the old stuff. And the song that came out yesterday, “Life in Letters” is me singing and little bit of my girlfriend on top.
It was really a perfect blend of both old and new…
Thank you. It’s still a dance song, it still has a four on the floor kick and it has a dance feel but it’s f*cking art and fun.
What are you excited to play in your set tonight?
I think there is a big Bassnectar and Griz fan presence here so I think I just need to read the crowd. The fun thing about being a DJ is that you can just read the crowd. A lot of people forget that and they play the same set. It’s tough to find new music all the time because you can get stuck in your little wormhole. When I made my new album, I didn’t listen to anything for a long time but I’m still excited tonight to test a few songs out and if don’t go well I’ll just be like oh shit I need to play something big right now and bring everyone back.
Do you think you’re going to release the new album with a label at all?
It’s 100% independent. The coolest thing is “LIfe in Letters” is 100% my song. There are no other people involved, there is no label. So every single person that buys that song is actually contributing to me, the artist that made it. So there’s no bullshit in between, there’s no label, there are no writers, there are no producers, there are no engineers. It’s 100% made by me which I’m happy about. It’s one of my first songs ever that is 100% me. Writing, producing, singing, so it feels good. I feel like I’m finally where I want to be in terms of being a musician.
Can you tell us a bit about Potential Fun?
My brother has a management company called Potential Fun which happens to be my initials, so the label is now Potential Fun. Potential Fun is just about when you work hard, it’s potentially going to be fun. So that’s why you work. So keep it fun. His aspirations are to craft artists to be doing what they actually want to be doing, but he also wants them to be successful in their careers. It’s all about the potential fun you can have. And that’s the whole motto behind this album as well. I had some help with the art from this friend of mine in Montreal. I sent her a photo from my friend that is 4 versions of me laying down in the grass and she did this art interpretation. Then I designed the artwork around it. So even slightly designing the artwork is so rewarding. I even screwed it up, the rectangle around it is a little off but I love it because I did it and messed it up so it was like Pierce you idiot. It’s great to work with friends and do everything yourself and keep it in the family.
Photos in article by Chloe Banning | Featured Photo by James Coletta