Unexpected: Pierce Fulton on ‘Kuaga,’ Musical Upbringing, & More
Pierce Fulton entry into the world of electronic music was unexpected, to say the least. Far away from the booming nightlife of New York City or Los Angeles, Fulton grew up in Vermont, where he began his musical journey early in his childhood by picking up a guitar. It wasn’t until high school when he became acquainted with the world of dance music through a classmate, and his subsequent breakthrough came just years later at age 18 with his Pardon My French EP.
Since then, he’s gone on to create a broad body of work that includes original productions as part of his deal with Cr2 Records and remixes for Above & Beyond, Dada Life, Cash Cash, and Felix Cartal. Last year, he really hit the stratosphere with “Kuaga,” a progressive anthem that’s equal parts euphoric and pulsing.
Now, while working on a follow-up to “Kuaga,” the Brooklyn-based DJ/producer is showing off his broad musical prowess with a live reinterpretation of the massive track. Fulton connected with DJ Times shortly after its release to talk about his musical roots, creating “Kuaga,” and his future plans.
DJ Times: The new live video has you playing just about every instrument imaginable. What was your musical upbringing like?
Pierce Fulton: I’ve played guitar since I was six or seven, and that was my main instrument for a really long time. Since then, I have just taken what I have known in guitar and applied it to every other instrument, besides drums – you can’t really apply that. My brother actually played drums growing up, so I would play guitar and he would play drums, and I just learned that from watching him and listening to him. I don’t know, I have just always been able to pick something and figure it out in a little bit, and play it somewhat decently.
DJ Times: How did electronic and music and DJing coming into the mix?
Fulton: I think I was a sophomore in high school and I had a friend from Venezuela who was the only person who knew what electronic music was in Vermont at the time, I felt like, and I remember him showing me a Pete Tong mix or something, and just thinking, “What is this?” I had never heard of this before and I had never had any introduction to electronic music. That was my first real introduction, and I had been doing hip hop stuff at the time, and I just tried out making dance music and went from there.
DJ Times: Vermont isn’t really known as a club capital. Do you think that seclusion helped you when you were first getting started or did it affect you in a different way?
Fulton: Actually, looking back, I am kind of happy the way that I went about it, because a lot of people would be from New York or Los Angeles go through the whole being a local DJ circuit. As sound as it is, rarely do you break out of that bubble. It takes a lot of really good music, I think, and just getting credibility with your performance and stuff like that. I am almost happy that I stepped over that hurdle. I didn’t even have to go through that whole process, I just started playing shows when my music was good enough and I played outside of Vermont. I’ve only played in Vermont literally once or twice, and it was actually after I left, so I only played a few times while I was still there.
DJ Times: What about “Kuaga”? Did you expect the response received? It’s been a pretty huge hit.
Fulton: It’s funny. I was talking to my manager the other day, and a lot of people are asking for stuff similar to “Kuaga.” Even though I am not trying to really redo myself, it’s funny because it was one of those songs I made in an afternoon. What’s even funnier is I was going through old demos the other day and found the first version of “Kuaga,” and its title was literally “Writing Shit.” It was just one of those productions where I was trying something out, and I ended up making it into something a little bit more than just a chord progression. I always find myself using the projects that I end up making in one day for my actual releases. If a song takes five days to get out of the loop phase, I usually won’t even finish it; I just know that it’s not one of those songs. Whereas if something just completely unfolds in an afternoon, then I know that is a good song I need to finish because it just clearly came out really quickly.
DJ Times: Why did you decide to reimagine it as a fully live version and rework it?
Fulton: That was honestly another thing I just tried one afternoon and it worked. I didn’t really plan it out. My manager mentioned something about trying to do a remix of it, and I said why don’t just go the other way and re-record the elements. I just plugged my guitar in not expecting anything to sound good, but it turned out that it sounded alright. And that actually happens a lot when I record live instruments. Some days it sounds great, some days it doesn’t, so it just really depends on how I am playing and how the guitar is.
DJ Times: What equipment did you use for the live mix?
Fulton: I just used my electric guitar (which I just plugged directly into my computer), electric bass, acoustic guitar, my glockenspiel, and my vocal stuff which was all mic-ed up. For drums I couldn’t record anything because this room isn’t good for drumming. so I just used samples from previous sessions that I have done where I record drum stuff, and then I actually re-mapped it out on this sampler on Logic and just played it with this drum pad thing, so it was like a mini controller. And then from there I just took all of the building blocks and tried to make it into a way that it can be performed. The vocal stuff I chopped up on Maschine.
DJ Times: What other projects do you have coming up in the next couple months?
Fulton: I have so many unreleased songs. I am just at a point where I am making sure it is the best of the best coming out. I am not just going to put out some random song, even though I could have done that with five songs already. I had one single that is mastered, it’s done, everything is done, but I just don’t really like it much so I’m not going to put it out. Maybe I will redo it later, but it’s just not good enough, and I don’t think there’s a point in just putting out not that great of music that you are not fully into. You see guys that have guys that have five releases every two months, and it’s just too much stuff. You can’t pay attention to all of that, you can’t focus on anything. I’d rather have one really good song that I can embrace like “Kuaga,” which I have somehow been able to push for 6 months—which is crazy—than have four songs that are gone with the wind.
Watch the live video for “Kuaga” below.