With his debut album about to drop, we meet the Canadian producer who's putting his own jazzy twist on jacking house
Canadian DJ and producer Pierre Demuir - known professionally simply by his surname - should need no introduction to house heads by now. His production career began roughly around the same time as the current century, and over the years his work has graced respected labels such as Nite Grooves, Stickman Records and Farris Wheel Recordings.
But while he's been knocking around the underground for a while now, it's really in the last couple of years that his jazzed-out take on the classic jackin' Carter/Sneak style of house has come to more popular notice. Last year, he was named Jacking House Producer of 2015 by Traxsource, and now his debut album TruSkool is about to drop on Sneak's Magnetic Recordings label.
Opening with the blaxploitation-esque spoken vocal, tuff drums and warped, filtered b-line of 2.5 Bars, the album meanders through house pastures from discofied (Aethetics, Mi Nah Chase Pum Pum) to Latin (Bichano Doce) to driving and acidic (Coward In Aries), with a jazzy minor-key Rhodes trill or a lil' boogaloo shimmy never too far away. Pulling off the 'diverse, yet cohesive' trick with aplomb, TruSkool looks set to ensure that Demuir's star will remain in the ascendant for a while yet.
With that in mind, we thought now would be a good time to grab him for a chat...
Your DJ biog says you started playing music on your Dad's Hammond B3 - that's a nice thing to have lying around the house! So you came from a musical background, yes?
"Yes, most certainly. It's only now that I appreciate how lucky I was to have such an organic piece of kit lying around the house at such a young age - with that big rotating speaker, too! I'm pretty sure he used the same one to gig from time to time. It smelled like a bunch of joints and cigarette smoke... I'm sure the spilled drinks gave it character, too! Unbeknown to me at the time, my messing around aged five or so consisted of practising scales and simple chords. My Dad showed me around finger placement much later."
Tell us about your entry into the world of house music - where you were, what/who was playing etc...
"I'll never forget this moment. I was in my parents' living room listening to a mixtape a friend had shared with me and out of nowhere was Strings Of Life, followed up by A Guy Called Gerald's acid sounds.
"It was an interesting time for me, with a lot of change as well. My parents were 'moving on up' in the world and we now lived outside of the city, and I was discovering a good portion of my Dad's records supplied the sample sources which made A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm album. Making these connections and playing tunes on my Dad's gear was a beautiful collision of sorts."
Your production career (at least release-wise) started around 2000 or so, is that right? How did you first get into making your own tunes, and did you even dare to hope back then that you'd still be doing it 15 years later?
"That's about right, it was around then that I had my first set of vinyl releases on Stickman Records, Aquarius and my own label called Peetah Music. As well as my Dad's gear, records and my own insatiable curiosity, I was lucky to have an uncle gift me a Korg DDD-1 drum machine, and my Mom bought me a Casio sampler that only had four seconds of sample time. I knew then and there that music would be a strong part of my life. Some things you just know."
Your new album's on Sneak's label Magnetic Recordings... how did the two of you first hook up?
"This is so surreal each time of think of it! I started getting a bunch of Twitter and Facebook messages from people all over the world, saying that Sneak was playing my track 5 Is 9 at most of his gigs: Mark Farina had been kind enough to support some of my early releases on his GLA label and 5 Is 9 was released on an EP I did. I found out later that Mark and Sneak regularly traded tracks and that's how Sneak got the tune. I guess after that he just stayed close to whatever I was doing, and he eventually messaged me on Facebook and we got talking after that.
"The surreal part is that I'd been completely floored by Sneak's Magnetic release (the one with the blue cover) and I remember thinking, 'This is the kinda house sound that speaks to me. I gotta do some shit like this!'. So to be here as the only artist other than Sneak to release a full album on his label is crazy to me."
You're based in Toronto, which I remember Sneak once telling me was the new Chicago! Is that true? What's the house scene like in Toronto these days?
"Weird! That's cool. Funnily, I remember Sneak thought that I was from Chicago in our initial conversations, only for it to turn out that I was only minutes from his home in Toronto! Yeah, Toronto is kinda the new Chicago with its diversity, food, and sounds. You can find a range of parties from reggae to house to deep/soulful house any given week.
"I think my Chicago-esque sound comes from the fact that I've grown with both Detroit techno and Chicago house, along with things being sample-heavy for me. The house scene in Toronto has evolved from the days of Industry nightclub, but a couple of larger venues do things proper here, like CODA and Nest/Den. It's more of a tech-based sound, but Mark (Farina) has been in town a few times playing that house we like."
There are strong jazz influences throughout the album... do you listen to a lot of jazz for pleasure, or is it really just a sample source? If you do, then what jazz artists do you most admire/enjoy?
"Mos def! My Dad got me on that jazz thing and emphasised that if you can play jazz, you can pretty much play anything - you'll find jazz musicians all over other forms of music from pop to samba. So a good portion of my record collection is jazz, it's just music that I enjoy and have an immense respect for.
"From a contemporary perspective I admire Robert Glasper, Cory Henry, Esparanza Spalding, and Kandace Springs. They're all super-talented and disciplined artists who also bring soul into their music. I'm consciously doing the same when it comes to house."
The album embraces different styles but you seem to get given the 'jacking house' tag a lot, is that a label you're comfortable with or would you rather shed that perception?
"I'm happy with it from a leadership perspective and having received that love and recognition. With that being said, no, I'm not looking to shed what is a profound part of who I am artistically, but I will not conform to any perception of it being all that I am, either.
"All of us, as artists and people, are complex. We like different things at different points in our lives, and/or we tend to hold on to the material things that strike a chord. I just refuse to be boxed in because my music is a summation of those things. As a result, the album highlights techno, tech-house, acid house and samba, in addition to the jackin' vibes you might expect."
Apart from the album, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers should know about?
"I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people at ADE in a few weeks, where I'll be playing as well. More music to come though. I'm not slowing down!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Demuir's debut long-player Tru Skool is out on Magnetic Recordings on 7 October.