Understanding the DJ Pierre/Mr. C Feud and Acid House’s Origins

by | Jul 28, 2022 | Essay | 0 comments

If you follow DJ Pierre or Mr. C on Facebook, chances are you’ve caught wind of the vitriolic dialogue between the two artists. DJ Pierre has called Mr. C a racist. Mr. C has accused DJ Pierre of rapist sympathy. A long and winding road of comment threads got them to this point.

Like so many bitter feuds in dance music, this controversy stems from a disagreement over whom is rightly credited as the forerunner a genre. In this case it’s acid house, so named for the quintessential 1987 single “Acid Tracks” produced by Dj Pierre (real name Nathaniel Pierre Jones) alongside Herbert Jackson and the late DJ Spank Spank (real name Earl Smith Jr.) under the name Phuture.

How it Started

In April, Jones shared a screen shot of a since-deleted post from the Facebook page I Love Acid. “It wasn’t the first but it’s easily one of the best,” it reads. “No wonder a whole genre took its name from this timeless classic.”

“Get your facts and the story right,” wrote Jones. “People hate (specifically when the person is Africa American) when someone has done something, or created/invented a thing that they themselves couldn’t have imagined ’before’ having experienced that thing that you created.”

The confusion likely arose due to varying opinions on what constitutes acid house. A broader definition might include any dance music single in which a Roland TB-303 Bass Line was used — of which there were many prior to “Acid Tracks.” Among them are Alexander Robotnick‘s 1983 Italo disco single “Problemes D’Amour” and seminal 1984 house music record “On and On” by Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence. The 303 features prominently in “No Way Back” by Adonis, which could explain why the artist chose “@AcidOriginator” as his Twitter handle.

A more focused definition identifies a specific sound made by the 303 as the crucial hallmark of acid house. The resulting squelch when specific knobs are turned farther than the synthesizer’s manufacturers likely intended was what elicited a visceral reaction on the dance floor when Ron Hardy first played “Acid Tracks” out at the Muzic Box.

The warped 303 sound was indeed what made acid house trigger a veritable culture revolution in the U.K., where ecstasy users embraced its bold exploration of timbre and texture. Selector recently explored some of the underrated gems in this style by the likes of Van Christie and Armando in the inaugural acid house edition of our “Hot Track Time Machine” series.

Mr. C (real name Richard West) sees the matter differently. “Hey DJ Pierre, you know I love you to bits and support you 100%, but the post was completely kind and complimentary saying how ‘Acid Tracks’ was so good they named the genre after it,” he wrote. “I’d have been flattered by that post, not vexed. First is not important, but if it were I’d go back to 1982 for the first acid house tune I ever heard…”

West linked to “Raga Bhairav” from the late Charanjit Singh‘s 1982 album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat. The composition explores an Indian raga — or melodic mode — using the 303. In a 2011 conversation with The Guardian, Singh seemed bemused by the notion that his 1982 works could be compared to acid house.

“Let me shine some light on this for you as to me I see this not as support but as a slick why to throw salt and doubt into our legacy,” reads part of a lengthy comment left by Jones. “The acid sound isn’t the programming of the notes, it’s the twisting of the knobs that made the sound become something different…”

“…We are Black American and proud of it, and we alone created that sound, named the sound, and were the first to make that 303 do something that it was never meant to do,” Jones continued. “And that’s the reason why that machine means something to this world and also why the genre of acid house exists today! I will never let anyone get away with trying to shape it any other way.”

In a subsequent comment, Jones expanded on what he perceives as a whitewashing of dance music history. “I can never wrap my mind around how white people will fight tooth and nail against the thought of how strong discrimination is in this music and as a whole in our societies,” he wrote. “You guys act like you’re the authority on it? How can you be an authority on something that you can’t even acknowledge exists, or have never experienced living in a world were everything is always about a different race besides yourself?”

“This is a brilliant thread,” wrote West, apparently unwilling to argue his position. “So much information from its original source. Great posts everyone.”

How it’s Going

On Wednesday, Jones posted a tribute to Erick Morillo, who died in September 2020 a month after he was arrested on suspicion of sexual battery. West, a vocal figure amid the resurgence of #MeToo testimonies of the same year, felt “triggered” enough to leave a pointed comment.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish. I hope he rots in Hell,” wrote West. “Oh and nice post to trigger all your fans who are rape and sexual assault trauma victims. How thoughtful of you… not!”

Jones responded by amending his post to call West a “racist, opportunistic hater.” He wrote, “…I am NOT OBLIGATED to ‘simply’ believe these accusations just because they were made and neither do you. I am in control my mind and my thoughts, not you or this world, and at this point the full story can never be known so I’m not cosigning anything!”

The argument carried on into Wednesday, when Jones tagged West in a follow-up post linking to a The Conversation article about racism in Britain. West wrote about the situation in a post of his own, rejecting the notion that he could be racist on the grounds that he has performed anti-racist activism.

“I’ve always stood for equality on every level Including equality for all people of color, not just Black people, Indian, brown and Asian people too, the LGBTQ community, equal rights for women and so much more,” West wrote. “Of course I don’t need to point that out on this page but it’s only right we let the incoming sycophants know what they dealing with before they make themselves look as foolish as Pierre has just done.”

The feud between DJ Pierre and Mr. C does not appear to have resulted in any significant career fallout for either artist at this time. It remains to be seen whether they can remain civil towards each other in dance music’s relatively close-knit dance music — or better yet, one day reach an understanding with one another.

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