Pierre Pienaar aka P.H.A.T.T. Interview
Straddling the boundaries of uplifting, UK and European Hard Trance since anyone can remember, we catch up with Namibia's Pierre Pienaar for a quick chat ahead of his appearance for us at Trance Empyrean meets Hard Trance Europe at District, Cape Town on the 9th July. More known to HTE under his P.H.A.T.T. guise with his 2019 power surge rework of S.H.O.K.K.'s 'Viamala' and recent uplifting masterpiece 'Break Point', we chat influences, production and what not to do as a touring DJ.
How are you? What are you up to this week?
I'm great thank you. This week I'm locked in the studio and prepping for the show in Cape Town. I always like to do some exclusive remixes and edits specifically for my live sets that people can't hear anywhere else.
What came first Pierre Pienaar or P.H.A.T.T.?
P.H.A.T.T. came first. When I started out I was releasing Hard House under my ReBirth alias and that progressed to Hard Trance under my P.H.A.T.T. name. I always preferred the European sound over the UK sound, like older Cosmic Gate, Dumonde, Alphazone etc. So that sound was a massive inspiration in my work. Trance was my first love though, so I eventually started producing that with time, and it became my main sound. However, my love for the harder stuff never went away, I'm just more selective with it now.
You started DJing at the age of 15 at Wedding and Birthday gigs, but what inspired you to get into the Hard Dance and Hard Trance scene?
At that time the club scene around the world was massive but I was too young to legally play at shows. One promoter did give me the chance to play at an u/18 event for his club though and that's where I heard some harder stuff. When I started hearing harder sounds and remixes from the likes of Dumonde, I instantly loved the sound and knew that was what I wanted to focus on.
In the early years of producing, you worked a lot with Dark by Design, Guyver and Technikal. How did you guys meet and could you tell us a bit of the musical journey you all shared?
We all met on a production forum called Samplecity at that time, where aspiring producers shared ideas and at that time. Guyver was a massive break-through artist with Tidy. Alf and I learned a lot from each other and clicked really well. Despite the obstacles of him living in the UK and me living in Namibia with dial-up internet we managed to do collaborations and got our first tracks signed. We managed to get our track "Global Panic" in to the official UK Dance Top 10 charts without ever having met up with each other in person. For a kid coming from Namibia the internet really made the world a lot smaller. Now I've been blessed enough to collaborate with the likes of Paul van Dyk, Binary Finary, Roger Shah and other big names, so it's been quite a journey!
You will be returning to Cape Town, South Africa where you'll be on the same line-up as fellow Southern African DJ & Producer Protoculture at the Trance Empyrean and HTE event on the 9th of July. What would you say is your fondest memory of DJ'ing in Cape Town?
Ironically despite South Africa being just below my country, I was being flown to play in places like Australia and the UK before someone ever took me down to South Africa, so I only started playing later there in my career but Cape Town was the first city I played there and it definitely holds a special place in my heart. I remember it was an old double story church that was revamped for events and it was an amazing vibe.
Tell us about the last time you played in Europe?
It was during ADE just before lockdowns and travel restrictions and it was for Paul van Dyk's Shine Ibiza brand. It was an exceptional event and the crowd was so up for it. It was surreal being on a line-up like that!
What studio gear and plugs are you rocking right now?
I tend to stick with the idea that less is more when it comes to gear and plugins. Rather master one or two than being overwhelmed by many, which all pretty much do the same thing anyway, just different. I got a JP8000 a while ago and have been really enjoying working with that as it's instant inspiration at your fingertips. I'm also enjoying the Slate Digital plug-ins as it gives some extra character to my sound, I especially love the compressors and Mix Buss channels on it. For precision EQ'ing and dynamic EQ'ing nothing beats FabFilter Pro-Q. And then u-He Diva is my main go to for basslines and plucks.
How do you view the current Global Hard Trance Scene? Is there room for any improvement?
There's always room for improvement, but I feel that it's currently the strongest that it's been in years. A lot of old and new brands alike are popping up and the harder sounds are even creeping in to uplifting trance DJ's sets. It would be great to get in younger audiences as well to keep the future of it healthy and with the massive techno movement using harder sounds I think it's a good gateway for that.
Do you have any Hard Trance releases planned for 2022?
Unlike my uplifting trance releases that's pretty much planned out a year ahead I approach my Hard Trance stuff differently. So at the time of writing there's no specific releases scheduled, but I am busy writing new tracks so it's certainly on the table!
Which rising talent should we really keep an eye on?
Paul Clark and Lee Coulson are doing some great stuff at the moment and it's great to see their growth. As a DJ, Auralight really impressed me when I heard him play earlier this year, so definitely one to watch out for the future.
Give us one crazy and amusing tale from your travels as a DJ that noone has yet heard?
Not as crazy perhaps, but stressful! I'm probably one of the worst travellers in the sense that most things that can go wrong, do go wrong. On my first tour to Australia and New Zealand I flew there from Namibia via Dubai with long delays so I was absolutely wrecked by the time I landed in Sydney. So much so that I somehow forgot my jacket in the airport bathroom. The problem was that my wallet, passport and tickets were all in there, so by the time I realised it wasn't there anymore and nothing was at lost and found, .I was already picturing myself as Tom Hanks living on the airport for years as I had no identity documents on me and I didn't even have a mobile phone on me as it was way before it was something you travelled with. I met the promoter and Alf (Technikal) there for the first time and told them what had happened. The connection flight to New Zealand was boarding and we just went to the check-in and thankfully they had my things there. One of the cleaners picked it up, saw my ticket and took it to that counter. My faith in humanity was restored!
Catch Pierre Pienaar aka P.H.A.T.T. at HTE meets Trance Empyrean, in Cape Town, South Africa on the 9th July
For tickets click HERE
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