10 Years After Breaking Through, Eats Everything is Feeling More Creative and Honest Than Ever
“I live in constant fear that one day I will have to go back to the building site,” Eats Everything says. “That’s not a lie. I’m not being sensationalist. I still wake up at 7am every day when I’m home. I don’t lay in. I’ve always stayed on working hours. So, bed at 10, up at seven, purely because of the fear.”
It’s early March when we speak. The man known to his family as Dan Pearce is coming home after dropping his kids off at school, and outside, the world is panicked. Coronavirus has taken hold in mainland Europe, and is fast approaching the UK. Days later, the entire country is in lockdown. Dance music is all but cancelled overnight — from small local club nights to internationally renowned festivals. On top of that, the UK has recently had some of its highest rainfall ever, which means the area through which Dan Pearce is now driving has flooded for the first time in 100 years. “It’s fucking insane!” he bellows in typically boisterous fashion. “There was thunder so loud during that night that it felt like the world was ending, and as I ran out to the car with my son this morning, sideways hail was pelting us from all directions.”
You can still hear the rain outside as Pearce talks from his Range Rover. The car is one of few extravagances he allows himself, along with “after shave and trainers” — but not clothes, because “I’m a fat cunt, so it’s probably not worth being fashion conscious,” he says. And why not, because it’s now almost exactly 10 years since he wrote Entrance Song.
That EP, which landed on Pets Recordings a year after it was written, turned out to be Pearce’s breakout hit. It was a big-hearted, bass-driven house cut with playful samples and colourful pads that became part of what was known as the Bristol house sound. It was written in the dying days of a six month period that his then-girlfriend (now wife) had afforded him to have one final go at making it as a DJ and producer. Had nothing come of it, Eats Everything would have been back to the building site for good.
For years before that, Pearce had been making musical breaks and playing jungle, garage and techno sets on a local level. He’d grown up going to nights like Death Row Techno and Temptation in Bristol to see Carl Cox, Trevor Rockliff, Colin The Bastard, Rowland The Bastard, Dave Angel and Dave the Drummer play hard hitting techno and rave sets. In the period just before he broke out, he was making up to 10 tracks a week. Now, a decade later and through a strange and cruel twist of fate, he is in the same situation again.
There was a taster of this current lockdown at the end of last year when Pearce and his team cancelled a South American tour due to the financial and political unrest at the time. It meant he spent five solid weeks in the studio, the first time he had done so since those early days (but even so, in the last decade he’s still managed to find time to put out tens of dynamite EPs on labels like Dirtybird, Desolat, Relief and Intec). Now, with gigs cancelled for the foreseeable, he will be doing the same again.
He’s had his current studio for six or seven years. It’s part of the Factory Studios complex on a trading estate in Bristol, a few minutes from his home. “Normally, with travelling and having a family, I only get to go in for maybe one day a week, but in my head I’ve already prepared to not do anything. I just think, ‘Oh I only have a day. What’s the point, I’m not going to do anything.’ Sometimes I fluke it, but 99 times out of 100, nothing comes of the sessions.”
The extended sessions at the end of last year were quite different. “It felt like when I was rolling them out back in the day before Entrance Song. I was doing a least a tune or two every day, banging them out — techno, garage, style to style, it was really flowing.”
Pearce is a DJ who, to a large degree, plays to the crowd. He knows this and is happy to be that professional party starter who is serious about having fun. “I’ll never be up my own ass and be that, ‘I play what I want, fuck you!’ guy, so when I make music, I still think about if it’s going to be popular. So I’m not making whale noises and shit, but at the same time, I’m doing what I want.”
Despite more than 10 years of production experience, Pearce says he was still learning lots in those five weeks: about his room, his PMC TwoTwo 6 speakers and much more. Because of this, he reckons the music he is making now is his best ever. “Even if the tunes aren’t to people’s taste, the sound quality is bang on. You can never be perfect, but I’d say the sound quality is right up there.”
He’s also been sending his stems to Bruno Ellingham, a mix engineer who has worked with local legends Massive Attack and has a studio in the same complex as Pearce. “All he does is run them through Pro Tools and a plug in called HEAT (Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology) and the effect is very subtle, but they just somehow sound different and fucking amazing.”
Right now, those stems are rooted in rolling, groovy techno. After years of making all sorts of sounds, that’s where Pearce’s head is. Big sounds for big spaces of the sort of he plays around the world each and every weekend (or did, until recently). He admits he’s making his own version of the tunes he heard back at those early raves, and isn’t too proud to add that he looks to the sound design of Mark Broom and Truncate for inspiration.
“I try and get a low end throb like those guys,” he enthuses. “Techno is grime-y and gnarly, but especially Truncate, on his high frequencies he gets such amazing crispness that they just cut right through.” The tracks he made late last year are more stripped back than he’s made before. With just seven or so elements, each one has to make an impact, which in itself is a new skill Pearce has mastered. “Maybe as I get older, my brain is slower so I find it easier to not cram as much into music. Less is definitely more, especially with certain types of music like techno.”
This new purple patch isn’t just as a result of having slightly more time on his hands, but also more confidence. A round a year ago, Pearce told me he was struggling with it. The pressure of knowing so many people were listening and playing his tracks at such a wide range of clubs and festivals was getting to him. Tunes that work at elrow may not work at Watergate. On top of that, with such a huge following on social media, you will always get one dissenting voice who drops a shitty comment that can derail your day, even amongst hundreds of more positive shout outs.
“I had to step back a bit,” he says. “I was seeing friends who I love dearly and getting jealous of how many likes they had, or what gigs they were getting. If they’d have rung me to tell me, I’d have been buzzing for them, but seeing it online was ruining me.” That’s a situation we can all relate to, and Pearce has now found a happy balance, and is back making whatever he wants. “Not caring so much meant I was much more free in the studio, and the more tunes you make, the more confidence you have.”
In conversation and in person, it’s incredibly rare for the disarmingly down to earth Pearce to be anything other than Mr. Positive. But a brief rant ensues about the media, about the clickbait they feed us and about how damaging that can be to anyone who believes it. He then explains why the subject riles him so much: he was friends with Caroline Flack, the English TV presenter who took her own life on 15th February this year. “I watched her go from a bubbly lady who had it all together, to getting texts that were just one or two words, or a broken heart emoji. I feel the media and social media basically killed her.”
All these intense sessions are to make up his largest body of work to date, an eight track EP called EI8HT that will be the eighth release on the EI8HT label he runs with Andres Campo. It will come out sometime after the coronavirus crisis is over.
His friendship with Fatboy Slim has also become very important to him. Rather than just musical acquaintances who have played together at Glastonbury, Pearce says it is a full on bromance and that they are “genuine, proper mates.” He has taken his family to stay at Norman Cook’s house in Brighton, and Cook plays football with his son. To that end, Pearce has been the first man in a decade to get Cook in the studio, but it took many months of nagging.
“He’s such a legend — I mean he actually is — but he’s just so willing and friendly, a lovely, lovely man and the best at what he does.” As if to prove the point, Pearce explains he was working on a remix of an iconic track and wanted to put some acid in it. He only has an emulator, but Cook said he could borrow the Roland TB-303 he’d used on his own cult tracks like “Everybody Needs A 303.”
“He sent me videos of him talking in a high pitched voice, cleaning it up and stuff, then it arrived at my house with a note saying ‘Use and abuse me’.” Of course, they’ve also got together in the studio for the playful house bomb “All The Ladies,” out now via Fatboy’s Southern Fried Records.
“We sat there for a day in my studio, with Norm pointing at my big 60” monitor with a broom handle going, ‘Change this, do that.’ There can be conflict and a power struggle sometimes with people, but Norm was happy to let me take control. He directed me. He did some technicals then handed back. We agreed on everything we wanted to add and remove. There is just a great and ruthless symmetry between us.”
Coronavirus lockdown will be a test for everyone. Pearce ordinarily spends down time watching sport — lying supine on a sofa watching five days of test match cricket is his idea of heaven. But even sport is cancelled right now. Instead, he is keeping himself busy by engaging with his Instagram followers for his Eats Everything Quaranteam Mix series. Each Monday, he’s giving them a theme (so far, piano riffs and garage have come up) and asking for tune suggestions. After a few days of thinking them over, he puts together a mix on Thursday and releases it Friday.
“I used to dig holes in the ground for 60 quid a day,” he says. “I’m literally just a builder who happens to make music and DJ for a living. Having done shit jobs like that for a long time keeps you grounded and makes you think a lot about not going back there.”
To quote acid innovator Adonis, it is surely a case of “Too far gone, ain’t no way back” for this bonafide dance music mainstay.