Dan ‘Eats Everything’ Pearce is massive. Not just in stature (much as he likes to take the piss out of his occasionally generous girth), but in the plain old biggest-thing-in-house-music-right-now sense of the word. And, as DJ Mag tries to pin Pearce down to conduct this interview, something happens that gives an insight into just how far into the top tier of dance the English producer/DJ has climbed.
Having been playing in France, and with a host of commitments in the UK looming (not least of which is talking to us...), Eats suddenly finds himself at the mercy of striking French air traffic controllers. No planes are going anywhere, and the big man is stranded on the other side of the channel. We fire emails back and forth, and after waiting a couple of days to see if the situation would resolve itself, Eats is getting perilously close to missing Glastonbury.
It becomes clear that there can be only one solution; the superstar DJ’s favourite accessory — a private jet. Soon enough, the plane is chartered, and he’s whisked back to England in stellar style. Speaking after the festival, he’s apologetic for being such a baller.
“I’m very fortunate that I’m in a position to do that. I don’t mean to sound wanky that I got a jet but I actually had to, there was no physical way of me being able to play at Glastonbury otherwise, and there was no way I was going to miss it… “
It’s not a typical arrogant response from an A-lister, but then, Eats isn’t your usual A-list kinda DJ. In the dance music’s hype-happy world of overnight success and 140 character attention spans, he’s an exception, an artist whose sudden popularity masks years of grafting as a DJ on Bristol’s bass infatuated house scene. His is a reassuringly old-fashioned route to the top; working hard, learning your craft, and paying your dues. Before his debut single, ‘Entrance Song’ was picked up by Catz 'N Dogz, Pearce had spent nearly two decades learning how to kill it on the ones and twos — and now he can only marvel at how strange it is to suddenly be feted for something he’d mastered long ago.
“I’m no better at what I do now than I was 10 years ago,” he shrugs. “I’ve been DJing for 21 years, so after 11 years, knowing the technology like I do — and I know it really, really well — surely you can only get to a certain level. I’m not better at DJing than I was 10 years ago, but I’ve made records that people have latched onto. I went from being the guy nobody knew about to someone who people say ‘he’s quite a good DJ’, so it is very strange how you can be nothing one day and massive the next.
“It was basically releasing 'Entrance Song'. That was the only catalyst really, and then I followed it up with a couple of bigger records and I think I made music at the right time for people who were looking for something different. I wasn't looking to get propelled into the limelight.”
Compared to the kind of ultra-groomed gleaming toothed stars currently churning out of the American EDM scene, Eats also offered a somewhat more British aesthetic, as he wryly agrees.
“I’m a bit of a chubby, local Bristolian twat. It works in my favour as well, people seem to like that, rather than if I was an arrogant tosser. And my name as well, it’s a stupid name, but if my name was Bob Davis, I don’t think I’d be where I am.
The name, even though it’s ridiculous, it has a certain something that people like. It pricks your ears and is a little bit of an eye-opener, you don’t forget it. Where if I was Bob Davis that wouldn’t be the case. No offence to any Bob Davis’s out there.”
And lest there should be any lingering doubt that success is about to turn Pearce into a private jet-hopping, Cristal-quaffing, set pre-recording, air-punching EDM joker, he quickly lets us know that he’s zero time for the candy raver theatrics of current big guns.
“I think that the way that people like Steve Aoki and Avicii are currently going about what they do is a total joke,” he rails. “But people are into it. Look, if you want to make money and accelerate quickly it helps to have a gimmick and these guys have got a gimmick and I don’t respect it — at the end of the day this is dance music we're talking about, we’re not saving lives.
My wife’s a nurse, she’s saved people from having heart attacks and strokes and all we’re doing is playing records for people, we’re not really that important.”
It’s this rare, level perspective — alongside a near uncanny ability to drop bangers — that helps people to take to Eats so easily. He’s united a host of disparate scenes in praise, with his tunes as likely to be dropped at a Brick Lane shufflers convention packed with gun fingered former garage ravers as they are to be heard banging out of mainstream Ibiza mega clubs frequented by musclemen in mankinis.
Somehow he’s managed to retain street credibility whilst the dance royalty shower him with praise — from Pete Tong declaring him a “future star”, to Coxy inviting him to play his Ibiza party — a fact that Eats is particularly blown away by.
“Every single other DJ I’ve met, all these heroes of mine, I’ve been totally cool with. But with Carl Cox, I’ve played before him twice and been in his company three times, and every single time I’m like a 16-year-old, going up to the DJ booth desperately trying to talk to the DJ, and knowing full well how annoying I am. I can’t help myself, I’m a fucking star-struck teenager, and I’m sure he thinks I’m a complete nob. Every time I’m like [hushed timid voice] ‘Hi, how’re you doing…?’
“I’ve probably seen him DJ 50 or 60 times. He is the best DJ on the planet, I’ve had some of the best nights of my life watching him DJ. Thank God he’s booked me again to play at his party in Ibiza, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he avoided me now. Imagine all the people telling you how great you are all your life and then you’ve got some guy who’s actually playing for you doing it as well.” Pearce laughs, then pauses and reflects on the surrealism of his new career.
“I have to pinch myself every single day of my life that I’m doing what I’m doing. And sometimes you get a bit grouchy, thinking, 'Fuck it I’ve got to get on another plane or I’ve gotta do this or I’ve gotta do another interview'.
But then you’re like 'Hang on mate, chill out, you’re doing the job that most people including yourself dream of, so take a step back, it isn’t that hard, it’s not that much of a chore, just shut up and get on with it'. Sometimes you need to give yourself a reality check because you can get used to certain things, but I think I’m staying pretty grounded, most of my mates say I haven’t really changed — I’m still the same bell-end I’ve always been.”
Pearce is very much in demand. Alongside his hectic DJ schedule, the forthcoming August Bank Holiday will see him take over an arena of Clapham’s massive SW4 festival, with a line-up that could pass muster as a festival in itself; Eats, joined by Laurent Garnier, Bicep, Simian Mobile Disco, Skream, Heidi, Catz 'N Dogz, Marcus Intalex, and Special Request. It’s a strong look, and an excellent introduction to Eats’ Edible brand — except you can’t call it a brand, as he insists quite vehemently.
“I don’t want to call Edible a brand because a ‘brand’ is everything I don’t like about modern dance music. I’m not into brands and all that bollocks. Edible is something that myself, my management, my tour manager and everyone that’s involved can’t put our finger on.
It’s an outlet; if I want to put records out I can put records out, if I want to DJ from a burger van then I can do that and call it Edible, rather than ‘Eats Everything presents’. I want to do as much as I can.
I’d love to be able to have parties all around the world with my favourite DJs playing. I’d also love to be able to bring into play some of my favourite producers that haven’t quite had the leg up, people like Lukas, and Grain, Mode, there are loads of people that I’m really into, I’m not even sure that Mode even knows who I am but I love the music they’re making, and I’d just love to thrust that music into a wider audience's face.
When I first started out my music was given that opportunity by people like Cats 'N Dogz and I want to be able to give that same opportunity to people I’m really into. Edible gives me a better platform to do that.”
So what can people expect from the Edible arena at SW4? “In a nutshell, an amazing party! We're trying to go for a different aspect, with everyone on the bill playing pretty much back-to-back. With all the Edible things I do, the main element for me is fun.
I’m not fussed about it being too serious, don’t get me wrong — I love serious underground music, but I’m not fussed about it being all ‘cool' and all that shit, I don’t really care if people think I’m cool or not, that’s not what it’s about for me. I just think that dancing is about having fun, it’s about getting down and having a fucking good old laugh, and I think the line-up conveys that, it’s just going to be a wicked day.”
It turns out that SW4 isn’t the only thing Pearce is hyped about — he’s finally finished putting together his debut mix for Hypercolour, delivering the bar-raising label a double-CD, with one disc focused on modern bangers whilst the other gives a snapshot of the tracks he considers “classics”.
He talks about spending a huge amount of time in the studio, whittling 50 potential tracks down to 13 or 14 for each mix, then recording five or six different mixes until he got the balance just right. “It was really, really hard. The upfront CD was easier to license, but harder to select, because I want it to be timeless, but you can never tell what’s going to become faddy.
For example, a year-and-a-half ago I could have put loads of these bass house tracks on it, but now I’d be like ‘I don’t want to listen to that’, that kind of sound to me is completely done. Modern dance music can move so quickly nowadays, who knows what’s going to become annoying and what’s going to be heralded as iconic classics in years to come...?
So we’ll just have to see. I hope people like it, because it’s definitely been a labour of love. The great thing about it is, I think and I hope, especially for the younger generation of ravers, they won’t have a clue what any of these records are. There are probably six or seven tunes on this that they’ve probably never heard before.”
It was only once both mixes were completed, and Pearce and his manager listened back to the classics CD in his car that he noticed a major subconscious influence on his selections. “One of the first major house raves was called Dreamscape. The first Dreamscape they did outdoors, it was massive, it was in the September of 1995, and they had four arenas.
So Dreamscape did this tape-pack, a 16-tape pack, four from the jungle arena, four from the techno arena, four from the hardcore, and four from the house — the house ones were by Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk, Tony De Vit, Jon Pleased Wimmin, and Pete & Russell.
That tape-pack was the first time I’d ever owned a physical copy of something, I bought it for the house more than anything, and it turned out that five or six of the tracks on this classics mix, unbeknown to me, are on one of those tapes.
So it goes to show how much those four mixes affected my take on house music, it almost proved that a third of the mix is from these tapes from 1995.
There’s racy records on there, really old house, there’s proper tough, what would be known as hardbag, it’s just a massive cross-section of music, from stuff I’ve grown up with to stuff that I’ve found in later years.”
As many DJs find, crystallising your sound in the form of a mix CD makes you think long and hard about what matters, what sounds good now and years down the line. Reviewing the current state of the house scene, and thinking of how the bass-heavy sound has died away, Pearce tentatively tips the proggy melodies of Innervisions as the next big thing.
“I think that Innervisions, that kind of sound, will come next, it’s massive now, underground, but with people like Ten Walls, I think that’s going to blow up.
And I think techno is getting more and more popular again. With house, techno and jungle they’re always going to be around, they’re the founding soundscapes.
It just ebbs and flows, at the moment there’s a 'deep house' revival which is basically speed garage modernised, so that’ll go down at some point just like speed garage did. House music’s always been big, just not as big as it is now. And it’ll not be as big as it is now again — it will just keep going up and down. But, I will say one thing, it’s been around 30 years and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere."
And armed with that knowledge, Eats is determined that he isn’t going anywhere either. As we close our conversation, he becomes reflective. He’s happily mentioned his wife and their new baby a number of times, telling us he’s becoming less of a caner to spend more time with them.
In keeping with the impression he gives of a down-to-earth guy who’s found himself in an impossibly blessed position, this, above all things, above the gigs, the madness, the festivals and the praise, this seems to be the single most important thing for him right now.
“The other week I was with my wife sat having dinner, watching the tennis outside in a restaurant with a screen in Bristol, and I was saying we are really lucky, we’ve got a beautiful boy, we’re sat in an outside restaurant eating a nice meal watching the tennis, and in 2007 there’s no way I could have done that. It’s a luxury and I thank the heavens, I thank my lucky stars.
I’m just very, very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing. I never dreamed in a million years I’d be doing it at this sort of level. And I’m working as hard as I possibly can to make sure that I stay doing this for the rest of my life.”