Get Fierce for Pierce!

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story / Jordan Blakeman
photos / Sharlene Durfey

If you’ve found yourself on a dancefloor jiving it up to some sickeningly sweet grooves, you’ve probably seen Whitney Fierce commanding the decks and leading you into a night of revelry and ecstasy. After falling into the profession by almost necessity, Whitney has taken her musical pursuits across the globe and finally launched her solo career with the release of her debut EP, The Broken Car Window. Scope out the premiere here by electronic mavens Gotta Dance Dirty. We’ll be celebrating with the bonafide babe tonight at Golden Box in Hollywood and dancing up a storm to her new tunes – the first of many more to come for our aural pleasure. Email contact@RISLabs.com to RSVP. In the meantime, read our interview with miss Fierce below. Catch you under the disco ball!

What inspired the moniker Whitney Fierce?

Whitney Fierce is a funny story. I don’t know if I’ve every been completely happy with it, but it was one of those things that happened to me, and it stuck, and I went with it. Apparently other people like it, but I still can’t be sure. When I was in high school, I ran for student body president. Mind you, I went to an arts school, so winning wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility (as it definitely would have been at any “normal” school). Anyway, I was born Whitney Pierce, and my slogan was “Get fierce for Pierce” which then morphed into Whitney Fierce in no time. If you were wondering, I totally won.

Tell us about the first time you’ve ever DJ’ed a gig.

I think my first gig was in LA, even though I was living in New York. A dear friend of mine and I were slated to go to LA together, and he had a DJ gig at a local venue at which I had spent a lot of time in my younger years. Through a series of events, he couldn’t make the trip, and I jokingly said, “Why don’t I cover it for you?” I had been toying with the idea of DJing, but hadn’t really actually done it. Long story short, I ended up covering it at the last minute, and burned two CDs, and touched CDJs for the first time in front of a packed room. I don’t know how horrible it was, but I don’t think anyone was too mad. But now that I really think about it, that wasn’t my first gig. MY ACTUAL FIRST GIG, please excuse my lack of brain power, I just returned from a whirlwind trip to New York. As I was saying… My first real gig was at my own party. I had moved to New York on a whim, and I was in the fashion industry at the time. After landing two great fashion jobs, I realized it wasn’t actually my dream to work in fashion, at least not right then. A new friend of mine said I should throw parties, as somehow I knew more people in New York after living there for 8 weeks than he knew after living there for the last 8 years. I thought the idea grand, and after booking the venue for a weekly party, realized I didn’t have any idea what money was going to be like, and quickly taught myself to DJ with a couple pointers from some trusted friends. It worked out pretty well. That party lasted for a minute. It was called LEWD. ha.

What is one of the best experiences you’ve had while playing somewhere? Either via crowd reaction or playing somewhere out-of-this-world.

I think my favorite gig I’ve played in recent history was the Grand Park Sunday Sessions in Downtown LA. First of all the backdrop to the DJ booth in Grand Park is the gorgeous Los Angeles City Hall. And the crowd at Sunday Sessions is about 4,000 people with wonderful taste in music, that are generally just very warm and wonderful and excited. I was lucky enough to play the sunset set, just before the resident and curator Eduardo Castillo. It was nearly 100 degrees, the park was packed, and at some point mid set, someone rushed the stage to give me a sunflower. The sun setting over a heaving mass of dancing people is a sight to behold, especially when you’re at the reigns.

How did you first get involved with Hercules & Love Affair? What is one of your best stories from being either in the studio or on the road with the project?

Oh Hercules, a serendipitous story indeed. I originally met Andy Butler, who is basically Hercules to the Love Affair, DJing together in Paris. We had a mutual respect for each other’s musical taste and became fast-ish friends. We talked about recording a solo EP for yours early, and when I got the final call with the info on where we’d be recording, it was noted that I’d be recording for the band. It wasn’t so much a choice as a “this is happening” moment. I think one of my favorite moments with Hercules & Love Affair was performing at Exit Festival in Serbia. It was massive, the weather was gorgeous, and we had a great set, I heard we played to 30,000 people that night. On the last song of the set, I was running around the stage in my underwear like I always did, and my microphone cord got stuck under a monitor, and while my mic and hand stayed together, my body decided to keep going, and I landed sideways, and kept singing. To be fair, it wasn’t unusual for me to crawl around on stage. Totally saved it, right? So I thought. Then we walk off stage, and who’s standing just past the curtain watching? NEW ORDER, freaking New Order. They saw the whole thing. That being said, I’m their tour DJ now, so things worked out alright.

Who is somebody who has mentored you through your journey and how did they help you get to where you are today?

I don’t know if there’s any one person who’s mentored me through my journey. I’m a bit of a lone wolf, so traveling from city to city, living, touring, playing, I haven’t really had a constant mentor. That being said, I’ve had many run ins with people I really look up to, and they’ve had some encouraging things to say, which have really shaped my path. DJ Harvey once came into my booth and taught me how to do a live edit during a gig, after complimenting my set. That’s likely a big portion of why I kept working toward becoming the artist I am today. Once Damian Lazarus said that I played some pretty cool songs. Hey, it’s the little things.

What other music and non-music projects are you working on?

Musically, I have a lot going on right now. I have an indie band with my friend Kimi, and we released our first single a couple months ago on Manimal, I have a vocal feature with Doc Skulley that came out on Mind Medicine about a month or two after that, I just had a co-production with Eric Sharp come out on his imprint RIS Labs last week, and in the beginning of next month I have two vocal features on Subb-an’s new EP that’s coming out on Crosstown Rebels. I have a solo EP that’s in the works and will be coming out on RIS Labs as well, and a lot more brewing. My other big project I’m a part of at the moment is Unvael.fm, which I would go so far as to say, might change the way we listen to music on the internet entirely. We’ve yet to officially launch, but it’s not far off, and it’s going to be amazing.

Who are your favorite writers, musicians, and artists? What draws you to each of them?

Holy moly, this is a huge question. My favorite writers are e e cummings, Jean Baudrillard, and Bataille. e e cummings is just beautiful, everything that comes out of that person is like a painting in a dream that could never actually exist. I love Baudrillard because I’m obsessed with the idea of the Simulacra, don’t even get me started on that. Bataille makes my brain work better than it did before, and makes me question and create. Musicians, I don’t even know if I could start to think of a favorite musician, maybe Philip Glass, because Philip Glass. Artists… I would say the Dadaists as a whole, but perhaps my favorite is the Baroness Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven – she made sound poetry, which isn’t unlike what my brain does when dreaming up a song. And she was a wild woman, and of course I can always appreciate that.

What is your approach to songwriting?

Amazing segue! I didn’t even see that coming, honestly. My approach to songwriting is multi-faceted, surprise! The easiest part of my song writing process is falling asleep and dreaming up the perfect song in my head as I drift off, just past when waking up isn’t an option anymore, I try to memorize as much as I can, and sometimes I wake up with bits remaining. Then I pop into my studio and write around that. Sometimes I just throw down a kick drum, choose a synth, close my eyes, and start making sounds. And then of course it’s layer, layer, layer, refine, refine, refine.

You’ve lived all over the world. What does a place need to possess to make you feel at home?

A memory foam pillow.

You seem to always be in a constant state of busy. What do you like to do when you finally get some downtime?

It is true that I am in a constant state of busy, and it seems to get busier by the day. My mom always said (as well as a fair few other people) If you do what you love, you’ll never feel like you’re working, and I can’t tell you how true that is. But when I really need to turn my brain off, I love going to the dog park with my furry dude Huxley T. Tine Waterhouse Esq.

What can we expect to see from you in 2015?

I’ve decided that 2015 is going to be my best year yet. I have a couple releases I’m working on, some amazing collaborations, and I want to get them all into the world, and get back on the road.

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