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Back to the Phuture: “This was 20 years or so in the making”

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Is there any other act that can lay claim to as much of a legacy in dance culture as Chicago originators Phuture? When the trio of Spanky, DJ Pierre and Herb J pulled together in 1987 to produce Acid Tracks, it was the first ever record to feature that unforgettable squiggly sound that emanates from a Roland 303. It was also one of the seminal pieces of music that kicked off the eternally influential acid house movement across the world.

While the group had existed in some form in the new millennium, under the guidance of Spanky and his ‘Phuture 303’ alias, the original formation had been put on ice, with DJ Pierre off forging a seminal solo career all of his own. That was until last year, when Spanky and DJ Pierre decided it was finally the right time to team up again and revive the Phuture legacy. Their interview with Data Transmission was their first in 20 years.

“This was 20 years or so in the making,” DJ Pierre told Data Transmission of the decision to finally revive the legend. “We’re going backwards in order to propel forwards.”

Recruiting funk and RnB multi-instrumentalist Rio ‘the Musician’ Lee to really up the stakes in terms of what they can offer as a live act, the new-look Phuture was revealed to the world earlier this year with their Boiler Room broadcast from their hometown of Chicago. This was just the beginning, with a range of brand new studio work, collaborations and live gigs to be rolled out over the next 12 months. And Pierre says it was the long-overdue explosion of dance culture in his homecountry that inspired the reunion; and the fact people are finally looking to the past.

“When I realised that people are really gravitating towards acid again, I thought you know what, this is something that we started, and I think we need to be part of this resurgence in the sound. We’re the creators, and I don’t think anybody can do it better than us…. When we’re all totally working together properly, we just come up with amazing stuff.”

However, even if they’re returning to a degree to show everybody how it’s done, the newly-minted trios are also overwhelmingly positive about the current state of dance culture.

“The whole EDM thing… I think overall it’s positive. Just as long as the history remains intact. It bring attention more to the other genres of the scene as well, and it lends more credibility to the dance scene in general. People with bigger names are trying to connect with originators like us.”

When Data Transmission speaks to the newly minted trio, they were in Rio’s studio in Chicago laying down tracks and rehearsing. Let’s find out more about Phuture’s second coming.

So the Boiler Room show was your first show together after reuniting?

Pierre: We’d done a show at the Rex Club in Paris, which was kind of really our first coming back together as a group. Sorta as a group, I was kinda half in and half out at the time, I was DJing and coming in here and there, but it was basically Spanky and Rio performing at that point. I just hopped in, and we fully came in together.

Spanky: I’d have to say the Boiler Room was our first show when we were the one unit. It’s all a work in progress from now, as time goes on things will get better and better.

Pierre: The show was excellent, so to speak, we only had a little time to really coordinate and get everything together, but it went off really well and it was very well received, so I’m really excited about that.

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It must have been an intimidating first proper show together, knowing that it was going to be seen by that many people?

Pierre: It’s funny, ‘cause I’m onstage a lot and we’re very good at what we do, so we don’t really freak out at all. And whenever you’re well prepared, you’re ready for anything. Even though you have your little things here and there, which no one else noticed but us. You’re like, ah gotta fix that for next time. But you’re good if you’re the only one who notices. But it went off really well. I look back at it in a couple of spots, and realise that it looked better than it did when we were actually performing. And Rio was creating on the spot, so it was a pleasure to see him doing his thing. Being in his element. It was pretty cool, we had a lot of fun.

That leads me to my next question. Has it been a 10-year interval for Phuture?

Pierre: I think it’s been longer than that, hasn’t it?

Spanky: Actually, the last project that Phuture did was back in 2001, that was our last album, but that was actually under ‘Phuture 303’ alias that was a different thing.

Pierre: Those projects are two different things. The last Phuture project was really in the 90s with Rise From Your Grave.

Spanky: Yeah that was the last project under ‘Phuture’, which was me and Pierre together.

So for you guys, what are the main differences between the projects?

Spanky: You know what, it was just something that kinda happened because of legal issues at the time. We’d put the ‘303’ on the end of ‘Phuture’, and I just continued to move forward with it myself when it was me and Professor Trax. And as far as Pierre and myself goes, we were still keeping in contact at that time. Pierre was really busy with his solo career, and I just kept things going with Phuture 303. I knew eventually things would come back around, just because of the communication between Pierre and myself.

So it’s the two of you coming back together for the first time in quite a few years, then?

Pierre: To be honest, that’s really the biggest thing about what Phuture are doing now, it’s Spanky and me coming together and saying you know what, let’s do this. Even in 95 I really just hopped in a for a song or two, it wasn’t like you know, we’re back and we’re gonna do it, and we’re gonna do it big. Because that’s what we’re saying right now. This was 20 years or so in the making, it’s been coming since the 80s even, and now we’re back and we’re gong to be doing things in a similar fashion to how we did it originally. Going back to the roots.  We’re going backwards, in order to propel forwards.

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