For Daniel Pearce, the Bristol, U.K.-based DJ and producer best known as Eats Everything, his big moment on the dance floor came in early 2012.
In January, Bugged Out Weekender went down in a British resort. It was a massive, three-day event in the dead of winter, weeks after the New Year’s parties had ended. Yet, the world’s hippest DJs padded the lineup. Claude VonStroke was there. So was Maya Jane Coles. And Eats Everything, still riding a wave of success from his breakthrough hit “Entrance Song,” was on the bill, too. He played early, sometime around 8 p.m., but this was no warm-up slot. He dropped his own tracks, and the crowd lit up with excitement. There were even a few people holding signs that read, “Eat Me.”
This was the first gig where Pearce could—and did—remark, “Wow, these people have actually come to see me.” It’s an important moment in any DJ’s career, the one where you realize you are a draw, and for Pearce, who plays XS on Nov. 25, this was a long time coming. Despite his status as an up-and-comer (“Entrance Song” came out in 2011), Pearce has spent years behind the decks. The 32-year-old picked up DJing before he hit his teens. By the time he was 16, he was playing at the Bristol clubs he frequented. This was back in 1996, at a time when dance music was fragmenting into hyper-specific subgenres and Pearce landed in the middle of the club scene at a crucial time. “It was like a dream come true,” he says, by phone, while traveling from Bristol to the British seaside.
Pearce scored residencies, the regular gigs that DJs need to establish themselves. He played with some of the top names in the field. But, there was something holding his career back. He wasn’t a producer. “You can’t just be a DJ, unfortunately,” Pearce laments.
In fact, the biggest DJs, the ones who headline festivals and play gigs at top clubs from Las Vegas to Ibiza, are almost always producers. They don’t just drop the jams; they craft them on laptops and in studios across the world. The bigger the hits, the better gigs they will get. If Pearce wanted to move up through the ranks, he would have to bring everything he knew from the clubs into the studio. He began experimenting with production techniques a decade ago, but it wasn’t anything serious until 2005. Even so, another four years passed before he could say, “Yeah, I know what I’m doing.”
Pearce’s strength as a producer is his versatility. His tracks have enough of a banger bounce to keep even the most mainstream crowds on the floor, but lack the flashiness that would alienate the hardcore house-heads. Pearce can cram so many rhythmic peaks and valleys into a six-minute stretch that a single Eats Everything track can sound different as it’s passed on from set to set. Take “Hevvie,” his first release to make waves in the underground, for example. Pearce jokes that even his buddy VonStroke—the heavy-hitting DJ/producer who releases some of Eats Everything’s work on his label, Dirtybird—has trouble recognizing it. “To this day, when I play it, he says, ‘What’s this?’” Pearce says with a laugh, “and I’m like, ‘Dude, it’s a record you turned down.’”
Pearce flew under the radar for ages, until superstars such as VonStroke and BBC DJ Pete Tong, who is headlining the XS gig (“America Is Finally All Gone,” Nov. 15), began championing his work. Soon Eats Everything was one of the hottest names in dance-music circles, a presumed newcomer, even though he has paid his dues many times over. Pearce headed out to the U.S. for a few dates in connection with Miami’s prestigious Winter Music Conference. He had planned to tour the States a few months after that, but was sidelined by back troubles. “One morning, I woke up and I literally couldn’t move,” Pearce says. “It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever had in my life.” It’s also, he says, a common ailment for people in his line of work, where lugging around gear is often part of the job.
Pearce says that he’s “not 100 percent” recovered, but he’s at a point where he can manage the pain. “I’ve got the smallest record bag in the world now,” he says, only half-kidding. Pearce travels with his music collection stored on two USB sticks, something that will certainly lighten the load as he heads across the U.S. this month. The excursion isn’t just his first proper tour of the States; it includes his debut Las Vegas gig and his first trip to the city.
“It’s taken me a long time to get where I am,” Pearce says. Right now, though, he’s sitting comfortably between the underground and mainstream realms of dance music. It’s a good place to be. Pearce can rock the megaclubs and festivals as hard as the smaller gigs and right now, he’s ready to bring the bass to the party capitals of the United States.