Jake Fairley aka Fairmont has built a very loyal following across the world through his fourteen year long career in electronic music. He is probably best known for his 2005 release ‘Gazebo’ on James Holden’s Border Community label which sold over 20,000 vinyl copies.
In 2007 Fairmont released his first album on Border Community entitled ‘Coloured In Memory’ which was filled with his trademark driving analogue machine-funk sound, infused with hypnotic vocals and haunting interludes. The album not only brought a new level of critical acclaim including serious love from Pitchfork, but also ensured that Fairley would start spending even more time on the road.
Since his first album Fairmont went on to release tracks on labels such as Traum, Border Community and his very own Beachcoma label which he runs with his friends Sid Le Rock and Metope. In 2012 he released his second album, ‘Automation’ on My Favorite Robot Records. Fairmont describes this album as a ‘dark and druggy journey into the mind of this ever-evolving artist’. This album then led to the ‘Fairmont live show’ which certainly highlighted his ability with technology.
Besides touring the globe with his live sets, he has also been very busy in the studio. In May 2013 he released the massive genre- bending single ‘Poble Sec’ on Beachcoma. This was followed by the melancholic acid-opus ‘Lie To Me EP’ on My Favorite Robot Records and his release, ‘Lie To Me’ which was featured on John Digweed’ s Live In Argentina CD. Then, most recently he unearthed his 12- inch ‘Dysnomia’ on Areal Records, which like ‘Poble Sec’ was recorded almost entirely live-to-tape. These releases came amongst a flurry of over a dozen remixes for artists such as Hot Since 82, Henry Saiz, Avatism, Chloe, Jori Hulkkonen and Danton Eeprom.
We were very lucky to catch up with Fairmont during a very busy schedule to talk about his productions, his studio and his new venture into DJing.
Hi Jake and many thanks for spending the time to speak to us today. What have you been up to of late?
I’ve had a pretty great summer actually. It’s been a good mixture of being super busy with shows, but also having time to get super mellow during the weekdays. It’s been a bit too hot in my studio to work, so I’ve decided to take a break from that and just enjoy myself and skateboard and hangout.
You were born and raised in Ontario, Canada. Can you tell us a little about your childhood and how you first gained exposure to electronic music? Can you tell us about who were some of your biggest musical influences?
In 1992 I saw the Beastie Boys play in Toronto and had my mind blown. A few months later their album “Check your Head” came out and perhaps changed my life. I listened to it every day for months. More than anything I was obsessed with the instrumentals. Up until then my focus was visual art, but I was getting a bit bored of it and became very curious about making music with machines. In ’93 or ’94 I bought a sound card for my parents’ computer and started recording and manipulating sounds. But I became bored of sampling very fast and started wondering about synthesizers. I had no exposure to electronic music, but I was drawn to it regardless. Eventually I was introduced to Warp records in ’95 and that was that.
You moved to Barcelona which must be very different from your home town. Can you tell us why you decided to move to Barcelona and how you have found living in the capital of Catalonia?
I love Barcelona. I’ve lived in something like ten different cities in the last fifteen years and this is my favourite. From here on in it will either be here or Toronto, but nowhere else. I live right on the beach. I love being near the sea, it makes me happy. I’m not a winter person at all, so moving all the way from Canada to somewhere cold in Europe doesn’t make any sense at all. I need blue skies and I need the sun. The summers can be a bit much here, but once you get used to it you know that you just kind of have to slow down and not expect to get much done. You just chill until the fall. Spring and fall are what it’s all about in Barcelona.
Since your early productions you have gone on to release on labels such as Traum, Areal Records and Bedrock Records. When you produce a track do you have a particular label or sound in mind or is the development of your sounds a fluid process?
It’s great when you have a label to work with that’s not only supportive and flexible with what you do, but also effective in what they do. This is the best situation, because the motivation is always there. I’ve been in this situation at different times in my career and it’s something I don’t take for granted. It’s great when you know your efforts have a well-oiled machine waiting to get behind them. That being said I also love just seeing what happens in the studio. Not having any objective other than having fun and goofing around. I’m not always in that zone though.
It’s notable that the psychedelic sounds of Fairmont in 2014 differ drastically from the atmospheric Techno released on labels like Sender back in 2001/2. What factors influenced your progression towards the more left-field sound of your recent productions?
I think in some ways my music has changed dramatically, but in other ways it’s kind of stayed the same. From the very beginning I was constructing songs rather than tracks even though I was connected to the techno scene. I think what’s changed has been my skills as a songwriter and as a producer. So things have gotten less loopy and more complex as I’ve gotten better. I see my development as a pretty straight line from my first record up until now. For example I was singing right from the start. Those old Sender records did indeed fit into the Sender sound, they were technically atmospheric techno, but a lot of them were also pop songs at the same time. So even though I’ve moved from minimalistic techno stuff, to more electro stuff, to psychedelic, goth, kraut whatever, you can hear my approach and my personality very clearly in every song.
Your productions are cherished all over the globe by many people and your sound is very unique. Can you tell us about some of your favourite studio techniques that you use to create such sounds?
Well I obviously use a lot of hardware, but the machines are always changing. I buy and sell stuff all the time. But no matter what I use the results are always “my sound.” I just do what I do. I couldn’t tell you how to make a Fairmont record. I also couldn’t make anything other than what I do. So even though my style and influences change slowly over time, I’m not sure I could do something dramatically different tomorrow from what i did today. I would also have a hard time making the stuff I did years ago. I actually tried to make “something like an old Jake Fairley” a couple times and it ended in disaster ha-ha.
You have remixed tracks for the likes of Hot Since 82, Henry Saiz, Ricardo Tobar, Danton Eeprom and Edu Imbernon, and all of which are very different in terms of their style. How do you decide whether or not to remix a track? Do you look for certain elements within the original production?
Most of the time I don’t take any sounds from original and just take the notes and use my own sounds and machines. Or if there are vocals I will often only take those and then construct a whole new song underneath. I don’t really like remixing actually. Most of the time it’s for a friend or for money rather than an extreme desire to re-work someone else’s ideas. I don’t think it’s one of my strengths, but that being said some of my remixes have really turned out well. My favourites are probably the one I did for Undo and maybe the one I did for Ricardo Tobar.
Let’s take a few minutes to talk about your label, ‘Beachcoma’ which you run with your friends Sid Le Rock and Metope. The label started back in 2009 and has had an impressive array of artists grace its covers including Ryan Davis, Edu Imbernon, Deepfunk and Arthur Oskan. How did you come to meet Sid Le Rock and Metope and why did you decided to start your own label?
Sid and I have been close friends since meeting in Toronto in 2000. We both moved to Cologne in 2003 and met Metope the very first week we were there. We met at the supermarket actually. He invited us over for a barbecue and the rest is history. That was a really fun summer. We hung out almost every day and partied at Total Confusion a lot. In 2009 we were all living in Berlin. We started the label just for fun really. Something to do together that wouldn’t be as serious as the other projects we were involved in. For a while we treated as a joke, but then things changed and we became more serious about it. Now it’s turned into something we are all very proud of. We still keep it fun, keep it relaxed, but at the same time no matter how much we fight it, we are becoming a serious label ha-ha.
Can you talk about some of the difficulties you have experienced when running your own label?
It’s been pretty smooth sailing so far. We’ve only had good experiences with the artists we’ve signed and for the most part things are very easy going. I’d say the only “problem” we have is that we’re not all based in the same city any more. This makes communication harder. I wish we could just have a weekly meeting over beers, but unfortunately that’s not possible any more. Over time we have gotten into a good flow though and have figured out how to keep things fun and productive despite me living so far from Sid and Metope.
OK let’s switch our attention to the wonderful mix you have provided for us here at Decoded Magazine. How was the mix constructed, and what was your aim with the mix?
I recently bought a pair of old CDJ-800 mk2’s. There are obviously some limitations to them, but for practicing and making mixes at home they are fine. I recorded the mix in a single pass, but I decided on the track order ahead of time. I also make edits of most songs before I play them. Some songs are a bit long or a bit short or something. Some simple cuts make a lot of songs much better for mixing. For this particular mix I tried to achieve a nice balance of energy and weirdness. I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m not sure I’ll ever listen to it though. I never listen to recordings of my live sets for example. I’m a perfectionist and I don’t trust myself to listen to my sets. I’ll just get upset at all the little mistakes which no one else probably even notices. In the moment with a few beers in me is different, I can let the little shit go.
You are known more for your live sets than your DJing. Why have you decided to enter the world of DJing?
I’ve been playing live for over 15 years. It’s something I take very seriously, because if you do it right I think live electronic music can be very exciting. Most guys just go through the motions though. They don’t challenge themselves and they avoid risk. It’s not easy to get truly good at it. It took me years to get good. So I’m very proud of what I do live and I’ll always find ways to change it up and keep it interesting for myself. DJing on the other hand is completely new for me. It’s something that I’ve been interested in for years, but I’ve waited to start doing it professionally until now because I think there’s no point in me starting unless I have something really special to offer. I have no interest in being a great live-act and a pretty-good DJ. I need to be very, very good if it’s something I am going to stand behind. At the moment I’m confident about it. I’m glad I got good before I “unveiled” it or whatever. It’s been fun surprising people.
Which do you prefer and why?
I guess they are about equal right now. The live show is exactly where I want it to be and I still love doing it, but I have been doing it for so long that I think I need to mix things up a bit or I might start getting bored. DJing on the other hand is completely new. Even though it’s unbelievably simple compared to what I do live, I’m still just beginning so it’s more of a challenge at the moment. I get nervous when I’m spinning which is kind of nice actually. I don’t see myself giving up playing live, I see myself finding a nice balance with doing both.
Finally is there anything else you want to tell us about that you have planned for 2014/15?
I have a couple EPs coming up and a set of remixes from my record called “Lie ToMe” on the way. We’ve got some crazy stuff coming on Beachcoma too from Metope, Sid, SwitchSt(d)ance, Sigward & Oliver Sudden, Low Manuel etc. Dark music = bright future.
01. Baptiste & Pierre Colleu – Dolphin Kid (Black Merlin’s Romance In The Dark Remix)
02. Sigward & Oliver Sudden – Welcome Back My Sun
03. Heretic – Flesh
04. Undo – 3,9 Grados en la Escaler Richter
05. Flowers and Se Creatures – Citadel (Speaking Minds Remix)
06. SwitchSt(d)ance – ID?
07. Low Manuel – The Beach
08. Lokier – ID?
09. id!r – Wandering Dog
10. Italo Brutalo – Systeria (Club Bizarre Remix)
11. She Lies – Needed You (Asphodells Remix)
12. Norwell – Her