Juno Plus Podcast 37: Timothy J Fairplay
Our 37th podcast comes courtesy of Timothy J Fairplay and is a bit special, with the producer presenting an hour long journey through his own grubby, echo laden material.
It’s impossible to talk about Timothy J Fairplay without also mentioning Andrew Weatherall. The moustachioed doyen of the UK underground was responsible for Fairplay first careering into focus on the Juno Plus radar thanks to the Weatherall Versus The Boardroom Volume 2 compilation released on Rotters Golf Club back in 2009, which featured several productions from the former Battant guitarist.
Most recently, Fairplay was found opening proceedings on Bird Scarer, the new vinyl-only initiative from Weatherall, with the sprawling cosmiche flecked brilliance of “The Final Reel,” a track that along with his contributions to Astrolab and World Unknown ploughs a distinctly epic path through post 100bpm electronic music that’s framed by both cinematic and musical references, and characterised by the overall scuzzy, rough edged sound. While by no means the only style of music Fairplay is capable of producing, it’s something he explores to the fullest in his mix for us, which includes some of the aforementioned material along with some of the music you can expect to surface from Fairplay over the coming months.
With music due on Emotional Response and Astrolab Recordings in the near future as well as several remixes and one or two interesting projects currently bubbling away, now seems the perfect time to invite Fairplay into the Juno Plus podcast fold, and the producer was also kind enough to provide some enlightening responses to our usual round of questions as well as delivering some excellent tracklisting artwork.
From the information regarding you on the great untapped resource that is the internet, it’s apparent Timothy J Fairplay prefers to remain in the shadows. Could you enlighten us with your path towards making music?
I come from a very musical family. I didn’t have a choice but learn to play something, my mother was a guitar teacher so that was my first instrument. I was in indie bands with very little interest in dance music – I was obsessed with The New York Dolls and The MC5. At the end of the 90s I started working in a record shop and heard King Tubby, Green Velvet, UR and Throbbing Gristle for the first time. I don’t really have a thing about being anonymous, I just don’t get out of the bunker much.
Was it during your stint in Battant that you first met Andrew Weatherall?
Battant used to rehearse in a room in Andrew’s studios, he was always really supportive of us. Towards the end of Battant and after the Swordsmen were no more I started to become more involved in working with him.
And now you’re a Engineer and co-producer in his East London studio right? What’s it like to work alongside Andrew?
I’ve been his remix engineer since the ‘Heathern Child’ mix, and we do the Aspodells stuff together. He’s great to work with, we generally understand each others reference points, and share a love for mixing styles and genre, and making silly noises. There’s a lot of humour in the studio. We recently were unable to make a bubbly enough synth noise for a track so Andrew ‘played’ a straw and pint of water. His real love for music is unbound. Before anything else, music should be enjoyable.
Let’s discuss your contribution to World Unknown, the quite singular sounding Cleopatra Loves The Acid, what was your inspiration behind that?
Mainly my love for old acid records and slow Belgian chuggers, but also my feeling that there isn’t enough ridiculous dance music any more. Minimal made ‘credible’ dance music so serious, when you listen to tracks like “7 Ways To Jack”, “Where’s Your Child” or “Flash” they are ludicrous. I like a bit of theatre on the dancefloor.
And that’s your dulcet tones discussing ancient Egypt’s predilection for acid?
The voice of the pharaoh? Yeah it is, pitched down obviously. Usually when a track of mine has one of those spoken vocals it is kind of an accident. In the case of Cleo I was writing the ‘Egyptian’ sounding synth line and just found my self saying “Ahh yeah, I bet you didn’t know we love the acid on the Nile”, and it just kind of went from there. I’ve been asked a few times where I sampled it, which I quite like. It’s me chatting on the “Parallel Sensations” remix too.
How did it come to be released on World Unknown?
Andy Blake asked me if I had anything for the label. I was a bit busy doing stuff with Andrew at the time so said I’d send some tunes in a while, but I sent him “Cleo…” because I just thought it would make him laugh. He emailed me back almost straight away asking if he could release it.
Have you witnessed the effect it has on that little Brixton railway arch?
Yeah I have! It might have well been made for World Unknown, it’s nice they have embraced it so much!
This along with your other recent releases on Astrolab and Bird Scarer all present you in a stylistically epic frame of mind, rich in grubby analogue sound whilst all retaining a similar tempo. It seems disingenuous to cast it merely as “nu disco” so how would you describe this sound you’ve focused on?
Those releases, along with my mix, represent my slower tempo stuff. Yeah, I wouldn’t call it “nu disco”, but I guess I just find it easier to convey the mood I want to at a slower tempo. I do have a disco influence, but more via the rhythm. I’m equally influenced by hip-hop, old electro, funk, house and dub. I tend to love records which have an odd groove, I have little interest in making ‘functional’ dance floor records. Lots of my tunes are homages to tracks I love, but I never copy as such, I just try and do something which has the same feel, or creates a similar mood. I am a bit of an analogue obsessive; ‘grubby’ is a good description, I hate how shiny so much modern electronic music is, and that’s probably partly why I cover everything in tape echo. Lots of the stuff I love – the coldwave stuff for instance – are basically demo quality recordings. I don’t like having ultimate control over the music I’m making. People who say that digital is just as good, don’t know how fun it is to be in a room of drum machines and synths sync’d with no bloody digital headroom to worry about. Actually some of my releases this year do up the tempo a bit!
Are there any specific influences that you look towards when making this music? Obviously John Carpenter is an explicitly referenced name but what else?
So much stuff really, though I guess there’s artists or bits of music I always find myself going back to for inspiration. I’m a bit obsessed with the work of Fabio Frizzi and Marcello Giombini and the soundtracks of obscure and often unpleasant Italian or Spanish B movies. Cinema is a big influence in general, you can see it in my track titles, many have names which tie them to the ‘scene’ they are for. Apart from that I listen to a lot of krautrock, particularly Klaus Schulze and anything Moebius, Roedelius, Plank related and odd synthesizer music from around the world. When it comes to dance music I tend to like it pretty raw, Bunker Records being a very important label for me since the early 2000s.
Your forthcoming EP for Emotional Response includes a slight playful change in tempo with the digi dubstep of “I Do Not Believe” is this an avenue you intend to explore further?
I’ve always worked at lots of different tempos, and digi dub and even dubstep is a bit of an influence. I used to go to fwd a lot when it was in its original Thursday night slot at Plastic People, before the smoking ban the atmosphere in that place was heavy. But partly it comes out of my idea that if you keep slowing a disco beat down you suddenly get a half step and it turns into a dub rhythm – this can also be heard in my work with Andrew.
Alongside this Emotional Response release what other Fairplay related material is due in the coming months?
There’s a few remixes, two of which are included in my selection, an EP on Magic Feet and one on Glasgow’s Fortified Audio.
Our research has also revealed you are also readying a number of collaborative projects, with separate ongoing concerns with Scott Fraser, Body Hammer’s Matilda and Andy Blake all mentioned. Could you divulge anything more about what to expect from these?
The next Bird Scarer release is by Scott Fraser, with a mix by me one the flip. Scott has one of the other rooms in the studio and we are just about to start our ‘Crimes of the Future’ night regularly in Glasgow. There’s a handful of tracks done with Andy Blake, some in my studio some in his, one of them should see the light of day later this year. I’ve known Matilda since we were teenagers, we very much got into electronic music at the same time. A Populette remix of our track “Xylophone” has just appeared on the new Astro Lab comp, the original will be out soon. Andy Blake’s done a cool mix of it too.
And finally, let’s discuss your mix, which is quite stunning and also came accompanied with the most unexpected way to present the tracklist – where was it recorded and what was the concept behind it?
I recorded it at home on my old technics, vinyl and Serato. The way I presented the track listing goes back to my old mix CDs, I always used to do the artwork with a broken typewriter and a photocopier. The mix represents my lower tempo work, some of which come from imaginary film soundtracks, “Saco Bay”, “No Name (Main Theme)” and “Aim…”, would be from a siege movie of some sort, maybe like the ‘Osterman Weekend’. “Pyramid Of Night” and “Ferox” are from some yellow gloopy Italian zombie flick.