Fading Love is FitzGerald’s first full length and his first record on the highly esteemed label Domino (aside from a 10″ and a 12″ on Domino’s Double Six imprint), which makes it a pretty significant step in his career. We’re pretty proud of him in the way you might be proud of a friend who once played on your high school basketball team and now plays in the NBA. His pop potential was evident on his early releases, the catchy anthems that appeared on cornerstone UK house labels like Hotflush, Aus, and Hypercolour—”Shackled” has been stuck in our heads since 2011. His earworm melodies and big room percussion has propelled him to big-time appearances in Ibiza and at festivals like Creamfields, Parklife, Movement, and Tomorrowworld USA. Yet, he clearly hasn’t lost his underground credibility, as he still plays regularly at clubs like Golden Pudel. Anyway, enough rambling about how George FitzGerald is God’s (or the underground’s?) gift to Tomorrowworld—just check out the album below.
A year on from the release of his critically acclaimed fourth LP Immunity, we caught up with producer Jon Hopkins backstage at the EB Festival Cologne to talk autogenic training, comedowns and Coldplay.
In 2013, Jon Hopkins finally enjoyed solo success that was a long time coming. His debut album, 1999’s Opalescent, caught the wave for slick chill out room ambience—and, strangely, the ears of Sex and the City’s music supervisors. However, his career stalled when his follow-up LP was roundly ignored by the music press. What followed was a decade spent honing a polymathic approach to music, notching up film scores (including the soundtrack to Brit film Monsters), credible collaborations (2010’s Mercury-nominated Diamond Mine with King Creosote) and production work for stadium behemoths Coldplay. When Immunity dropped in early summer last year, its combination of minor key melancholy and abrasive techno headcleaners made it the break-out electronic album of the year. The few non-converts found their resistance weakening when faced with Hopkins’ intense live shows—exemplified by his closing set at EB Festival Cologne. There, we sat down with the celebrated producer backstage to pause and reflect on the year since the release of Immunity.
Jon, I’m really intrigued by your interest in self-hypnosis and autogenic training. Could you tell me a bit about that?
I started doing it about thirteen years ago, when I was about twenty-one. Self-hypnosis is a technique that has a similar goal to meditation: calming yourself down to a point where you can be entirely in the moment. I noticed that music tends to come quite clearly when you’re in that mindset, it just kind of quietens the noise of everyday life. At that time it was really just a therapeutic thing because I wasn’t dealing very well with life as a broke musician; a twenty-year-old not knowing what to do, trying to write an album but not knowing who was going to do it.
That’s an intense challenge for a twenty year old. By that point your debut had come out right?
It came out when I was twenty-one but it was written when I was nineteen and then I sort of fiddled around with it for a bit whilst I was still working as a session musician for a pop producer guy. That made me quite, well, it wasn’t really my kind of thing. He was a lovely guy and really good songwriter, but it was depressing work really.
Why was it depressing?
I’m not a keyboard player for S Club 7, that’s why, and that was the kind of stuff he was pitching. I respect that kind of writing as a skill, but it required me to be a kind of “on cue” keyboard player. Like: “Can you do this style today or that style today?” I can’t really do that. I occasionally could bend things to make it work but there was a lot of conflict between us because I’m not really a natural session player, I’m too much of a musical megalomaniac. I’m more built to be in charge of the productions I’m involved in.
It’s interesting you say that self-hypnosis and autogenetic training quieten down the brain because now, more than ever, our attention are constantly under siege from competing distractions. Do you want to challenge this development?
I want to challenge it, that’s why my songs are reaching ever-longer lengths. I want to do the opposite of providing instant hits. Not hit music, but an instant hit. I don’t want to be a “one listen thing”. I want to create music as a place to exist in for a period of time, or a story, rather than just an immediate sensation.
You mention avoiding the idea of the instant hit—a drug reference right there—and this is detectable in the structure of the record: going out, coming up, coming down. And certainly as much attention is given to the coming down part . . .
More so actually. I find it to be the more emotionally resonant bit of the experience. I guess it’s inspired by some life events, some really long parties, kind of two day parties, where you push it to the absolute limit and you bond with people in an extraordinary way. It’s almost a year of friendship in one night. I’ve had these crazy nights, I went through a phase of really pushing that. And the album wasn’t really started until after that. Because you can’t write when you are doing that but it is maybe something you need to go through once in your life. And I found there is this really melancholy and beautiful element when that feeling finally leaves you. Before you hit the empty few days after. There is the magical bit where you are gently still feeling something.
What parties were you going to?
I’m not really into clubbing so I guess most of these were just at houses of really good friends. Everyone playing everyone all their favorite music and all kinds of emotions going on—no sleep at all. These things sometimes get triviliazied in some way, people say they aren’t real. But it is a very real experience and maybe people who haven’t experienced that don’t understand how profound it can be to go through.
Of course, the memories of those experiences are as real as any other.
It’s totally real. Reality is only perception anyway, if you feel like something, then that is what is happening. The important thing is to be with the right people, because that’s what makes it genuine. We all had nights where you were with a bunch of random people who you realise later on you don’t like. Where you realise when you are back at some random house and go “Who are these people and why am I here?”. That’s not so good.
When you look back and cringe?
Of course. It’s not those ones so much that I am thinking about though. But these days I don’t really party like that at all, but I have enough in my memory. Also, something I found out is that through these experiences, and through meditation and various forms of yoga, is that they all have the same ultimate goal: to be entirely present but also to be open to that feeling of being in a trance and letting things just wash over you and just existing within a period. And that’s when music and sounds are at the best they can possibly sound. The track “Sun Harmonics” is written specifically for the very end of one of those experiences, like midday—or whatever time you finish—really just because I wanted to hear it myself. A lot of music you write because you want to hear it and no-one else has written it.
After the release of your second album you kind of went behind the scenes for a few years. Now that Immunity has been so successful, does it feel strange suddenly having attention directed back onto you?
Basically if the second album had done well, I would have been doing all that ten years ago. And in fact, as a slightly arrogant young man, I kind of assumed it was going to do big things because I was really proud of it and, you know, spent a year on it. I thought “Am I ready for this? This is going to be so exciting!” and then literally nothing happened at all. And it had tunes on it that were so strong and it had no attention, no reviews or anything. That was quite a massive learning experience and kind of difficult experience to go through. But had that not happened I would not have learned how to work with vocalists and learnt how to do film scores and do all the collaborations that I did. And I was never going to leave solo music alone forever, I just left it alone for a few years. I started writing again slowly by 2006, piecing things together again and by 2008 there was another album ready. Again that one made some inroads and then finally this one, the last one, capitalized on everything that had happened.
Why do you think that second album didn’t land?
Listening to it now, it’s just because it’s really pristine and polite. I thought it was quite edgy then but I just wasn’t listening to much stuff. I wasn’t aware of how much further people were pushing things sonically. I think melodically it has a lot of strength and I would almost like to rework some of those tracks some day although I will probably never get round to doing that. But there is a few tracks in there which can potentially be really big dancefloor tracks but it’s just sonically so pristine and perfect sounding, and not in a very good way, I just don’t think it had any edge.
Do you listen back to your first album at all?
Quite rarely. There are a few tracks on there that I will always like but anything that has drums in I can’t really listen to. It’s just cringeworthy. You know, those beats were done in 1999 and if I was to still think they were good now then I wouldn’t have changed style at all. It’s important to write off your past. But melodically some of it I love. Some of the atmospheres are really nice.
You went on tour with Coldplay. When I spoke to Joe Mount from Metronomy, who also supported Coldplay, he said that there was no one in the audience for them. Did you find it tough?
I had a huge amount of respect for Coldplay for having a complete unknown, because this was even before Insides came out. The music from Insides was a lot edgier in terms of rhythm and weirder than the Immunity stuff. The animations I had with it were completely warped. But it was the only way I could do something that excited me and I didn’t want to re-hash the second album, I wanted to do something really weird. It was almost like a film, a multimedia experience . . . But yeah I didn’t often enjoy the shows because playing to twenty thousand people, you might engage about a hundred of them. Which is still a good amount of people—if you do thirty shows like that then you still got three thousand new fans. But the ratio was not great. If they had a band like Elbow support them instead, people would have flocked to them. But I admire them for being daring like that. I think Chris thought I had more of a live profile than I actually had. It was actually my first tour though.
Oh no. Didn’t they know that?
No, I didn’t mention it. They asked if I wanted to open and I just said yes, because you can’t really say no can you?! He saw a little video, I was doing like maybe one or two shows a year, and he thought it was great. He probably thought “Ok, he can do this”. He thought I was much bigger than I was.
So actually playing must have been really nerve wracking.
Beyond that, really, almost funny. The first show was Brixton Academy, which was a rehearsal show in front of an audience. Four thousand is considered small for them. That was alright, but the next one was Madison Square Gardens, which was twenty thousand people. I was actually laughing while I was playing because I thought, “What the hell is going on here?” It was hilarious. People thought it meant that I was having a great time. I was having a great time! I drank a lot of vodka before the show. Occasionally, when we played in the less obvious places like Salt Lake City or Kansas, where I was expecting to get the worst response, I actually got the best reponse. People that never had seen or heard this kind of thing, the younger crowd were really excited by it. And it was more places like New York or Montreal or Chicago where they didn’t really register. It was weird, you couldn’t really guess where it would go.
You worked with Brian Eno on producing Coldplay. Do you know what record of yours Eno heard where he decided he wanted to hook up with you?
There wasn’t one. There was a mutual collaborator, Leo Abrahams, who is a really old friend of mine and who I had jammed with for years. He met Brian and they made a lot music by improvisation together. And Brian asked if there was anyone else he wanted to invite to join the jam sessions, because he wanted to make Another Day On Earth at the time, and Leo invited me. He actually didn’t listen to my solo music for years, he wasn’t really interested. But he’s just not that kind of listener, I don’t think he explores that many albums by random young artists. But he liked Immunity a lot, he responded really well to that.
What did he say?
Well, his way of telling me that he liked it was that he wrote me an email telling me he had gotten into conversation with a psychologist at a hospital who’d had a lot of success playing it to psychologically ill people. He was trying to explain how it had a lot of therapeutic effects.
How did you feel about that?
That’s incredible and returns to the idea about creating music for people to exist in. What did he say exactly?
I can’t remember exactly how he phrased it, I should dig out the email really. What’s been weird about it is that I had responses from a really wide cross-section of people. I get really nice messages through my website or whereever from people who found it helpful through some difficult time. Which is always an honor, people saying that. ~
Each week, Moritz Gayard rounds up the week’s best music videos so you don’t have to.
This week marks a turn in the always uninspiring YouTube vs GEMA story (sorry, your video is blocked) here in Germany. Per today, VEVO is now airing the latest music videos online, and the most important thing is that they’ve got a contract signed by no other than all the three major labels which are left. Though not all videos below are VEVO videos, which are watchable in Germany without restrictions, I am pretty sure that the VEVO deal will change the game for better music video enjoyment. Let’s start.
#1 Toro Y Moi – “Rose Quartz”, directed and painted by Lauren Gregory
An amazing stop motion oil painting is what you can see in the video for Toro Y Moi’s “Rose Quartz”, the new single from his third LP Anything In Return, out via Carpark Records.
#2 Keep Shelly in Athens – “Recollection”, directed by Lamar & Nik
The new video for Keep Shelly In Athens‘ track “Recollection” has it all: a woman, an old high school, some bubbles, and a mystery. Check it out above.
#3 Jon Hopkins feat. Purity Ring – “Breathe This Air” directed by Anthony Dickenson
Last month Jon Hopkins added Purity Ring’s Megan James’ vocals over his track “Breathe This Air”, taken from his latest 2013 release Immunity. The video is sort of NSFW: you’ll see gun violence and a naked girl…
#4 Autre Ne Veut – “Ego Free Sex Free”, directed by Allie Avital Tsypin
Watch the minimal new visuals for Autre Ne Veut’s “Ego Free Sex Free”, one of the standouts from the brilliant Anxiety LP, released through Software.
#5 Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip – “Gold Teeth”
Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip are back. “Gold Teeth” is the first single from their forthcoming new album, Repent, Replenish, Repeat. As the boys say, “This is what the classic ‘rapper in a strip club’ video would look like if half the industry didn’t lie about how rich they were.”
#6 A$AP Rocky – “Fashion Killa”, directed by Virgil Abloh
Anyone up for shopping with Rihanna?
#7 Brodinski feat. Theophilus London – “Gimme Back the Night”, directed by HELMI
While out in Los Angeles, Brodinski and Theophilus London filmed the visual for their collaborative track, “Gimme Back the Night”. The DJ/producer filmed the entire thing with a tiny camera that he kept inside of his mouth for twenty-four hours.
#8 RJD2 – “Her Majesty’s Socialist Request”
Philly-based beatsmith RJD2 has a new album to release soon. Above is the first teaser which takes you on a New York City tour.
#9 Tim Hecker – “Black Refraction”, video by Sabrina Ratté
Up for some beautiful melancholia? Then head in to Tim Hecker‘s “Black Refractions”, taken from his new album Virgins.
#10 Forest Swords – “Thor’s Stone”, directed by David Ma
“There was a moment around 3am when I felt a pure sense of all the elements coming together perfectly,” recalls David Ma of shooting the video to Forest Swords’ atmospheric track “Thor’s Stone”. Filmed overnight in the industrial outskirts of downtown Los Angeles.~
For previous editions of Videodrome, click here.
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Dan Deacon has been an underground agitator since the early ’00s, when he first broke out of the local music scene in Baltimore. His academic background – he studied at the State University New York’s music conservatory – has endowed his bit-crunched and brash compositions with a sense of purpose and poise. In other words, he’s experimental without being a dick about it.
His eighth album America, aside from being one of his most most sonically naked records he’s ever made, is also a deeply political record which sees Deacon tackling the sort of issues that begin to take hold when you step away from the internet or look up from your phone. He’s even gone so far as to print the lyrics with the record for the first time. It’s an interesting development, and we tracked him down on a flying visit to Berlin to find out what’s behind it. Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Listening to this record, my first response was how beautiful and expansive it is— particularly compared to your earlier records, which felt much more processed.
Most of the music is geography-based. I feel like that’s one of the things that I get the most inspiration from. I’ve done endless road trips in the United States, you go from these city centers that are largely crumbling – many cities in the States are crumbling, old post-industrial, especially on the East Coast where I live. Then you drive out of the cities and you’re instantly in these beautiful wonderlands of earth. I really like that. I don’t drive myself, so when I do travel I look out the window. It’s these two juxtaposed influences: one being the music which is influenced by geography and the other being the lyrics, which are influenced by the other side of things…mainly my role in what I perceive to be a system that I don’t want to be a part of. But there’s no way not to be a part of it.
What do you mean exactly?
Most of technology comes out of comfort and ease; it’s trying to make our lives easier and easier. I think of it like a scale: that the more comfortable I am actually means I am making someone else more uncomfortable. Especially when you see those photos of piles and piles of old computers.
Like the “Intolerable Beauty” series of photographs by Chris Jordan which forces you to confront the amount of electronic waste we create. It’s profoundly distressing.
I can’t complain about fracking and the use of natural gas if I still want my house to be the perfect temperature. I feel like there’s a dialogue between the music and the lyrics. I wanted to retain an optimism. I used to be quite nihilistic and almost wanted humanity to fade into the ether and disappear off the earth.
Do you think the gradual shift from nihilism to hope could also be a product of maturity?
It could be. Probably. A lot of people are nihilists in their twenties…you start to become aware of your role in the system. You want the system to collapse, especially if you’re counter-culture, and most musicians tend to be, well, at least hoping that they’re counterculture. Maybe not. Maybe musicians now want to be the mainstream.
It’s strange how music is apolitical now. It’s reflected within the music press, once a platform for angry left-wing politics. A lot of music press is trying to have the next new thing and essentially that’s quite hollow. If there’s no substance in that then you’re just like the people who write “first!” in the comments.
That’s the nature of capitalism: new, new, new, new. Or Greatest Hits. The music press is conservative: look at their advertising base. People are advertising in those magazines for very specific reasons: because of the demographics that they reach.
You recently brought out a phone app. How does this square with your worldview? Your place in the system?
It doesn’t. I think it fits in with my general aesthetic, though maybe aesthetic is the wrong word. I think the basis of my work tries to revolve around changing contexts, and when I play live I try recontextualize the space as much as possible. I utilize the audience as if they’re another instrument, or another element of the performance so that they’re not just there to watch but to actively participate. However, if you put too much emphasis on the audience, it’s no longer an entertainment they signed up for because they internalize it differently. I like to think people realize they are both an individual and a member of a group: there’s no real division of those things in how we live our lives. We live our lives as individuals but also as members of a society, and that society has common rules and boundaries and codes and conducts. Even counter-culture has those rules. Do you remember when you used to be bored and you used to be able to think? Now you play a game or send an email.
You’ve called the record America – aside from the topographical reasons, you don’t call an album that without betraying a bald sense of ambition.
It’s a big word. I wanted a title that would serve many different emotions. Nobody internalizes that word in the same way. It’s a mixture of love, hate, pride and shame, especially within America. I can only imagine what this word means to Europeans, in the UK or Asia. But you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard the word. A lot of Americans are obsessed with trying to not associate with being American, and that in itself is American. When Americans think of a stereotypical American they think of someone who is not them. “Oh it’s these Republicans from the South”, “oh it’s these New England liberals” etc. Especially within youth culture. A lot of politicians and corporations are like “this is what America’s about” and most of the time I’m like “no it’s not.” I wanted to contribute to that dialogue: America is also this. But it’s not a patriotic record.
…because Patriotism has certain connotations?
There’s no need for countries. It’s another way of dividing and defining people, creating these differences. Cultures obviously exist; there’s a difference between British culture and German culture. I could move to Paris and live there for 40 years and when I’m 70 I’ll still be an American who lives in Paris.
In the same way you can strive to construct an identity, but that doesn’t always translate to how people process you.
I think identity is a big theme on the record. More like me questioning my role and coming to terms what I’m to do if I’m to better the world. And the only way to better the world is to better myself, Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” sort of style!
Again, that’s quite a grand statement.
I’m not trying to contribute to some sort of dialogue when all you’re doing is creating candy. Candy is nice. I ate a piece a moment ago and it was great. At the same time, I can’t thrive on it. There’s so much sugar and insincerity within the indie scene and pop music. I wanted to create something that had an additional element. I want it to be successful in the sense that a group of friends can get together and take bong rips and chill but they can also really listen to it. And maybe it would cause them to ask some questions in their head. I think that’s the most important thing someone can do: get someone to think and to start asking questions.
Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus have come to be poster boys for a very precise kind of pop music. Indie-informed and highly literate in dancefloor forms, they’ve mastered the art of courting critical praise and building up loyal fans on the ground.
Now, they’re in a state of flux. Interesting flux. Exciting flux. But definitely flux. Despite living on different continents and working across different time zones, they’ve managed to release four full lengths since 2004 (including one of the best albums of 2006 So This Is Goodbye). Now, with their album contract ending with the Domino label, their re-evaluating what comes next. EB’s Moritz Gayard went backstage at Electronic Beats Festival Budapest, to find out where the duo go from here, why they’re foreshadowing a move away from albums for smaller vinyl releases and which one of them has a hankering to make r’n’b.
Moritz Gayard: Welcome to Budapest. There was something new which you just rehearsed, is there going to be a new album?
Jeremy Greenspan: No. I think it’s going to be for an EP or a 12″ or something like that.
MG: A digital release?
JG: We’d probably do it on vinyl I would hope.
MG: Will you release it through Domino?
JG: I’d love to put that release out on a small label.
MG:One of you is living in Berlin, what does that mean for the band when one of you is in Canada and one of you in in Berlin?
Matt Didemus: It’s been five years so …
MG: Do you feel like a Berliner?
MD: Does anybody feel like a Berliner?
MG: If you want to work on something do you do it via filesharing?
MD: Not much, we fly more often than we … file.
JG: I have a couple of days off in Berlin so we’ll go and do a video or something like that. That’s why our albums take so long to make.
MD: We don’t have any pressure to do an album at the moment because we’ve just finished a contract so we have some time to decide what to do.
MG: Do you want to remain linked with a label like Domino which has a reputation or, like Mostly Robot playing here, their label is Native Instruments which is known for making software rather than being a label.
JG: I think that if we were going to be doing an album we would want to be with a label like Domino but at the moment we don’t have any plans to work on an album. I’m much more excited to work on 12″s right now. It’s so much less pressure, it’s more inspiring.
MD: It’s more fun.
MG: Isn’t it a different audience?
MD: I don’t know how important album culture is anymore apart from maybe in the world of press. We all listen to single tracks. I know so few people who listen to albums.
MG: We do album listenings at EB and now whenever I hear a single track from the listening session I’m reminded of when I first heard it and took my time to listen, because that’s the artist’s intention.
JG: We do like making albums.
MG: You do have fans who are perhaps expecting an album release?
JG: I think they would like some EPs too. I think albums are too longs these days. Classic albums, to fit on a piece of vinyl, should be 35 minutes or something like that. That’s how long I think an album should be. If we could get away with making albums that were 35 minutes I think I’d be into that but people nowadays want a 60 minutes album and that’s too long.
MG: You’re not working on an album, but what are you working on?
JG: At home I do a lot of mixing of other bands. I mixed part of the last Caribou record. Actually, Dan Snaith has a record label has a record label called Jialong and I released a 12″ on that and I’ve got another two of them planned for this year. I’ve a studio at home that I work at all the time.
MG: There’s a lot of good bands coming out of Canada at the moment, Grimes, Purity Ring, D’eon …
JG: I don’t know all the bands but I’m friends with some bands from Canada, Caribou being the one that comes to mind the most.
MG: Your music has always been a mix of electronic and indie influences, what direction will the new EP or 12″ go in?
MD: We’ll see what happens, we always start things with the intention that we’ll go one way and then go another.
JG: I’ve just completed an album for a new artist named Jessy Lanza and that was me trying to work on stuff that sounded as much like r’n’b as I could. For us I don’t know. I had this vision of us working on more industrial sounding stuff but we think more in terms of equipment than styles, we think about what kind of equipment we want to use more than anything else. That’s what determines what it sounds like.