Fairmont aka Jake Fairley is an electronic music producer, live performer and DJ from Toronto, Canada. He’s made releases for labels such as Border Community, Kompakt, My Favorite Robot and Beachcoma. Project Insides had a talk with Fairmont about ‘going all in’, his dark side and his creative process.
So when did you know you really wanted to get into music?
I was in my late teens when I first started. I would daydream about releasing records or doing a show. I wondered if it could be possible to make a living out of it. It seemed very unlikely. Only a very small percentage of people who are making music have the good fortune to have that life. So of course I was skeptical and my parents were evgen much more skeptical.
They did not really agree with your ambitions?
Not really, no. In Canada, all my friends growing up were much more from the rock and roll world. But they were all very talented musically. They picked up instruments, wrote songs and had bands. I was not somebody that just had a natural talent for music. I did not have very good rhythm, I did not have a good ear for discovering the pitch of sound. These things got better and better when time went on. But nobody of all the people around me growing up, all of which were into music, nobody thought that it was going be me who actually made a living out of it. So it is a little funny and ironic that that’s how it turned out.
It seems a little bit of a lonely place as well, if no one believed in you.
I am happy because I think it builds a bit of an independence in terms of how I see things. Which probably explains how I ended up doing things in the way I do. At the time, it was a little bit lonely. I was always trying to get my friends to listen to my music but they would be super bored or be not interested at all.
l had enrolled in school to do an audio for film. Halfway through the program I dropped out. I guess this was the moment that I went all in with the music. I really wanted to give it a go. Within a year of that, myself, Jeremy Cofield and Sid Le Rock sold everything we had, got out of our apartments and found rooms in Europe. This was 2003. Which was obviously a struggle for the first few years.
So what is it that gave you the guts to go on a path that seemed like an uphill battle?
I don’t know. I get why my parents thought it was hopeless and silly but I just don’t know. I did not have a choice. I guess it was just blind ambition, that it was all I wanted. And you are younger, so you don’t really care about too much of anything. You don’t care if you don’t really have an apartment and just crash with friends. And you don’t care if you have 30 bucks on your bank account. Whether there is a gig in a few months, that’s all you worry about. The thought of having a gig and performing in front of people, and making a record that maybe a few people might buy. That’s so exciting that nothing else matters.
Did you have doubts along the way?
Of course, sure. But I guess not enough to hold me back. When you are that age and that excited by something of course you have doubts, but it’s like there is something propelling you, so you don’t question things as much. We were from Canada and we were very small. It seems that if we got to Germany we could make it work. And in the end, it did. But it sounds kind of ridiculous now talking about that.
It is great that life works that way. It’s the only way to make things work I think, by going all in.
Yeah, it’s funny. I haven’t thought about that in a long time, but it is true!
Where did you start in Europe? You went to Berlin right away?
I started out in Berlin. I was in Germany for 5 years or something, Then I spent a little time in the Netherlands and a bit of time in Belgium, and the last several years I have been in Spain. After all that time, I recently moved back to Toronto. Which is good, it’s a nice feeling to be home. My house now is like half a kilometer from the house I was born into. My dad lives, mom, brother and sister live nearby. So somehow, I ended up where I started that is actually a nice thing. It’s a good part of the city, a little bit rundown. It’s not exactly glamourous, but it’s nice and I can see the lake from my window right now. It’s not about the exact location, but the people. I have friends that I have known for over 30 years. Including the rock and roll people that got bored by my music in my early days.
Is there anything you miss about Europe?
It is easy for me, because I am there all the time for gigs. I think it would be harder if I headed back and retired from gigging. But the gigging makes I get the best of both worlds. I get to move from home and get to continue those relationships.
Let’s talk about your music. How can your personality be heard throughout your music?
My music is of course often a little bit dark. I’m a bit of a pessimist sometimes, I have a bit of a dark side. But there is usually a bit of humor sometimes or irony, it’s a little bit hidden. I guess it’s kind of balanced between something being dark and it can have melancholy but its not melodramatic. It still has hope. And that’s kind of like me I think.
What do you think is that dark side in you?
My brain doesn’t always concentrate on the good part of something. If somebody asks me how to describe something, I’ll say something positive, but then I will spend a longer time on what should be fixed about it. So it is not being dark per se, it’s sort of concentrating on what is problematic. And in music, happy music emotionally makes me sad and somber music provides a bit of a relief. I think a lot of people find it cathartic to listen to sad sounds. Something touches you from that kind of point. But some happy songs, yeah, I can get into them. But in general, I want to go to sleep or something when I hear really happy music.
Do you make the music or does the music flow through you? In other words: how does your creative process work?
The songs that really work best in the end are the ones that just sort of happen. The ones on which I laboriously work on until somehow it ends up being finished can also be great, but more often they never really quite come together in the same kind of way as when it just feels effortless. For example, ‘Carthage’. Although I spent a few weeks on it to make the finishing touches the whole thing happened in 15 minutes or something like that.
So what happens, do you think, in that process when it just happens? What is that?
Well, I guess luck. I was listening to a radio show, about a song called ‘Hallelujah’, this song from Leonard Cohen.
The song that Jeff Buckley covered.
Yeah, the one that Jeff Buckley covered. The Jeff Buckley cover was in fact the cover that John Cale covered. And it has since been covered by a lot of people. Apparently, Leonard Cohen had been working on this song for like 10 years. Then he finally released it on an album that nobody cared about, then John Cale covered it and it was released on a compilation that nobody listened to. And then Jeff Buckley was house sitting for a friend and randomly picked up this CD and randomly heard it. And then started covering it. Then he released it, people still weren’t interested, then he died. And then somehow this song came to life. Not only was it, like a random sequence of events that made him famous, but it was also laborious for Leonard Cohen in the first place to finish it. So it was a 25-year course before it’s really actually even finished and it was ten years just in his notebook, he had hundreds of verses. Apparently, that was often the way that Leonard Cohen was working. There is some famous story where he was chatting with Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan was like “I love that song! How long did it take?” And he said “oh, ten years”. Leonard Cohen asked Bob Dylan “And what about this song from you?” And Bob Dylan was like “Oh yeah, yeah, 5 minutes”. Which sort of summed up both of their characters. And both of them write great songs. So, who’s to say?
So we could say you are in the Bob Dylan camp of song writing when it comes to the time you need for creating a great song.
Yeah, but it happens so rarely (laughs). So most of the time in the studio, nothing is happening. Or stuff happens and it goes in the garbage can. The last few years I’ve been trying to figure out how to best use my time when I’m in the studio in order to minimize the amount of wasted time. I kind of anticipate when I’m in the right mood so that if I go into the studio now, for an hour and a half, something will happen. Rather than ‘this week I’m gonna go to the studio everyday’. Then it’s possible that I can be there all day every day and nothing with quality would come from it. It’s tricky.
How has your music evolved over time?
It is mostly within a ballpark of a small amount of music. For me there are probably big differences. Depending on the person it might have moved more or less compared to what I think. And then over different period of time it moved quicker or slower. So when I was young, the first few years I was doing stuff, I moved very quickly. The first record I ever made was in 2000. A sort of a minimal techno record. Then I was making quite aggressive electro rock stuff for a couple years. After that I started working as Fairmont doing the Border Community stuff. That was all within a period of four years.
The last 10 years it’s still constantly changing. At least for me, it would be boring if it wasn’t changing. But the changes are a little bit more subtle and slower. And things can come around again. Where my most recent music fits in terms of genre and style it could be described being much more similar to what I have done 4 or 5 years earlier. But it is still going forward, the end result was not repetitive of what I did before.
Your more recent music feels more energetic to me. Why is it that you feel the urge to become more energetic in your music?
I don’t think there was some giant decision. I got bored with music that had a faster tempo. Then I concentrated on going slower and slower for several years. Then I got bored with that. That’s the simplest answer. Luckily there are so many possibilities that are able to inspire me to move forward. It is very rare that I am not excited by music. The music that excites me is what changes. So I guess it is also about what is exciting that you hear other people doing. It’s not like I’m working in a vacuum.
So what kind of music inspires you today?
It is a real struggle to find the stuff that is exciting and inspiring but it is still possible. It hasn’t been the best summer for record shopping, but I still find stuff that I like and I am still able to find energetic, bigger techno records that have the dark psychedelic elements that I like.
The last few years I have been running the label Beachcoma. It puts me in contact with artists that I like because they are sending me stuff and I am involved in the process off them finishing songs and completing their work. Building a little community around yourself with artists and friends is also inspiring.
So running the Beachcoma label doesn’t pull you away from being the artist yourself?
You get to see how people work. I am involved in mixing the records for them or helping them figuring out what needs to be fixed. Sometimes it is nothing at all because the track is finished and perfect. But no matter what, just through discussing things with the artist about the release or their concerns makes you see their perspective. You are not just hearing a track that you buy, but you are also in communication with the person. So you hear a little bit through their ears, not just yours and that can be interesting, definitely.
About the Project Insides gig in Amsterdam. Can you tell us something about it, what can we expect?
I took all my machines and re-cased them in these plastic boxes. It’s been a lot of fun building these live machines that I am now using. It is very functional and it brought a new life at least for me for playing live. It is a lot of fun. And in terms of music, it’s always a good balance between unreleased stuff and old stuff. I try to change the set every 2 months. And keep shifting things between classics and stuff that nobody has heard before.
Fairmont will be playing a live show at the Insides Clubnight of May 18. Get your tickets here.