George Fitzgerald is an English musician living in Berlin who produces moving music that enlightens the listener. His debut album comes out April 27th and is an amazing ten track masterpiece that has clear intention the entire way through. I spoke with George about the ideas behind several tracks, his prior remixes, and the smallest shows he's ever played.
EARMILK: Hey George, to start this interview off I want to talk about your debut album, Fading Love. How long has this album been in the making?
George Fitzgerald: It's been about two years, but when I decided to make an album was longer before I began working. It has taken a long time and has been quite a journey so far. A lot of stuff has happened in between now and then. Fading Love is coming out April 27th on Domino Records.
EM: You chose only two vocalists to work with on the album yet you worked with them extensively for half the album. How did your collaborations with Boxed In and Lawrence Hart come about?
GF: I met them through the A&R that signed me to Domino. When I spoke with the label about their vision and my vision for what we could do together, we had a shared idea of where it could go.
GF: I wanted two vocalists from the start that weren't necessarily major label singers. I wanted it to be indie sounding, that's rough around the edges and not really polished. I met them naturally through the label and we really hit it off.
GF: I didn't see any point in working with any other vocalists. I always want a maximum of two artists on an album because otherwise it turns into a guest collaborative work. Once I met those guys it was just a case of getting the balance right between the right vocals and instrumentals.
EM: So you met on several occasions to collaboratively work together? Are both Lawrence Hart and Boxed In from England?
GF: Yeah, they're both from England, living in London. We hung out loads while making Fading Love and we're really good friends now. They came out for long stretches at a time in Berlin to work with me.
GF: They contribute a huge amount to the album, just by myself meeting those two and getting a different perspective on the way they approach things. It was the first time I ever worked with someone properly.
EM: It's interesting that you feel you want a minimal album in the aspect of having fewer artists work with you. That's something you don't find very often right now, so what makes you think that's more valuable when there are less musicians?
GF: Well this goes back to the philosophy behind an album. Basically most electronic albums and especially dance albums aren't worth the time. If you're lucky there are a few singles or stand out tracks, but most people cannot manage to make a body of work that sounds coherent from start to finish. It's meant to be played all together, it's not about two good tracks and the rest is fuller. That's a real album to me.
GF: I know the album seems like an outdated format these days and it's getting harder for people to concentrate on it like that. It was something I really wanted to do and I didn't want any more than two vocalists. There had to be a balance and flow between vocal and instrumental songs on my album as well.
EM: "Two Faces" is probably my favourite song on the album because of how you move around with the sound scape. How did the idea behind shifting tones come about for this particular song?
GF: (laughs) That one was my nemesis track. That was the last song to be finished and it was only something that started off as the first and the last parts. I must have made twenty different versions of that track over a year.
GF: I thought it was cool to make a really evil techno track until it fakes out into an intimate thing in the middle. It happened spontaneously in the studio, I just changed a few things and it felt perfect. The reason it sounds split is because it took so long to make and there are so many different stages of the composition. I like it like that though.
EM: Was there ever a mind-state you would enter when producing the dark and earthy melodies that seem consistent throughout Fading Love?
GF: A couple of people at Domino said to me that I'm not a particularly sad person, but it is quite a melancholy album. It did chart certain things happening in my life at the time. Writing the album wasn't the easiest period I had on a personal level. I think I threw a lot of that into it. This is not necessarily for the dance floor, it's not necessarily for headphones, but it is incredibly personal. I can listen to all the tracks and know exactly why I wrote them.
EM: So will you still play this album out live or did you make this for the sake of an album?
GF: I didn't think at the time how I would use it in a live performance. I am putting together a live set now that will be separate from my DJ set. Some of those tracks are not playable in a club context, you can maybe play them at the first or last track in a set.
EM: Your remix of Jon Hopkin's track, "Open Eye Signal" hits a new level of spooky moods. How did this remix come about? Was it facilitated completely online?
GF: It came about because Jon is on the same sub-label as me. He approached me to do it and I was really glad to do it because I have a lot of respect for him as a producer. His last album was absolutely amazing. "Open Eye Signal" is a very well loved track so it felt like a real challenge to remix it.
EM: How do you find collaborations and remixes are changing now? Do musicians operate solely online now or are musicians still meeting face to face?
GF: For quite a while now it's been very possible to make a record with someone without having ever met them. That happens a lot now and is part of modern music. Unless you have a pre existing relationship or things just click very well, you're always better off being in the studio together.
GF: It's a very personal thing making music with someone. I don't believe it's an adequate substitute to email music back and forth. It makes it more of a collaboration than somebody at the end of an email.
GF: When you communicate back in forth over email, you can't do anything together simultaneously. When you're in the studio though you can do two things at once. You can be working in response to each other live.
EM: Where are three of your favourite places to DJ a more experimental set?
GF: Panorama Bar in Berlin, you can play for a long time and people have the patience for you to take them on a journey. Studio 80 in Amsterdam, that's a small club and definitely one of my favourites. Golden Poodle in Hamburg, that's an old punk vibe, but it has a cult following in Europe. You can literally play whatever you want and no one will ever question it.
EM: Where are you originally from?
GF: I'm from London, England.
EM: So how long have you been living in Berlin?
GF: I first moved to Berlin ten years ago, but I moved back to London after that. Now after coming back I've been here for three years. I originally moved here because I was working as a translator here. This was before I made music.
EM: I've only heard positive things about Berlin as a welcoming and creative place. What do you think makes Berlin stick out in comparison to other European cities?
GF: Well it's quite simple, it's cheap, there's a lot of space, and it's a capital city. There is a lot of culture here, there always has been. People from Germany and all around Europe started moving here and that made it a cultural hot spot globally.
GF: There is more space and more time here, it's not as stressful as other big cities. London is like living in New York, I love it, but it's super intense. I do go back to London a lot because I mainly work there, but I always love coming back to Berlin. It's very chilled out and has bohemian energy.
EM: As an artist, do you have more options and opportunities to network yourself and share your music in Berlin's culture?
GF: To be honest, with the Internet I don't think you're at much more of an advantage living in cities these days. I guess there is more of an infrastructure that you can use to be inspired, like great clubs, record stores, and a community of people interested in similar things.
GF: It can also work negatively though because there are a lot of broken dreams in Berlin. What LA is to actors, Berlin is to techno DJs. There are so many people from "x" city that make techno, come to Berlin, and try to make it professionally. But who knows, maybe at home they felt like there wasn't a scene to sustain what they're doing. It's a difficult topic.
EM: This is the second part of my Interview. I have a series of quick questions so answer in one sentence only. You can elaborate where necessary.
GF: Okay, cool!
EM: Longest DJ set you've ever played?
GF: 6 hours, it was in Berghain. Theclub is also called Berghain and the room is Panarama Bar. I started at 3am and I played four hours, took a break, and then played the last two hours.
EM: Last show you visited, but didn't play at?
GF: Last Sunday I went to see Joy Orbison in the Panarama Bar as well.
EM: Weirdest place you've ever been recognized?
GF: I got recognized by a 60 year old cab driver the other day in Liverpool. That was kind of strange…
EM: Smallest crowd you've played in front of? Has to be at least one person.
GF: Well I've definitely played to three or four people back when I was DJing as a student. I used to play in a bar in Berlin every Wednesday for free beer. I've done my fair share of shitty gigs along the way so I appreciate what it is to play to empty rooms and feel like you aren't getting the recognition you deserve. *laughs*
EM: The best thing you've ever had to sign from a fan?
GF: It wasn't a signature, but there was a group of guys from Australia who made me pose with a silver squirrel. I've met more than one of these people from Australia who came to Europe and said, "You're George! You were holding the squirrel!". When I went out to Australia people everywhere knew me as the dude who held the silver squirrel. It's the fucking strangest thing, but it's really funny.
EM: Your favourite remix that you've made of someone else?
GF: I think that Jon Hopkin's remix, that's my favourite one.
EM: The best remix you've heard of your own music?
GF: I think a NY Stomp remix of a track I did called "Child".
EM: Who would you collaborate with from another genre entirely?
GF: Beth Orton from Portishead. She's got my favourite voice that I've ever heard.
EM: First thing you do when you get to a hotel room?
GF: Uh … (laughs) Jump face down onto the bed probably.
EM: Weapon of choice in a post apocalyptic world?
GF: A flame thrower.
EM: What happens when you run out of gasoline?
GF: I don't know. I would hope by that time I would have taken control of all the gasoline supply left.
EM: Lastly, what time of milk do you usually drink?
GF: I drink full fat milk because I don't drink it very often.
EM: Awesome George! It is a real pleasure speaking with you today. I'm really looking forward to the release of your album!