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Music & clubs

“Everywhere else you can’t – Berlin is a big machine”

A chat with... Fairmont. Berlin-based since 2003, Jeff Fairley has been a hot commodity since his 2005 single "Gazebo" dropped. On December 8, he performs at Watergate with Sascha Funke and more.

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Photo by Meghan Rennie

Canadian native Jake Fairley has been living part-time in Berlin since 2003 and had his commercial breakthrough in 2005 with the single Gazebo, released under his alter ego Fairmont and frequently remixed by electro hot shots such as Sébastien Léger. On December 8 he’ll perform his moody techno with his signature fragile live vocals in Watergate with Sascha Funke and Mitja Prinz.

How do you get excited about techno in Canada?

Even though it’s not as big in Berlin, even in Toronto there’s an electronic scene. The major difference is that it’s much harder to make a living of it. I think that’s something that not all Europeans get: everywhere else in the world you can’t really make a go of it. There’s simply not enough happening whereas in Berlin it’s a big machine.

It was pretty much a DIY project when you first came here…

I had some really hard years where I had absolutely no money and was basically struggling to get by although I actually played a lot more when I was trying to establish myself. I’m actually not that musically gifted. I was completely tone-deaf and really bad with rhythm as well, but you can teach yourself almost anything. But now where I’ve come to a point where I can make an okay living it makes me appreciate it even more. Now I can release my things whenever it’s finished and not a minute before. And if my work is not as appreciated as I wanted, it’s not a disaster anymore.

Your sound is quite different from the signature Berlin techno…

I wasn’t really so much influenced by being in Europe or Berlin or by any movement in particular. But I can of course get some momentum by being attached to the techno genre because there’s an excitement about it here. I get inspired pretty much everywhere I go. Berlin is still the place where I’ve played the most and therefore it has helped me develop for instance my live performance.

So what is special about your live performance?

I guess my real goal is combining straight techno stuff with a danceable momentum as well as having some technically experimental aspects. On top of that I like to have some aspects from a concert with my live vocals. It really takes something special to keep everyone interested. I talk from experience. I’ve had people request The Black Eyed Peas during one of my live shows as well as some asking me to turn it down. I’ve also been spinning records for friends in clubs, but the few times I did that the staff of the club was complaining because I was not playing live. So I don’t think you’ll see me DJing in Berlin anymore.

You might not be DJing, but you’ve formed a rock band….

I think it’s good to have some different outlets so that you can take a break from one thing, give it a rest and then be all excited about it again. The hard part is not getting distracted from the one that is your life and you make a living from. But I really enjoy it.

Is “I Need Medicine” an ode to the drug-flow here?

I did drugs even before I came to Berlin, but it’s hard not to catch the drug fever here. The idea of this song is going back to high school, though, where I had my first experiences with the psychedelic stuff. That’s also why the sound is so influenced by the trippy melodic techno that I liked in the 1990s.

Your music is quite moody. Does that reflect your persona?

Like if I’m a dark person? Yeah! You can just ask my friends and family about that. I can be quite moody and pessimistic at times. But I really try not to let myself get too infected. My next album should be out next year and it will be a lot darker. It will be gothy and creepy and with more pop vocals.

Does the dark sound mean you’re still not satisfied?

It’s just the sound that I like right now. I guess it doesn’t have to connect with the life that I’m living. Also there’s a difference between spooky and creepy compared to angry or depressive. So it’s not sad but more leaning towards the psychedelic.