Crossing Borders

24 March 2012 | 10:05 am | Cyclone Wehner

Canada's Fairmont, aka Jacob “Jake” Fairley, is the dark horse of James Holden's Border Community stable. He might not have had a hit as ubiquitous as Nathan Fake's neo-psychedelic The Sky Was Pink, but Gazebo came close – and his 2007 album Coloured In Memory surpasses even Junior Boys' finest for its emotronica peaks.

The Toronto native has an indie rock pedigree but, being a skateboard kid, there was also a b-boy phase. “Like a lot of people in the skateboard scene of the '90s, I got really into hip hop for a while,” Fairley divulges. “The stuff that was coming out around '92 and '93 was really exciting at the time. I loved the beats most of all. That's actually how I got interested in production.” And this, he reckons, saved him from potential career failure. “My dream was to be a pro skater, but I was simply not good enough. It's probably for the best that I ended up doing this [music] instead.” Recording under his birthname, Fairley's earliest music, minimal techno, was picked up by Toronto's Dumb-Unit circa 2000. Germany's Sender Records issued his debut album, Crisis. But, around the same time, Fairley began experimenting with vocal (and 'romantic') music as Fairmont, his Paper Stars LP materialising on Traum Schallplatten. The Pet Shop Boys included the Fairmont track Traum on their Back To Mine. “That was pretty cool – especially because it was a 'best-of-all-time' kind of CD.” However, it was the tune Gazebo of 2005 on Border Community that really established Fairmont as a countercultural 'star'. Along the way, the live performer (he doesn't DJ) became a nomad, moving to Berlin and, later, the Netherlands. “Most of my gigs are in Europe, so I spend about half my time there. At first I just stayed in Berlin, but now I kind of bounce around. Last year I was in Barcelona for the whole winter. That's something I want to do again. Now I'm in Rotterdam, which I'm liking a lot as well.”

In 2011 Fairley offered the buzzworthy Velora EP – but there's no sign of a third Fairmont full-length. “I've been working on a new album for a while. I can't say when to expect it, but it's coming.” Regardless, the Fairmont sound continues to mutate. “I've always liked a variety of music. Around the time of Coloured…, I was really into a lot of stuff from the '70s and some '90s stuff. Now I'm a bit more into early '80s stuff and a tiny bit of disco – I think you can hear that on the Velora EP.” Fairmont was never about club music – and Fairley is gratified to have fans beyond the EDM 'scene'. “I think it's about 50/50,” he contemplates. “That's something I'm really proud of. Working within the confines of a specific scene, and simply adopting a section of its fanbase, isn't so exciting to me. Having a diverse [following] also reflects the kind of guy I am.” 

Lately Fairley, the co-owner of the techno imprint Beachcoma, has been going back to his indie roots, gigging with a (chillwavey) band. “I have a band called Bishop Morocco with a few friends from Toronto. At first it was just something we did in our spare time, but now it's getting more serious.” Bishop Morocco played Austin, Texas the previous night for SXSW, he reveals. “I've never done the whole band tour thing, so it's pretty fun for me to do it finally.” And Fairley still skateboards. “I quit for about 11 years, but now it's a big part of my life again!” 

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Fairley is coming to Australia for the first time with the Border Community tour. What can the fabled hardware buff say of his live show? “I'm pretty happy with my set these days,” he responds. “I started bringing a bit more gear, which has been a lot of fun. I think it makes for a better show, too. I'll play some tracks from my last EPs, a couple of oldies, and a bunch of unreleased stuff.”