Timothy J. Fairplay – The Ransom Note ‘Techno Bass’ Mix
Timothy J. Fairplay is ace… fact. Never sitting still for a minute he's amassing a rather ridiculous aural CV of late. From being one of the founding members of the now sadly defunct Battant to Andrew Weatherall's engineer (and then going on to form The Asphodells with him) to running his own label – Crimes of the Future – with the equally excellent Scott Fraser. He also finds time to interview artists he's into for R$N from time to time including this excellent one with Legowelt.
We've been trying to get him to do us a mix for quite some time now… and we're pleased we waited. Mr Fairplay is going through a Techno Bass phase again and this is what the mix is constructed around. We've skirted around getting down to the studio to meet Tim for some time so took this as a key to rectify that. Whilst you read the output from that… get this in your ears:
So how long have you been in here?
About 8 years now and for the last 5 years I’ve expected to come in and find out that Andrew (Weatherall) has got a letter saying it’s all over. I think the thing is is that it’s a purpose built recording studio, I think it opened in 1979. If they wanted to rent it out to someone doing telesales or whatever – there’s a telesales place next door – they’d have to gut it so I think it’s easier for them to leave it rotting.
And you've always been in this space?
No my room used to be over there but now it’s a shop. Full of vintage basses and things. There’s flats next door now so you can’t make a racket on that side of the building any more. If you do it at night, an American woman comes down in her pyjamas and starts swearing at you.
The joy of Old Street! How it’s moved on.
I like the way that because it’s such an old-fashioned, for use of a better word, analogue studio but we’re actually in the middle of the silicon roundabout and everyone around us is into internet start-ups and we’re almost like a last bastian of the past here.
Flying the flag!
Flying the flag of using real electricity… It’s not quite as manky as it used to be when I first moved in at the end of The Swordsmen. There would be loads of binbags out there and no-one ever took the rubbish out. These days there’s even talk of getting a new carpet actually.
That’s pushing the boat out! Rather than gaffa-taping everything! <gestures to the carpet in the kitchen So How did you get involved with all of this?
Well Battant – excellent now defunct band with Chloe now C.A.R. – needed the rehearsal space and Andrew really liked us and a room over there came free and he just let us have it at this ridiculously low price basically, which was fantastic of him.
The first 3 or 4 years of me being down here I turned it into my little studio, really it was Battant’s rehearsal room, and then when I quit the band I said ‘I’m staying here, you lot are going’. At that point I didn’t have a job because I’d just been in Battant, I didn’t have a masterplan or anything – I was just looking for work, even though I was making music here. Only a couple of months after I quit the band, Andrew and his last engineer parted company.
So Andrew didn’t have an engineer at all and then he got asked to do the Grinderman remix and just came and asked me if I’d engineer that for him.
Ah I didn't realise you'd worked on that.
Yeah that was the first one I did – it all starts from there. Before then I’d done loads of session work for Andrew playing guitar and bass so I was used to working with him but I’d never engineered for him. I have to admit, the first time I did the mix I was shitting myself. Even though I was so used to being down here it was like ‘Andy’s relying on me for this one’. Anyway, it came good.
And what about all this equipment. Is it all yours?
Yeah I kind of started buying them all when I was in Battant but we didn’t use it loads in the band. I started using it on my own stuff and in the latter half of me being in the band, I got a bit annoyed with being the guitarist in the band. Basically I quit playing the guitar previously and started making electronic music and then Chloe found out I played the guitar and she asked me so that’s how I ended up doing it.
After the first record I just started really doing my own stuff, a lot of that stuff from that era is on the cassette for Cassette Store Day this year – it’s a few years old. About 4 of the tracks from that era ended up as being the first Astralab EP but there were the other 7 tunes which were sat on my hard drive for years. They’re not new, I have said that and not made out that they’re new – I’ll call it the Lost Recordings or something.
So did you do session stuff when Two Lone Swordsmen were doing stuff?
I’m not on the Two Lone Swordsmen albums but I’m playing guitar and bass on the A Pox On The Pioneers album. I think Chris did one or two of them maybe but the rest of them are me.
So as yourself and as Crimes output you don’t necessarily make the slower stuff at all do you?
To be honest I haven’t made anything slow in a couple of years now. We’re not quite making Lies records but we’re trying to define ourselves. A lot of that stuff I did that was slow that became Cosmic Disco, I didn’t realise I was making Cosmis Disco records – I was listening to a lot of Dr Dre so I like that slow swung 4/4 thing. I’d re-discovered all that and I was listening to a lot of John Carpenter and that kind of sound so that was why..
It’s very cinematic.
Yeah but I never intentionally made a new disco record.
It’s more mutant disco. I think that’s a much more flattering term.
There’s a lot of that stuff now, if I’m brutally honest I don’t listen to it and I’m not into that slow stuff with an arpeggiator on it.
It’s difficult because you just have imitators, you’ll always have them. Let’s not go down the whole deep house route but there was probably some alright stuff of that deeper sound being made and then it’s been bastardised and now it’s just this sea of grey. It’s what happens with anything isn’t it. But you can definitelyan industrial sound to it as well as being cinematic.
You have to remember that the biggest influence for me, the label I was obsessed with in the 00s was Bunker and all of the Dutch scene. At that point there was nobosy else that I gave a fuck about really. After Detroit kind of stopped. There were other things I didn’t mind, I was quite into dubstep early on.
Some of your recent things sound really 'bassy'!
I am a big fan of bass music and steppa dub, there is that there as well. I don’t particularly make noise music but I love noise music – when I was a teenager, I was a child of grunge really so I love noise and stuff that is intentionally a bit distorted and badly played, I don’t really like slickness in music.
You need to have the sheen taken off it somewhat, just smash up the edges a little bit.
I like stuff that is a bit subversive and that brings me round a bit into the idea for the mix. One of the other things that I really love is Detroit electro-funk or techno-funk and those sort of labels – Direct Beats, Keith Tucker Aux 88. Even though I haven’t put out a lot of stuff like it yet, I’ve always made things like that.
You could quite easily play your stuff next to it.
Yeah, and in the last 6 months I’ve heard things like Randomer on Lies and we’re getting really close back around to that electro-funk again.
And they’re starting to re-issue a lot of it again. You know that when the archives are being raided that there’s something bubbling along.
Yeah, I’m sure some of those labels are going to suddenly be the ones that everyone is saying they’re really into.
It’ll be the stuff you can pick up on Discogs for nothing now and it’ll suddenly jump up to crazy money. It’s such a strange circle isn’t it? It’s that cyclical thing of something being worth absolutely nothing because no-one gives a shit about about it and then suddenly it’s worth £50 quid.
It’s funny actually because recently on Discogs I’ve been buying lots of lesser known Djax stuff and loads of it’s amazing and I’ve been buying them for £1.70. I’d put money on them being worth more soon…
So back to the mix… what have you got coming out that reflects this shift in sound.
There’s a mini-album coming out on Emotional Response which is kind of the follow up to the EP from 2 years ago and about half the track on there you can hear the infleunce of Mad Mike and Electric Soul a bit more. It’s not all 4/4 and it’s me expressing… A lot of the stuff I do really, when I do things with Inner Sounds, I enjoy playing with genre and expressing my love for a particular sound so to do that by making a particular track which is an illusion to a genre. I guess some of the EP is that Detroit sound.
We had a new track on in the office the other day and it sounded like a track off of Tiny Reminders…
That was a huge record for me. When that came out I was still living in Chichester, I was 21 or something.
Same for me, I was probably working in Our Price.
Did you work in Our Price? I worked in Our Price! I used to put it on in there, I was the only one who liked it.
You were allowed that slot in the morning weren’t you? The free play when you don’t have to play shitty chart stuff…
Yeah! And that was a huge album for me then.
It’s funny that those kind of things you gravitate to in terms of your listening habits. Musically there’s always a thread of things that keep rearing their head.
1: The thing is, when it comes down to it, when you look back at what I’ve been into musically you wouldn’t really – until what’s happened in the last couple of years, what I’ve been tagged onto – call anything I’ve been tagged onto Balearic.
Not at all!
It’s more like rough techno. A lot of things that people don’t know about me, my friend Matilda who I do Xylophone with, we used to play ghetto-tech b2b. Like proper tits and arse, all that stuff, before it was referred to as juke. I don’t know if I’d ever have the guts to make stuff like that but I love it, I’ve got heaps of the stuff.
There’s no reason why you couldn’t…
Well I’d have to come up with another pseudonym wouldn’t I?
It’s great that people like Keith’s girlfriend Kirsti (Weir)have always been championing that proper electro sound. It’s nice to see it come back around again because, things shouldn’t be dictated by fashions, but it was deeply unfashionable at one point.
Yeah, I think maybe it’s coming out of that a little bit. The whole thing with that ‘booty’, or however you want to call it, sound is like the thing with Dancemania. I, without naming any names, know there’s quite a few people out that that witnessed me playing that kind of stuff at Haywire a few years ago and really dug me up about it and are now posting blogs online about it. They used to be like ‘fucking hell Tim, that stuff’s a bit cock-heavy isn’t it?’ and now they’re all ‘holier than though’ about it.
And they’re probably paying £40-£50 for them.
At that time I worked in The Exchange, where Richard Sen works, and I was at Uni still, I was just on of the numpty till-boys. They used to make me work in the bargain bit.
Yeah and you barely got anyone come down there, you’d just sit on your own half the day. I just went through the whole place, it’s why I’ve got so many Dancemania records – I bought them all for 50p. Every day I’d come out with a stack of stuff that was cheap like that. I remember them taking the piss out of me for buying it. I genuinely was really into it.
It must have been nice to pretty much listen to everything down there?
Yeah, there was nothing to do so I would just go through the whole of that basement down there.
There were some crackers down there, I’ve dug out some amazing records. Do they still have that?
I haven’t been in for a while so I’m not sure.
I would question how long it has left.
I saw Richard Sen the other day because Andrew just sold some of his records to them and one of the things that he said, because Andrew sold a lot of techno stuff, was ‘fucking hell this is going to be the best load of records we’ve had in The Exchange for ages’. I think the thing is that people are so aware these days – it’s so easy to know what something is worth. Maybe not what it’s really worth but what you’d get for it on Discogs so people if they’ve got something will sell it on eBay or Discogs or somewhere, rather than just going out to hock old records that you didn’t want and not knowing that you were getting ripped off by them. But that meant they got good stock.
Now promos don’t really exist any more and even if they do I'd imagine peopl would flog them on Discogs now. It’s good and bad in a way but it loses that discovery culture in a way – when you come across something you’re not going to have that time where you’re down in the basement.
It’s the taking a risk on something as well, you used to buy something and you’d think it might be good, it’s on a good label and it’s got a nice label – you’d buy it. Obviously sometimes you’d come back with something and it would be woefully disappointing but rather than these days where you can look it up…
And listen to it first, half the time not even ending up buying it.
Because you just realise you can play it online and you think ‘will I play this? probably not’.
There are probably lots of existential questions to be asked about that. How many copies do you sell of your vinyl releases on Crimes?
So they sell out?
We know the first couple have, we haven’t actually had the full numbers. There are 4 that are actually out.
Do you do anything like Bandcamp?
Well I think we’re going to start doing digital but we’re going to do it in a few different ways, there will be a Bandcamp but at the moment Juno do it all for us. The only thing that I do myself is the cassettes. I cut the sleeves myself.
Do you just get them done up in one job lot?
Yeah, there’s a company called Tapeline, in Birmingham I think, a very weird little company. You should look at their website because they sell all the different things – you can buy tapes in different colours. It’s obvious that someone who works there just spend their time on auction sites tracking down blank tape media from different parts of the world.
So it’s not new media?
Well I don’t know if anyone actually makes them any more, I think it must all be dead stock stuff. Suddenly there will be like ‘right, we’ve got 10,000 pink’ so you have to go on there and see what they’ve got. They’ve usually got white or black.
That’s a true limited run isn’t it? Not a falsified one like these days! So they just dupe everything for you?
Yeah, it’s like any other sort of mastering in a way. You send them the masters and they dupe all the tapes for you and then you get sent a box with all the tapes in it. There is somewhere, we’ve just done a mixtape for Cassette Store Day as well – an Apophenia one – and Stuart did get the sleeve printed somewhere but I just get the sleeve printed around the corner and just cut them all out with a stanley knife and fold them myself. The first one, me and my girlfriend stamped them all as well – it really was old school indie.
Like the old 7 inch covers, cassettes are the new 7 inches.
It’s quite fun. There’s a really big scene of it on the West Coast in the States. You go into that shop in LA, Mount Analog, and they’ve got a huge selection of tapes. When I went in there I was shocked by how big the scene is. It’s because there’a history of it. The most famous one of that scene is Secret Circuit who did all those tapes but he’s just part of a scene of people that did self-released cassettes.
You don’t really appreciate an album in a car any more. I live in London, I don’t really move that much – I’ll either get on a plane or a train, you don’t actually drive anywhere. When I was growing up in the middle of nowhere, you’d appreciate a cassette and listen to it in its entirety. Maybe it has something to do with that over there because they still have to drive long distances.
I used to love driving around the South Coast with ex-girlfriends years ago, you’d do these mixtapes for the car and you’d end up listening to them so many times that you knew them to death.
That’s got a nuance to it.
Yeah but that was quite cool as well. There were certain tracks, going back to that era when I was late teens listening to Kraftwerk and stuff like that, that just make me think of driving through Worthing or somewhere and it’s really nice because it was almost narrower what you could listen to so you’d listen to things so many times and therefore there would be more meaning about them.
It’s like my brother first getting Nevermind and making my Mum play it, driving around in a car.
Can I put my tape on Dad?’
‘Please?’ Not to fetishize it at all, it’s just different. I’ve got all these cassettes piling up but I still haven’t got my cassette player back from my Mum’s barn. You can buy really nice cassette decks for pretty cheap.
Yeah, Scott just bought a really expensive one, well, what WAS a ridiculously expensive one.
<Scott sticks his head round the studio door>
Scott: I bought one I could never have afforded. I think it would have been £1000 back then but I got it for £80 or something. They sound fucking immense, I’ve got a really nice turntable and I would say it’s borderline sounding as good as that.
Scott: There’s not really any bids on them, nobody wants them. You might find they do now. Heavenly have put out a cassette now though.
Danny’s been flogging it to Jeff!
Tim: I have another label, Centurians Of Rome, which is the cassette label – both the cassettes came out on that. At the moment, there are only 2 releases and they’re both cassettes but I might use it for something else.
So you’ve defined yourself as a cassette label there?
I don’t know, I’m thinking about doing it as a weird format label but for now it’s only cassettes. Centurians Of Rome was an Italian gay porn film from the 70s and the poster was amazing, the tagline for it was ‘ruled by passion, destroyed by lust’. I’d always wanted to use that! It might morph into more of a label anyway.
Johnny Trunk stuck out the Flexi-Sex thing years ago didn’t he? They’re hilarious, some of those. I found online a while ago someone who compiles the content of them and you can listen to all these porn discs. They’re such a funny idea because the idea was that you’d put this flexidisc on with this woman talking dirty and moaning a bit and you listened to it when you were looking at the pictures in the magazine.
It doesn’t make sense!
It’s like those playable postcards. It’s really bad, it used to be very very low and you couldn’t hear it but I just thought it was a good laugh.
Andrew’s got an old playable postcard somewhere because he bought another record and it was just inside it, it just peels back.
But then you go online and just download it. You can actually play it but it really does sound bad.
It doesn’t even look like it’s flat.
Well flexidiscs always did sound bad.
There’s nothing like a flexidisc, it just sound like a bit of paper playing but you can hear the music. Weird.
That’s a nice idea! I think my first memory of flexidisc was looking for a Fivestar flexidisc or something massively exciting like that.
I’ve got a few at home. On the subject of Jimmy Saville…
Always comes back to Saville!
Tim: Well it’s like that thing on chatrooms about how long it takes a chat to get to Hitler, I think Saville’s the new one now. When someone posts a funny comment or picture, how many comments will it be until someone mentions Jimmy Saville? He’s like the new Hitler!
He is, Saville’s the new Hitler. There’s your tagline.
I’ve got a Rolf Harris stylophone flexidisc at home which is him playing the stylophone and talking about it.
And other various dodgy things! So Scott’s playing live at Carcassone?
Tim: Yeah, I played live last year, Scott’s playing live this year.
Are you ever going to do stuff together?
Tim: If Bernie runs out of ideas, yeah!
Scott: I’ve done it a few times now. In the 90s when I used to do techno I played out live loads and then I moved onto MPC. I’m just using a computer like I’d use an MPC.
And then the tape ran out…
So there you go.
Find out more about Crimes of the Future here
And not forgetting the mix questions to Tim:
Where was the mix recorded?
At home in my living room.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?
Cruisin' seven mile
What should we be wearing
Hooded top, baggy dungaree jeans & Timberlands
What would be your dream setting to record a mix: Location/system/format.
I'd choose my living room actually.
Which track in the mix is your current favourite?
Electric Soul "Come on baby" never get tired of it.
What’s your favourite recorded mix of all time?
That's hard, Mixed up in the Hague?
Richard Fearless' mix on Live at the Social Volume 3?
DJ Assault Belle Isle Tech, were all huge for me at the time.
What was your first DJ set up at home and what is it now?
It's basically the same one I have now, 2 x 1210 and an old Vestax mixer, I do use Serato though these days with vinyl control. But not for this mix.
What’s more important, the track you start on or the track you end on?
Well the track you end on is the one people are most gonna remember, but the one you play first is the one you usually spend the most time procrastinating about…
What were the first and last records you bought?
That are included in the mix? No idea these are all records I have loved for years.
If this mix was an edible thing, what would it taste like?
Chicken & Waffles.