Timothy J Fairplay

Leftfield electronic producer Timothy J Fairplay lets us in on his musical past and musical futures…

Jim Ottewill
  • By Jim Ottewill
  • 9 Oct 2014
  • min read
Andrew Weatherall cohort Timothy Fairplay crafts analogue, electronic sounds to be found twitching somewhere between classic acid house and strung out pschyedelia.

Originally cutting his teeth in angular, guitar-wielding outfits such as Battant and Scarper, Tim has really found his musical feet since falling in with DJ and producer par excellence Andrew Weatherall and taking on the role as his studio engineer. He’s continued to refine his own analogue jams, working most prominently alongside Lord Sabre as one half of the Asphodells on their heady brew of krautrock rhythms, best heard in debut album Ruled by Passion, Destroyed by Lust.

At the same time, he’s continued to bury deeper into synths, setting up the Crimes of the Future label with fellow Weatherall associate Scott Fraser and is currently prepping a breaks infused EP (!), new cassette and mini album. We caught up with Tim to quiz him on his musical past and where he's heading next…

How did you first get into music?

My family is full of musicians. So I started playing the guitar, the trumpet and singing in a choir when I was young. I was in a band when I was about 11/12 around 1990. Because of my young age I was really inspired by the music of the era, bands like the La's, early Blur as well as dance acts like 808 State, Altern8 and hip hop like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

By the time I got old enough to buy my own music grunge had hit, which shaped my taste for a few years. Where I came from, there was a real split between ravers and grungers. You had to choose a side. It meant I didn't really get into dance music until I was about 17 when I first went to techno nights in Portsmouth and Brighton and heard the first Daft Punk and Underworld albums.

How did you begin getting creatively involved with music?

I played rhythm guitar and wrote my first songs in a band at school. It ended and I moved schools which was good as it got me away from the small village I was from. Over the next few years I played music with friends, but nothing was taken very seriously until I reached 17 and joined a band called Scarper. We recorded for a few labels and released a 7'' on Regal which John Peel played. Towards the end I didn't like the way the music was going, and started increasingly getting into groove-based music before we parted ways.

What drew you to electronic music?

I really liked those early chart dance hits like 808 State but by the mid-nineties there was all that awful chart house which I hated. There was nothing subversive about it. Kurt or Thurston trashing guitars was much more attractive. Getting a job at Our Price got me properly into dance music; there was a guy who worked there called Tim Davis who first played me stuff like Green Velvet, Carl Craig, Jeff Mills and Sabres. When I got my first decks I didn't really have many dance 12's so yet he lent me a record box full of electro, house and techno to learn with.

How did the Asphodells come about?

I started engineering Andrews remixes about five years ago. It was a little while after that we started doing original material. I guess the idea behind the project was quite loose, we just did stuff which was influenced by what we were listening to at the time. A lot of early industrial music, krautrock, cosmic music of all sorts. There is gonna be another one, there's even a few things started, we just need to get on with it. There have been a few Asphodells remixes recently, and I still engineer his remixes but Andrew has been giving me a bit of space to get on with my own stuff.

You’re well known for being a key player in the ‘Scrutton Street’ axis [hub of studios where Andrewn and Tim record] – how does it work in the studios? Who makes the brews?

It’s just Andrew, Me and Scott Fraser who have studios there. Me and Andrew have the main studio and live room and Scott has a little room at the back by Andrew's record collection room. Richard Fearless rented a room for a bit and people come in a bit to work with us, but it’s us there day to day. Don't ask Scott to make the tea, he makes it too weak.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration?

Syd Barret is a big influence on me, Piper at the Gates of Dawn is still one of my all time favourites. Klaus Schultz is also a huge influence, an I think you can kind of hear this in my melodies. I would probably describe my sound as being a cross between European cosmic music and Chicago house and Detroit techno. Since the beginning of the last decade the Dutch scene has always been a huge influence on me, labels like Bunker, Creme and Clone. But I suppose I find influence or at least interest in pretty much all of the history of electronic music in some way or other.

Which records never leave your box when you DJ?

Wake Up by the Polygamy Boys, Legowelt's Dirty Love - more recent releases - probably Svengali's Ghost Deep into Memory and D'Marc Cantu's Size and Shape - which was probably my favourite techno record of last year.

Do you think dance music is in good health at the moment?

It’s better now than a few years ago when post-dubstep ruled. Like don't get me wrong, I went to FWD at Plastic People for years, but it became a plague, all the other genres pretty much just disappeared. Its nice that there are people now making house, italo, techno etc. I find a lot of that stuff that gets called 'deep house' to be the blandest music on the planet, but you know, its not made for people like me is it?!

My only gripe is that you get all these DJs who say they’re into all this subversive stuff and then when you see them, they play all this cheesy rubbish, I can never decide whether they have no balls or they're just posers. Probably both.

Have you any top tips or words of advice for producers?

Learn to play something properly, be a musician first. It helps the way you write, program, produce and mix, it helps give your tracks musicality. It is hard to define but is something you cannot fake. I don't mean you have to be melodic, musicality comes in many different ways. I hear so much music these days which is so programmed sounding, so 'on the grid', it has no life or energy.