I met George FitzGerald in a very nice cafe in central London on a very nice afternoon. He had a green tea and I sipped on a Coke. He'd flown over from his home in Berlin to talk to me and was flying straight back later that evening. Given the circumstances I wouldn't have been put out had he been a bit curt, a bit fidgety, a bit tired. Thankfully he was none of these things. George FitzGerald was a very nice interviewee with a very nice jumper.
Before our afternoon out, FitzGerald had sent me a playlist of songs that he hoped would be indicative of the kind of set he was preparing to play during a mammoth six hour stint the Laundry in Hackney the week after. We'll get to the playlist shortly. I started by asking him if he was daunted by the prospect of slugging it out solo for 360 minutes. He hesitantly agreed that he was, but added that, "there's a special zone you get into in the third and forth hour where it feels like you aren't really mixing any more. It gets hypnotic. That's a special place to get to as a DJ."
It's unlikely that FitzGerald'll ever play his best known tune out in clubs these days. In a way, it's possible to position "Child" as an albatross of sorts. That record — a deliciously deep New Jersey throwback released on Will Saul's Aus label back in 2012 — with it's winding, curlicuing bassline, wobbly pads and see-sawing vocal, was lumped in with the then-nascent deep house revival. "I was working at BM Soho in the deep house section and was being exposed to these proper American deep house imports," he tells me, "so I made a straight up deep house record." Since then we've seen a glut of records filling up Beatport slots and shelf-space that, rightly or wrongly, are referred to as 'deep house' despite having as much depth as the average council-subsidised shallow end — your Route 94's, Gorgon City's and, gulp, your Disclosure's.
FitzGerald's just glad that he's no longer thought of as a practitioner of the genre, and despite his distrust of the application of the appellation to records that have as much in common with something like Round Two's "New Day" as I do to David Gandy, he's not surprised by how these things work. "Some of these big labels need a thing to hook a compilation around. People are looking for something they can bunch together and sell. You can't call a compilation The Best Stuff That's a Bit Housey with Basslines and Vocals that's Vaguely out of the UK can you?"
The ideas of expectation and reverence crop up repeatedly in our conversation and, when talk turns to Berlin, we hit upon a central concern of any serious discourse — if I can be so grand as to describe having a Coke with someone on a Friday afternoon as "serious discourse" — around house and techno: authenticity. It seems like all of us, even those lucky souls camped out in Kreuzberg and Neukölln, are constantly craning necks towards Chicago, desperately doling out glances at Detroit. "There's such a sycophantic attitude towards Detroit and Chicago. You get serious producers calling their records shit like Chicago Dreams. Have you been to fucking Chicago? Detroit? What you think happens there doesn't. You don't walk into every club and hear Frankie Knuckles records," he starts, "I just think there's way too strong a thing in Europe where you're somehow avant-garde to be a techno librarian. If you're making shit that sounds like what Robert Hood was doing 25 years ago you're really experimental, if you do what Jeff Mills did you're avant garde. That's not avant garde. People haven't pushed the envelope with house and techno enough for a long time."
With his new album Fading Love, recently released on esteemed indie imprint Domino's Double Six subsidiary, FitzGerald has made a conscious artistic decision to break free of the shackles of expectation, looking towards that all important envelope pushing. It's melancholy, searching, rewarding — the kind of record that's best listened to in its entirety. You learn to live with it, slipping it into bus rides and walks, late night sessions and early morning moments. "I made a record that didn't sound like it came from Chicago. I didn't want it to sound like a Round Two track. That's been written. I think people who make a career out of making tracks that sound like Dance Mania records are a bit pathetic. I'm not down with that. It's the house equivalent of backpacker hip hop. I think there's a lot of negativity in house and techno," which, he adds, "isn't good."
In an attempt to restore the balance, FitzGerald's playlist is a gloriously diverse snapshot of artistic and personal development, spanning everything from Carl Craig's timelessly moody remix of "Domina" by Maurizio to the jazzily broken "Estrange" by Shed. Dubstep tracks slip in there — he was a regular at DMZ and the like back in the day so it's no surprise that Scuba and Digital Mystikz show up — as does a bit of garage. And…Smashing Pumpkins? "I was a massive fan as a teenager. I was hugely into garage and somehow had an indie phase too. You know how every sixth months you change yourself? You take a few records with you. So you'll be into D&B and still listen to Smashing Pumpkins. I just think Billy Corgan is an incredible songwriter."
Fair enough. FitzGerald's conversational sincerity makes it obvious he's not fucking me about. He means it. And I'm glad he does. Check out the playlist in full below:
Want to win a selection of George's playlist tracks? As with all good contemporary crate diggers, scouring Discogs is common practice and the guys at Domino are no different! Just ping an email over to email@example.com for your chance to win a batch of top-notch records. All you need to include is your name and address. The competition closes on Monday 25th May 2015.