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Mixmag: Gold Artist is a new series dedicated to the DJs and producers who we think are making the strongest waves within dance music right now. Up next is George FitzGerald, the Berlin-based producer with releases on Hotflush and Aus Music who's preparing for the release of his debut album next year
Exclusive interview and premiere of 'Bad Aura' below
Since debuting on Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings in 2010, George FitzGerald’s career has spanned releases on Hypercolour and Aus Music, as well as regular appearances at renowned Berlin club Panorama Bar.
Growing up just north of London, he attended garage nights to see the likes of DJ EZ and Tuff Jam before immersing himself in the dubstep scene at London's FWD>>.
Encompassing these elements into his raw but catchy brand of house, from 2012’s infectious ‘Child’ to the recent ‘I Can Tell (By The Way You Move)’, the producer recently picked up extensive support from Radio 1 DJs Zane Lowe and Pete Tong, demonstrating the widespread recognition he’s rightly gained this year.
Following the release of ‘Magnetic'/'Bad Aura’ on Domino Records offshoot Double Six, we spoke to George about the concept of next year’s debut album, the commercialisation of house music and his thoughts on Mixmag’s controversial feature about tech-house.
You’re currently working on your debut album. How’s that coming along?
I’ve kind of taken my time but it’s going really well. I’d say I’m about halfway done with it. I’m working with quite a lot of different people and it’s all a new experience working with singers so I’m taking a little bit longer over everything. It’s hopefully going to be ready to be released by the start of the summer next year.
Is there a specific concept behind the LP?
Yes, a lot of it is to do with what I think is a bit of a golden age in British dance music – the 90s. Not in the revival sense that’s been going on in the last two or three years with New Jersey house but more serious things like Orbital or Leftfield. The sort of people who were writing things that had a lot of scale and commercial crossover but they’re actually really quite challenging albums.
You’ve previously stated Tuff Jam and DJ EZ as influences on your work. Will these influence the record?
Not so much. I’ve always liked vocals but I think that whole thing is being wrung out to the death at the moment. I made my last single ‘I Can Tell (By The Way You Move)’ with a sampled vocal and I promised myself that I wasn’t going to do that anymore for the foreseeable future. I’m not really judging anyone else that’s doing it but it’s just got really boring to me and I don’t want to be on the sinking ship when it inevitably sinks very soon.
2013's been a massive year for house music with Duke Dumont and MK's remix of Storm Queen topping the charts. Do you think there's a danger of the genre becoming too commercial and boring?
There's always that risk but it depends on how cynical the major labels are about it. When any kind of dance track does well at the moment there seems to be talk about somebody throwing tens of thousands of pounds at the artist and I think that shit might ruin it. Hopefully you won't get major labels buying up dance tracks and then getting r'n'b singers to sing hooks over them because that's going to kill everything off straight away.
On the topic of becoming too boring, what did you think of Mixmag's recent feature on tech-house?
I've heard about it but I haven't actually read it. It's hard to define what tech-house actually is but, yeah, tech-house is shit, it's a bit of a dirty word. What I think about tech-house is when you go to Ibiza and some dude is playing really repetitive stuff and it just goes on and on. There's loads of really shit, anonymous flip-flop tech-house in Berlin as well and I'd be happy if it just disappeared off the face of the earth.
You produced Katy B's track 'I Like You' earlier this year. How did you find working with someone often labelled as a pop star?
It’s something just out of leftfield and not something that I thought I’d be doing but it was quite a fun challenge. It’s not something that would go on my album but I think there’s something about Katy B and it was quite refreshing from obsessing over my own stuff.
Your recent release 'Magnetic'/'Bad Aura' is quite dark and haunting. Will the album follow a similar pattern?
I think it will be a little bit darker than some of the stuff I’ve released over the last year or two but it’s not going to go completely gothic or anything. I regard those releases as a sort of a stepping stone for the album. If people want an idea of what the album will sound like then I think those tracks are really good indicators.
How will your album stand out from other recent dance music LPs?
There are a lot of dance music LPs that come out all the time that could basically just be four EPs and there’s not much of a concept. The best ones of recent years have been where people have come with a concept that’s self contained in the album and that's what I'm aiming for.
What was the reason for signing with Double Six?
They’ve got a pedigree of picking good music and bringing it to an open-minded audience and I thought it was quite exciting to step outside of the world of releasing on independent dance labels. For me it's about speaking to a slightly broader audience outside of dance music and showing other people what there is. I think there can sometimes be some snobbery on the outside world about dance music and it’s nice to sign with quite a high-brow label and make a dance music album for them.
What were your reasons for moving to Berlin? Would you say it's a more creative place to make music?
It's just a lifestyle thing. If anything, London can be more inspiring in a lot of ways but I just fancied being out here. I'm not making better music as a result of being here. I think a lot of people make that mistake. They think they're going to get really creative by coming to Berlin but they actually end up doing fuck all.
Are there certain artists based in Berlin that have a big influence on you?
Yeah there are but you don't come into contact with them because everyone lives in their parallel worlds. I could say it's great that Levon Vincent lives in Berlin but it's not as if I hang out with him. It's just more about feeling more comfortable about where you're living and having a nice studio but that could be anywhere like Norwich!
How do you find playing four hour sets at Panorama Bar and how do you prepare for them?
It's really good but very tiring. You've just got to create a narrative of what you're doing rather than putting on four hours worth of random tunes. I always think about where I'm going to go and react to the crowd in front of me. The thing about the Panorama Bar is that people have got patience and you can take it down and up and they'll stay with you.
I suppose they're nothing like playing shorter sets in the UK?
It's completely different. I love playing in the UK but I don't like the kind of culture of playing for an hour with 20 other DJs. It's nice to play at least an hour and a half or two hours where you can just play the biggest things in your record box and people are incredibly enthusiastic.
You're embarking on your first headline tour of North America in December. Have you got a large fan base in the United States?
I can only tell from my social media but I get a lot of people contacting me from the US but then again it's a big place so it's hard to tell whether people are really spread out or whether there are really concentrated pockets of people. It's interesting to see whether dance music's trickling down in North America. There are some really amazing promoters out there and party scenes in places you don't even know about.
'Magnetic'/'Bad Aura' is out now on Double Six