Born in England, George FitzGerald has been living in Berlin on-and-off for the past six years. After growing up on UK garage, the budding producer/DJ started absorbing European house sounds percolating in Germany in the mid-2000s. He later eased into producing and playing his own music at the same time that his appreciation for more classic, US house (like Kerri Chandler and Moodyman) expanded.
Over the last couple of years, he’s put out releases on cutting edge record labels like Scuba’s Hotflush Recordings and Will Saul’s Aus Music. His sound is airy, deep house that inclines toward a dark or wounded feeling. His tracks’ tinny cymbals, amiable four-on-the-floor beats, and lovingly soulful vocals are all weighed to the ground by grumpy, slightly depressed bass lines. I guess you could call it “humanistic house.”
2013 has been a landmark year for the DJ who was dubbed a “Future Star” earlier this year by the venerable BBC Radio 1 and given his own Essential Mix. We spoke recently about how much garage is actually an influence on his music, new-found success and working with sample-based music.
When did you decide to become a DJ?
Like most people, I had a brother who was into drum and bass. This is kind of the time that garage was really big in London. I sort of stole his decks off him and started going to record shops. I don’t know. It’s sort of a thing that loads of people were doing where I lived outside of London, in Norfolk. This was where a lot of garage came from and where a lot of clubs were. Everyone seemed to be into it.
We’ve written articles that have speculated about whether there are current revivals of grime, garage and jungle. Do you feel like you are a part of a garage revival?
I think that’s more something that other people have labeled me. I don’t really like the revival thing, because I try to write music that’s new and garage is just kind of one influence in there. To be honest, I think it’s closer to house, but the two are so close, it’s kind of a mixture between the two, I’d say. With garage there was a lot of pop potential in the music that people didn’t really explore and I think you’re seeing people like Disclosure starting to do it. There are a lot of acts writing good pop music that people could’ve done the first time around. For whatever reason, that didn’t get picked up by the major labels properly. In that respect, I guess people are looking back to look forward. I just hope that people don’t make things that are just clichéd 2-Step garage that could’ve been made 15 years ago.
What has the response been to your BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix?
Crazy. I mean, Radio 1 is such a massive platform. One of the biggest radio stations in the world or something like that and the number of people you are connecting with is such an amazing thing. I tried to stick to my guns and play a number of underground things and not get carried away with “Oh, it’s Radio 1, I have to make it more commercial radio friendly.” People really responded to it. I still get emails and tweets everyday about it.
With a lot of instrumental-based music, it’s hard to tell what the songs are about, beyond the music itself. Do your song titles (“Thinking of You” “Child” “Shackled”) relate to the content of your songs?
Yeah, I think they do. Often the track title is just what the working title was. If you started a track in a certain mood, you tell yourself that the name of the track is just what the music sounds like. Often the titles sound a little funny, but they make sense to me. There is some internal logic in there; it’s not just slapping a name on something.
When you are sampling soulful vocals, do you listen to music, hoping a little snippet of text just jumps out at you?
Yeah, often I’ll just be listening to music and something will jump out and I think “I’ve gotta get that.” But still, I just want to move away a little bit from sampling vocals with everything I’m writing at the moment. With sample-based music you’re constantly waiting for the vocal. It’s been a lot more enjoyable to do my own vocals and to work with other vocalists. It’s more of a creatively rewarding experience to lay down exactly what you have in your head.
Do you have any people who you’d love to work with?
My dream collaboration would be Tracey Thorn from Everything but the Girl, but that’s never going to happen. I guess, I can only ask. But yeah, she’d be my number 1.
“Thinking of You” has more than 150,000 Soundcloud plays. What does this measurement mean to you?
It’s hard to tell. I would say it means something, but not everything, not at all. You can’t tell everything by looking at plays. It’s really nice that a lot of people have listened to it, but there’s always something more to the music, the whole picture. Just because X amount of people have listened to it, doesn’t make it a hit or necessarily make it good music. I’m sure there’s tons of shit music out there that’s got way more listens. It’s really nice, but you really know when it’s a hit when you play it out at a few shows and people start to react to it, that’s when you know whether it’s a good track or not.
Alexis Stephens (@pm_jawn) is a staff writer at MTV Iggy. She has been published in SPIN, THUMP, and Cluster Mag. She specializes in African and Latin American diasporic music that’s heavy on beats and bass, but also writes about pop culture, technology, and place.