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Interview: Fairplay Records

Berlin’s Fairplay Records abide by a stringent – but frankly quite refreshing – policy of only working on debut releases. Alex Cull caught up with label founders Jonas, Fabian, Malte and Golo for a chat about staying true to their intriguing mission statement, the debuts they’d love to have been behind and the drunken night that proved the birthing of the imprint.

PlanetNotion: Your website describes Fairplay Records as “a super independent music label” – how do you differentiate yourselves from a run-of-the-mill independent label?
Fairplay Records: What we mean by “super independent” is that nowadays the roles and functions of a label should be re-thought. With the rise of the internet, the only previous distinguishing feature between a major and an independent label was the distribution, which has become less important. Take Bandcamp for example: you don’t need a label to distribute your songs worldwide now.

Music has become super independent and the same goes for labels. So we do not claim to be “the only super independent label”, rather, we see ourselves as one among many. What actually differentiates us from others is that we we are only releasing debuts.

PN: Tell us a bit about Fairplay. You work exclusively in the format of debut releases; what made you want to pursue this interesting ethos?
FR: We are a few guys Jonas, Fabian, Malte and Golo, mostly placed in Berlin, who are organising parties every now and then. One boozy night we had the idea to launch a label. We came up with the name Fairplay Records and over-eagerly got our domain address that very same night. And the next day, we started building a concept around the name and as we already had an eye on some undiscovered artists we liked and we thought: “why not just do debuts only?”

PN: Just what is it about debut releases specifically that appeal to you?
FR: It’s more the artist than the actual debut that appeals to us. The artists we are working with are very diverse. Each of them comes from a different background and approaches music in his very own way. Most of them do not rely on making a living out of music. We think that is a very genuine trait.

PN: It must keep you pretty on your toes, constantly having to find a new artist for every single release? How do you go about finding all this talent?
FR: Finding new artists is probably the most exciting part of our work. We surf Soundcloud a lot, listen to small radio shows and there is this amazing event in Berlin – and other bigger cities – called CDR where you can bring your music to listen to on a club sound system. They also host workshops by great artists. We had some magic moments at CDR and, of course, heard great music there! But we are already getting some music sent, as well. We really appreciate that!

PN: Would you ever break your philosophy if an artist you loved, and had worked with before, wanted you to release their second record?
FR: And this is the worst part of our work, but we are strict about this even though it’s not easy. As a label, we want to see our artists grow and also would like to help them find another label; a nice comfy home for their second release would mean a lot to us.

PN: Outside of being on their debut release, what other criteria do you look for in the artists you work with?
FR: We try to be fair-minded people overall, so we do not have any fixed criteria – especially not in the type of artist – as long as we love what we hear. But personal taste obviously plays a role and that means we’re going to stay in the wider field of electronic music.

PN: Are there any labels that have inspired you with Fairplay Records?
FR: There are too many! And each one of us has his own favorites. It would be unfair just to name a few but we can say that we are most definitely inspired by the idea of net-audio.

PN: If you could’ve put out any debut release ever, what would it be?
FR: We really can’t agree on this one. That’s why each of us chose one: The Proxy‘s Destroy, James Blake‘s James Blake, Yør‘s Rave and Johnossi‘s Johnossi. All of which are really great debut releases!

PN: What are your plans for the label in 2013? Anything exciting you’d like to share with us?
FR: We just released Leibniz’ self-titled record. The next release is going to be by Hugo Slime and we are shooting a video once again in our office: Another special one. As for 2013 we’re looking forward to seeing how things will develop!

PN: Finish this sentence: “A debut release should be…”
FR: …treated fairly.

- Alex Cull

Leibniz’ debut self-titled EP is available through Fairplay now. To grab your copy, visit the Fairplay website.

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