The ’90’s House Revival’ is a trend that was almost dead on arrival – a tired cliché that irked producers and club goers alike. This attitude – although certainly understandable, is rather unfair on some levels. Certainly there are more enough yawn inducing sound alikes, but in and amongst those are little nuggets of gold that come to the surface and make all the nostalgia worth the while. One such ‘gold miner’ is Jeremy ‘Underground Paris’ Fichon. The Parisian and his My Love Is Underground aren’t chasing a quick buck – their musical mission statement is felt from top to bottom. Starting out as a pet project aimed at reviving the careers of long forgotten Deep House heroes, the label has grown into one of the finest peddlers of classic club sounds, beloved by record collectors and DJ’s alike.
The hands on, genuine approach of the label is reflective of Jeremy himself, who’s lust for life can be seen and heard in everything he commits to. A true individual, he’s just as likely to spend his free time on a walking holiday in an obscure former Soviet country as he is buried in a stack of 12″s. He’s also quite the DJ. Keen to not get lost in amongst the endless ranks of House loving selectors, he’s developed a startling versatility only really seen by a handful of contemporaries such as his friend Sam ‘Floating Points’ Shepherd. With a strong investment in the value of not just club, but musical culture, he is most definitely one of the good guys.
Set to play the Village Underground leg of secretsundaze’s bank holiday extravaganza this weekened, Jeremy took a moment out of his holiday to chat with us. Enjoy.
Hi Jeremy, cheers for taking the time to speak to me. How are you and what are you up to today?
I’m all good man, I’m out on holiday at the moment in Marseilles on the beach. Its half sunny, its half cloudy but its all right.
So I wanted to start by asking you about your charity bike ride to Amsterdam in October – how is the training going for that?
Its actually going really well. I’ve already covered the same distance as London to Amsterdam when I did Paris to Lyon last week with a friend of mine. Its like 500km and we did it in five days so I’m more than ready. That distance is actually more difficult than doing London to Amsterdam, because when you cross France you have to cross Burgundy which has like a whole mountain massif.
You’re kind of in the minority of DJ’s with regards to your interest in fitness and staying healthy…
Yeah that’s true. I’m interested in it because I love sport. Even before I was a professional DJ I was always doing sport – especially now that I’m a DJ though I think its very useful to have that health thing in my life. Being a DJ it can get crazy with alcohol and drugs, so you can get ill quickly. I know that as far as I’m concerned, living a healthy life gives a good balance with the ‘DJ life’. I need to get healthy because during the weekends I’m always travelling and lacking sleep and stuff, so for me its perfect.
I just feel better now that I’m doing more and more sport, so I just don’t want to stop it. I’m a bit extreme in everything that I do: I run marathons, I do long distances by bike. It’s just natural for me, its nothing too crazy – but for most people it is crazy, especially when I tell them that I’m a DJ they really don’t get it. They just think all the DJ’s are big drug heads and stuff which is not my case at all. I know that if I keep on being this way I can have a really long career.
Does that craziness cross over into being obsessive when you’re collecting records and running the label?
I really think that excess is a part of the way I am. When I get into something I do it to the extreme. That’s the way I’ve always been like – whether its collecting records or starting running and doing a marathon six months after. I’m always doing things with passion and excess for better or worse. Its the best way to experience things and enjoy them to the fullest.
Going back to that bike ride – I saw on Facebook you were going to give one copy of MLIU05 to one lucky donor – which is very generous of you. How come you only pressed 5 copies in the first place?
That record was never sold actually. I mean the official black label 7″ was only sold at a party in London three years ago. We did that because back then nobody knew My Love Is Underground so we were quite afraid that the party was empty. We decided to press a special record that would only be sold at the party. A lot of people ended up coming from abroad just for that record – so we decided that no matter what happened we would never do a repress, just to make sure it stayed special. Most of the people who were there became friends.
There were only 150 copies of that 7″ and maybe six of them were on red vinyl because that was a gift from the factory. So this is definitely the rarest release on the label by far and of course I had to put my own little gift out there for someone who helps me with a donation. The only value is for those who really collect everything on the label, its not like a pair of CDJ’s or whatever – I just thought it was a good idea for a gift. I’ll decide myself who will get it and I’ll definitely choose someone I don’t know to be fair!
Well talking about really limited release records – I was looking on Discogs before and someone who was being very complimentary about your label still complained that the problem with releasing really limited run records is that they end up going for like £100 or more. Does that piss you off when you see a record going for crazy prices?
The thing is I did two limited releases in the beginning because not many people knew the label, but now that its got a bit bigger I’m not doing anything limited. Now the goal is to do as many sales as possible and we’ve done some big vinyl sales. Like the last release MLIU015 sold more than 3,000 copies so far and its still selling – and MLIU010 sold more than 5,000 copies, so I’m not doing anything limited anymore because it wouldn’t be fair. Now if I have a good record I just press it and that’s it you know? Its totally useless to do limited copies if you think your stuff is good and its going to sell.
Now there’s more people interested, does each release carry greater pressure?
I just take it easy actually – there’s more people but no I haven’t changed my point of view or approach. I’m just happy to meet more and more people who love what I do or what we’ve been releasing. It’s just cool you know? Most of the gigs I’m doing are still in small clubs, I’m not like a festival DJ or whatever playing in front of thousands and thousands of people – I don’t think I would like that actually. Its still underground in every way. I’m just happy that the message is spreading.
Talking about your own record collecting: I’ve spoken to people like Motor City Drum Ensemble who have said they’d pay over four figures for a single record – do you have certain bits of vinyl that you’d go the extra mile or pay over the odds for?
Well I already own a lot of expensive records, and sometimes I’m just crazy with buying them. Its not just about the value of the record though, its about the rarity of it. There’s been one Jazz record I’ve chased for three or four years now and it’s never come on sale, and when it does it will be cheap because no one knows it. I’m definitely chasing a lot of records and the want-list is still big – that’s what keeps you excited. Its not easy to build a nice collection – many people in the game are chasing good records, its difficult finding stuff that hasn’t been played by DJ’s already. Its a big, big quest everyday – its definitely not a cheap hobby.
Previously your DJ sets focused on Deep House, but in the last few years you’ve progressed to now playing Rock, Soul, Rare Groove – a bit of everything really. Were you nervous your fans may be thrown off by the transition?
Well for the last five or six years I’ve mainly been collecting Jazz at home and then House was just for fun. If I get in the club and then I see its really young and they aren’t really open to everything then I’ll just play House, but if I get there and people are good and they know about music and stuff then I will take some risks and play the stuff I really play at home. This can happen like at Panorama Bar, where I started off with Brazilian Boogie and stuff. The crowd there was perfect for that.
But if I play for a student night on a Monday somewhere obscure in the North of England, then I’m just going to play House. I haven’t changed anything lately though. I’m known as a House DJ, but I spend my time collecting everything but House actually – that’s a good point!
Yourself and the label have built up a reputation for finding gems from the past – is there ever any completely new music that catches your ear?
Even though I play old music, I’m not one of those that;s always criticizing and saying new music is shit. Sometimes there are really good surprises. Its true though that I’m definitely not obsessed with new stuff on a day to day basis – stuff comes to me and I might see stuff on Facebook. I wouldn’t be able to quote you a list of stuff I like, but of course there is good stuff.
It seems to me to be an obvious question, but given the fascination you have with the past – in a musical sense, do you ever feel sometimes as if you were born maybe ten years too late?
I don’t know because this would be totally different I’d been born ten years earlier. What I do now is interesting because there’s lots of people my age following me because they want to get in touch with that part of music that they missed. Its interesting to play older music now. I’m fine with living now. Of course sometimes I fantacize about the 70’s and the freedom and I look at the haircuts and the artwork on my records and think it would be cool to live in that era.
With new technology you get to know people from all over the world and play all over the world and stuff – I don’t know if that would be the case twenty years ago. I don’t have so much nostalgia, it doesn’t make sense – right now I’m trying to appreciate the good side of living in 2014.
Jeremy plays at the second half of secretsundaze’s bank holiday Sunday party at Village Underground. Buy tickets here.
Interview: Christian Murphy