"I love ex-Soviet countries," he says, full of enthusiasm and nervous energy from his flat in the Eastern suburbs of Paris. "I fell in love with them when I was younger and so now I'm always chasing my kiddie dreams." That's not the only childhood dream the man born Jeremy Fichon is chasing. His main passion is house music, and it has been since the age of ten, when a chance rotation of the radio dial locked an oblivious youth into the sound. It was one of DJ Deep's regular shows on France's long running Radio Nova, where the likes of Laurent Garnier also featured.
"Back then [in 1997], Deep was specialised in New York house, he was the ambassador of that music. He was famous for it in the '90s. The first time I heard about Kerri Chandler was through DJ Deep." He was hooked. "I asked my mum to take me to a shop so I could buy that sort of music. I was only ten years old. We'd go in places that don't exist anymore—one called Rough Trade, one called BPM—and ask for 'house and deep house records' because I didn't know about the artists at the time. The guys in the shop gave me nice records and that's how it all started for me, being a really young kid and going into shops with my mum and just asking for deep house."
What happened next changed everything. Fichon's mother passed away in 2002, sending him into something of an aimless spiral that lasted for the best part of a decade.
"Let's say between 2002 and 2010 were not the best years of my life. I had really bad years after that with depression. I gave up on school and had to start shitty jobs just to make something out of my life, but at the same time I was feeding my brain with house music, trying to discover as much as I could..." He trails off before continuing. "How can I say this? Obviously, I had a bad story, and it's clichéd what I'm going to say, but it's true: My passion for music got me through. My anti-depressant was music, you know. When I get sick of something I get into a depressive mood. But always that quest of music, and the good emotions associated with it, keep me up, keep me alive, keep me happy. That's my cure."
When Fichon says, "house was my passion," this is no empty statement. For him, the only logical thing to do was to go to its source. So, after hooking up with like-minded people in Parisian nightclubs, record shops and on forums, he struck up a relationship with someone who could help get him there.
"I decided to go to New York," he says. "With help from someone I knew [Moving Records boss Abigail Adams] I went to a few places including the first basement of Kerri Chandler where he made his first tunes in the late '80s. I really wanted to see all those places because they were the source of my passion for New York and New Jersey house. That trip, that pilgrimage, it really changed me. I came back to Paris and said, 'I really gotta do something with my passion. I know so much about this music I have to do something. I have to start a label.' It was a eureka moment."
Until around 2004, Fichon had only one deck, and was content to simply unearth music. It was a similar mind-set that began to inform My Love Is Underground. FIshon turned his attention to another "lost" producer, Jerzzey Boy main man George Lockett Jr., but he proved much harder to find.
"It was a big quest online, asking everyone in the scene if they'd seen him since 1994 but no one knew him. His records back then never really made it so he'd just given up and become a cop! So, with my friend Brawther, we had this big challenge. One night we managed to find his name in the Yellow Pages but we got his dad on the phone. I made the request, and then when we went to New York we met, listened to some music, had some talks and that's where we agreed to release some of their unreleased tracks [Lost Cuts Part 1 EP], once we convinced them we weren't crazy."
Now, three years later, the label's focus has shifted, partly in response to the glut of '90s house flooding the market. "I don't want MLIU to be annoying and spam the market with all the same stuff. I want to lead the way," Fichon says, before musing on his dealings with veteran US producers. "When you chase these artists you always face two problems: religion and money. I don't have much problem with religion, but they are always talking about it. The main thing, though, is money. Some of them are really greedy, so the things I wanted to do aren't possible. They will never happen. I was lucky with Nate X and Jerzzey Boy. They were not expecting it, and were really nice, normal American people."
The '90s vibe won't disappear completely just yet, though, because following the MLIU re-release of some old Telfon Dons material late last year, the pair have passed on unreleased music from that period that will soon see the light of day. But that may be the end of it, because modern soundalikes just don't do it for Fichon.
"Here's the problem: Nate X is making music again but it's not the same sound. When old guys come back they don't use the same gear and machines so the sound is different. It's not that I don't like the new stuff, it's just that I don't like it as much as the old stuff that I fell in love with. I'm really picky—the new sounds made with computers, I'm quite allergic to. It's hard to ask them to make the same music as 20 years ago. Even if they wanted to they often can't."
As such, the label going forward will focus on music from Fichon's friends. For him, the human connection in all of this is as important as anything. "I don't just wanna run a label like a big mainstream thing, releasing whatever and whoever," he says. "If I make the effort of releasing someone I have to know the person, we have to fit together."
It's not only the music on MLIU that's rooted in the past: so, too, is its approach to almost everything, from the way the records are sold to the reasons behind residencies at places like The Garage in Leeds.
"Tristan [da Cunha] and I had a great human connection, a shared passion, and that's really important to me. It's why I sell the records the way I do. Some records are absolutely unlimited and we press as many as needed, but some I still sell them directly because I love being in touch with the customer. The last one I only sold at three parties—one in London, one in Paris and one in Leeds. Then the special thing is that you come to a party, you get the record, meet the label boss, the artist and it's really cool. We can get a drink together. That's the way I've always wanted to do it. I don't like anonymous things. I like to be in touch always with the people who love the music. Having a close human approach, doing a direct sale, shaking hands, 'Thank you, man, for buying the record,' that's how I like it, you know. I know everybody who has a copy!"
That might be a stretch, certainly in regards to the label's second release, Paris Underground Trax's Vol.1 from 2010, which was the top seller on Juno last year with more than 4000 copies shifted to date. Fichon probably can't even remember every record he owns himself, either, given that there are 7000 of them littering his flat. He's stumped when asked for choice picks from his collection, but for those who are curious, Favorite Recordings will release an Underground Paris compilation before autumn, which brings together his ultimate favourites and plenty of rare grooves.
So just what is it about the '90s house sound that he loves so much? "It's not just about the '90s, but that was a golden era. It's just good house music I like, it doesn't matter the year, there is still good stuff being done these days."