Fred Again is a 29-year-old British record producer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and D.J. He recently headlined Coachella and sold out Madison Square Garden. He is what smart people in the music industry call a “hip kid.”
But while he might flaunt the D.J. uniform of partially bleached hair, expensive crewneck, spiffy baseball cap, and deliberately skanky joggers, he’s about as street as the gravel drive at a stately home. In all honesty, you wouldn’t be surprised to find he has Inheritance tattooed where his tramp stamp should be.
Fred Again was born Frederick John Philip Gibson, in the smart part of Balham, South London, in 1993. He is the son of King’s Counsel barrister Charles Anthony Warneford Gibson and Mary Ann Frances Morgan, members of the British peerage. He is the great-grandson of aristocrat and financier Shane O’Neill, third Baron O’Neill, and British socialite Ann Charteris (who would go on to marry James Bond creator Ian Fleming). He went to Marlborough College, in Wiltshire, which is a bit like Eton with mud. Other alumni of the school include Kate Middleton, before she became Princess of Wales, and Princess Eugenie.
At the tender age of eight, young Frederick started recording classical piano pieces on his aunt’s Boss 8-track tape recorder, while spending most of his time at school in the music room. “I was fortunate enough to not even be slightly good at anything else,” he has said, “so I had clarity of focus.”
At 16, he was invited to the rehearsals of a neighbor’s a capella group. That neighbor just happened to be Roxy Music alumnus and star producer Brian Eno, and the group often included former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox. Afforded the kind of industry access that only familial connections can get you, Gibson started work as a studio gofer. After two years of providing Eno with Earl Grey and digestive biscuits, Eno asked him to co-produce and write songs for two of his albums. Frederick was 18. Talented, too, amazingly so.
He began shepherding hits for everyone from Rita Ora to Ed Sheeran and features on the credits for—remarkably—a third of the U.K.’s No.1 singles in 2019. A year later he won the brit Award for best producer—the youngest ever—before launching his own dance-focused project, Fred Again, in 2021.
He’s about as street as the gravel drive at a stately home.
Fred Again gained mainstream fame on Instagram and TikTok because of the extraordinary way in which he mixes and creates beats live on a soundboard, weaving in vocals clipped from obscure YouTube clips or TED Talks. In July 2022, his hour-long set on Boiler Room, an online music broadcaster, went viral, racking up a million views in less than a week.
Last October he sold out his 15-date world tour in minutes, and this year he joined forces with the hugely popular D.J.’s Four Tet and Skrillex and headlined Coachella with a set that was immediately labeled “historic.” Not bad for a boy from the right side of the tracks.
We Brits love a posh boy in a baseball cap. Especially if he’s a pop star. Because while we pretend to despise them, they actually reinforce the idea of our class-riven orthodoxy. We treat them with the suspicion we treat any upper-class knob who infects public life—we simply love to hate them.
Which means we don’t hate them at all. In truth, they actually make great pop stars because they flout bourgeois standards, they dress eccentrically, and they tend to have appalling manners, even when they’re trying to be polite.
Britain has a history of producing posh poppers. There’s James Blunt, who attended Harrow and was an officer in the smart Life Guards regiment. The members of Coldplay all met at University College London; Florence Welch—of Florence and the Machine—studied at Harvard; even Mick Jagger went to the London School of Economics for a time. And let’s not forget Mark Ronson, Nick Drake, Mumford & Sons, Dido, Kula Shaker, bits of Pink Floyd, bits of Genesis (not the Phil Collins bit, obviously), and all of Laura Marling.
When Tom Chaplin, the terribly well-brought-up member of Keane, entered rehab, it was suggested, by Tom Meighan of the blue-collar rock band Kasabian, that he was being treated for an addiction to port. Even the Clash’s Joe Strummer was the son of a diplomat. Perhaps poshest of all, though, was 1970s one-hit wonder David Dundas (“Jeans On”), who was a member of the House of Lords. Dundas was the son of the Marquess of Zetland. “That’s not a pub,” he liked to say.
As for Fred Again, I like him, but then I’m British, and even though we pretend to hate the posh, they can occasionally, very occasionally, make the best pop stars of all.
Dylan Jones is the author of 26 books, most recently Faster than a Cannonball: 1995 and All That. He was the editor of the U.K. edition of GQ from 1999 to 2021 and has written weekly columns for The Independent and The Mail on Sunday