Allstar September 1996
Garry Cobain: We were very limited by dance music, 'cause we had much more of a musical taste.
Interviewer: ...Says Garry Cobain, one half of the experimental electronic duo Future Sound of London, on the failure of one of his band's earlier directions.
Garry Cobain: There's a whole history out there, and we're fighting it, in a way. By that I mean the whole body of music in history, that's what we're trying to do - the best bits of it, right across the board.
Interviewer: And that's the FSOL irony: yes, they're one of the most innovative acts in music these days, pushing the envelope of sound, music, and technology; and yet rooted underneath it all is a basic simplicity, along with a fundamental musical sense that spans all genres. The public first got wind of the band's curious sound in 1992, when a track called "Papua New Guinea," - a spiritual, transcending anthem based loosely upon Meat Beat Manifesto's "Radio Babylon" - broke genre barriers with its lush, airy vibratory intonations. Now, the framed platinum disc for this seminal song gleams sternly on one corner wall of Earthbeat Studios, creative home of most of FSOL's groundbreaking albums. There is an inscription declaring it to be the Best Something Or Other for the year it was released. At the right angle, you can see yourself mirrored in it. Cobain, however, sits under the studio's bright skylight, whose brilliance is dimmed by the murky mirrors surrounding it. And the time for reflection is appropriate, because with a new album called Dead Cities, FSOL has moved away from the floaty soundscapes and ambient textures of their previous work (the albums Accelerator, Lifeforms, and ISDN) to embrace a more eclectic mix. Random atmospheric samples and spectral pulses still blend and flow around every number, but each track has a personality of its own. Dead Cities opens with the manic distortion of "Herd Killing" and "We Have Explosive," then moves to enfold the operatic strains of "Everyone In the World Is Doing Something Without Me" and the classic tinklings of "My Kingdom." After the trancey tribal propulsions of "A State of Permanent Abyss" and "Glass," it shifts to the epic sounds of "Yage" (also the title of the band's film, to be released next year). The overall sensation is of transporting, of mind-numbing, cataleptic euphoria - an impressive achievement for music made with almost no organic instruments whatsoever. It's that simplicity thing. It wasn't always this way. Cobain initially met his partner, Scotsman Brian Dougans, in the mid-'80s at the university in Manchester, England, where they were both fast becoming failed electronics students. After forming a techno outfit called Stakker, which achieved modest success with a song called "Humanoid" in the U.K. before falling apart, Dougans and Cobain pooled their remaining equipment, moved to London, and started fresh.
Garry Cobain: We started to believe in the music again, which is really important,
Interviewer: Cobain recalls. Through the years, he and Dougans have worked under many different aliases: Amorphous Androgynous, Mental Cube, and Indo Tribe, to name a few. But it was the FSOL approach that clicked - the irony, the paradox of less is more. It's even rearing its head in the band's view of live performing these days. Although FSOL are considered pioneers in cutting-edge technology, they believe their music's live translation should not be at all futuristic. You won't see the two of them knob-twiddling onstage anytime soon. You can, however, experience FSOL live via transmissions from Earthbeat both on radio (they did ten dates in the United States in November) and television.
Garry Cobain: The concept, is rather than take the studio apart and stand like a couple of plonkers on the stage, we try to build up a notion of sending audio-visual entertainment around the world. That means that we can stay [at Earthbeat] and do it as a live transmission.
Interviewer: Staying in one place, Cobain believes, simplifies the touring process - as opposed to the old-fashioned get-on-the-bus method.
Garry Cobain: "With venues, you are suddenly lumbered with all the rules of rock and roll. There's a history of rock and roll that has been [about an] entertaining performance, which we're not interested in. It's not like I want to hide behind this faceless electronic bollocks thing, it's just that I think we're building up a world that's becoming preferable.
Interviewer: And no, it's not that FSOL is becoming lazy. They really studied this approach, and came to a logical decision.
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