GLR Radio 2002
Interviewer: That's the sound of "My Kingdom". Well, not necessarily my kingdom, but a kingdom of The Future Sound of London. It's part of a - well, actually it is a remarkable visual and musical document. It's called Dead Cities and it landed on my desk a couple of days ago with quite a thump, because it's one of the biggest things of its kind. It's an album and then a huge booklet, or CD and booklet I guess, and that's one of the tracks from it. One of the men from The Future Sound of London, one half of The Future Sound of London, Garry Cobain is here, good morning to you Garry.
Garry Cobain: Hi, how are you doing?
Interviewer: You don't normally do this, do you? You don't normally come in and do interviews and stuff?
Garry Cobain: Well actually no, we do a hell of a lot of interviews.
Interviewer: But you do them all in your own way, of world tours from your own studio and all of that stuff.
Garry Cobain: Yeah, I mean we're very much into the idea of almost starting again in a kind of an organic way. Almost a new romanticism, starting to communicate again with quite simple means, broadcasting to radio, making books, using technology but also having a sense of history about the past and almost reanalysing it with our machines.
Interviewer: Because you did do a world tour from a studio, didn't you?
Garry Cobain: We did, yes.
Interviewer: I mean technologically, how does that work? Fill me in, because I'm a fool.
Garry Cobain: Well, I'm a fool too, don't worry. It's quite simple really, it's called ISDN and it's digital phone lines, just the same as normal phone lines. You just plug a lead in. It was actually normally the mechanism that news reporters...
Interviewer: Yeah, we use them a lot on this radio station.
Garry Cobain: But we kind of saw them being used like that and thought "Ok, well this is the perfect thing for us. We don't really want to stand on stages with ironing boards," which, inevitably is what we'd do.
Interviewer: You'd look a bit Blancmange or something from the '80s.
Garry Cobain: In a way I'm a bastard child from a bygone era in a way. I was brought up with rock'n'roll performance, I believe in all the mythical stuff I was fed in a way. I believe in the sort of myth of Hendrix being brilliant, and Bowie bring brilliant, I never saw any of these people.
Interviewer: Bowie was good, I never saw Hendrix.
Garry Cobain: I believe in it, I believe in the myth. I guess what I'm leading on to say is I didn't want to compete. I realised my weakness in a way, I couldn't do that. So we started again, we looked at ISDN. We saw this thing and thought "this is great." I've always loved radio, I've never really been a musician, I'm just a collagist, I take sound from the wastebins of time and everything around me, the streets and stuff, and I just feed it out. So this was perfect, because we could start making radio programmes, and actually broadcasting live from the studio. So you have a sense of a live transmission, and you have you also have the history of voice in there because we cut up hundreds of voices...
Interviewer: That's one of the things that I think is intriguing about the whole project is that it's called The Future Sound of London and you would expect from that something that's kind of almost blythely futuristic. And actually like all futures, it's riddled with the past. Because in the '50s we had this idea that in the future everyone was going to be wearing tin foil and flying around and it would all look like Dan Dare, but actually the future's never like that, is it? There's always old things infiltrating everything you do. And in what we're listening to now [My Kingdom], you can sit there and piece together the past almost.
Garry Cobain: Yeah, in a way that is what we're doing. I'm a great lover of this term 'the wastebins of time', there's like thousands of hours of recorded sound that's just lying there and nobody wants it really. There's collectors and people want it in that way, but we use a sampler. A sampler's like it almost has a bad PR, this box, because people associate it with theft of other people's work.
Interviewer: You are thieves of sound!
Garry Cobain: Well we are the best pick-pockets in town, yeah! [laughs] In a way, I like taking things of colour, things that have different sort of feelings, and just piecing them together. In order to do that, I take things from the present - the streets - and I sit there like a couch potato some nights, and rather than just taking the stuff that I'm bombarded with, I say "Ok I'm going to make useful out of this, I'm going to make it creative, I'm not going to sit here."
Interviewer: But you said that a bit of you is addicted to the rock'n'roll mythology and wants to sit in the back of limousines, blonde girls and all that stuff. So doesn't a bit of you want to make three minute pop songs that are cohere within that form, and work when someone puts it on their dance set?
Garry Cobain: You know that sounds really nice to me.
Interviewer: Does it?
Garry Cobain: It sounds really nice to me, but I think the good thing about FSOL is that we quite often start from the point of weakness, and then work in a way that we can turn it into a positive. And a weakness is I don't honestly think that I can do it.
Interviewer: At least you're an honest man.
Garry Cobain: And these are quite often the beginning points. I mean radio was the same way. We started radio because nobody was really playing our records and people were saying "your music doesn't really work in our show" and we were like "Well every time anybody comes across our music they seem to be moved and seem to react to it". So rather than - I love radio, I was brought up with radio, I used to be packaged off down to Hastings for six weeks in every year to spend time with my gran who didn't have a TV...
Interviewer: She did have a Roberts radio, I would guess.
Garry Cobain: And I used to listen to plays and stuff and I used to love it, I used to hide behind sofas and all that sort of stuff. And also there's this Orson Welles mythology of running out into the streets, the power of radio, I love it. It's a great medium, and by combining it with ISDN we have the assignment of a lifetime...
Interviewer: So where can people hear this kind of stuff? When do you next do one of those, for example?
Garry Cobain: We're actually doing Kiss FM for two hours...
Interviewer: I don't think you're allowed to say that... it's alright, as long as you're doing GLR now it's fair enough.
Garry Cobain: [laughs] We're doing a two hour broadcast tonight between 1.30 and 3.00 in the morning, and we've been doing two stations a night for the last three weeks or so. It's been actually quite like a rock'n'roll tour.
Interviewer: Without the minibars.
Garry Cobain: Yeah exactly.
Interviewer: Dead Cities, to what degree is it - a dreadful term I'm about to introduce to you - to what degree is it a concept album, 'man'? Is this your Tales of Topographic Oceans?
Garry Cobain: In FSOL I like to retain and get into deep thought, but I also like to be really horribly stupid, and I think this album reflects that in a way. "Dead Cities" the title on its very much basic, is a guy called Buggy G. who's a visual collaborator of ours, he brought back a picture from the Berlin Wall and it had "Dead Cities" written on it and we said "Yeah..."
Interviewer: Great title.
Garry Cobain: I felt something, we'll have it. And everything that's come from there, the concepts have almost been like an add-on in a way. There are some stuff, but maybe we shouldn't touch on it.
Interviewer: Maybe you should though! How long is something like this in the making?
Garry Cobain: The book took...
Interviewer: Because the book is a big... do you know how many pages?
Garry Cobain: 196.
Interviewer: 196 page book.
Garry Cobain: Well we're actually saying the album is free with the book. That's the kind of thing that appeals to me at the moment. Well the book took three weeks of actually refining, but in its collection, the images and the writing of text, I wrote the text in a weekend. There's text bled all across it, almost getting into the idea of getting into blatant little truths. The photographic work was collected from photography all round the world and then montaging it through our computer. So we've got hyper-realism montage but also just organic photos of fishermen with dead dolphins on the back of bikes and things from Sri-Lanka and this sort of stuff.
Interviewer: Is there no chance of you at some point picking up an acoustic guitar?
Garry Cobain: Well there are very conventional things on there. On there I'm singing, for God's sake! [laughs]
Interviewer: Oh for God's sake!
Garry Cobain: Stuff like this. And I do actually play the acoustic guitar, so you know, maybe.
Interviewer: And not getting out the ironing board?
Garry Cobain: At the moment I think the reactions to the radio tour are so strong they're making me believe that I'm right and that radio can be an evocative medium and that it can actually strike to people's hearts and I'm going to continue with that. In the new year, in fact, we're taking that one step further and we're going to be transmitting live to TV and radio, the idea being we're going to use these old forms of technology people have in their rooms, everybody has - it's not like an elitism thing - and we're just going to give them a bit of a kick. We're going to send live image and sound to television, and the rest of the sound to radio, so you have to switch on these two old forms to get the whole thing.
Interviewer: It is an intriguing project, and I must admit I sat and played it all last night, and I thought "I'm quite moved by this".
Garry Cobain: Brilliant.
Interviewer: Thanks for coming in.
Garry Cobain: Excellent.
1 post • Page 1 of 1