Lunar Magazine September 2002: Sound of the Future, Present and Past
by Brett Abramson
Every now and then you run across someone that is just different from the norm. Garry Cobain, one-half of the groundbreaking duo, The Future Sound of London, is one of those rare breeds that lives to question conventionality and change the world through his music and ideas.
The story of The Future Sound of London, and Garry himself, is not a linear one. It contains many peaks and valleys, the most obvious of which is the period immediately following the success of Dead Cities in 1996. Garry had become increasingly sick, battling an immune disorder brought on by toxic mercury fillings in his teeth. This sickness was coupled with his growing apathy for the music industry and society in general. The result was a decision to leave all of the fame, studio work, and touring behind, and find a way to feel better both physically and mentally. Cobain traveled alone throughout the world for the several years that followed, focusing on alternative methods for improving his health, cultivating his spirituality, and simplifying his outlook on life to appreciate the simple things that most of us take for granted.
"I'd been diagnosed with all these tests saying your body is chemically imbalanced, and we want to do this, this and that to you," Cobain explains. "I said, you know what? I believe my body is all joined together. I've always looked after it, and there must be something linking all this stuff together. So I set off on a journey to find out what was underlying it. And it took me two years to find out that it was the mercury. I was traveling all around the world, and I really got into Ayur-Veda, which is the 5,000 year-old science of life from India. I spent months being cleansed, purified, eating correct for that system, going to yoga and meditation. I began to feel much better with a glow that I never had before."
The result is more than evident on the Future Sound of London's new album, The Isness. With their first full-length studio work in six years, Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans have made an obvious choice to step away from the ever-evolving sound of technology and express themselves with a decidedly organic approach. Eerie synths and manufactured beats that were such commonplace in past works have been replaced with Eastern sitars and live brass bands. "This album is about getting back in touch with intuition really," Garry states. "It's about getting technology back into balance with the soul. I've made a record that is quite easy to hate, if you want to hate it. And it's quite easy to love it, if you're open enough to love it. I haven't hidden behind a palate of very well constructed, futuristic, male, electronic, clever, scientific, dance music. And that was very conscious on my behalf. And that's a metaphor for me. The world is hiding behind science and intellectualism. I felt like I need to get my soul back in check. Unless you know who you are, technology is of no use to you. It's only dangerous in your hands." The change in pace toward an organic sound is quite evident the moment The Isness begins to play. If you listen closely, you can hear trace elements of the old FSOL, but the dichotomy between past works and this one is more than evident, seemingly as a backlash against all that was previously.
Normally this drastic of a change does not work for an artist. But somehow the duo seems to pull it off with The Isness. Its success as an album has to do with its honesty. To try and mimic the sound for which The Future Sound of London had become famous would not work, as they had changed inherently since then. Instead, Garry and Brian get down to the basics of being artists: expressing themselves and their perspective on life. "To be honest, I actually make music these days because I want to unlock doors in people so that they can actually find themselves and find their happiness and find their health," Cobain states. "We've got enough fucking Mariah Careys. Technically brilliant—I grant you that. But what about the message?"
Garry explains he really didn't care what others thought of the change. "Suddenly no one wanted to put out our record. I had 15 labels that wanted to release an album like Dead Cities, and I said to them, if that's what you want to release, then fuck it. That's never what my life's been about. I'm gonna keep searching."
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