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(2002-12) Whisperin' & Hollerin'

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Just a Fuckin' Idiot

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(2002-12) Whisperin' & Hollerin'

PostMon Nov 25, 2013 6:17 pm

Whisperin' & Hollerin' December 2002

During the 1990s, Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans (collectively known as Future Sound of London) were rightly highly regarded for making some of the defining Electronic/ Ambient albums of the period with Lifeforms, "Papua New Guinea" and Dead Cities. However, it then all appeared to go rather pear-shaped as the gap between Dead Cities (1996) and any new product gradually lengthened. Come the new century, though, Future Sound of London have returned revitalised with two fantastic, though rather more organic releases, The Isness and the recent Mello Hippo Disco Show, a mini-LP of remixes. Tim Peacock tracks down Garry Cobain to fill in the blanks...

Garry, post Dead Cities you seem to have undergone a significant sea change in your attitude to technology. I remember seeing you interviewed on TV around the time of Lifeforms (1993) and you spoke passionately about the possibilities of CD-ROM/ ISDN. Did you attitude change partly as a result of so many people picking up on this newly-available technology?

"To be honest, I'm so self-obsessive, I didn't really notice," says the affable Gaz, with laudable honesty. "But if I'd looked around it might have surprised me. I'm not being big-headed, but I do seem to have a knack of finding stuff before it reaches general consciousness. I mean, I still like computers, but I needed to get a balance in my life. I got to a stage where I saw an abyss of problems and technology formed a major part." He pauses for a moment. "Innovation has become synonymous wth technology," he muses. "But we seem to have regressed in terms of soul technology. Unlike going to the Moon or whatever, we haven't travelled far inside our souls."

As we'll see, Spirituality has become rightly important to Gaz Cobain in recent years, partly as a result of a long illness that he eventually traced to his metal fillings. I believe that apart from seeking alternative medicine, though, Gaz, that you actually developed a "Computer phobia" after Dead Cities? Is this true?

"Yeah, well in the sense that I didn't want to touch TVs and computer screens. Simplistically, I didn't enjoy computers anymore. I needed to be playing and seeing music again. I mean, I am much more tactile and organic these days than I ever was."

During Gaz's travels away from Brian and FSOL, he also discovered Yoga. How important was this discovery and are you still practicing it?

"Absolutely, I will never stop," Gaz replies instantly. "I mean, like I was saying, I suddenly didn't want to be a spokesman for the future after Dead Cities. I think that whole race for the Millennium showed how ridiculously wrapped up in this idea of the future we are.
"With Yoga, though" he continues, "it brings you right back to the present and you realise that existence means living more in the present and that's an important shift for a person and more people seem to be making similar transitions now. I mean, at least people seem to care more where they put their money now with investments for the future."

Musically, the sound of both The Isness and Mello Hippo Disco Show (both are technically released under the FSOL alter ego Amorphous Androgynous, incidentally) for me remind a little of the 1990s World Music/ Electronica outfits like Ultramarine and Trans Global Underground in their cross-fertilisation of dance beats, grooves and exotic cultures. Is that an axis you've paid much attention to?

"Not really. I was more turned on by my time in India," Gaz enthuses. "The first time I was in this tiny village, I got submersed into this 20 minute raga thing being played by a tabla player, a flute and a drone. It was absolutely beautiful. Actually, I heard similar scales to Miles Davis, George Harrison, Mahavisnu Orchestra...the freedom of Indian music affecting these dudes from the west. Believe me, I've invested in a very expensive collection of all these."

Certainly, both the new records are much warmer and (erk!) song-based than anything we've previously encountered from FSOL. Do you have roots in guitar-based music prior to FSOL?

"Oh yeah, very much so," says Gaz. "When I was an adolescent, I enjoyed guitar bands very much, and even with Dead Cities that side was coming out in that I was using vocal samples as triggers. The downside of computers is that while anyone can use them as a tool, which is great, it also means lots of people with nothing to say can hide behind them."
"After Dead Cities, I started to be a frustrated communicator," he continues. "I began to feel that lyrical content was important again and we'd done enough that was meaningless cut-up type stuff. Besides (laughs) I couldn't get anyone else to sing my stuff anyway!"

The Isness and Mello Hippo... feature intriguing studio collaborators old and new. Going in two extreme directions, I ask Gaz about both Garret Lee (ex-Compulation guitarist and now nifty remixer as Jackknife Lee) and also former David Bowie and (cough) Sky bassist Herbie Flowers, who both feature in the recent FSOL scheme of things...

"Brian and I had an argument about how the basslines worked on our old stuff," remembers Gaz.
"We both love Herbie Flowers' bass playing, so we paid him about £200 to come in and play. Really it was an excuse to get him to tell us all these amazing rock'n'roll stories, but we love his loose style of playing.
"I mean," says Gaz, on a roll now, "we got sick of break loops and we wanted the sort of Hendrix-style free form of madness he can supply. Much as I still love technology, we want to incorporate this kind of thing like a psychedelic jam."

We'll get back to Psychedelia in a moment, but first tell us about Garret Lee, Gaz...

"When we were doing The Isness, we had a studio in a complex," Gaz divulges. "We had a floor with five studios and Garret was working in one. I got drawn to the sounds coming out of his door, basically and gradually I got into the idea of working with him. He loves what he's doing and he's electronic-oriented; an amazing producer. We just vibe off him."
"He did the remix from "Mello Hippo" on his laptop sitting by a lake in Canada, you know. His outlook is very different to my anti-technological stance right now."

Let's get back to Psychedelia for a moment, Gaz. Apart from the sitars and Indian elements to your new music, the P word is something that strikes your reviewer, such are the langorous grooves and the preposterous titles ("Galaxial Pharmaceutical", anyone?). You've listed some unlikely progenitors as influences, though...like ELO for instance?

"We're big fans of stuff like "Mr.Blue Sky"" confirms Gaz. "But of course they were big Beatles fans, so it's logical enough. Besides, we don't think of 'Psychedelia' as an internet term or whatever. For us, it's rooted in 1967, but living in today's climate. I mean, I relate to the fun, openness and childlike qualities of it. With my healing process, I've become much more naive and I enjoy it. We'd rather use the term Cosmic Space Music: that doesn't have the same associations."

Indeed not. The thing is, it would be easy to scoff at some of Gaz's claims if he wasn't so obviously sincere and frankly a totally lovely bloke. Also, FSOL's two new albums bear out his new-found Spiritual awakening a something eminently positive and suggest FSOL will be in rude health for some time to come. Looking back, though, Gaz, are you still proud of your previous technological achievements?

"I'm proud of all our stuff, " says Gaz firmly. "OK, some of it is perhaps a bit too techno-oriented and I only let our love of an array of music come out after "Papua New Guinea." But that's life. There are periods when you have the power and people will come to you, but then at other times you have to educate people. We're not Safeways anymore. At the moment we're more like the dusty shop down the side street handing out carrot juice, but I don't care. I'm happy with that."

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