Self-revolution, multidimensional potentiality and cosmic consciousness were just a few of the issues Garry Cobain, one half of the production duo Amorphous Androgynous, discussed with Rich Deakin recently on the release of the second CD in Amorphous Androgynous’s “manifesto for sonic liberation” series, A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Brain Vol. 2 – Pagan Love Vibrations.
Interviewer: “So the DJ was gonna set us free right?” Presumably you think “the DJ” failed in this respect then? If so, do you think there are parallels between this failure with that of the original ’60s hippy counterculture and also the punk movement?
Garry Cobain: Yeah the DJ totally forgot his role... as a Disciple of Jive to Discover Joy and take us on a Deep Journey, an alchemist blending sound to initiate a higher calling. In the end he merely fed the other centres, the animalistic, materialistic and hedonistic. Yeah certainly another potential revolution died with a whimper, or should I say the collective thud of a million and one water aerobics classes soundtracked by the latest metronomic dance compilation from the Ministry of Silence. At the beginning all revolutions have a genuine fire in the belly and yes punk, yes hippy countercultures WERE a genuine collective expansion, but yes they end up being institutions and mechanisms 'the beatniks are out to make it rich'. The revolutions became merely fashions! With punk the anger was genuine and was a necessary reaction, and with the hippy counterculture the exploration of new ideas fuelled by anger at the existing status quo wishing to find a new balance where love and a new sense of spirituality was the motivating force. The difference is that maybe the hippy counterculture with its exploration into all these avenues: mysticism, ecology, sexuality, conservation has maybe thrown open far more doors. Having said that 'a punk is a beatnik is a hippy is a mod simply living and reacting in different times rebelling to different restrictions'. All collective revolutions fail at the end of the day, only self-revolution can work! Change yourself first and foremost!
Interviewer: As key players in the late 1980s / early ’90s electronic / dance explosion yourself, when did you notice that the scene was turning sour?
Garry Cobain: Originally from ’85 to ’97 anonymity of the creators or ‘facelessness’ was a genuinely revolutionary stance in electronic music brought about simply by a search for a deeper music and emotional impact beyond the fashion/ ego/ marketing of the notion of a band and its personnel. We as FSOL [Future Sound of London] were really inspired by this idea of creating a deep immersive world, not reliant upon the conventional notions - and restrictions - of a band. It seemed potentially that it could go much further than the limitations of presenting the personalities involved. We could see all the medias being used and synchronised to create this audio visual immersion. It went wrong when this was conveniently misinterpreted as an excuse to simply put out half baked ideas without any greater thought, philosophy OR attitude. Suddenly the marketplace was bombarded with thousands of double albums, where you got nothing for your money, no attitude, no message, no fashion, no personality. Couple that with the fact that most of the best electronic music wasn’t actually DANCE music and the fact that ultimately clubs and gigs were the biggest means of marketing which ultimately meant that the genuinely revolutionary experimental electronic music had no outlet. Thus the pressure was always on to straighten the edges and become ‘dance friendly’.
We saw our lineage as Floyd and Tangerine Dream and Eno, composers. All this ultimately led back to a desire for conventional rock stars and personalities who we could collectively worship again WHO could also play live... rock’n’roll! This is partially why Brit Pop exploded at the beginning of the ’90s. Too much faceless dance drivel with nothing to directly impart and no method for people to differentiate it. It was already going wrong by that stage. It also became a formula, the right kind of beats for the right kind of DJs etc, we saw ourselves merely continuing the experimentation of music, NOT forming a new set of rules so we were never gonna take that lying down!
I used to constantly ask around ’97 “when did innovation merely mean the technological, what about innovation of the soul?". It seemed to me technology had also gotten out of hand and the point had been missed ie all music is ultimately a self-discovery NOT a demonstration for software! I didn't want to compete to be the best computer programmer! Very intellectual! Also we had always filtered a huge variety of music into the FSOL sound and when the beat became ALL important we became disinterested... we never really felt part of any scene anyway so it was easy to move on. Don't get me wrong electronic music will find its place again it just ran aground, and society I feel needs a different vibration at the moment - less technological, more intuitive, more playful, more feminine and also searching for a spiritual connection... maybe also a protest song of sorts. I also realised it had gone wrong when music was being evaluated by people who thought that music began and ended on the day that an acid house track was made! It seemed absurd and I wasn't prepared to live by its restrictions anymore even if it meant I didn't make a living for a while. I wanted to celebrate all revolutionary music and find the next revolution!
Interviewer: Is this why you decided to turn your attentions to proselytizing psychedelic music?
Garry Cobain: Proselytizing? No. I don't need to convert anyone. I also didn't decide, it wasn't so intellectual or rational it was simply a process of searching, initially for why my health was deteriorating, and then travelling extensively, and then practicing yoga and meditation and studying naturopathy. Gradually I realised I wasn't who I thought I was and my musical tastes started to change and reflect and harmonise this. This process has continued to this day and led to the discovery that many millions have made this self realization journey over thousands of years and that this is a unique phase in time at the moment where people are waking up and searching beyond their perceived restrictions for a new balance, a new happiness a new connectivity. We're not as free as we thought we were and every new disaster whether politically, economically or ecologically is bringing us to a new place of questioning. These questions naturally bring you to a new psychedelic perspective if you keep on pushing... to certain kinds of sacred truth! The psychedelic is our birthright, a place of multidimensional potentiality. It has little to do with 1967 in fact. That was simply one phase of the psychedelic. The psychedelic is simply all around us but our grey skylines corrupt governments and organised religions and vested powers such as the media have hoodwinked us so thoroughly into the illusion of money and time that we no longer see what's truly around. I have been asking questions and searching on many levels for the last ten years and people are beginning to be interested so I tell them. It’s not my message particularly I am simply one of many reminders.
Interviewer: This may only be the second CD release in the Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble series, but you’ve also compiled at least eight more similar podcast compilations haven’t you?
Garry Cobain: Yes, we initially started MPB in 1997 as an internal manifesto for our own sonic liberation, I found it interesting how limited so called experimental music was in 1997 and so Brian Dougans - my other half as producers of Amorphous Androgynous and FSOL - and I began to look for a different vibration so MPB became a kind of a mandate for how we saw music going. It combined the search within the song itself and the lyric, in tandem with studio innovation. It struck us that merely bending sound without a song or lyric had also run its course so we started to pull together a collection of tracks with a new philosophical or lyrical approach. This inevitably led us back to 1967 and then gradually we retraced a new lineage from there through to the present day. From 1997 we sporadically, where the opportunity arose, continued these MPB mixes on diverse radio stations. Over ten years there had been eight shows which we now release as podcasts at fsoldigital.com. Finally a couple of years ago a label – Platipus - finally had the nerve and vision to take on the huge task of clearing and searching for these tracks with a view to releasing a MPB compilation album.
Interviewer: Tell us a bit more about the creative process involved in making a compilation like A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble?
Garry Cobain: Well there are no rules really... it’s a combination of spoken word and music and basically we always search and collect music for our own expansive purposes! We try and collage the unexpected the esoteric with the cosmic and the absurd... shake things up! We employ any tricks of the day both mixing live on CD decks and in computers trying every permutation until the journey works flying in words and speech and sampled sounds to create the required trip. Sometimes we edit tracks and sometimes - like Oasis - we remix them entirely with the mandate from Noel to “make it fit onto MPB”. We are particularly drawn to music and words that have an element of the cosmic spiritual search in them, and because I myself have been resonating in this area for the last decade I find myself drawn to other musicians who have travelled there. Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane. Richie Havens, George Harrison, Donovan, John McLaughlin, Ananda Shankar, have all filtered this spiritual search in music, so it struck us as not only a very personal way of collecting sound, but also a very novel one... maybe the first compilation compiled on a theme of cosmic consciousness? We have fun. Basically we use whatever we feel creates this colourful juxtaposition, a new liberation for NOW. There is a lot of searching involved, not for the tracks we naturally gravitate to finding great music, but actually searching for who owns them now on a business record label footing. What's interesting is that when we started these mixes only a very few modern pieces of music would fit into the mixes but now ten years later the vibe is resonating and there is loads of new music, so it again reaffirms that something is stirring collectively!
Interviewer: I haven’t had the pleasure of catching one of Amorphous Androgynous’s recent live showcases, but hope to do so in the near future. Are there any more coming up and what can we expect?
Garry Cobain: Well, it’s pretty exotic and changes shape amorphously and exotically courtesy of having a big family of great musicians. We have drums and sitars and electronics all ricocheting around plus various vocalists such as Alisha Sufit from legendary psych-folk band Magic Carpet - released a couple of great records in the ’70s. I met her through licensing a Magic Carpet track for MPB and we immediately got on and she pretty much immediately joined the group to go to Russia to play some gigs with us! I can't tell anyone what to expect... if you're open who knows? Anything is possible, nothing is forbidden!
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