Future Talk - 1994

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Ross
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Future Talk - 1994

Post by Ross » Sat Feb 01, 2020 5:39 pm

A two-part interview with Music Technology from January and March 1994 that I hadn't seen before. Gaz takes way too much credit for Humanoid and some provisional release dates for Lifeforms are accidentally printed. Articles & scans here and here.

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Simon Trask discovers the future sound - and vision - of London


In the first part of an occasional series charting their growing involvement with video and computer graphics technology. The Future Sound Of London tell Simon Trask why they're going audio-visual...



When MT last interviewed Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans aka The Future Sound Of London (MT August '92), they spoke of their intention to install a video edit suite in their studio, proclaiming "Our images should be as sophisticated as our music."

Some 18 months later and the racks of hi-tech musical gear in the now enlarged Earthbeat studio are augmented by a Sony Betacam edit suite, courtesy of the group's publishers Sony Music. But this is not some recent conversion to the audio-visual faith. In fact, Brian and Garry's involvement in audio-visual work, dates back to the mid '80s and a chance meeting with Mark Maclean and Colin Scott - aka video artists Stakker - at the Hacienda club in Manchester.

"They needed a soundtrack for an ident commission from MTV, so we put that together for them," recalls Brian. This led to a commission for a 30-minute audio-visual piece, Ultratech, for which Brian and Garry once again provided the music.

"Stakker had managed to hire a Fairlight CVI (Computer Video Instrument) from Fairlight for unlimited time," explains Garry. "That self-indulgence was quite nice, being able to create at our own pace. There were these glorious editing sessions through the night, when the Fairlight was brought in and we'd be editing the music on quarter-inch tape, back and forth with the visuals. Then there were flights down to facility houses in London to put it all together."

Then in '88 Brian and Garry, together with Stakker, decided to approach some record companies with a view to getting an audio-visual recording deal. The companies they saw had other ideas, however...



"It was... 'Yeah, we quite like the music, but we can do without paying for the visuals'" recalls Garry. "People don't even want to do that nowadays, although the climate is so much more conducive than it was in '88. We were asking for 50K, 70K; it cost a lot of money to put together the sort of stuff we were doing."

In the event, the company they signed with, Westside Records, signed the music but not the visuals, and 'Humanoid' by Stakker came out on 12". Or was it 'Stakker Humanoid' by Humanoid? Or 'Humanoid' by Stakker Humanoid? According to Brian, at various stages it was all these things - a reflection of the confusion and ego problems which eventually led to a parting of the ways with Stakker.

"They had their own ideas, we had ours," recalls Brian. "Stakker didn't want to become this pop promo-making outfit," Garry adds. "Their idea was for one-off artworks, galleries."

However, the audio-visual pairing did manage to produce two more works, Eurotechno for Medialab and The Evil Acid Baron for Rhythm King, before splitting up.

Subsequently, according to Garry, Stakker video material has cropped up in all manner of situations through a series of sub-licensing deals. "A lot of people are pulling in those visuals; I've seen them in the most bizarre places." Including, recently, a video wall display in Debenhams in Oxford Street! "There's money exchanging hands somewhere, but not to us," Garry adds. "We had a very loose, cavalier business attitude back at that time."



"We were also stitched up by the record company," recalls Brian. "We were totally naive - to business, to music, to the whole thing. It swamped us."

Nowadays, they place much value on taking care of the business side. "It's about a clarity of communication," says Garry. "To achieve that clarity of communication you have to gain control of as much as you can about the way you put out records - and that, unfortunately, is business. So you have to be completely attuned to it."

Following their salutary experience with 'Humanoid', Brian and Garry found themselves in a period of limbo. It was during this time that they signed to a small independent - Jumpin' & Pumpin' - and began releasing 12"s under a variety of names, including Smart Systems, Yage, Mental Cube and, of course, The Future Sound Of London. Garry refers to this as a "fruition period".

Then came the unexpected chart success of 'Papua New Guinea' and the follow-up album Accelerator in '92, both recorded under the FSOL name. Subsequently, Brian and Garry signed to Virgin Records as The Future Sound Of London, and also formed their own label, EBV, to release material under other names - the 1993 Amorphous Androgynous album Tales of Ephidrina being their first release.

Now, with former Stakker cohort Mark Maclean - aka Buggy G Riphead - back in the fold, Future Sound have embarked on a new phase as audio-visual artists - beginning with the video they made to accompany the recent FSOL single, 'Cascade', put together in a high-end London facilities house before they acquired their edit suite.



Always questioning the merits of what they produce, Brian and Garry are typically self-critical when it comes to discussing their own video... "It's a luscious piece of work, and technically it's genius, but I think with the expense of using all that computer stuff the content suffered."

"Yeah, I think we've got quite a soulless video," Garry concurs. "I think that's one of the problems of using too much 3D-manipulated work. We had a certain budget, and a lot of that budget went on generating imagery that in its present form is not at its most potent. In retrospect I wish that we'd spent a week filming very good footage, chromakeyed and otherwise, rather than spending so much time in computer time. I think the context in which that technology is used needs to be looked at.


"The next revolution will be sound studios getting video gear and doing the whole thing themselves"


"The idea with having the edit suite is to have the stuff which enables us to go a certain way, but keep facilities houses online to do the more cutting-edge stuff. I don't intend to spend £200,000 on a bit of cutting-edge technology; I'd rather use somebody else's and then move on. I suppose what I'm saying is that I'd like to keep the cutting-edge aspect of what we do in context, and not have to commit to having it fully on board. That way we can say 'OK, we've had enough of that now, we've used it."

"The whole point is that Brian and I need to be completely self-indulgent in terms of our working practice. That's the way we've prospered with music, so that's the way we're going to prosper with video - and that's also why the whole film industry will be given a kick up the arse. The next revolution will be sound studios getting video gear and doing the whole thing themselves. It will lead to a completely new form of product, and a spate of products that I don't think anybody can fully imagine at the moment.

MT will be reporting exclusively on FSoL's progress as self-sufficient audio-visual artists in future issues.

Future sound
Accessit: RIAA amp
Akai: S900, S1000, S1100, S1100EX samplers
Alesis: ADAT digital multitrack (x2), BRC remote controller, AI-2 audio/video synchroniser, MIDIverb II (x2), Quadraverb (x2)
Apple: Quadra 950 computer
Atari: 1040ST computer running Emagic Creator sequencing software
Audio Logic: 20001 digital sampler
BBE: Sonic Maximiser 422A bel: BD-80 digital delay
Digidesign: ProTools disk-based recording system (4-track version)
Drawmer: DS201 Dual Gate
E-mu Systems: Proteus/1 XR module, Vintage Keys module
EMS: Synthi AKS synth
Fostex: Model 3070 compressor/limiter
Ibanez: DM1100 digital delay
Jen: SX1000 synth
Korg: DRV-1000 digital reverb, Wavestation A/D synth module
LA Audio: MIDI gate
Oberheim: Matrix 1000 synth module, OB8 synth
OSC: Oscar monosynth
Roland: D110 module, JX3P synth, MKS50 module, SH101 monosynth, TB303 bass synth, TR909 drum machine
Tascam: 103 cassette deck
Sony: CDP-770 CD player, DTC-1000ES DAT machine
Soundtracs: IL3632 36-input mixing desk
Tannoy: Little Gold monitors
Technics: SL1210 Mk2 record deck
Urei: monitors
Yamaha: DS55 synth, NS10M monitors, Q2031 graphic EQ, SPX90 multi-FX unit, TX81Z synth module

Future vision
Sony:
BKE-9500 Editing Control Disk Unit
Edit Desk
PCM-7050 Digital Audio Recorder
PVW-2650P Betacam SP Videocassette Player
PVW-2800P Betacam SP Videocassette Recorder
Monitors (x4)


---


Part 2: what would you do with a Sony Betacam video edit suite next to your S1000? Simon Trask continues to track FSOL's audio-visual path...


In part 2 of our occasional series charting their growing involvement with video and computer graphics, The Future Sound of London talk to Simon Trask about the parallels between musical and visual creativity...



If you read the first instalment of this series (MT January '94) you'll know that in pre-FSOL days Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans were audiovisual pioneers, collaborating with video outfit Stakker on MTV commissions and the Stakker 'Humanoid' single. Now, following a period of music-only activity which established them as The Future Sound Of London, Brian and Garry are reinventing themselves as an audiovisual outfit and working once again with Stakker's Buggy G Riphead.

At Earthbeat, the group's 16-track studio in north London, the racks of musical technology are augmented by a Sony Betacam video edit suite, installed towards the end of last year. Already, Brian and Garry have started to take control of their own visual presentation, creating the video for their last single, 'Cascade', and infiltrating MTV with a 3-minute audiovisual 'statement of intent' which cuts up 'Cascade' edits with spoken inserts from Garry.

As Garry pointed out in the January issue, bringing some of the video technology in-house has allowed he and Brian to be rather "self-indulgent" in their working practice - an approach which has already proved successful for them musically. Through further debate and discussion, the pair have come to the conclusion that another aspect of their working method with music can usefully be transferred to video and computer graphics - namely that of being able to draw on a library of raw material.



"In music, the time we spend creatively is in putting together existing source material to make something that matters, not in generating that source," explains Garry. "Whereas so far with video all we've actually succeeded in doing is generating some good source material. A lot of the budget for 'Cascade' went on generating imagery that in its present form is not at its most potent. I believe that in the future we will put some of those visual elements, rather like samples, into a context where we are actually making something that is life-changing. Right now we're not doing that with video, and that upsets me because I believe our music sometimes is life-changing."

Garry also feels that creative techniques which he and Brian have developed while working on their music can have parallels in video: "We can take bad-quality samples and put them through reverb so that you're just hearing the reverb coming out of the desk, with a vague impression of the sample way at the back of it. Well, I'm convinced that you can do similar stuff with video.

"Whenever I talk to video people they say I shouldn't be making these analogies, because video's 10 years behind sound. I can't imagine that it is; I think you could take a bit of sky, change the orientation of it, whop it through a cube, stretch it, put it behind a piece of other action, and it would be unnoticeable.


"There is a new consciousness towards travelling: physically going with the video rather than being brought down to earth by edits."

"However, I haven't seen a really clever use of video sampling yet. I think we can take sound and make it so that it's impossible to legally sue over it; now, with visuals I'm not finding that that's happening. There's either a complete scare attitude towards sampling visuals - you just don't do it because there's this attitude of 'Wow! It's so corporate we're going to get fucked.' - or there's this bad sampling going on."


Garry characterises the visual style which Stakker developed as "corporate", a "big bang aesthetic" full of "brutal edits".

"I thought at the time it was a really groundbreaking aesthetic," he recalls. "I mean in terms of logos: Stakker-logo-wham!-corporate. Presenting itself as a big corporation through video - very emblematic. I believe that that aesthetic could have sold fashion, could have sold anything from lip gloss to artworks."



The Future Sound Of London's studio looks familiar, but a Sony betacam edit suite has now been added.



"I believe that in the future we will put visual elements, rather like samples, into a context where we are actually making something that is life-changing"

Today, however, the corporate punch and aggression which so characterised the '80s is giving way to a new aesthetic of depth and fluidity - an aesthetic which is more in tune with what Garry wants to achieve visually.

"Stakker didn't quite have the flow and depth of image that I required," he says. "I wanted the shapes in the videos to fly off into the distance and go through different landscapes and environments. Now that aesthetic has come about at last. I think there is a new consciousness towards travelling, physically going with the video rather than being brought down to earth by edits. The kind of virtual reality consciousness which is hovering around, nobody quite knows what it's going to bring but everybody has their own perceptions of what will happen."

Rather than jump straight to what Garry terms the "virtual reality, put-on-a-helmet" approach, the duo are more interested in exploring the new audiovisual aesthetic possibilities within a conventional linear format.



"As a musician and an audio-visual artist I can't deny the possibilities of virtual reality," opines Garry. "But I believe there is a bridging product before we get into this complete virtual reality thing, an educating product which TV and consumers will lap up. There's a certain point at which things actually have impact, and it's not always at the cutting edge.

"I think the ideas we have for products in this interim period are also conducive to when we get to virtual reality. What we have in mind is this kind of weird environmental travel, submersion thing, but it's a filmic thing as well, with a plot; it's a new kind of audiovisual television without being just a passive wash and passive shapes rotating.

"There's a problem in marrying the depth of a good film, the complexity of a plot, with the computer world, which is quite retinal, it's about passive stimulation, floating off into another world. The kind of product that we want to create is really a very clever manipulation of both approaches."

A new Future Sound Of London single, featuring the Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer on vocals, was released on 21st February, with a new FSOL album, Lifeforms, to follow on 14th March.

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mcbpete
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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by mcbpete » Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:31 pm

Interesting stuff, some curiosities after reading:
"They needed a soundtrack for an ident commission from MTV, so we put that together for them," recalls Brian. This led to a commission for a 30-minute audio-visual piece, Ultratech, for which Brian and Garry once again provided the music.
Was 'Ultratech' pre-Eurotechno?. The only place I've seen it mentioned before is on this advert for a 30 minute VHS: https://www.discogs.com/artist/79109-Stakker/images ... Is 'Orbital visual release' anything to do with 'Orbital (Feeling)' ?
the audio-visual pairing did manage to produce two more works, Eurotechno for Medialab and The Evil Acid Baron for Rhythm King, before splitting up.
What on earth was this ?!

EDIT: Apparently it's this. Like Eurotechno but with a variety of Techno artists - http://ultraastrum.blogspot.com/2012/12 ... -show.html
infiltrating MTV with a 3-minute audiovisual 'statement of intent' which cuts up 'Cascade' edits with spoken inserts from Garry.
Don't think I've heard/seen this before. Is this the thing that's normally labelled on Youtube as FSOL Equinox Interview ?

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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by Rob » Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:18 am

infiltrating MTV with a 3-minute audiovisual 'statement of intent' which cuts up 'Cascade' edits with spoken inserts from Garry.
Don't think I've heard/seen this before. Is this the thing that's normally labelled on Youtube as FSOL Equinox Interview ?
[/quote]

Not the equinox one....here it is, i have a Virgin VHS promo tape EPK from Sept '93 that is this one that was aired on MTv, minus the MTv titles edit and logo ;)


Here my tape: https://www.discogs.com/The-Future-Soun ... se/9706760

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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by Trigga Bo » Sat Feb 15, 2020 5:55 pm

I've been listening to FSOL since about 1999,
I remember watching MTV European Top 20 in 1994, I learned about the Prodigy band from this program,
today I accidentally saw a video with THIS program on YouTube (after watching the video on the Rob link)
look, listen to the last minute in the video (5 sound moments from FSOL) ...

without knowing it, I heard FSOL back in 1994 (mystique - fate) :cry:

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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by mcbpete » Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:13 pm

Thanks for both those videos Rob & Trigga Bo - The 90s is so very 90s ! Most interesting to me is that message around 2m30s of the '93 MTV report: "FSOL is the latest identity of the audio video experiment. Stakker 1986-88. Amorphous Androgynous 1987-83". Are there any earlier examples than the Tales of Ephidrina album that are credited to AA ?

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Ross
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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by Ross » Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:18 pm

I always took it to mean “the era we used various aliases and styles” - using the AA name in a more literal sense.

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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by Rob » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:20 am

Ross wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:18 pm
I always took it to mean “the era we used various aliases and styles” - using the AA name in a more literal sense.
Lol...at least the AA name was publically used from '93 for The Tales album, Liquid Insects single and that Subliminal Aura track on Virgin CD promo comp...so ...if there are pre-93 AA tracks....it's time to make Amorphic Archives Vol. 1 :D

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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by Rob » Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:30 am

Rob wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 5:20 am
and that Subliminal Aura track on Virgin CD promo comp...
Oops...memory fault, that comp is from '94 and have Fsol Bring Me Home in it too but, Virgin A Brief History Of Ambient Vol.1 & 2 are both from '93, featuring Mountain Goat and In Mind respectively :)

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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by mcbpete » Mon Feb 17, 2020 1:29 pm

Ross wrote:
Sun Feb 16, 2020 5:18 pm
using the AA name in a more literal sense.
Aha so saying they're both 'androgynous' and 'amorphous' (lower case 'a's) during those years rather than actually Amorphous Androgynous ?

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Ross
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Re: Future Talk - 1994

Post by Ross » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:27 pm

Pretty much - using the definition of the alias to describe an era they didn't have a specific name/sound/direction.

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