(2003-01) Unbarred

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(2003-01) Unbarred

Post by Ross »

Unbarred January 2003

It’s late on a cold rainy December afternoon when Garry Cobain from FSOL phones. He has spent the better part of the day talking non-stop about the new project, under the alter ego Amorphous Androgynous, to hacks all over the world. It is perhaps surprising then that he sounds as fresh and enthusiastic as a Sylvia Young Theatre School graduate on prime time, even if he is speaking a very different language.

The Isness has been the best part of half a decade in the making, a time that has seen Garry run off round the world in search of a cure for his mystery illness, leaving FSOL partner Brian Dougans in limbo. After nearly fifteen years together this has become all part of what he describes as the “rollercoaster”. Eventually Garry ended up in Mexico after time spent with healers and artists from the far reaches of the globe, it was in South America where he had his mercury fillings replaced that things started to improve. (amazing isn't it? Even when doing music interviews, dentists can always swing the conversation to teeth somehow! - ed). With his new found good health and beads and lentils approach that he returned to England and put the finishing touches to the record that became their first release following the departure from Virgin records. Have the Future Sound of London finally found their time?

After an hour hearing Garry rage against the corporate uber meister and give forth a contagious enthusiasm for the new calmer, altogether groovier, sound he has been cultivating it would seem that their bell has indeed tolled. Why then have they chosen to abandon their historical moniker and work under the altogether more elusive Amorphous Androgynous banner? “It’s simply a case of a fresh start, distance between where we are now and all the shit at the peak of FSOL’s commercial success. We don’t want people to keep pestering to hear "Papua New Guinea" (Huge techno hit in early nineties)”.

Are they not worried about missing the core audience, or indeed the new generation who may have been turned on to FSOL via the patronage of everyone from Radiohead (Garry claims later that without FSOL Kid A may never have been made. Controversial? You decide) to Marylin Manson?
“Of course that is a possibility, but we just can’t get worked up about it anymore, what’s the point if you are just trying to make something to sell. We are just on a trip making something we love”.

The process from inception to high street has been long and troublesome this time round, what affect has this had on the sound of this project? “I have been all over the world from Malaysia to south America, met all these incredible, spiritual people who just blew my mind. Musicians and gurus, all kinds of wild shit. How can that not change the way you think and work? We have moved on, I have now found where I really want to be, and I think that really shows on the record. You can’t make new music anymore it doesn’t really exist, the only way to be original is to interpret the past from a different perspective. Intelligent techno, even Bjork and Radiohead, to take a really modern view of some really classic stuff, making it sound like nothing else, that is probably were we are coming from with The Isness”.

When talking to Garry it is easy to forget he is but half of one of the last decade’s premier electro tag teams. So what of Brian, how did he feel while he dashed off round the world to sip green tea and kick back in LA with Ian Astbury (cod spiritual rock behemoth from The Cult)? “He describes our relationship as a white knuckle ride, we complement each other but remain wholly different, our relationship is entirely healthy, and probably the only one I have maintained over the last fifteen years. It is Brian who brings the harder edge to the sound, between the two of us it amazes me how many records we have, our influences are this crazy mix of everything from the sixties psychedelic shit to the new wave punk and now all this Indian stuff”.

When you hear The Isness for the first time it almost passes through without touching the sides. To dismiss it at this stage would be a huge mistake. Three days later, in a vile cattle truck of a train on the way to London the ethereal almost extraterrestrial sounds sucked me in and kept me there, save and sound in a cozy and intensely intricate cocoon. This is definitely not the hard beat driven techno or even the chilled ambient you might expect. You can smell this record, like an old much loved sweater you really feel the warmth. It is however pathologically indulgent and very self-aware, from a cynical viewpoint the influences appear either painfully cool or wilfully obtuse. Ultimately this doesn’t seem to matter, as the journey from opium den to fiesta is exhilarating and very impressive.

Considering the circumstances under which they put the record together, not least the separation from the major label that became their nemesis towards the end, it is an uplifting and wholesome experience. Gary puts this down to “The Ability to breath again and not trying to please accountants. We were flying by the seat of our pants”.

So where to next? “We want to get this project to the live stage, it will be good to play with a live band and not just be faceless programmers or DJs. A lot of new electronic music feels much more organic and live, things like Blue States and Kinobe, it is great to move away from the cult of the studio and actually get outside”.

What about Garry? “I am living in a rented room in a 1940’s time warp South London house looking forward to getting out of the country and moving to France. I want to do some work on the Mello Hippo a TV project (Mello Hippo is the remix project based on The Isness track of the same name), to introduce the fantastic new people I have met to the rest of the world. It is not just the music, in ten years I will be so happy to just be creative, whether its art, music or cooking”.

To say the last decade and a half have been a difficult journey would be an understatement but Garry Cobain seems to have made it through unscathed and burning bright. Whether there is anyone tuned in remains to be seen, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter, while there are people caring enough to make this kind of journey and create these labours of love, there is fuel for Simon Fuller’s funeral pyre.
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