(2004-05-02) BBC Radio 6

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(2004-05-02) BBC Radio 6

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BBC Radio 6 Music SixMix Interview 2nd May 2004

Interviewer: This is 6 Music with my guest Garry from Future Sound of London. So that was Donovan, where did you pick that up from, where'd you first hear that?

Gaz Cobain: Well, about six years ago we became increasingly tired of the amount of money we were spending on records, and we both were living around Brick Lane, and began to frequent the great market there on a Sunday, and begin to pick up this wonderful kind of wastebin of vinyl down there. You can buy twenty great looking records with fantastic sleeves, for like £1.50. And this suddenly began to be like the pannasia to the glut of the way music was becoming very expensive. So we started to, I guess, experiment a little bit with what we were buying again, and we picked up Donovan, and from there the trail just kind of got deeper really. Donovan was one of many musicians who had a cosmic consciousness that was kind of prevelant in the late '60s, going into the '70s, that was something we were beginning to get very interested in, and it was just a lot of coincidences with him. Then we wrote him a letter about our album, and he wrote the liner notes for The Isness, the Amorphous Androgynous album. I wrote him a letter and sent him the album and he played it to his family and they all kind of dug it and one day there he was on the phone and he's become a bit of a friend really. Kind of like an inspiration, he's the kind of guy who'll take you from the Maharishi through Nepal and back again all in the space of a breathe, he's quite an inspiring guy, and the perfect guy to write the liner notes because we didn't want anybody who was too rational. We wanted kind of freeform love poetry.

Interviewer: And you got that?

Gaz Cobain: We really got that.

Interviewer: The next piece of music you're going to play is 'Feel the Spirits', yeah? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Gaz Cobain: I can't tell you a whole lot about it, because what I do these days is I just put all my records into my computer and I just lose completely who they are, but I do know this is on an album called Folk Explosion, and it's called 'Feel the Spirit', and more than that, it's... very beautiful.

Track plays.

Interviewer: So when you said, just before we played that track, which was interesting, and I wonder, you said that a lot of times with putting music into a computer, you don't really think about what the titles are called. In a way, that's kind of taking music in a purer way, isn't it? It's like when you're a kid and you listen to the radio, you don't really care who it's by, if you like it, you like it. Do you find that increasingly-?

Gaz Cobain: Absolutely. From many different angles, really. I'm a lover of music, but I'm a lover of the discovery process, and the discovery process, I'm kind of a warrior to keep that alive really. I go into shops and fight for them to have turntables where you can listen to the music. So that you can go into, for example, a second-hand shop - most second-hand shops are becoming very expensive now, for vinyl, and they don't allow you to treat them like a treasure trove - so I'm very much a warrior for keeping that alive. And yeah, absoutely, I don't really care who it's by I just go on... There's definitely initial signposts: I like a good cover, I like some aspect that there's some kind of spirituality present in the music; some kind of positive, spiritual, cosmic consciousness aspect, which is the kind of vibe that I'm going on. And you can get that impression from the artwork, and the way they're putting themselves about on the record.

Interviewer: I want to talk to you more about your music, after we've heard the next piece of music you've brought in, which is Black Sabbath.

Gaz Cobain: Indeed, yeah. This is one of those beautiful occasions, you walk into record shop and they're playing something that's great, and it seems like it was meant just for you. [laughs] This is Black Sabbath - 'Planet Caravan', and it's a great example of a weird song. Because in this day and age we are beseiged by not-very-weird songs, because the idea is to get people to buy them, so they'll be as basic and as straightforward as possible. So that means no out-there lyrics and conceptual, philosophical bent to the lyric, and it also means a not particularly interesting mash with the backing. I think there's an interesting area where, I'm beginning to see it more and more now, actually, where the song is being deconstructed in terms of the backing and the vocal, so this is a great example of that, I think.

Track plays.

Interviewer: I don't know that song at all, was that Ozzy singing that one?

Gaz Cobain: That isn't Ozzy Osbourne singing, not that I particularly know or care. But funnily enough, I was doing a car boot sale with my girlfriend, and she's got an old Saab car, and we set that up and put all her dresses that had become defunct around the car and hung them from the doors, and people were coming and saying "Wow, Woodstock", I really remember that. [laughs] And we were playing this track, and a goth girl came up - funnily enough we were talking about 'trainspotters' - this track, a track that of course the Black Sabbath 'trainspotter'... and she started becoming misty eyed, talking to me about Black Sabbath, their heyday, Ozzy Osbourne, various gigs she'd seen, which album it was from, bootleg rarities. And of course I zoned out, because I'm not really that interested. This track is phenomenal, there's a reason why I found it, it just sounds incredibly modern to me, it's very abstract, very cool, what more can I say really?

Interviewer: I'm really interested in the way that the music you've played so far kind of fits in with your last album, which I've got to say is one of the best things that's come out of this country in a long time, I think. And it's just a really great album, just complete, and it really works as an album, and a lot of records don't do that these days, I think. Do you see the connection between maybe these older records and what you're doing now as a producer?

Gaz Cobain: Absolutely. If I could write these records, I would. And that's the beginning of the process: the frustration. Funnily enough, when it comes to releasing an album, or writing an album, the first thing I do is I sit back and I look at the new releases, and I think "they're going to get there before I do. They're going to do what I'm going to do," and I'm kind of lazy because I don't wanna do it really. It's going to be a hell of an emotional trauma to make this album, it's going to take me out on a limb, it's going to take me places that I don't wanna go, away from home, countries and people. It's an adventure, sure, but it's going to push me, y'know? We don't like to be pushed sometimes, I don't. So I look at the new records, and years ago I used to look at The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers and used to think they were going to make the wonderful psychedelic masterpiece, and they didn't. Then gradually I resigned myself that I was going to have to make it, and I didn't, but I'm trying. And I start looking at records that other people have made that have elements of what I really need, in a really simple, really cutting it down to grass roots level, which is what we're talking about here, it's music. Does it make me burn, and make my heart sing, and make my mind stop with all the crap that's going on there, and just make me love and enjoy and be here on a spiritual vibe? And these records do, and they're just great signposts that, to me, of little elements of what I'd like to do really. I think all the production of what I'm playing all has an element of FSOL, really, there's a deep depth and abstraction. So isn't that what we should be doing as The Future Sound of London?

Interviewer: Your next track is from the Cocteau Twins. They kind of use guitars in a really, I dunno if they use them in a computer kind of way, but certainly in a really effective way, which is quite unique, isn't it?

Gaz Cobain: In the '80s there was that whole mystique about Robin Guthrie, similar to the Aphex Twin, that they all play this kind of mystique of their technology, it's the male game, isn't it? Let's tape up the technology and make you think it's very mysterious. Robin Guthrie played that game in the '80s, he had hundreds of foot pedals under taped things you couldn't see, and his sound was very unique. And yes, again they're very what I term 'outerworldly', 'otherworldly' musicians. There's a whole spate of them, musicians that have a talent, Liz Fraser is one of them, Jimi Hendrix was one of them, Donovan was one of them, there's a list of them actually, and the Cocteau Twins fit into that category.

Track plays.

Interviewer: I wanted to ask, actually, there's a mix coming up after your next choice, I saw you play at a Big Chill event that took place in London a couple of years ago now, and it wasn't like any DJ mix experience I'd ever witnessed, and it was incredible, really deep and very layered. How do you describe that, and how have you come to present your DJing in that style?

Gaz Cobain: I guess I term that 'a personal struggle' [laughs] in that you have to pick the place carefully, or just be prepared to be shot down. That experience was absolutely quite amazing actually, because what I didn't realise was there were huge balconies upstairs, and there were actually quite a lot of people up there, but from where I was sitting, everybody just cleared out, so I just saw a cleared floor, it started off packed and it was empty! It was only like a week later that I found out there were actually hundreds of people upstairs digging it, and gradually they came forward. I just stick up for the right to play music I believe in. I try to make people dance and freak out, but the more that I become free in my being with the various things I've done over the last six years, the more that I find I'm able to dance to anything, really. You know what, I think women can dance to anything, I just think it's blokes, unfortunately, who kind of rule the roost from their hears, and the evalutate music in ways that women don't. There was a great moment, actually, at my thirtieth birthday party, where I played this sort of music, and women were dancing, and gradually the men joined in and realised they could have some fun, rather than working out what was cool first.

Interviewer: We're going to hear your... well, I'd call it a mix, what do you call it? It's not really fair to call it a mix...

Gaz Cobain: Well, we call them A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind, which kind of sums it up really, or we call it cosmic space music of every kind. Because the idea is we're standing up for the freedom of using technology and the whole history and library of sound to try and create something that is startling, really. And of course we put loads of voices in there, which I get from gurus and comedy and things that are saying things to me as well, to give the music a freeform poetry vibe as well.

Interviewer: Superb, we'll listen to that after your final choice, from Leon Russell, is that right?

Gaz Cobain: That's right. Actually, this is a good chance to bring in... of course you say this is The Future Sound of London here in the studio today and of course it isn't, it's Garry Cobain, there is another very significant half of Future Sound of London, and that is my brother, Brian Dougans, hopefully listening to this! And this record brings him nicely into the fold, because this is one of those records that he bought from Brick Lane, I've envied it since he's bought it, I've tried to buy it. I bought ten very bad Leon Russell albums in the attempt of buying this, because every time I see a Leon Russell album I buy it, hoping this track is on there, and it never is, and I'm totally jealous of that record. We'll dedicate this one to Brian.

Track plays.

Interviewer: Bringing it up to date with your music, you haven't really talked much about your album, and it's been re-issued, hasn't it? Can you tell us a little bit about that? What's the new package with the album?

Gaz Cobain: The Isness took five years to make, and it was a hell of a process, really. There was never going to be a definite statement on that album, because being in The Future Sound of London has a negative slant in that there are several different ways to approach a track, so we always felt that we'd never really got the definitive of it, and we never will, and we allowed it to be an imperfect statement. That was a resolution we made at some point in the process. The Otherness which we've now released with The Isness to form the new version of the album is merely different perspectives on some of the same tracks basically, to show just how many ways there are to peel this onion.

Interviewer: This is BBC 6 Music and the SixMix with The Future Sound of London, thanks very much, Garry, for coming in.

Mix plays.

Interviewer: Garry, can you tell us a few of the tracks that you've just played there?

Interviewer 2: What was that?

Gaz Cobain: [laughs] ...is what you'd like to say! Ok, we've got various things in there. Bits of my new album are dotted throughout, so there's bits of Amorphous Androgynous - Alice in Ultraland, which is my new album, but we started with Cellophane Symphony - 'Don't Ask Me How or When', just another random pick up on a market; Miles Davis, various things from Panthlassa, really great album; Mahavishnu Orchestra, really rocking our boat right now with their blend of otherworldly musicianship; there's something called Free Sitar which is just some crazy sitar with moog experiment; then there's Amorphous Androgynous - 'The Prophet'; Bob James - 'Nautilus'; Dorothy Ashby - 'African Vibes'; something else from Miles Davis, 'Dark Manga'; a little bit of Genesis that I've butchered; a bit of Funkadelic; a bit of Joni Mitchell, I think that one's called 'The Silver Vales of Arda'; a bit of Jerk Machine; a little bit of Third Ear Band; something from the Wicker Man soundtrack, a fantastic film and soundtrack again, a lot of people really getting into that now; and then we finish off with Amorphous Androgynous - 'Billy the Onion', a new track from our forthcoming album; and something again from Mahavishnu Orhcestral; and rounding it up with yet another one of mine, Amorphous Androgynous - 'Air'.

Interviewer: Thanks very much, that's a pretty incredible collection of music in there, and the album is out now, and thoroughly recommended. Thanks again for joining me today Garry.

Gaz Cobain: Absolute pleasure, thanks for allowing me the opportunity.
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