Conspiracy theories, Yogic meditation, Hollywood-as-vampire-breeding-ground, rock singer Ian Astbury, ’60s psychedelia, future lust, Alcoholics Anonymous, Brad Pitt, the meditation revolution, prog rock, sitars, the corrosive mercury fillings in your teeth, the new spiritual awakening. These are just some of the things Garry Cobain, one half of Future Sound of London, talks about in 60 minutes of hyperkinetic, freewheeling conversation. Words gush forth like the world is about to end as he takes ideas that seem to be bursting out of his skull and runs with them to their (il)logical conclusions. Occasionally, he talks about his music.
It is, of course, the music that Cobain (and musical partner Brian Dougans) are most famous for. As Future Sound Of London the duo made some of electronic music’s defining records of the 90s – the singles ‘Papua New Guinea’ and ‘Cascades’, the albums Accelerator (1992), Lifeforms (1994) and the sprawling Dead Cities (1996). They operated at the art-music interface (check their ground-breaking album covers), fighting against the increased corporatisation and commodification of dance music. They even played one ‘live gig’ from the comfort of their studio, beaming the music down an ISDN line. Then they promptly disappeared for five years.
To be more accurate, it was Cobain who disappeared. He took off around the world, in part as a result of a personal and artistic crisis (“You reach this extreme place where the fucking radio plugger or record buyer is saying they don’t like the single or the remix. Fuck that.”) but also to find a cure for his increasing ill health, later traced to poisonous mercury fillings in his teeth.
Dougans wouldn’t see Cobain for months at end, sometimes not even knowing if he was alive, tracking him using his credit card bills. To get away from it all, Cobain wound up in Los Angeles of all places.
“It was only when I arrived that I realised LA was Hollywood,” he laughs. “It was really quite naïve of me, I just hadn’t thought about it.”
Cobain started sketching out song ideas on a guitar, mailing the tapes back to Dougans. After more travels he eventually returned to London, the two patched things up and work started on The Isness.
The roots of the album actually lie in a two-hour mix they broadcast back in 1996 (entitled A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble), which mashed up The Beatles, John Barry, The Rolling Stones, Bill Hicks, The Walker Brothers and a zillion others, and expressed their then-dissatisfaction with dance music’s ‘future lust’ leanings.
“The essence of it was a bunch of very odd records,” explains Cobain. “I couldn’t understand why electronic music wasn’t twisting my melons any more. Dance music had become a market place with rules and businesses. There was no growth or the ability to poke into areas of consciousness.”
Thus the new album is a veritable smorgasbord of influences, styles, genres and ideas. The centerpiece is a 15-minute track, ‘The Galaxial Pharmacutical’, a sort of sample-based mini rock opera. Elsewhere you get trippy sitar workouts (‘Osho’), Sergeant Pepper-esque riffing (‘The Mello Hippo Disco Show’), and moments of pastoral folky ambience (‘Go Tell It To The Trees Egghead’). As you’d expect, it’s a big record with a big sound.
“Music should be overblown and ostentatious and have vision,” asserts Cobain. “We don’t make music by committee, like they make Hollywood films.”
He cheerfully admits he’s an obsessive.
“Oh yeah for sure. I’ve been sleeping on the floor of my studio on an inflatable bed. I can’t let this thing go until [the album’s] out there. I’ve dedicated my body to this record.”
The Isness by Amorphous Androgynous is out now on Progtronic.
© Kieran Wyatt