. Gary Cobain talks about Dead Cities.....

Over the years you have built up quite an aura of mystery around yourselves.... Is that image cultivated?

"I think mystery is very important. I kind of....I was brought up on music as that was what music was about. It was about mystery and excitement and intrigue, and creating evocative images and stories, really -- so yeah, totally cultivated. I actually find that we're quite well sheltered - not that that's what we're trying to achieve - but I think because the world that we are portraying and projecting is actually quite satisfying, I think people don't actually really want the people behind it. I think people are actually getting quite used to the idea of creating a world, rather than just relying on face and ego, in a sense."

You've been working together for several years now -- so how did F.S.O.L. come about?

"Yeah, we've been around for 10 years I think, haven't we? I think it could be about 10 years. We met in Manchester and I was very much a failing electronics student. I think a lot of people bog us down with this kind of sophistication that somehow we're kind of very much into technology and futurism, which is kind of slightly true. Obviously we use the technology of the day, but we kind of incorporate it with very old stuff as well. But I failed as an electronics engineer, which is why I started doing this -- and Brian was.... he wasn't failing but....I kind of clung onto him, and that's when it began really -- in '88 when we did "Stakker" and stuff before that."

Were you called Future Sound Of London right from the beginning?

"No. We were kind of - as we always have been - running away from ourselves, which means working under a glittering array of different names and faces.... and trying to get the formula right, really. Trying to find, not a formula, but trying to find the right combination of skills and the right balance of ideas -- which meant working under different names, different styles of music, a whole host of things, really. Rather like (sort of) Bowie doing his folk albums and trying to get things correct, you know....always moving on almost, never sort of thinking 'Wow!! We're great! We're big! This is successful!!!'....always moving on, trying to find more, trying to dig deeper."

Did each alter ego have its own distinct musical style?

"Absolutely, yeah. I don't agree with this kind of, like, different alter egos doing the same stuff, you know. What's the point? Yeah....always playing with different styles, yeah....never really happy with what we do, I guess."

Is F.S.O.L. the strongest of those personalities?

"No, I guess it's become almost a carrier. By that I mean that in the current day and age where there are absolutely millions of pieces of art and music and literature and things coming out, it's very hard to make your stamp -- and it's almost like you need that corporate stamp of one identity. So I guess we kind of realised that, realised that if our ambitions for television and radio were going to be borne out, that we needed to actually have a carrier for that, we needed to get somewhere.... Because ultimately we're using the music industry to kind of....we're playing out this kind of dual exercise of using the music industry to help us into other areas, which are television and radio. So we needed to kind of put a strong image across, so we needed to actually fixate on one name. We've incorporated all the different styles of those other names into F.S.O.L.. Almost F.S.O.L. has become this means of just being an hour of madness. I think. The idea of our albums is you come in and you get used to the idea of being taken on a bit of a journey, you know."

How far does the name fit what you do?

"We kind of don't bear names very easily really, so the name is already ill-fitting, you know. I guess where we see ourselves is not as a band at all, so that name is already becoming slightly ill-fitting. We don't really intend to be that, which is why we're creating other logos around it such as Electronic Brain Violence, Electronic Brain....all these kind of things. Basically, by the time we've broken the broadcast system, it won't be F.S.O.L. because basically as a band -- although there's a lot of advantages to the access to the media we get, there's also disadvantages in the fact that there's a real lack of credibility to the fact that musicians or artists can and actually do work successfully in different medias, which is something that we're coming up against. Yes, we are getting access to radio and we're proving we can do it, but with that there is a slight disbelief: 'Hey! You're always going to be a musician, you know....so can you really do television?'. Well I think so, you know, because I think we're a new breed of artist that knows what we want to see on television, we know what we want to hear on radio -- and it's not happening. Nobody else is doing it, so why not?"

The name does of course associate you with the city where you live.... How important is it that you're based in London?

"It was incredibly important -- 'was' being stressed heavily there. I think....Brian and I are now coming into our thirtieth years - it's kind of, we're coming to the point now where maybe the idea of a city in terms of a dwelling place is actually becoming less important to us. We're actually beginning for the first time to think of maybe moving out. The energy of it and the education that's available in a city was important to us - the kind of learning, constantly feeding, looking at everybody else, analyzing everybody else - that was an incredibly important part of making music and art for us. But actually I'm kind of more into the idea of hiding away and not actually drinking in that influence, actually just completely bearing out my own art within almost a different community where I'm not going to be hit with those influences. Maybe it's time to kind of move away from that, so maybe London is actually on the decline for me as a notion."

Has that changing outlook influenced this album, 'Dead Cities'?

"Absolutely. I mean I think 'Dead Cities' was very much more....the past year has been very much more external. By that I mean that we've actually been going out and experiencing London life or city life a lot more. Whereas before that, 'Lifeforms' was actually construed to be the opposite to that. Everybody at that point was very....everybody had to pretend all the time to be having fun. I was ramraided with it every day -- people saying how things were great out there and being very external in a way. So we kind of did the opposite of that around 'Lifeforms'. We said 'O.K., let's try and create interest within four walls, within the idea of communication, within the idea of broadcasting to raio, within the idea of creating worlds within literature and music and thought and actually within your own space'. Almost all the song titles on 'Lifeforms' were borne out of these four walls -- the idea that you could create and have meaningful exchanges and actually do good work, on yourself and with other people, within one room rather than out there. 'Dead Cities' is more....we've been living a lot more, I've been out there. But we've always been kind of obsessed with this kind of idea of things going into decline, you know. So It's kind of like we're always drawn to the splattered texture on the pavement or the building that's been knocked down, you know. So it's kind of that sort of stuff that's prompted 'Dead Cities' in a way, wandering round and taking that kind of photographic work."

I'm surprised you find any time to go out and look at pavements and buildings. Don't you spend most of your time locked away in the studio working?

"This is an incredible idea that everybody seems to have actually, and it's a question that comes up all the time: 'Do you ever have time to live?' or 'Do you ever stop working?'. I think we put a whole lot of life into our music. By that I mean I have to....we're never not working -- this is where the contradiction lies really, we're never not working. It means that I'm out there and I'm living and I'm working. By that I mean that I'm out there with video recorders or Brian's out there with cameras. We're always recording but we're kind of....we're living normally. We're doing everything that everybody else normally does, we're not always here. The idea of being within one workplace, in a way is part of this 'Dead Cities' thing. The idea that you don't have to be living in a city to be taking part in the way that commerce, art, literature, everything, operates. You can be outside of it now with the Web, with ISDN, with everything. You don't have to be here."

Your music has two quite distinct moods -- aggressive and reflective. Is this a reflection of your own characters?

"Brian's aggressive and I'm sad! We have this sort of thing in the studio that there's kind of two of us and I kind of speak for me, and I use the word 'I' quite a lot, and I kind of have to remember that I'm speaking for Brian because we're two entirely different people, really. We talk about the B/G hybrid which is me crossed with Brian, and it's kind of like a puddle in the middle of the floor. It doesn't really represent either of us and that's effectively what we've become, that's what I'm trying to be here."

You seem very at home with all this technology. Do you think you're good at what you do?

"I think we're very interesting. I don't actually know if we're any good. Sometimes I....I mean, obviously I see a hell of a lot of flaws in what we do. There's thousands of contradictions in everything I say....um....I think we're good only in comparison to the way that other people are using stuff. I think we're rubbish but, hell, there's a lot of other rubbish people out there too."

Developments in hardware and software are obviously vital to what you do. Is it hard work just keeping up with the technology?

"Yeah, I mean it's a fairly important part, keeping up. I suppose Brian spends a lot more time researching and working out the syntax of how to use technology than I do. I kind of, like, I come in after a heavy drinking weekend, and just kind of use what he's done in a way, sometimes. In fact I can be incredibly shallow -- almost just like injecting a different kind of side or a feeling into a syntax that Brian has spent time building up' you know. And in that way it's a very good partnership."

Do you get excited by the ever increasing possibilities of all this equipment?

"I'm a lazy old dog really, you know. I kind of....I would be using....I'm the guy that goes down the swimming pool and swims the same number of lengths each Sunday, and goes down the aisles of Safeway and gets the same products each week. I don't actually kind of go in there with fresh eyes and look for that exciting new product, in a way. In a way I'm kind of, like, incredibly redundant in that way. I kind of come in and I use the computer exactly the way that I've used it five to seven years ago. It's Brian really that pushes that stuff forward, he's kind of the innovator. I'm just kind of like some guy that kind of spills my soul out, and that's kind of like what my part is in that."

Doesn't technology sometimes get in the way of musical inspiration and creativity?

"Basically we believe that the human perception of creation is quite stultifying. It's actually better when you allow chance and abstracts to kind of collide in a new, interesting way. That's the area that we're interested in. I'm not really interested in imposing melody on a track....it's a very nice vision and we're all still very much obsessed with it -- the idea of 'Hey! I woke up and had a dream last night and what a tune, and it ended up being a million-seller', I'm not interested in that. In effect what I'm interested in providing music which is so beautiful, but has no story -- it has no fanciful, mythical kind of cartoon story that everybody can relate to. I mean, a couple of years ago for example, we found ourselves actually almost falling into that trap. Rather than admitting the truth about the way that we sample, we found ourselves saying things like "Hell, we had a week's holiday and we went down the Amazon and these birds we got....waking up one morning at 3AM, you know, we wandered through the trees and we got this incredible bird and it looked like a cross between a mammal and a....' and you find yourself just, like, forming these ludicrous stories about samples and it's just absolutely rooted in what we consider to be redundant about making music and art now."

Sampling is obviously an important part of your music, and I see you've borrowed from artists as diverse as Run DMC and Vangelis on this album. Why did you choose to sample these?

"Uh, they kind of just, like, fell into the web, man! And that's what it's all about -- we just see ourselves as a web and it's like....we kind of almost, like, accept the whole chance of it. It's kind of like we reach out and maybe I'll go and buy a record, or maybe whatever I come across, you know. It's kind of like whatever we do we try and make it productive. If I'm sitting down in front of the TV and it's, like, I'm not going to take this shit no more -- I don't just sit there and lap it up, I use it for me. It's like if the programme's no good, I can get a sound from it that I can use. I can make it good. It's like the new breed of artist. We just don't sit back and watch this entertainment stuff no more. We take part in it, we regurgitate it, you know.If I go out and buy a bad record, I've spent three quid so, hell, let me make something useful out of it. I'll get a little sample from it -- I don't have to like the music it comes from."

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