Thursday 19 March 2009

As an extra special treat for our readers, we'll be occasionally publishing the raw copy of interviews we've conducted with some very interesting artists that aren't connected to Bristol but have been highly influential for us here at B365. First up, fresh from demolishing Bloc last weekend, here's a fascinating insight into Future Sound Of London....

B: You both met in Manchester during the mid-80s. What was influencing you around that time?

FSOL: In no particular order; Cabaret Voltaire, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, 23 Skidoo, A Certain Ratio, Erik Satie, Adrian Sherwood/On U sound...

B: Your early years of production (Stakker Humanoid, Papua New Guinea) still shape the some of the public's definition of you. Do you still embrace that period or find it a double-edged sword when you're pushing things forward with new music that people still hold up against the early hits?

FSOL: They probably shape the definition of us within a dance/ electronic realm but there exists now more than ever before a huge cultural genre-less no-man’s land. In this area it is some of our new records that are defining us rather than the ones you mention. This area is on the ascendancy; it is the new counterculture and is unquantifiable at this stage whereas dance culture has become mainstream but less revolutionary. We are happy to have achieved moments of mass resonance, it may or may not happen again, those moments are special because they are unplanned and natural.

B: When ISDN was released, personally for me that became a defining album which I still love to this day. I've since read you felt frustrated with the limitations of technology at that time, in that ISDN could have been much more than it was. Is that true? Do you feel now that the technology is beginning to catch up with your ideas and creativity?

FSOL: It wasn’t the its very nature ISDN threw up many questions. Gaz personally needed to come out of purely an electronic presentation for a while and explore the new psychedelic tactile approach which we both could see on the horizon which is why we disappeared for a while between 98 and 2001.

We now feel that we understand a little bit more about what we started and why potentially it could develop from here. Our ideas feel relevant again and almost like there’s unfinished business to attend to. As always it’s a starting point not a definitive END!! Experimentation is key!

B: ISDN reflected various broadcasts including transmittance to The Kitchen. Now you're preparing to play as FSOL for the first time in 12 years at Bloc, transmitted from your studio. There are rumours this will showcase new material and precede a world tour. What can we expect from the show, and can you confirm those rumours?

FSOL: The jump off point for the new show is where we left it in 1997…a dark night in 1997 playing to 10,000 people down an ISDN line. Our best description is an audiovisual immersive headspace, triggering and exploring the senses and the emotions and exploring possibility! We are revisiting our old headspace and reinvigorating it as the starting point and thus using it as a springboard to the new. Already it has been a very fertile process!

B: Amorphous Androgynous to some seemed a singular departure from the FSOL world, but for me it seemed a natural heir to the sounds of FSOL, just delivered in an alternative way. Do you see these entities as seperate or unified?

FSOL: In a sense they are unified by a spirit of adventure, the spirit to keep on experimenting but on the other hand they are very distinct and separate in sound and philosophy. We‘ve always seen FSOL as experimental organic electronic music which could filter any influence or sound. With AA we merely extended this approach to the past and to rock music and also the song, this created a kind of new psychedelia. We saw there was a different application for our production, that of illustrating the song and also utilising all of the wonderful musicians that we had assembled around us.

It seemed with computers entering our world around 95 that we didn’t need to collage such small snippets of sound (as was customary with FSOL) but that we could edit and collage whole performances. Coupled with Gaz’s personal journey and love of writing literature and lyrics it seemed we needed to experiment in this field too. We resurrected AMORPHOUS ANDROGYNOUS and stuck ‘The’ at the beginning to denote a new phase!

Finally after 10 years they are gradually being seen as separate, some people in fact are discovering AA now and have no idea about FSOL which is pleasing in many ways. In a way we also think that experimentation should encapsulate the forbidden and the guitar / rock/ absurdism are all relatively forbidden to electronic ambient mindsets. Thus it holds even more fascination for us!!

B: You've embraced the culture of the internet and it's meant your fans are in more direct contact with you than ever before. On the negative side there are hundreds of torrents of your music leaked across the web. What’s your view on the dichotomy that exists in the web in this respect?

FSOL: All change is forcing us to change but it’s a little painful to change sometimes though. Our willingness and ability to move with change has kept us vibrant and clairvoyant of upcoming revolutions. In some ways “never before have so many spoken to so many about so little” is our view of digital culture. Yes, attention spans seem shorter and more esoteric work will maybe get lost in this speed. Also, the care and time to produce great work is threatened by torrents, since to have time to produce great works requires revenue and since revenue for actual records are dwindling and piracy is here to stay it really looks bleak.

However, I love the freedom to research new music online, we personally love collecting actual product and use torrents and digital as a preview to filter the great discoveries which we then buy. I don’t believe this is the case for the younger generations though who ONLY know this digital culture. But given an opportunity this generation once exposed to your music will pay for other products like LIVE performance so I think the solution is to broaden the range of activities and uses of ones music, so that the inevitable filesharing won’t necessarily be allowed to be the death knell.

We love the alternative news gathering found digitally, the new television if you like, we see that we can fit into that in some way. Create great digital content that inspires and eventually lands into a new form or product in parallel with a changing culture. Ask us next year and the next and in ten years. It’s moving fast.

B: You've been making music now across almost 30 years, in which time there's been drastic changes in the music industry. What’s your view on the world of dance culture you helped define? Whose new music is exciting you now?

FSOL: Excuse me...20 years!! I don’t honestly think we defined anything. We’ve always stood for individualism and we still do. Yes we envisaged a depth in electronic music that we personally yearned for and I think our influences were very far flung compared to a lot of dance producers at that time. Having said that, just like now we had the ability to look backwards and see the value of history. We’ve always reached toward a timeless quality rather than fashion.

Revolutions that become industries we move away from. Dance music is no longer a revolution. The new revolution is still forming and it’s outside of such clearly defined walls. Digital radio has also contributed to the death of experimental music because every channel attempts to offer everything; indie / dance / rock / classical/ rnb / rap / soul. This has meant that genre defying great music has no home anywhere.

We have always believed in the consumer, the listener, we believe they are bored of the institutions that feed them, the journalists and dj’s entrusted to act as tastemaker. We believe digital is ultimately re-asserting the death of these mediums. We believe in this shift and believe ultimately it will revert back to great music acquiring the attention. We wait and prepare for that day. It feels like it’s started!!

B: Where do you envisage the path of FSOL taking you into the next decade? Is it still as fun for you as it was back in the early days?

FSOL: More fun, we feel more awake and conscious in lots of ways and feel able to retain control in every stage of the creative process. We have many new skills between us now and we feel now we are actually using them all. Last time ultimately the corporate intervention both aided and destroyed us. We managed to release great experimental albums which were also successful on our terms. It could never last indefinitely though, they are far too greedy to be happy with hundreds of thousands of albums. The greed would have harmed us far more seriously if we had succumbed to it. We kept our integrity and we came out of it still determined to find new areas albeit with much less resource and listenership.

We have a lot of the same dreams in a way; the difference is that NOW they seem very achievable WITHOUT any need of the industries that are dying. It seems they have the problems now. Small business with big ideas can galvanise like never before!!

B: How do you marry your views on spiritualism to your music, or do you see it as a defining whole? Is that something that strongly informs the way you approach making music?

FSOL: Our spiritualism is really only that of getting in touch with the intuitive, the genuine and the real and finding that beauty in music and image. We filter everything in an attempt to find it. In that way we are both, Brian and Gaz, very similar, bonded by the unspeakable. AA is a little more visible in its espousal of a cosmic consciousness partly because AA wants to explore the lyric and the absurd as a kind of liberation. FSOL has a kind of non-spoken awe of nature and a vastness of NON-explanation. We do see them as interconnected of course like everything inevitably is!!

B: From the beginning, visuals have played as an important part in the FSOL story as the music has. Are there any future film projects we can expect from you? And what’s your view on the way the media now presents a lot of music visually in a sterile, unimaginative way?

FSOL: Yes the image is very much an equal catalyst in the FSOL paradigm. We feel like we are starting afresh again now. These ISDN shows are a new beginning to develop a new language where music, film, installation and communication can trigger the emotions. We can already feel the ideas flowing and change will be rapid from here. In a years time who knows where it will be. We both feel this is an incredible time for us to revisit the FSOL headspace.

Yes, we’ve been working with a few people on some possible film soundtrack stuff. The films have all been in their very early stages so it could be a while before anything concrete happens. There are always great pieces of music with novelty or great videos; I think things like You Tube have inspired the collective reappraisal of many great bands and videos from the past that we’ve never really seen before. This partly has led to an abandonment of watching modern pop videos. The music industry of course has misinterpreted this necessitating it become even blander and commercial where as the opposite is the case. Get deeper and more real and reflect greatness. We align ourselves with this cultural movement.

B: You've worked just as a duo, as well as with people like Liz Fraiser right through to over a hundred musicians on the Amorphous Androgynous albums. What has been your happiest time in the studio, and what piece of studio equipment or instrument is your most cherished?

FSOL: Probably now and LIFEFORMS…now because we are really in control of so many aspects and because technology gives us more power to realise our productions. LIFEFORMS because the bubble was so warm and secure and we were very singular and determined and focused collectively on one common goal and we just seemed to accelerate to get there. It amazes me now that we didn’t get sidetracked. These days I don’t like to be singular I like my multiple simultaneous strands and take delight in sidetracking. Ah, the differences of the ages!!

B: Any words of wisdom for people out there starting their own odyssey into making music?

FSOL: Be the master not the slave. Don’t allow technology or fashion to dictate what you out simultaneously who you are so that you have a philosophy or attitude to bring to the process. Without a philosophy it is meaningless. Making music really is a great part of the process of self discovery. Use it yourself and feel strength in the uniqueness of your discoveries.

An edited version of this interview appeared in Venue Magazine