Gaz Cobain and Brian Dougans of the trippy British electronic production outfit Amorphous Androgynous (aka the Future Sound of London) seem to be on a mission to psychedelicise the world. Since the early nineties, the pair have delivered numerous acclaimed, mind-altering, body-wobbling original albums such as The Isness, Alice in Ultraland, and The Peppermint Tree & The Seeds of Superconsciousness. Additionally, under their A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble project name, they’ve remixed other artist’s music (Oasis, Paul Weller and Syd Arthur for example), turning those sounds into puddles of hallucinatory, aural dreams. Now the pair have cast their studio spells over a collection of psych-rock recordings from Australia and New Zealand. ‘A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind) – The Wizards Of Oz ‘ comprises two hour long mixes of mind-expanding tracks from down under, featuring familiar artists such as Russell Morris, Tame Impala, Ross Wilson & Mike Rudd’s Sons of the Vegetal Mother, Joel Silbersher’s Sunset Strip, Pond and Madder Lake, to more obscure artists like Leong Lau and Pip Proud. The Amorphous Androgynous’ Gaz Cobain was laying in his bed in France sipping on a honey and lemon drink when he took an early morning call from Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips to discuss the latest Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble release.
Garry, I know that you were in Australia in 2005 for the Earthcore festival, did your ears prick up to any Australian sounds back then?
In 2005 yes, we were digging Wolfmother, stuff like that. In 2008, we were back for just a personal visit and somebody played us Tame Impala. We always knew Tame Impala were going to be an important part (of this project) because they showed very well the modern lineage, which is essential to a Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble. It’s not an archivist’s wet dream. It is about actually showing there’s a lineage of consciousness and that it has happened and it’s timelessness and that it exists. As a new permutation now and I can’t stress enough the ‘new’ enough, the Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble is almost … the ingredients to try to activate a new psychedelia.
How did you come across the older Australian and New Zealand material? Did other people help you out?
Definitely. What happened was, we hooked up with Warners Australia with a view to do some production. At the beginning there was a bit of light-hearted banter and this was knowingly ignorant … I must say this just in case we’re not taken seriously …. we kind of joked that the sole musical heritage of Australia was AC/DC, Olivia Newton John, Rolf Harris and Tame Impala, just to make it more obscure. At a party of mine you probably would find all of those but they’d be drenched in reverb and mixed together quite bizarrely. I am a fan of all those people I have to say, there’s no slight there at all. Gradually in the process Tony Harlowe and David Laing, both who work for Warners, started playing us stuff. We quickly realised that actually, here was an area that is very distinct from the rest. At the beginning it was an intellectual interest. We realised we didn’t know much music from your continent at all. Then over the two years, it became a kind of righteousness, courtesy of the fact that it was very distinct, that this stuff hadn’t been given its place and it deserves its place. That really fueled us. We felt like we were doing a service to mankind and music.
Was there one particular track on this album which was closer to your heart than others?
I would say not. As soon as we commit to the idea of doing a Monstrous Bubble, it’s a massive task. It is a massive task for one simple reason … in a way, the whole thing is a very personal mandate. I already know what the ingredients are of modern psychedelia and that’s what I put into the work. The beginning part of Amorphous Androgynous back in 1997 when we first did our radio transmission, was rather like a lot of artists I suppose … I really can’t be bothered to do anything because I am lazy … so let me just make sure that what I have got in my heart, doesn’t already exist. So you start collecting records and you go, well that has got a little bit of it, that has got a little bit of it, and you put it all together. That’s why the DJ mix is important. What I am also saying in this is that the ingredients of the new psychedelia movement, all the components of it, aren’t necessarily psychedelic. It is the mix itself which is psychedelic, which means I can put different ingredients in there. I want that absurdism. So back to your point, collectively I want the whole gamut of exoticism. I don’t want just the guitar bands singing about albatrosses and mushrooms. I don’t want just the Kraut rock, or just the cosmic wig-outs or the flute-laden devotional ragas. I love it all but I want it all together. I want to stretch the boundaries so that the ingredients are much more exotic. I don’t want limitations. In a way, if you ask me what the mandate was for Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble, it’s don’t accept limitations … explore! Dissolve the boundaries man.
It has been illuminating for me because there is a lot of stuff there that I know and believe needs to be heard but also I think, why have I never heard of a character like Leong Lau?
Yes exactly. I think one of our greatest attributes, if there is one … because I am a humble guy (laughs) but one of our greatest attributes is actually making sure that we never become experts. I never want to be an expert. All I want to be is a beating heart with syringed ears who can listen and react to something that works now. That’s something which is also important. Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble is gloriously now. It is not musical heritage for the sake of heritage. I don’t care who experts tell me who is the best or who is the pioneer. That is of no consequence. The consequence for me is what activates the psychedelic juice now. When you talk about Leong Lau, he came relatively late in the process. It was because of the outlook I gave you earlier, we knew that we needed and wanted something that was cosmically funky, so I went in search of that specifically. I knew we lacked that. if you listen to any Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble, there is always cosmic funk. We really had to dig deep to find him but we did and yeah, he’s still very active and a unique individual.
Do you use different software or sets of plug-ins for Amorphous than you do for other projects, so that you have a different palette of sounds to draw from?
Yes of course. Absolutely. We have to delve into balancing the digital with the analogue with this in the same way that we also have to indulge in having extended jams with musicians. In a way, the Amorphous Androgynous is this meeting ground where the modern day technology fuses with rediscovering … and this comes back to our general ethos … the rediscovering of things from the past that we can bring together into the present. We don’t ignore the present or the tools of the present.
Do you have a favourite set of plug-ins that you use?
No. Brian and I both use very different things. I go from stuff that I bought in the year 2000, old Cubase from 2000 with plug-ins from that, VST plug-ins and we go right up to present stuff as well. We collect it all really.
Are you a collector and archiver of sounds in general or do you need a project to work on and then find the sounds you need?
I collect sounds non stop. We have a giant library which stretches back to 1987, when I met Brian. Almost 30 years of sound.
What other projects have you got going on at the moment?
Well, I have been doing a lot of production. We’ve got two tracks we produced on the new Noel Gallagher album, a track we wrote with Paul Weller on his album. We’ve just mixed a whole album of Syd Arthur, which is a Canterbury band we love and we have done a whole album of Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble remixes of that. We have new Amorphous Androgynous stuff coming up and new Future Sound of London stuff which is being released.
Will you be touring at all or coming back to Australia soon for any reason?
At the moment we are not into the physical bodily gathering, there’s a time for that. At the moment we are resolutely trying to create art. Music has been forced very much onto a live stage to survive and we are trying to go the opposite way. We want to make extreme studio art at the moment. I think we need it. It is too easy to think that the recording work is a back up for the live playing. I personally celebrate those pieces of studio art that can’t be on a live stage. Why couldn’t The Beatles go and do Sgt Peppers? I am intrigued by that whole angle where studio art can’t be replicated.
When do you hope to have the next album of original Amorphous material out?
We’ve got about 30 tracks, so it is that really difficult stage of battering it into shape and resolving everything. This band is a head fuck for want of a better word and there are so many possibilities. That also happened with the Noel Gallagher album but that’s another story. There are so many possibilities with a song and how you psychedelicise it. Literally there is no end to the permutations but hopefully we’ll have it out by the end of the year.