Classic Album: Fila Brazillia, Black Market Gardening
Pork Recordings, 1996
Over in Boogie Down Hull (as no one ever calls it), around the mid-nineties, two men are beavering away in a townhouse-cum-studio in the city centre. Trip-hoppers sulk by on the streets below, as the high street bustles with shoppers ignoring Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around, as it radiates from in-store speakers.
Oblivious to all this – to trends, fashion, and the rules for making music – are Fila Brazillia, deep in the immersive process of making their third album (of an eventual 11), Black Market Gardening.
It’s a wonderfully dense record, full of joyous, romping beats and riffs, styles and moods. And it marked a creative high point for the duo of Steve Cobby and Dave McSherry.
Over the course of its nine tracks they royally messed with disco, tinkered with jungle rhythms, and embraced hip hop’s gift for a loop.
“We were very much into cross-pollination,” says Cobby. “It can be a bit of a clusterfuck, but sometimes there’s that magic when you put disparate elements together.”
Cobby and McSherry shared labour on the project, each taking turns to twang guitars, bash drums and fiddle with keyboards.
“We were both adept at programming and engineering, as well,” says Cobby. “So, if he was in the chair I’d be executively producing at the back. It was just a case of passing the baton, making each other laugh.”
The fact that neither of them gave a monkey’s about what was cool meant that they were, and forever are, unique.
Listening back to Black Market Gardening today still feels rewarding, like it’s an album out of time. A snapshot of two nutters doing whatever they fancied, as long as it was funky.
“The nice thing people say is that our stuff dates well,” says Cobby. “That’s because we weren’t jumping on bandwagons. A lot of our peers’ music has dated, because they went for a twodimensional genre approach, which was something we never did. Obviously it was commercial suicide [laughs].”
Well, Wet Wet Wet may have sold a billion records, Steve, but is Marti Pellow really that happy? [Answer: Yes].
Steve Cobby’s latest album, Boothferry, is out now.