Track by track with Steve Cobby

Future Music - - CLASSIC ALBUM -


“I’d just come back from Por­tu­gal, and was taken with the place. ‘Obri­gado’ is Por­tuguese for ‘thank you’. We had a wall in the stu­dio where we’d put prospec­tive song ti­tles, and that went straight up when I got back home.

“I’m on ei­ther the Korg DW-8000 or the Chee­tah MS6, here. Mr McSherry played that acous­tic gui­tar. The drums are the late Gary Bur­roughs, rest in peace.

“We did a live drum ses­sion with him at the stu­dio he was en­gi­neer­ing at called An­i­mal Tracks, which was a lit­tle 16-track stu­dio in town. Like we do when we work with most drum­mers, we just got him to play, maybe to just a click track, and let him ex­press him­self. Then we went back to the stu­dio and chopped up the bits we wanted to use. He’s on a few tracks on this al­bum.”

Snake Ranger

“Snake Rangers are a thing. It’s one of them dream jobs [laughs]. It’s got noth­ing to do with the track. The ti­tles rarely have a con­nec­tion to the track. We were will­fully ob­tuse.

“There’s a nice drum break in there. As far as vinyl dig­ging, we’d go to sec­ond­hand shops and pull out any­thing we liked. We’d usu­ally get a few pearlers. We might have stayed away from the cool, fa­mous breaks, and ended up pulling out [pre-rock ’n’ roll honky-tonk pi­anist] Russ Con­way. Re­ally early on we got fed up with the snob­bery that got at­tached to sam­pling.

“It was as if you were only al­lowed to sam­ple this clas­sic can­non in the sev­en­ties, and any­thing out­side of that and you weren’t play­ing the game. And, of course, the rules for us were meant to be bro­ken.

“We’d use James Last, or any of them Reader’s Di­gest com­pi­la­tion al­bums. It’s just a sonic pal­ette. And when you take it out and re­frame it, it’s a mon­tage. It be­comes a dif­fer­ent thing. We’d tax any kind of noise, not just breaks.

“There’s some live sax on here too from Bernard Moss, bless him. He was work­ing with A Cer­tain Ra­tio back in the ’90s, and ended up on loads of our stuff. And he’s even on the brand new Cobby & Porky al­bum – Cities Be­low Fu­ture Seas, which shows you how long we’ve stayed in touch. He’s great – A real one-take, no dubs, char­ac­ter. “

Lit­tle Dip­per

“This fea­tures a Char­lie Brown car­toon record sam­ple. Char­ity shop dig­ging again. We sam­pled his sis­ter, Lucy, talk­ing about the stars. It was prob­a­bly the last thing to go on the track.

“The drums sound like it’s us. Prob­a­bly recorded in the room up­stairs, fat­tened up with a cou­pla separate kicks and snares. Not 808 kicks, re­ally. I found they could cloud up your bot­tom end.

“If you’ve got a nice empty, sparse track, 808 booms are fan­tas­tic. But for us, there were a lot of lay­ers and tex­tures. So, if I wanted to re­in­force a kick then a 909 is prob­a­bly were I’d go. They were tighter and more

“We were al­ways in­ter­ested in strad­dling two dif­fer­ent camps, mu­si­cally, in the nineties. There were mu­si­cians and play­ers, and they were al­ways very sniffy about pro­gram­ming and sam­pling. Then your DJ cul­ture was very sniffy about play­ing. We al­ways felt that we were paint­ing with a big­ger pal­ette be­cause we had both the dig­i­tal and the ana­logue to draw from.”

punchy. You wouldn’t know they were there, re­ally. I’ve al­ways gone for fat­ten­ing out breaks with hits.

“The room up­stairs had a def­i­nite sound. We al­ways just used one mic on our drum set­ups. I re­ally liked the lo-fi sonic that we used to get pretty quickly out of that room.”

Blub­ber Plinth

“This ti­tle was writ­ten up on the stu­dio wall for the long­est time. We couldn’t wait to use it [laughs]. We were just wait­ing for some­thing a bit sil­lier and dub­bier to get made.

“There’s some fuzz gui­tar on here, too. That’d be McSherry – he was the chief pro­po­nent of the axe. The first al­bum, I don’t think there was a gui­tar on it. We were re­ally in that club­land sonic, for one, and also we didn’t have the fa­cil­i­ties to record. We didn’t have a mul­ti­track back then. With this al­bum we were start­ing to stretch out a bit more and feel a bit more con­fi­dent with play­ing more on the tracks. The gui­tar came to the fore much more on this al­bum.

“There’s a lit­tle cod drum ’n’ bass on there, too, when it goes dou­ble time. We did like a tempo shift about half­way through. It’s about seven-odd min­utes long, so we had to do some­thing to keep it in­ter­est­ing.”

Butter My Mask

“[Laughs] What a ti­tle! Imag­ine try­ing to get that through an A&R de­part­ment now. You’d be laughed off the face of the Earth!

“We al­ways felt we could re­tain mas­sive amounts of in­tegrity, just by nam­ing things in an off-the-cuff man­ner. It was so far-re­moved from a record la­bel that was des­per­ately try­ing to be cooler than cool. We loved the idea that we could be as con­trary as we liked.

“We sam­pled gui­tar chords here and played them across the keys, then sam­pled some short­wave ra­dio. It was a lovely lit­tle vin­tage valve ra­dio off my grand­dad.

“When it comes time to sprin­kle the last bits on top of a track, ran­dom ‘found sounds’ work su­perbly well. It

also ex­cites you, too, as you haven’t au­thored the thing, and you’re just let­ting it hap­pen in front of you. It starts to sound like some­body else’s song. That’s why we loved put­ting ran­dom ra­dio sounds and spo­ken word stuff in.”

Wigs, Bi­fo­cals And Nur­ish­ment

“There’s a gen­uine story be­hind this ti­tle, but I can’t tell you [laughs]. Any­way, this track has a bit of disco in it. I re­mem­ber when we would be out DJing it was a good one to drop. It was al­ways in our sets.

“It’s all sam­ples. When the change comes in, it’s on that sound­track tip. Very much some Lalo Schifrin. I was heav­ily into his back cat­a­logue. We took bits from ev­ery­where. It was like mak­ing a cake.

“In terms of sam­pling, hip-hop was a big teacher. But we found that they’d take big cho­rus riffs and re­pur­pose them. We never wanted to do that. We didn’t want peo­ple to think they were al­ready half fa­mil­iar with the tune, be­cause they’d heard a bit be­fore. If you’re gonna per­ceive some­thing as a fresh mon­tage, you don’t want to be fa­mil­iar with small sec­tions. We were wary of us­ing any­thing that was well known.”


“I think Xique-Xique is an area in Brazil. To me it al­ways looked like a re­ally good lay in Scrab­ble. You’d clean up!

“This is a bit of a Latin track. I was re­ally into Juanito Pas­cual and peo­ple like Airto Mor­eira. I had a friend give me a mix­tape of all that stuff and it just opened a door to a whole new world. I was chan­nel­ing that on that track.

“It’s a nod to all that South Amer­i­can stuff. I liked some bands that blended clas­sic South Amer­i­can per­cus­sion with synths and ana­logue washes, too.

“The al­bum was mas­tered at Jah Tubby Stu­dios. We were just get­ting our heads around mas­ter­ing at the time, so it was great to get them in­volved. We al­ways left it to Keith there. His bread and butter was reg­gae, so he was the don for cut­ting bass to vinyl. It was like you sent them some fuck­ing ‘wishy-washy’ Po­laroids over, and they sent back these beau­ti­ful 35mm plates.”

Onc Mon­gaani

“When I first met McSherry we were both 17. We went to dif­fer­ent schools, but had lots in com­mon. For some rea­son we both took to say­ing one of the key phrases from the Tarzan car­toon – Re­mem­ber that? It was shit.

“Tarzan used to say, ‘Onc Mon­gaani’, to bring all the an­i­mals to heel. So when we first met one of us came out with it. It was like, ‘Not you as well!’

“The track it­self has lots of arpeg­giated ‘wib­bles’ on there from the Korg DW-8000 – you can tell it’s that ma­chine, be­cause it’s a bit thin and tinny.

“Then Mark Young plays some tabla. He was in a group called Third Face. We’d done a ses­sion with him. He was in and out. He would have played live to the track.

“Drum­mers don’t play to any­thing, as they’re the foun­da­tion stone. But flautist, singers, and per­cus­sion… we al­ways try and give them as much as pos­si­ble to play with so they can get the feel for it.”

July 23

“July 23rd was the ex­act day that we recorded the thun­der that you hear on this track. That’s what it said on the DAT. There was a mas­sive thun­der­storm at the back of the house so we just put two stereo mics out the win­dow and left them record­ing for about an hour.

“We ended up with this epic thun­der­storm. It made for the per­fect ‘ic­ing on the cake’ to put on this track when it was fin­ished.

“We al­ways liked to fin­ish our al­bums with a quiet tune, or some­thing a lit­tle more am­bi­ent. That was some­thing I nicked from Cabaret Voltaire. It was a homage to The Cabs, that. It was good to round the al­bum off.”

To me it al­ways looked like a re­ally good lay in Scrab­ble. You’d clean up!


Fila split up in 2004 and Cobby ham­mered away at the lit­tle in­de­pen­dent la­bel model to “di­min­ish­ing re­turns” and has now de­vel­oped into owner/op­er­a­tor of his own im­print, Dé­classé. From 2013 he dis­pensed with pseu­do­nyms (The Solid Doc­tor, Horsemilk,...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.