Steel Tiger - Steve Cobby
FXpansion interview - 2008
Steve Cobby is a UK musician, producer, composer and DJ based in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire. Cobby co-founded Fila Brazillia with David McSherry in 1990 and together they released 10 Lps and produced over 70 remixes for artists as diverse as Radiohead, Busta Rhymes, Black Uhuru, James and Moloko.
He helped form Pork Recordings with David Brennand in 1990, 23 Records in '99 and Steel Tiger Records in 2006.
His other writing and production collaborations include Heights of Abraham, J*S*T*A*R*S and The Cutler as well as his solo projects The Solid Doctor and J J Fuchs. He co produced Greg Dulli's debut solo LP 'The Twilight Singers' in 2000 and co wrote and produced "Three White Roses and a Budd" with Bill Nelson and avant garde American composer Harold Budd. He has recently been working with ex Cabaret Voltaire singer Steve Mallinder under the title of 'The Light Programme'.
His back catalogue is often used as beds on numerous UK television programs from Blue Peter to The South Bank Show, and on placements in the United States such as Sex and the City; CSI Miami; Riding Giants and Dogtown and Z Boys. Loose Nuke Threat by J*S*T*A*R*S was used on two extensive UK advertising campaigns for John Lewis.
Steve Cobby has DJ'd and performed live on every continent but Africa.
FX - What encouraged you initially to pursue music as a career and how did it develop?
SC - I played truant quite a lot from school as a teenager. My parents eventually found out and promised me a guitar and amp if I managed to remain in the classroom. I did and they did. I was pretty much convinced from then on that music was my vocation.
FX - What's your opinion of the present state of the music industry and the emergence of web labels, digital downloads and online music collaboration?
SC - Love it. The sooner the old model of recording and distributing music is dead the better. Major labels have diluted the essence of sincere creativity for over half a century. We are moving toward 'many to many' publishing.
FX - Has setting up your own labels, Twentythree Records and Steel Tiger, allowed you more creative freedom?
SC - I couldn't do it any other way. I was signed to a big label in the late eighties and it was like looking into hell.
FX - Tell us about your most recent album "Cutler". What was your inspiration and aims for this record and how did you realize them?
SC - Music is my occupational therapy to be honest. I would make music whether it was consumed or not. This is a continuation of that body of work. It's very much a 'suck it and see' approach rather than any conscious direction. This project is with my good friend Dave Brennand [Porky] as sidekick, so if anything it's colored by his inclusion and collaboration.
FX - How did you use BFD's features to create the sound on Cutler and do you have any tips you can share?
SC - I started on BFD 1.5 but BFD 2 has so much more power in terms of malleability that I love pulling up a kit and then either processing the nuts out of the voices or replacing them one by one until I'm happy. I will usually be doing this as I'm running a BFD groove from the presets, which sometimes remains in the tune but more often than not I'll go on to program some beats using the kit I've set up.
FX - How do you typically create your drum parts? Do you program your drums or play them with a kit or other controller?
SC - I use a keyboard controller but also a lot of mouse as well. Shifting things hither and thither until I'm happy.
FX - Can you give some tips on the key to a killer drum groove?
SC - Well just recently I've become quite enamoured with downloading free midi files of classic tunes and then just taking the rhythm section and warping it until it's barely recognizable. Another useful approach is getting a break I like- looping in Ableton and then playing over the top of it. I then remove the loop at the last instance and am left with just the programming.
FX - Is there any software innovation that could be a valuable addition to your studio?
SC - Voice operated everything!
FX - What have you got in the pipeline for the rest of the year and into 2009. Do you have any tours lined up?
SC - I've stopped playing live as I'm a househusband to two young sons. I'll be popping down to the studio at the bottom of the garden and generally enjoying all things sonic until I'm pushing up daisies.
See the original interview on the FXpansion website.