Steel Tiger - Steve Cobby

Photograph of Steve Cobby

Steve Cobby in the shedio

Slackline Radio interview - July 30, 2008

For many years now, electronic music has been feeling the effect from the productions rolling out of a north east England town. In Kingston-Upon-Hull, Steve Cobby found inspiration and he remains put, writing, collaborating, and just enjoying life. His resume rings with a proven track record of achievements including over 15 years recording with David McSherry as Fila Brazillia and with Sim Lister and Jake Harries as Heights of Abraham. Throughout his career, Cobby proves that he is always up for trying something new and different. Slackline Radio caught up with Cobby to talk about his most recent new and different endeavour, The Cutler, and to hear some about his history as well.

Slackline Radio: Throughout your many years in production you have always maintained a strong link between several distinct collaborators. How did you come to meet David McSherry (Fila Brazillia, Twentythree Records), Simeon Lister (Heights of Abraham, Tweentythree Records, Steel Tiger Records), and David Brennand (The Cutler, Pork Recordings)?

Steve Cobby: I met McSherry after a gig. His band had just played a local venue. We shared the same bus home and struck up a conversation. A 20 year friendship ensued. Sim and I first crossed paths in a club in Sheffield in 1986. He was in a band I was heavily influenced by called Chakk. The gang I was celebrating a birthday with ended up at The Jive Turkey and I was gobsmacked to find out almost all the Sheffield bands I was into at the time were in there. Along with Chakk, Hula and Workforce there as well. Only Cabaret Voltaire were missing! I was drunk and made a slight fool of myself. To cut a very long story short I ended up working for a short time in Chakks studio and we've stayed close ever since. In 1984 Porky was sharing a house with an early girlfriend of mine. We hit it off from day one. I loved his record collection. Growing up in Hull I wasn't exposed to very much reggae and dub. As a midlands boy [Wolverhampton] Pork had reems of the stuff. His worldview matched mine in so many ways. Love the bloke.

Slackline Radio: What do you think has been the secret of your longevity with these collaborators and your ability to continue to release quality material together after all this time?

Steve Cobby: Well, unfortunately I no longer work with David McSherry so Fila Brazillia is no more. In recent years we drifted apart. It was very good while it lasted but all things must pass. I still remain close friends with Sim and Pork. As far as any secret to longevity I can only suggest our love of doing things differently and a shared mistrust of the music business and it's machinations has kept us pointing in the same direction.

Slackline Radio: You have been in Hull, more appropriately, Kingston-upon-Hull, for some time with a flurry of musical creativity over the years from Fila Brazillia to the more recent Cutler. What is it about Kingston-upon-Hull that keeps you coming back to write and produce music? Is it something in the water?

Steve Cobby: Well I was born and bred here. I'm proud to still be here. I never succumb to the pull of the capital as most musicians do. I wanted to move in my teens but the wanderlust was sated by extensive travel. It's a place with it's fair share of problems but in that respect it doesn't differ from any other northern city. It's where all my family live and it's where I want to bring up my two young boys. It's real, it's inhabitants are unpretentious and it's the home of the tigers. I think the lack of things to do as a kid was a seed for creativity. Boredom can be an excellent motivator.

Slackline Radio: You chose the name Fila Brazillia at a time when a certain Brazilian Bull Mastiff was getting the boot out of England for its described destructive tendencies. In your view, what might be good to have removed or put out of its misery, music or otherwise?

Steve Cobby: Jesus, where do I start? Elite control groups would be a good place; the top multinational corporations and their incessant greed and profligate exploitation of the planet and it's people are responsible for many of the worlds ills. 10% of the worlds population own 85% of the wealth. Fuck that! Organised religion would come next. Medieval superstitious mumbo jumbo and utterly devisive. Buddhism being the only exception. Being kind to others so that you may reap the rewards is a doctrine I wish more would ascribe to. Next against the wall would be politicians; The corporations lackeys. Politics nowadays is merely a game, a distraction to stop us from seeing the real powerbrokers. They do very little to fundamentally improve the world. Mostly they exacerbate the madness to keep business happy. Music made by people who want to be rich and famous and the record companies that peddle the resulting inane mediocrity that fills the airwaves as a result. They have watered down the ichor for mass consumption. A pox on them all.

Slackline Radio: You just released a new album with David Brennand under the name of The Cutler on Steel Tiger Records. Tell us how you approached writing these new tracks with Brennand and what the listener may expect on this debut.

Steve Cobby: Music is my occupational therapy. I don't expect to make any money from it anymore. I do it for the love of it. Porky [D.Brennand] has been popping round to my studio in a shed in the back garden [ the Shedio!] for a couple of years and we were just sticking tunes up on to itunes as and when they were done. No grand masterplan, just two mates enjoying themselves. Then Danny at Kudos heard about it and asked for a copy of the tracks. After hearing them he offered to manufacture and distribute a CD. We had no intention of putting any more physical releases out after being burnt by liquidated distributors in the past and with the onset of download culture we became a digital set up. Danny has underwritten it so we thought 'why not?' It helps advertise our little cottage industry.

Slackline Radio: The name of your new label, Steel Tiger, has a striking relation to the name for the Hull football club. Is there a connection between the name of the label for the new Cutler releases and your hometown football club name?

Steve Cobby: Well deduced Chris. I set the label up with Sim, a Sheffield resident. That city is famed for it's steel and I'm an ardent fan of my hometown team so we stuck the two together.

Slackline Radio: Do you ever get out to enjoy playing some football yourself? If so, how's your Cruyff move coming along anyway?

Steve Cobby: I played up until about 6 months ago and then my aging frame had enough. My Cruyff turn was something to behold. Many times I left defenders rooted to the spot. Usually due to convulsive hysterics...

Slackline Radio: 23 seems to be a repeating numerical anthem. You released the 1994 Fila Brazillia release, Dicks, with 23 tracks, recorded the track "July 23" on the Fila Brazillia release Black Market Gardening, and started the Twentythree record label with Porky and Lister label after the demise of Pork Recordings. Is their a significance of this prime number for you?

Steve Cobby: Our old studio in town was situated on 23 Albion Street. That gave rise to the name. July 23 was recorded on July 23rd.

Slackline Radio: As yourself under the moniker Solid Doctor you released the majors Ether, Beats Means Highs, and numerous other singles back in the end of the 20th century. Is there a reason the Doctor has been somewhat silent for awhile?

Steve Cobby: Well having two kids took away the slack time I could do solo projects in. Plus I prefer to collaborate.

Slackline Radio: I think one of the most interesting and eyebrow raising side projects for you and David McSherry may be your collaboration with Greg Dulli and The Twilight Singers. Dulli is known to many as the lead singer of The Afghan Whigs, one of the indie rockers to spin off the Sub Pop label of the early 90's. How did you and David become involved with producing and remixing material for The Twilight Singers and were the recording sessions in California really as labor intensive as they sounded?

Steve Cobby: Greg heard the track Subtle Body and had an epiphany that he should work with us. I'd never heard anything he'd done before I met him. He came to Hull for a month and finished off his debut solo LP with us. He's an intensive character so working with him was pretty tough.

Slackline Radio: It is good to see you working with David Brenannd, aka Porky, on new material of The Cutler. This self-titled release from The Cutler is a smashing success and sure to fill the appetite of Fila Brazillia fans. What might be a good choice for dinner with the debut release of The Cutler?

Steve Cobby: A barbeque.

See the original interview on the Slackline Radio website.

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