In The Mix 2004

Fila Brazillia: After 15 years they show you their ‘dicks’

Fila Brazillia

Over the past ten years, Hull, UK-based duo Fila Brazillia (aka producers Steve Cobby and Dave ‘Man’ McSherry) have ploughed a extremely prolific musical furrow, releasing ten albums in as many years, with the emergence of their somewhat saucily-titled new record Dicks. During this time, they’ve not only remixed the vastly disparate likes of Radiohead and Busta Rhymes, but have also found time to launch their own 23 Records imprint, as well as release separate solo projects as Solid Doctor / Heights of Abraham and now Mandrillus Sphynx. ITM‘s evilchris caught up with Steve and Man to talk about just how to release two albums in one year and squeezing recording in between parental duties, whilst getting a quick lesson in French at the same time. Just don’t mention The Stereophonics…

ITM: The slightly X-rated sounding press release for imminent tenth Fila Brazillia studio album ‘Dicks’ describes it as ’23 new tracks of squid tendril hardcore – sounds squishy! What can listeners expect from this new album, and how does it sit musically compared to previous Fila outings?

Steve: In general, we experimented with much shorter arrangements and also got some banjo in this time.

Man: …and some mandolin. It’s not aimed at the dancefloor as much as (previous album) ‘Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal’ and stylewise, it’s all over the place. I think you can hear we had a laugh making it.

ITM: You’ve probably already been asked this question 100 times already, but why did you decide to title your new album ‘Dicks’? (Though I must admit to grinning when I saw the “you have a seven-inch Dick in your hand” inscription on the ‘Gogglebox’ vinyl)

Steve: It’s French for ten!

ITM: How did Fila Brazillia originally meet up, form and start recording? Were there any particular influences / bands that inspired you to first start Fila Brazillia?

Steve: I went to see a band Man was in called Punctured Tough Guy in 1983 and got talking to him on the night bus home from the gig. We began to work together sporadically but (we) didn’t release anything as Fila until
Pork Recordings heard a track we’d done in 1990 and asked if they could put it out. Inspirations for Fila ranged from Cabaret Voltaire to Led Zeppelin.

Man: We both had the urge to put our guitars down and experiment with loops, synths and drum machines. The guitars came back out later, though.

ITM: You’re both based and work in your own native area of Hull, rather than the more usually-expected urban surrounds of London – are there any particular reasons why you’ve both chosen to stay there? Do you find that your surroundings exert a perceptible influence on your music?

Steve: Being sucked down to the metropolis was expected of us as musicians, but it just inspired a bloody mindedness in us to make it work against the odds as it were.

Man: There’s no looking over your shoulder to see what everybody else is doing, you’re free to do your own thing. Plus, there’s not a lot else to do so we get a lot done.

ITM: Fila Brazillia have always been a very musically prolific band, releasing an EP/LP, remix collection or mix compilation for every year from 1996 onwards. During 2004 this rate of creativity seems to have accelerated even more, with the release of your ninth album ‘The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal’, the recent ‘Another Fine Mess’ compilation and now, ‘Dicks’. Is this a case of having a ‘freer hand’ now that you’re operating through your own 23 Records label?

Steve: Not really. ‘Fine Mess’ was done for another label simply as a follow-up… it happened to come out at the same time as ‘Brumal’ by coincidence more than anything else. And we simply did enough writing and recording for the first six months of this year to fill two LPs.

Man: We only had a break from writing because we were gigging the band a lot.

ITM: Over the past decade, Fila Brazillia have built a reputation as extremely prolific remixers, with the disparate likes of Simple Minds, Radiohead, Sven Vath and Lamb commissioning reworkings (now collected on two separate remix collections). Do you have a favourite remix out of the many that you’ve done? Is there anyone that you wouldn’t remix / have you ever knocked a remix offer back?

Steve: We wouldn’t be much good at remixing something we really loved or hated. We only knocked back two bands – INXS and Bizarre Inc. We didn’t see what we could offer to the tunes. Faves would be Busta Rhymes and Radiohead.

Man: There is no way I would ever remix The Stereophonics.

ITM: The last time Fila Brazillia toured Australia, it was during 1998 and you ended up DJing in Sydney over New Year’s Eve. Any crazy memories of that last Australian tour? Are there any plans for an Australian live / DJ tour in support of ‘Dicks’?

Steve: That was an excellent trip. We watched the New Year fireworks from a boat in the harbour and then went off to do the show… I just waited to be asked. Would like to get over to Oz again soon as my parents have just bought a spot in Perth where my brother lives.

Man: It was good to see the sun in December.

ITM: In a genre where ‘name groups’ often disappear for extended periods between each album, you’ve managed to release an album for each of the last ten years. Could you foresee another ten years and ten albums for Fila Brazillia?

Steve: Easily. We like the blunderbuss approach. Besides, we’re just getting warmed up!

ITM: During 2003, Man released his first solo album on 23 Records as Mandrillus Sphynx – how would you describe this project compared to the main Fila ‘mothership’? Steve – you also released your first solo ‘Solid Doctor’ album back in 1996 – are there any plans for a second instalment?

Steve: I will do some more Solid Doctor one day. Parenting eats all my spare time up. When Eddie starts school I might be able to get back onto the solo tip.

Man: The Mandrillus Sphynx thing was meant to be a lot more basic than Fila. Simple melodies and rhythms and more of its time, disposable even. It will date a lot quicker than Fila.

ITM: What do Fila Brazillia have planned for the rest of 2004? No doubt you’re already hard at work on a new album!

Steve: Back into the studio late September. We have sessions booked with bassist Trevor Bolder (ex-Spider From Mars) and singers Yolanda Benitez and Kirsty Hawkshaw. MC Tweed is due up as well at some point to ‘give it rice’ as it were. And I’m trying to locate John Cooper Clarke to get his dulcet tones on a tune.

Tue 14th Sep, 2004 by Chris Downton

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