The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places, and parties that made this whole operation possible. And with that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crate series, we’ll be breaking out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
Future Sound of London (Gaz Cobain and Brian Dougans) released “Papua New Guinea” in 1991, at the height of rave culture’s sample-heavy era. The song’s sonic backbone came from the super-dubby bassline in fellow UK act Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Radio Babylon” (which came out the year before), while the main vocals were snipped from Lisa Gerrard’s singing in Australian act Dead Can Dance’s 1987 song “Dawn of the Iconoclast.” The resulting magic could come only from Cobain’s and Dougans’ prescience for melding together completely disparate sounds to give rise to something totally new and embraced.
In those days, producers could make something relatively far-out and still bring the masses along with them for the whole wild ride. Besides being an underground international rave smash with a long life on fickle dancefloors, “Papua New Guinea” was also a surprising UK Top 40 hit that landed them a slot to perform on Top of the Pops. At the time, TOTP was a major TV series that invited charting artists to typically lip sync their hits, but Future Sound of London enlisted Riz Maslen (who later became a producer in her own right as Neotropic and Small Fish With Spine) to sing the Dead Can Dance–sampled vocal parts live.
“Papua New Guinea” was rereleased with new remixes in 2001 and re-entered the UK Top 40, but it did not make a second appearance on the show (which was canceled in 2006). It’s since been remixed by a diverse group of producers including Andrew Weatherall, Satoshi Tomiie, and High Contrast.
Future Sound of London will turn an impressive 30 years old next year and is still releasing albums in multiple formats and keeping up with the technological times. The duo most recently dropped a full-length double pack, Environment Six and 6.5, last fall. Gaz Cobain told me in an interview 15 years ago that he and Brian Dougans are very much different people but are united in a vision that has kept them together and inspired.
“We actually have an incredibly similar vision in everything, and ultimately I think this is what bonds us,” he said. “Sometimes we are positively clairvoyant. We’ll always like the same images and sounds, but not always the same trousers.
“We are both very intuitive and always make decisions based on whether something feels right. This quite often drives everyone else mad, but both Brian and myself never differ. Music, people, business—we fly on intuition. It’s indefinable, really! We are both also totally honest and, I think in both our separate ways, teach each other a lot. I move very quickly from idea to intangible idea, but Brian nurtures and supports and is far more thrusting in technological innovation—whereas I’ll struggle with content and communication endlessly. However, once shown a technological trick, I quite often will wrestle unlimited content from it. Yin and yang, baby!
“We call it the FSoL puddle: two individuals fighting to be heard but only really compromising to create a puddle of confusion. But always from this comes a clarity and a purpose and a momentum and direction. Our strength is our indomitable spirit and courage to explore. Our weakness is that we can be mind-blowingly complex sometimes, and sometimes you just want to go and thrash out a three-minute, two-chord pop song!”