Interview conducted by The Insider.
True to their name, The Cosmologist examines the dynamics of the musical universe, scientifically studying the stars, waiting for the optimal alignment, before embarking on a sonic mission. To date the duo have previously launched four collectable 12s on their label, Under The Influence Records. For their forthcoming fifth outing these skilled space cadets have dug deep in their crates, of rare gems, oddities, and obscurities, to bring us Cosmology Volume 5. While they value their anonymity, and are consciously shrouded in more than a little mystery, I convinced one of the pair to shed some light on their journey so far, where they’ve come from, and where they`re travelling to.
How long has The Cosmologist been around?
The first Cosmologist 12 was released back in 2012, but was birthed shortly before. I was living near Manchester at the time, when I was introduced to my partner in crime, a Mancunian mover and shaker we’ll call “LL”. After a long night, we ended up back at his house. Flicking through his record collection, he had so many of the same records as me, even right down to the really obscure stuff – it was uncanny. It wasn’t too long before we were back to his house recording Cosmology Volume 1.
Since 2015 you’ve had just 5 releases. I guess this means you like to take your time?
We average a release about every 2 years. The production line is often waiting for the stars to align.
Have you ever released on other labels, and would you be open to it?
No, and yes. There are a couple of labels I’d be up for working with, if we could speed up the aforementioned production line.
I get the feeling you`re not new to what you do. Is that a fair assessment?
Well, my first record was released back in 1991, so I’ve been around the block a few times. Back in Manchester, as well as being a poster boy for the Hacienda, LL was playing with The Durutti Column, and releasing pounding techno.
Where is The Cosmologist based and is that your hometown?
I’m a London lad, now recently residing in Brighton.
What`s your first musical memory, or record?
I was really jealous when I heard that Gilles Peterson’s dad had an amazing jazz collection. My dad’s musical taste spanned The Corries through to Jim Reeves, so not much to kick start a DJ career with. Thankfully my older brother was on hand to introduce me to the delights of early `80s funk and boogie… and we were off.
What was the first, and last, record that you bought?
First 12” was Loose Ends` Tell Me What You Want, and last was the Tour-Marbourg Floating on Silence E.P.
What inspired you to start making music? How long have you been making music?
I’d been DJing since 1986, and totally immersed in music, messing about with ideas since the late `80s. A friend booked a studio and we did an all-night session which resulted in our first ever vinyl release in 1991, which got hammered by the Flying / Boy`s Own crew, who were basically the only people I was interested in playing it. Alas, since then I have never learned to play a note, so have always been blessed in working with some really talented engineers / producers, and LL is my favourite one that I’ve worked with.
How would you describe the sound of The Cosmologist?
Cosmology is the study of – amongst other things – the Big Bang Theory, so the signature sound is deep, spacey, and throbbing chuggy workouts.
Which release are you most proud of?
I`d say Volume 2 – Keep it Up, an acid / Italo reworking of Milton Wright’s 2-step anthem.
Your output has been based on some very well-chosen gems, tweaked to perfection by your skilled hands. What`s the criteria for the tracks that you chose? How do you go about digging for them?
Each track has been formative in my early musical evolution. They also tend to be from maverick acts, and often politically charged; music with a message.
Have you had other aliases over the years?
Too many to list.
Were you surprised by the success of your previous releases?
Whatever style of music I was making, the key driver over the years was always ‘is this something that Andrew Weatherall would play?’ He championed the early Cosmologist releases, so I was delighted and grateful for his support in equal measures.
Are we likely to get any original compositions from the Cosmologist, or are you strictly a reworking man?
Original tracks would likely come out under different monikers. The Cosmologist is more about the edits and reconstructions.
Is Under the Influence Records solely for your own releases?
The label name reflects the fact that the releases are tracks that have deeply resonated with me, and influenced me – as well as many nights spent under the influence – so the label is a personal project.
Do you ever worry about the naughtiness of your output?
It`s something that we are mindful of, and I`m not a fan of edits that are practically bootlegs. The reconstructions that we do often sound pretty different to the originals. I think the best edits add something new, whilst paying tribute to those innovative creators, so any form of remixing should try to strike the right balance between what to borrow and what to add.
Do you think that there are some records that shouldn’t be touched?
That`s totally subjective, but the general rule should be ‘does it – the edit, the rework – add anything?’ We`ve tried a fair few edits that simply haven’t worked. We only release the ones that we are satisfied with, that are saying something new and end up in a different place to the original.
Gilles Peterson loves your current Fela Kuti edit. What did you do to the song on your version?
The original is a stone-cold classic, but very long. We shortened it, and made it something that DJs could program and mix into a wider range of sets. Our version has an “Afro-Tech” feel to it and Gilles was someone that we hoped would play it.
The A-side of the new 12 is a rework of the Impossible Dreamers` cult classic. What’s the story on that track for you?
I`d been DJing in Tenerife in 1989, and returned to the UK in 1990, where I worked behind the counter of a well-known Soho record emporium. This record was incredibly hard to find, and I knew a digger called ‘Little Dave’ who eventually unearthed a copy for me. It was such a mad record, and something of an acquired taste, so I spent the rest of that year clearing dancefloors with it.
What`s The Cosmologist working on next?
We always have a list of tracks to tackle in mind, so we should get the next one finished for 2025.
What`s your current fave piece of music?
It isn’t club related but I’m really feeling Ein Tag Wie Gold, which captures the decadence of the 1930’s Berlin jazz scene. It’s the soundtrack to Babylon Berlin, which I came to late, and the parallels between then and now – the good and the bad – are frightening. Have we learnt nothing in 100 years
What would be your record to start a party with?
It depends what the party was, but always start slowly. The best nights are long ones, so best not to rush them.
Cosmology Vol. 5 is out on February 24th. You can pre-order a copy at Juno.