title: Music in Our Message

date: 12 April 2005

source: The Drum Media

writer: Mark Neilson

Cog has been called everything from straight out heavy rock to progressive rock to even art rock. They are all and yet none of these. With their debut album, The New Normal you have a dynamic sound that ranges from the distorted to the quiet from long to short, and from the frenetic to ambient. There are so many different levels, from the music's sonic experience to the lyrics and the message behind it.

"I think we like music that we can continually got back to and after a thousand listens pick up a little thing here and there you've never heard before," says Cog vocalist and guitarist, Flynn Gower. "I think a lot fo that inspiration has come through electronic music. The way they start off with a minimalist beginning and add layers until its a coacophany of sounds, bu they're all [working] and swirling around each other."

Perhaps thats part of the reason why people have trouble trying to nail down exactly what Cog do. On first listen you'd expect Cog to gain inspiration from rock rather than electronic music. But, then again, Cog is not your average band. "At the end of the day, we enjoy a whole range of music" says Gower. "I think its a shame if you can't fit more than one of those influences into your music. I'd feel a little disappointed if that was the case.

"I think we've also, from day one, consciously wanted to create an atmosphere in which the band can move off in almost any direction and people will go 'Oh, that's cool, becasue that's what they do'.It's not some massive shock like, 'Oh, they've changed'. I'd like for people to expect that from us and go 'Yeah that's Cog, they do whatever the fuck they want'."

Damn skippy they can do what they want. At the time of The Drum's chat, the band had just driven back from Melbourne where they were shooting a video clip. On the stereo for the drive were artists ranging from Helmet to Nina Simone. So considering there was a leftfield electronic influence (one for the Cog trainspotters there), what could Cog get from soneon like Nina Simone?

"From Nina Simone you get one of the greatest vocal performances in history and there's a musicianshop that accompanies all of her work that's just top notch," Gower says. "There's also a passionate darkness to her music. It's like you get pulled into her life. I know she had an extremely heard life, but she was a fighter. I think you got that sense she was really tough in here music and she didn't take shit. That's some of the things i got from her, but i think there's a unique sense of humour in her music bordering on irony. In a sense its depressing, but at ther same time there's optimism there."

Which is something that's evident in Cog's music. "People have said in the past that we've had a dark sense of optimism and i like that," Gower says. "You know the music can be dark, but at the same time its not desperate. I think there's a sense of hope that sits inside there as well"

This is definitely present on The New Normal, which Gower describes as almost documentary-like" in a way. "we're three Australian blokes experiencing Australia and the world in this day and age. I the last two years we've tried to document how we've interacter witht he world and how the world's interacter with us," Gower says of The New Normal, reflecting what could well be the theme of the album.

And the experience of this interaction is reflected in the songs, with a sense of alienation and isolation, and feelings of frustration and powerlessness. But again, there is a sense of spirit and optimism in there somewhere, which refers to what was said before. "There is a fighting spirit that exists there. You feel thatr the world is on edge all the time and that disaster can strike at any second and the whole human race could slide into the sea," Gower says. "it just feels like that's where the world is now. We're just holding on by a thread and as an average individual citizen of the planer you feel like you're totally disconnected from the decision making process. I don't think that's a nice feeling."

For Cog's part, to try and help rectify this situaion, they have their music and their audience with which to communicate ideas. This is something they've done from day one. Gower says this reached a "fever pitch" when this time last year the band took journatlist John Pilger's documentary Breaking the Silence: The Truth and Lies of the War On Terror on the road with them. Rather than having an opening act, the band, instead, screened the documentary. Having seen Pilger speak at a university, Cog felt the environment was such that he was preaching to the converted. "But in our environment its a different story," Gower says of screening the doco and a Cog gig, "We felt that he and the film deserved more of an audience that what it was getting."

Cog has always done similar things to help spread the word about issues they feel strongly about. There is what is contained in the lyrics for a start, but they have also done things like playing gigs rallying against the World Trade Organisation. Needless to say Gower feels the music in general is a fantastic way to get the message out there.

"It has an uncanny ability to deliver an emotional message that can be physically impossible to deliver in writing or some other form," he remarks. "Whether you're talking about Rage Against the Machine or Nina Simone, they're both delivering messages. Even if you don't understand the lyrics and you can't understand what the fuck it is they're sayting, you can still get the message through the spirit of the song, and you can walk away totally understanding the emotional message that the performers are trying to express. That's one of the reasons why it's so powerful.