For Plato’s Atlantis, the S/S10 show that tragically became the final complete collection designed by Alexander McQueen; he envisioned an alien future where women had become hybridised with sea mammals. Broadcast live on the fashion website SHOWstudio, models glided down the runway in his armadillo shoes, soundtracked by an eerie dissonant score composed by his long-term musical collaborator John Gosling and the industrial legend Raymond Watts. Then ever the contrarian, he premiered Lady Gaga’s new single Bad Romance for the finale and promptly crashed the website. Gosling laughs at the memory, “Lee gave me that track literally one hour before the show. We always left one element to the last moment that you’re not sure about so as to keep you on your toes. But it worked!”
In the 15 years of their collaboration together, the two men would constantly surprise and challenge each other. Talking to the Independent in 2000, McQueen spoke about stalking Gosling to the home he shared with his wife, Sam Gainsbury who would become his visionary show producer. The nascent team first worked together on McQueen’s 1996 Black Death-inspired show set in a Spitalfields church. “I really liked him,” Gosling recalls, “When I spoke to him, apart from anything else, it sounded real fun.” It also brought the music producer who’d been making electronic music as Mekon for some time back to his experimental roots when he played in the seminal art-rock band Psychic TV, alongside the avant-garde performance artist Genesis P-Orridge – a background that proved surprisingly good grounding for his work in fashion. “We used to set the clock for each song – we never used to rehearse. I actually drew on a lot of it for the fashion stuff in that it’s like a performance. When I did the early Lee shows, it felt very similar to me – we were out there to do something different.” For McQueen, the soundtrack was integral to the sense of theatre he was trying to convey each season and was never about lazily playing the song of the moment. “His ideas were so out there. He would always ask for music that didn’t exist so we would have to create it. It was always hard work – we would go around the houses and plan this crazy stuff but it always fell together at the last minute.”
"When I did the early McQueen shows, it felt very similar to me – we were out there to do something different"
Gosling recently got the chance to experience the summation of their work together when his soundtracks were used to heighten the already emotional experience of the lavish McQueen retrospective at the Met last year. John Williams' haunting score from Schindler’s List accompanied a ghostly hologram of Kate Moss while his original composition Wind & Wolves vividly brought back memories of McQueen’s show at the Conciergerie in Paris where live wolves terrified the front row. It was an experience he found affecting – “It’s very strange going back and finding all of the pieces of music that I hadn’t looked at in so long. It was very weird and evocative.”
While Gosling also creates soundscapes for the likes of Chloé, Topshop and Umit Benan, he’s continued his collaboration at McQueen now under the stewardship of Sarah Burton. “With Sarah, we’ve both been doing it so long, we don’t have to say a lot to each other. She sets the mood and I just get on with it.” He’s also found a home for some of his tracks that started out life as ideas for McQueen shows – releasing an album of his own work later this year. “I do it for my own sanity. It’s nice to go into one world and then come out and do another one. I do have a rock and roll attitude to it – I always think of it as my second thing even if it’s the main thing I do. I try and keep a healthier, punkier attitude to this fashion thing.”