Features

Get set for The Orb at Earthcore, Mt Disappointment

The Orb virtually invented the electronic genre known as ambient house, resurrecting slower, more soulful rhythms and providing a soundtrack for early-morning ravers once the clubs closed their doors. – Frontman Dr. Alex Paterson’s formula was quite simple: he slowed down the rhythms of classic Chicago house and added synthwork and effects.

Get ready for a wicked morning set when The Orb play at Earthcore.

You first started out in 1988 and you’ve continued to produce a variety of eclectic sounds. Do you feel The Orbs sounds have changed significantly over the past 12 years or have you stuck to a winning Orb formula?
I think we’ve been based on experimentation, so we don’t actually really stick to a formula. If we had stuck to a formula then after the first 2 albums we probably would have been a lot more famous and a lot richer, but we didn’t see that at the time – which I’m glad about really. We’ve got to experiment – like for the next Orb album that comes out next year, we’ve done a country-western/electro tune for example. We’re keeping ourselves busy experimenting.

When’s that due to come out?
Yeah, some time in autumn next year. We’re going to put an EP of this on the “bad.orb.com” website end of Feb/March – which is a new label that we’ve established.

Yeah I went into the “Bad Orb” website and heard a “Barbie” tune in the background.
That’s probably the one. Yeah, what we’re doing – we release and delete a record every month and if you don’t get it, then you don’t get it. It becomes a rarity – which is what we’ve always been about – making rare records. Used to find it difficult getting an Orb record -might as well carry on the tradition. We’re going to release a compilation album around March of all various tracks of all the mixes of each EP – so there’s going to be 12 EPs in a year – one a month and then there will be 12 tracks, a track taken off each EP – hopefully around 72mins of music on a single CD.

So will that become a collector’s item?
We’ll put that on general release – that’ll be on CD as well as opposed to vinyl. We don’t even release CDs at the moment. But that’ll change after the first year. It’s just the first year, just grounding us – getting those who are genuinely really interested.

In the bio it says that you were inspired by the 70s ambient pioneers Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream. Who has inspired you throughout the years to the new millennium?
It certainly wasn’t them. Tangerine Dream I don’t even like – I don’t know where that came from (It was in the bio. Well that’s what they know about me then…jokes aside). The whole house thing from `88 onwards has inspired me that exploded in the UK and has become like a worldwide phenomenon even into 2001. It’s like when will it end and when will the fuckin’ youngsters get off their asses and do something fucking different so I can go, errrgh – I hate you! Why would I want to be a middle-aged bloke moaning about teenagers? But it’s like I’m playing the role of a teenager. But hey, there you go, there’s rockn’roll or rolln’rock I don’t know, it depends on how you want to look at it really.

You’ve been in the music industry for a long time now – what are some of the significant changes in sounds, technology, music tastes you’ve seen happen throughout the years?
A vast amount really. When we started music, there weren’t such things as computers – even faxes were unheard of at some point along the line. Technology has gone a thousand times better. Simple things like a ¼ inch editing on a Mac now – it’s incomparable. Apparently it’s going to get better. You buy these synthesisers that are like £2,500 pounds and 10 years later you can buy a plug-in of the same thing and get the same sound for £50 quid. That’s technology for you.

You’re presented as one of the more influential figures of ambient/electronic music in our generation. How do you sum up your contribution to, and position in, the dance music industry?
Ha ha ha! (laughs) A few things come to mind. First thing is bollocks – we’re not really an ambient band. And secondly we try to build a maze for people to get out of our music as opposed to an open door. There’s no easy way out of an Orb record. It gets you, and you’re in there or you don’t like it. That’s the beauty of us. I think we’ve got our own sound and we’ve got our own technique and therefore we got our own crowd of people that like our music. We’ve been going 13 years in the UK since 1988 doing this sort of stuff.

What’s one of your favourite gigs?
Straight off the top of my head… a gig in Neems – Sth France with thousands of people in a roman amphitheatre with Underworld and Jeff Mills DJing – it was amazing. The stage was in the middle of the arena like it should be really – all sides covered.

Have you toured in Australia before or is this your first time?
As the Orb no – I have toured as a DJ before.

What are your expectations of the Melbourne dance scene at the moment?
I’ve always liked Melbourne – I’ve always had a good time there. I did a Melbourne, Sydney and NZ tour about 96 – DJing. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been to Australia. I know the first time I came out there I was DJing with Primal Scream back in `92 – an Australian tour then, which was very righteous. Being put in hotels with swimming pools on the roof with lots of drink and other things…

So you’re doing Melbourne and then Brisbane are you touring anywhere else?
I’m doing some holidaying and also DJing at Earthcore parties around Xmas/New year and going to Hobart to DJ as well.

When’s that happening?
In December… all I know is that we’re being put up in a hotel that’s in a rainforest and that’s all I need to know.

And you’re doing NY as well in Melbourne?
I believe so.

Do we know where?
Nuh. I don’t know anything. I’m on a need-to-know basis… I’ve got to go to Japan before that, Scotland, and a few gigs in London and making a few records, then I can go about my holiday – it’s like 2 weeks with the Orb and then we’re free to do what we want.

Do you want to talk about ‘Cydonia’ your sixth album? That’s what’s out here at the moment.
For me it’s such an old album – it’s been around for so long for me.

Some of the tracks are 3 years old.
Yeah, but some of the tracks I wrote … I remember writing “Centuries” and little tiny snippets and stuff right up until Sept when we cut it last year, we were still writing new material for it. Got my label up and running – Bad.orb.com as I mentioned and doing an album with Jimmy Courtney and Guy Pratt called the Transit Kings which is a project coming out next year.

What kind of sounds will you be playing and what can we expect from the Orb at Earthcore?
You’ll be getting a fully-fledged Orb gig with Simon Phillips, Witchman and myself. We’ve been through it together now, all year. As a unit – Simon used to play bass with the Orb up until 95. We became a 2-piece, me and Andy and then Andy left and so we asked Simon if he wanted to play bass and Simon does a bit of mixing as well. It’s ever expanding really in that respect.

So are we going to hear more traditional Orb tunes/sounds at Earthcore and what about the Bad Orb – will we see some of that emerging?
You might see some visuals as we have some great Bad Orb visuals. I might play some interlude to some Bad Orb stuff. We really are quite strong – we’ve got a lot of Orb material and so we do 1 hr 3/4 – 2 hours a set and we just go with that.

So in December are you playing on your own or with the Orb for New Year?
Just for myself. I might throw in a couple of Orb tunes. In the middle of the Orb set I do a DJ session for about 6 tracks but they’re all within 10 to 15 mins of each other of wild mixing. I can pull them out and put it in my set anyway. I can upbeat it cos it’s pretty downbeat with the Orb everything is around, even sometimes 85bpi – up’s about 131 is the speediest we get. When I’m DJing I don’t normally go anywhere under 130; 140-130 quite happily chugging along.