A Sit Down With DJ Orbital

English band Orbital are by far one of the most unique sounding. The group creates a slowed down, often ambient dance sound that comes as a welcome change from all the hardcore that has dominated the rave scene. Orbital also have a unique approach to live performances. Rather than having backing tracks come off DAT, as many techno bands do, everything heard is manipulated live off sequencer.

 

“I was very arrogant, I was quietly confident – but probably not that quiet – in my youth.”

 

 

How did you first get into making music?

I had a love of anything electronic. My ears used to prick up whenever I heard any. My elder brother listened to Kraftwerk and stuff like that. His tastes influenced me, especially when he played me Autobahn. The whole concept blew me away. It was the sound that really grabbed me. The synthesizer used to have a bad name for itself – god knows why it would try to emulate really instruments when it had its own voice completely, which it’s obviously found over the years.

Who are some of your greatest musical influences of all-time?

Electronic wise Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and The Radiophonic Workshop. But other influences as well, lots of punk music like The Dead Kennedys and Crass.

Technology has evolved as the band’s career has progressed, has that changed the sound or any other element of the band?

I think instruments evolve and it always helps what you’re doing, that’s what happened in the late 1980s/early 1990s. We could suddenly afford to buy all this equipment that before was only for the likes of Kraftwerk or Jean-Michel Jarre and Yellow. Normal kids could afford it so it hit the streets, basically, and that’s where this big explosion came from, starting with electro and then house music was the big change.

Does anything bother you about electronic music now? Has anything changed that you don’t like?

Not really. Well, yeah. There is a lot of self-indulgent noodling around with no definition. The thing is, we like a good tune. And I like focus. I don’t like blurry music. Even Brian Eno, the ambient stuff, it’s very much in focus. There’s a set of clear ideas there, no fumbling about. I think in the electronic community now, there’s lot of almost-music. It’s nearly good. A bit, ooh, that’s kind of a nice idea, but that’s that. Look, there’s no tune, and those drums aren’t clever – they’re just out of time. I mean, there’s a lot of people experimenting with time signatures, and don’t get me wrong, if people enjoy listening to it, great. But some experiments don’t work, that’s all I’m saying.

Do you have any pre-show habits or rituals?

For an hour before the gig I can’t talk to anyone. Well I can, but I’m not listening to what they’re saying or what I’m saying. I just nod. I’ll go and watch a band if I can, I like that mirror thing of feeling what it’s like to be in the audience, to get a real feeling of the other side. I also nearly always go on stage when the crew are doing the changeover because I like to get a feel for the stage so I’ll sneak on, minding my own business and maybe tune a synth or something. The other thing I’ve started doing recently, because I’ve always liked to stretch a bit or run on the spot before a gig, is morris dancing. So I practice my Bledington morris dancing, and that has become a ritual now; I feel a bit weird if I haven’t managed to do it. So if anyone sees me doing something slightly strange that makes me look like I’m picking up a bucket with my foot then that’s what it is.

Which has been your favorite gig?

They were honestly all great. I really loved wandering around Blue Dot because it was a big science fair. I brought my sixteen-year-old daughter.

Is it still important to you to be relevant now?

Yes, but we don’t think of it that way. Now just feels like a long straight line from then. Thing is, you’re always the centre of your own field, whatever you’re doing. So, as a band, this is the most important thing happening in the world tonight – it’s all just a matter of perspective. 

What kind of musical legacy has the nineties dance scene left on British culture?

Have you heard Lady Gaga?! Hello? You couldn’t get much bigger than Calvin Harris and EDM has become American pop. That’s the legacy of nineties dance music.

Questions? Comments? We want to know:@djfollower