by Don Crispy
The UK ambient house prodigy sits down with Metropolis
to discuss the genre hes credited with creating
|The Orb is my life
and my family
courtesy of Ageha
At the gig you were on turntables and [partner] Thomas
Fehlmann was on laptop. Is that your standard set-up these
Im always on the turntables. Im a DJ. I never
tried to hide the fact because that was what the Orb was about
in the first place.
Who first came up with the ambient house tag?
In the summer of 88 we were coming back from doing raves
off our heads, and I thought, give me six turntables, see
what I can do. And we created this atmospheric soundscape,
which became the Chill Out album. The whole thing was a happy
accident. I was really frightened that we might get called
New Age house. New Age appalled me. I was taking
the drums away [from the mix], so it became the chill-out,
ambient side of house. On a 12-inch, we just put on the back,
Ambient house for the E generation. But [ambient
music pioneer] Brian Eno hates me. He thinks I nicked his
Since Brian Eno never put beats to his music or intended
for it to be played in a club, why would he feel threatened?
I dont understand either. If he wanted to do that, he
could have. I think one of the best albums ever made was My
Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I was shocked because I thought
I was doing him a favor by crediting him as an influence.
But apparently he didnt like that. He thought I was
taking his music into the studio and sampling it, but I wasnt.
I wasnt that stupid.
What was the upshot of the Rickie Lee Jones lawsuit over
Fluffy Clouds? That must have changed the way
you approached sampling...
Not really. I just do it with a bit more discretion.
I thought I heard that bit at your gig...
Youre absolutely spot on. There are bits of Rickie Lee
Jones you heard on Saturday night. Youve got a seven-year
cutoff point now. If a records been out seven years
and no one says, Oi, thats my music, give me the
money, theres nothing they can do... It gives
us freedom of choice.
What kind of sources are you sampling these days?
Cant tell you. But theyre there. Youll have
to listen to find out. Its a bit like the Steve Reich
bit on Fluffy Clouds. You think its the
Orb but its actually Steve Reich.
Where do you go for sample sources besides records?
Eastern Europe [laughs]. I bring a field microphone with me
on holiday. You might get a sample from a temple in India.
There was one track where I had to wear padded shoes in a
temple, and you can hear things like that in the albums. Another
classic one was watching an elephant blow dust over itself
[makes elephant noise]. Time-stretch that, make it into a
rhythmyouve got a song... Im not a musician.
I was never taught music. I find musicians get more off me
than I get off them because theyve been taught this
rigid format. Whereas Im always like, Play this
noise, play that noise!
Do you carry around a DAT recorder?
Im recording you right this moment [laughs again]. I
used to do quite a lot of it. But it became so normal I stopped
How do you balance work and family?
The Orb is my life and family. But Im trying to take
one weekend off a month to spend with my daughter. Because
I dont want her slipping off into my mentalityI
dont want her wondering if I really love her or not.
I want her to come out with me when shes 16 or 17, and
take over doing the Orb. I want it to become a family thing.
Not many people have done that before! If she hates music,
fine, I wont force it on her. But if she wants to get
into music, she can reinvent the Orb. Shes got the same
bloody surname as me and looks a bit like me, but much cuter!
Youve been coming to Japan for over ten years now.
What changes have you observed?
Well, their bodies arent their temples anymore. Theres
more drug use.
Have you ever collaborated with Japanese producers?
I did a YMO remix album, Technodon. I got to warm up for them
at Tokyo Dome, which is probably why Im so big over
here. This was for their reunion around 93. All I remember
is I got a huge amount of money for it.
Do you think the rave/club thing has become too corporate?
Even though the Orb is 17 years old now, I feel like its
still a budding young girl. I wouldnt be doing it if
I thought so.
Alex Paterson plays Cyprus@Ageha
on July 22. See club listings for details.
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