Mar 23 2011
Although still without name, Paul & Phil Hartnoll play live for the very first time at The Grasshopper in Westerham, a ‘Bernie Inn-style’ establishment complete with carvery and big plates, located somewhere on the Kent/Sussex border. Late as usual with names and titles, the Hartnolls elect to call themselves Orbital in celebration of the M25, that dreaded stretch of tarmac that encircles the capital and which at the time plays a central role in the Rave and Acid House scene in the South East. ‘Chime’ is recorded at home in Dunton Green near Sevenoaks on skeletal studio equipment and is mastered from cassette for release on Jazzy M’s independent Oh-Zone label. There is a buzz surrounding the track and the original one thousand 12″ singles sell out immediately through word of mouth. More copies are pressed up but supply cannot satisfy demand.
February: Orbital join the Synergy tour. Other live shows that year include Kaos at The Warehouse in Leeds and Energy at Docklands Arena alongside Guru Josh, The Shamen, Black Box, and Adamski. In March ‘Chime’ gets nationwide distribution by London Records dance subsidiary FFrr. It becomes a nationwide dance anthem and soon reaches No.17 in the UK singles charts which results in an invitation to appear on Top Of The Pops. Prevented from playing live and forced to mime, they give a reluctant performance, to say the least, whilst sporting anti-Poll Tax T-shirts. The follow-up single ‘Omen’ featuring vocal samples from ABC peaks at No.46.
January: ‘Belfast’ c/w ‘Satan’ is released – highest chart position is No.31. The intro to ‘Satan’ is sampled from US rockers the Butthole Surfers. Another double-A sided single ‘Choice’ c/w ‘Midnight’ follows in August; the anti-war rant included in the former is provided by Crass label signings Crucifix. It is followed in September by the untitled debut, or ‘green’ album featuring live versions of ‘Chime’ and ‘Midnight’ along with ‘The Moebius’ and ‘Desert Storm’, the latter being recorded to a backdrop of Gulf War TV news flashes. They remix and completely overhaul The Pied Piper’s ‘Kinetic’ and in December headline Australia’s biggest rave to date in Sydney on New Years Eve. Paul buys a digeridoo. As you do.
February: The ‘Mutations’ EP is released featuring remixes of tracks from the first album courtesy of Joey Beltram, Moby, Meat Beat Manifesto, Dave Angel etc. It also includes their own remix of ‘Chime’, retitled as ‘Crime’. ‘Mutations’ reaches No.24. Orbital remix Meat Beat Manifesto, EMF and The Drum Club. Orbital relocate to newly formed London Records subsidiary Internal in September and release the ‘Radiccio’ EP which features ‘Halcyon’ and ‘The Naked & The Dead’ which features vocal samples of Scott Walker. Highest chart position is No.37. Orbital use battery operated light headsets for the first time. Though purely functional (they enable Orbital to work their machinery whilst onstage) the headsets soon become a trademark that is often copied by others. In November they embark on their first US dates. The ‘Communion’ tour, with Meat Beat Manifesto, Ultramarine and local DJs cover East and West coasts …and the ‘Deliverance’ bits too.
April. ‘Lush’ is released with remixes by Underworld, Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia and CJ Bolland. The single reaches No. 43 in the singles charts. Orbital are instrumental in setting up the ‘Midi Circus’ tour of the UK which they go on to headline. In May the second untitled, or ‘Brown’ album is released entering at the charts at No.28. It includes ‘Impact (The Earth Is Burning)’, ‘Remind’ and an upgraded version of ‘Halcyon’ – ‘Halcyon+on+on’. A session is recorded for John Peel and is broadcast in September. Orbital headline the Megadog New Years Eve show at Brixton Academy.
March: The Peel session is released. Due to Industry guidelines it is ineligible for the charts. In June Orbital play Glastonbury, previewing material from their forthcoming album, and establish their live reputation on the highest level. ‘Snivilisation’ is released in August entering the album charts at No.4. They appear at the Woodstock II Festival in the States. In September the ‘Are We Here?’ single reaches No.32. The UK tour lasts throughout October – twenty sold-out dates played ‘in the round’ from the top of a specially constructed scaffolding tower at each venue. Brixton Academy sells out rapidly and a second London date is arranged for the Kentish Town T&C.
February: Orbital’s remix of Madonna’s ‘Bedtime Story’ is released. In April, Bristol Sound City. They play via ISDN from their studio, previewing a new track ‘Times Fly’ as part of the live broadcast of Radio One’s Interactive Night and in May headline Tribal Gathering at Otmoor Park, Oxfordshire. Over 25,000 people attend the event. They play the Main Stage at Glastonbury on the Saturday evening in front of an estimated 60,000. Many feel the performance eclipses even that of the previous year. Excerpts are broadcast on television by Channel 4. A new untitled EP (‘Times Fly’) is released in defiance of chart rulings which ensures its exclusion from the singles charts.
April: ‘The Box’ single is released, entering the charts at No.11, followed in May by the fourth album ‘In Sides’, which enters at No.5, soon selling over 100,000 copies in the UK alone. It features ‘The Girl With The Sun In Her Head’ recorded with the aid of Cyrus, the Greenpeace mobile solar generator. Later that month they embark on an extensive UK tour and sell out the Albert Hall in London, followed by sixteen European festival dates. In August they play V96 and headline The Greater London Earth Energy Music festival. October: they perform a blistering new version of their forthcoming single ‘Satan Live’ on ‘Later With Joolz Holland’ as fellow guests Jackson Brown and Joe Cocker stare in open-mouthed bewilderment. On New Years Eve, Orbital play to 12,000 people at Alexandra Palace and mix ‘Chime’ with the chimes of Big Ben at midnight. Unforgettable. The show is broadcast on New Years Day on Radio One.
January ‘Satan’, which reached No.31 on its original release in 1991, now enters as ‘Satan Live’ at No.3 in the first week of the new year. Later in April, and now relocated back to the FFrr label, Orbital release ‘The Saint’, the theme tune from the Hollywood remake of the classic 60s cult TV series starring Val Kilmer. The promo video features a cameo by Roger Moore. The film itself receives mixed reviews though the single enters at No.3. In May Orbital co-headline Tribal Gathering alongside Kraftwerk and throughout June play the final slot on the East Coast leg of Lollapalooza tour in the US. Channel 4 broadcasts ‘The Visit’, a gritty, real-life thirty minute drama set in Hull young offenders prison: all acting is by the inmates, whilst Orbital provide the soundrack. Another version of ‘Satan’ is recorded with Metallica’s Kirk Hammett for inclusion on the soundtrack to the film ‘Spawn’. In July Orbital play two shows at the Phoenix Festival: Radio One broadcast Orbital’s Dance Tent set. The following month sees the release of the soundtrack to ‘Event Horizon’, a collaboration (of sorts) between noted Hollywood composer Michael Kamen and Orbital for the sci-fi horror. In the autumn work begins on building a new studio.
The Orbital studio is upgraded and work commences on the new album.
To mark the first ten years of Orbital activity, they undertake their most successful and comprehensive UK tour to date which followed soon after by the release of their fifith album, “The Middle Of Nowhere”. This becomes their third consecutive Top 5 album chart placing, once again entering at number three, and is again at the receiving end of great critical acclaim. A single, “Style”, is Top 20.
After taking a short and well-earned break the Hartnolls begin work on their sixth studio album. This time the recording uses 3D SurroundSound technology. In June they supply an exclusive new piece of music for a modern dance project as part of the South Bank Centre’s Meltdown Festival which is this year curated by one of the Hartnolls’ all time heroes, Scott Walker, whilst in October they play a one-off live show at the Hammersmith Palais as part of Q magazine’s pre-award ceremony celebrations: one of three new tracks previewed on the night (“Tension”) is later broadcast on Channel 4. On New Years Eve they round off the year with a live set at the London Arena in Docklands. The set is broadcast the following day on Radio One.
Orbital spent the beginning of the year finishing off the 6th album and working on a 5:1 SurroundSound version. The first single since “Beached” is released – Funny Break (One is Enough) featuring Naomi Bedford reaches number 21 in the charts. The Altogether is finally released on April 24th and Orbital head on tour in May. The tour starts in the UK, takes them all across various European festivals, across America for a month and then back to the UK.
“Illuminate” double pack is released in December with mixes from Charlie May, Sasha, Dark Globe, Medicine and Orbital themselves. They finish the year performing in Dublin the day before Xmas eve.
Most were expecting a quiet year after the previous years chaos but the final London Records release is planned. Orbital decide to call it a day with the record company they started with 10 years ago. They release the Work, Rest and Play EP in May which features a new working of “Chime”, a club friendly track called “Frenetic” and a previously unavailable track called Monorail (was originally available on the Altogether Japanese album). A month later they release their retrospective collection album called WORK.
Orbital celebrate the release by playing two special open-air gigs at Somerset House in London. A week later they make their 4th appearance at Glastonbury by headlining the Other Stage on the Saturday night. All three nights got great reviews. The following month they play live at the Arvika Festival in Sweden and T in the Park in Scotland.
Work starts on a film score called “Octane”.
Orbital score the music to the horror film ‘Octane’ directed by Marcus Adams and starring Madeleine Stowe. The score album is released by EMI in October.
They also scored the US TV series “Keen Eddie” and begin working on tracks which will become the “Blue Album”
2004 will see the last ever Orbital record and gigs. After 15 years together Phil & Paul will pursue different projects but will be finishing with a Brixton Academy show and closing Glastonbury on the second stage. The 7th studio LP the ‘Blue Album’ will be released on June 21st.