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Dotmusic - Webchat with Paul Hartnoll - 24th February 2000
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CDNow Website - Orbital Lands in the Middle of Nowhere
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Loopz Interview
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Details Magazine
Floppy Disco
August 1996
Select Magazine
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INTERVIEWS - Floppy Disco - Details Magazine - August 1996
Contributor : Matthew Ford

An interview which appeared in Details Magazine. Sent in by Matthew Ford

If there are any spelling mistakes or any other problems then please inform me via email.

You don't need forty-eight tracks and forty-eight grand to make a dance record--just a home computer. And, say masters of homemade techno Orbital, you don't really need the computer either.

By Phil and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital

Some people imagine that to make electronic music at home you need a Ph.D., a computer big enough to coordinate Desert Storm, and loads of money to spend on more and more new technology. They're wrong. There would never have been an explosion in dance music and techno if it were so expensive to make. And we would certainly never have been able to do it: In 1989, when we made our first single as Orbital, Paul was still working in a pizza joint and Phil was working on a building site. We made do with the cheap equipment that we'd gathered over the years, and the record, "Chime," got in the top twenty partly because it didn't sound like it had cost a fortune. In that respect, electronic music is a little like garage punk: You use what you've got to get what you want.

We never expected that we'd end up playing places like the Glastonbury festival, or remixing Madonna. We only wanted to make music like the early Detroit techno records. But even though we're seven years and four albums down the line, our methods haven't changed that much. Here are a few things we've learned along the way.

Your basic kit: There are as many combinations of equipment as there are different kinds of dance music, but you're always going to need the boxes that make the noise and something to record it all on. A good, flexible sampler with a built in synthesizer can do the jobs of several (costly) individual items of equipment. It can create and manipulate sounds; it can double as a drum machine, by grabbing looped beats or individual drum sounds; it can snip out that vocal sample of Martin Luther King to give your house record some atmosphere; and best of all, if it's got a quantize function, it can correct your dodgy keyboard playing.

Names to look for: We recommend the old, discontinued Emax samplers: They're very cheap, and they have a synthesizer in them as well as a sampler, so you don't need a separate synth. (We did our whole first album on old Emax IIs.) Akai samplers like the S1000 or S900 are good too, although you have less freedom with the sounds. Any Esoniq sampler will also do you fine, but avoid the Mirage--it's too old, and its tiny memory means your concentration will be interrupted by constant disc changes. Most sampler modules don't come with a keyboard, and you'll need one to play them. Again, you can use a cheap synthesizer as your keyboard, like the Casio VZ-1 or the Yamaha DX11 (Mike Paradinas, a.k.a. -ziq, uses one), and you can never have too many sounds to play with.

Don't get hung up on computers :It's handy if you've already got a Macintosh or a PC; it will be able to control a lot of sequencers, the machines that play a preprogrammed series of notes. We've often used an Atari 1040ST computer, and software packages like C-Lab Creator (now called Emagic Logic) or Cubase are easy to learn. But a computer is by no means necessary. For the cost of a middling Macintosh--which will probably need memory upgrades--you can get all kinds of inexpensive, versatile samplers and sequencers.

Shop around for cheap gear: With synthesizers, older is better. Vintage synths are full of lovely analog filters, which have a warmth and fluidity that new digital machines don't. That's where people like the Aphex Twin get their signature sounds. Secondhand shops can be great sources for four-track home studios (remember what the Beastie Boys said: Check your heads) and for effects. Reverb, delay, flange, and dozens of other treatments will give your sounds more life and presence, but you don't need to buy expensive digital effects setup when you can get cheap guitar pedals and abuse them horribly. Everyone loved the spacey fee on "Chime," and only we knew that it came from a single dodgy Boss guitar delay pedal.

Enjoy yourself: Do what you want to do--that's all we've ever done. If you're self-conscious about fitting in with trip-hop or Goa trance or jungle, it'll show. Just try to make the music you want to hear, and if that means imitating Toddy Terry or Aphex, that's fine. You'll almost certainly come up with something original by mistake.

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