Orbital. Named after the Sunsetstrip of the London acid house-parties:
the highway around London. Five albums on their name and together
with Leftfield, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers tightly anchored
in the hall of fame of dance music. But do not think that Orbital
goes self-assured into the new millennium. Their new album 'The
Middle of Nowhere' laboriously took shape.
"Do you know what the strangest thing about making records is?
You need to forget you are making a record". Phill Hartnoll (36)
sighs. Together with his four years younger brother Paul they
have already been together for ten years as Orbital. They made
five albums, of which the previous last album 'In Sides' sold
400,000 copies. "I know. But every time i feel the pre-album stress",
smiles Phill apologising.
The Hartnoll brothers are not to be blamed of pride (megalomania?).
"I was very aware that everything we were recording was going
to end up on the album. On top of that every time i go through
a phase in which i compare the new recordings with older material.
Than I freeze up and dont do nothing at all". According to Phil
at such a time you should be more selfish as a musician. Otherwise
it won't work. "You cannot make up sounds behind the machines
which you surely know will be consumed by fans. It just doesn't
work that way. At least not with us".
Perhaps the tension was caused because Paul and Phil immediately
went into the studio after their return from their american Lollapalooza-tour.
Were they burnt up after night after night playing the stars from
the sky on foreign stages? According to Paul it's more the opposite.
"Live playing we became more loose. If you spend too much time
in the studio, you risk your own navel becoming the centre of
the world. On the stage there is not much room to fiddle around.
At that time you must play the stars from the sky. It's the art
of finding the right balance between perfectionism and the raw,
spontaneous of a life performance."
Who recently saw Orbital on the stage in Amsterdam knows how raw
and energetic a performance by Orbital can be. They are a real
sensation to watch life, along wich the brothers are not affraid
to mix Berlinda Carlisle and Jon Bon Jovi into a musical set,
as a well-tested and approved intro to 'Halcyon'. Even the 'Doctor
Who theme' is part of the show. "That's Paul's thing", smiles
Phil. We watched Doctor Who when we were young. Even for those
who don't know the series its is a fabulous melody." You won't
find Doctor Who on the new album, but Suzi Quattro (a female rock-star
from the seventies), Dollar (enjoyable bad plastic popduo) and
tv-star Rolf Harris are shamelessly used by the Hartnoll gentlemen.
"I do believe this our happiest album yet", assents Phil, who
recently moved out of the capitol to the southcoast and is father
of three children. "We both are more positive in opposite to a
couple of years ago at the time of release of the album 'Snivilisation'
(Orbital's 'political' album, ed.). This album is much less melancholic.
We also have tried to make our songs shorter. But we still aren't
very good at it, i believe." The thing at which Orbital does get
better in, is their cinematographic approach. The Brittish duo
never hid their love for movie soundtracks. Paul and Phil see
movie score writers as Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone as their
favorites and assent to the fact that the single 'The Box' from
1996 is an ode to John Barry. In the meanwhile has Orbital some
experience theirselves with writing of movie scores, but sadly
nearly all of the movies were no big hits, like 'The Saint' and
the science fiction movie 'Event Horizon'. How come Orbital makes
bad choices in choosing directors? "We have nothing to choose
actually. I do read a lot of scripts, but there are not many good
movies among them. The most are science fiction. The best thing
about 'Event Horizon' was we got to work with Michael Kamen. That
was really awesome. He filled an old theatre with an orchestra
and did a sort of a jam session with them, which we recorded.
With that we went to our studios, without ever seeing anything
of the movie. We had a vague idea of what the movie would be about."
With the theme of "The Saint", with which Orbital had big hit
two years ago, was it a bit different. "I am not very charmed
by the movie, but we loved the original theme. During a dinner
we were offered to do our own version of it, which we of course
didn't reject." The single "The Saint" landed on the third spot
in the British hitcharts, but the movie vanished silently after
a few weeks display in the cinemas. Perhaps the tides will turn
soon for Orbital as unlucky darters on the moviescore board. Last
year the duo made the music for a tv-show on Channel 4. "And we
are asked to do a soundtrack for 'The Beach' (the new movie of
director Danny Boyle, to which Underworld also accepted to do
a soundtrack, ed.). That promises to be a nice movie. You know
what the nicest thing about writing movie scores is? You get a
working direction. You need to enhance the images with music.
With our own recordings we start with a white sheet and have to
color everything ourselves".
This summer their will be no time for new recordings, because
Orbital will be on tour to promote the new album the next few
months. Recently was the band for the second time a short period
in the Netherlands to play on the Drum Rythm Festival. The tour
in the UK did not start very well. The 'kick-of' should start
in the beginning of March in the Mass Club in Brixton. It was
cancelled because of software problems. Phil looks painfully as
he is reminded of this. "It was the first time we had to cancel
a show. It was awfull! Three days before the show our software
crashed, while we were copying all new tracks from our studio
to the sequencers we use on stage. These machines are a little
older and do have some temperament. When we wanted to use our
back-ups they had the same error. In the end we lost the work
of a week. Even if we would work day and night we still wouldn't
be on time." To add to the disaster the BBC was going to broadcast
the show in Brixton live on on the radio to warm up the fans for
the new album. "Our record company had decided to release the
album in April instead of February and the dates for the tour
were already set. I can tell you we were quite a bit nervous about
the situation. We hadn't played for about three years on stage.
That's why we decided to give the show to the BBC, to give the
fans at least the opportunity to hear the new songs.
In the meantime our new songs have proved themself to work in
the clubs. Especially 'Spare Parts Express' and 'Nothing Left'
had the same calibre as tested Orbital-hits like 'Impact' and
'Satan'. "During the tour songs change into something new", knows
Phil from experience. At first they sound like the album versions,
but at the end they change into something radically different.
We remove things and add other sounds. None of our shows if ever
the same as before. Yes, the setlist is set, but the song structures
aren't. We can make a song last for 1 or 10 minutes. If the audience
reacts strongly to a song we add a couple of measures".
What do the kids think of their famous daddy? Phil: 'My son of
nine years old is crazy about Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy. Sometimes
I take them to our shows. A couple of years ago I took my sons
and put them behind the stage. But when i looked back at them
about 15 minutes later they were both asleep!" 'The Middle of
Nowhere' of Orbital is released on FFRR/Warner Records. Orbital's
new single 'Nothing Left', with remixes of Way Out west and Adam
Freeland wil soon be available in the stores. For tour dates and
other news check out the Orbital website on: www.hyperreal.org/loopz