NuSkoolBreaks interview - Phil Hartnoll - 24th November 2004 
Loopz Interview - USA Tour - Minneapolis -18th October 2001
Homelands Interview - Worldpop - May 2001
Altogether Interview - Jo Vraca - May 2001
Making Music - May 2001
Brothers Gonna Work It Out - Amazon - April 2001
Orbital in The Altogether - NME - April 2001
Orbital for Scape - Jo Vraca - Winter 2000
Dotmusic - Webchat with Paul Hartnoll - 24th February 2000
Innerviews - Beats of Daring - 20th May 1999
Bassic Groove Magazine #4 - Good Techno for Bad Movies - 1999
CDNow Website - Orbital Lands in the Middle of Nowhere
July 1999
NME Webchat with Paul Hartnoll - 29th June 1999
Community Service Tour - Webchat with Paul Hartnoll
7th June 1999
DJ Magazine - The Odd Couple Issue36 : Vol 2 : March 27th - 9th April 1999
Loopz Interview
12th December 1997
In Sides / Orbital Review
November 1996
SonicNet - Webchat with Orbital - 5th September 1996
Details Magazine
Floppy Disco
August 1996
Select Magazine
In Sides
May 1996
Guardian Paper
Sibling Chivalry
19th April 1996
Feile - Orbital Stole The Show
August 1995
DJ Magazine
Orbiting the Feile
31st August 1995
Select Magazine
Suburban Spacemen
September 1994
NME Paper
Brothers Up In Arms
13th August 1994
Select Magazine
Twin Bleeps
October 1992
NME Paper
Fission Blips
07th March 1992
INTERVIEWS - Making Music - May 2001

Interview -
Gal Détourn
Magazine -
Making Music - Issue 181 - May 2001
Contribution -
Dog Solitude   

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

Phil and Paul Hartnoll, born in 1964 and '68 respectively, are in serious cappuccino mode, and they're fired up by their latest opus. 'The Altogether' is a diverse, fresh collection that takes in 21st century rockabilly, their take on the Dr. Who theme, dreamy melodicism, tribal blasts of urban chaos and much more. Orbital by rote it is not. So how do veterans like themselves prevent auto-pilot tedium kicking in? Did they fear that they might do an 'Orbital by numbers' and plummet into critical oblivion?

"No, we didn't get that feeling this time," states Phil, the older, balder, quieter bruv.

Paul, the enthusiastic motor-gob who often drowns Phil out, jumps in. "That never happened, but I know what you mean," he admits. "I've had that thing where you worry what people are going to think of the next album. Sometimes you have writer's block and you feel you're just rehashing old ideas. But that didn't happen with this. We knew we had an album without actually having to sit and write it."

And that was thanks to their involvement with a number of commissioned projects, meaning they had a backlog of material to build upon.

"Things like doing the music for a friend's art film on BBC2," Paul expands, "and for a dance project as part of the Meltdown Festival at the South Bank Centre. That was like doing a film score without the film. Before you knew it, we had all this stuff. Doing music commissioned by other people is good because you're not so self-conscious. You're not thinking about it being Orbital. That's why this album happened naturally. Also, we made a rule for ourselves. We were fed up of long techno tracks, so we said, 'right, let's try and get ten short tracks on here'. Well, there's eleven and it's still an hour, but that's good for us."

Introducing Mr. Gray

'The Altogether' also features David Gray, but it's nothing to do with market 'entryism'. "I've known him for years," Phil clarifies. "Basically, we share managers, and my wife and his are sisters, so he's sort of my brother-in-law and uncle to my children. He's been in the family for ages. He's got a great voice."

"He sung on that track ages ago and we never got it right, but now we have," remembers Paul. "Also, ha came round and sang a song into our computer, and that one's still there to this day. A truly lost song. Then I did that remix for him as well. He's our mate."

"We normally work with our mates," maintains Phil. "We very rarely collaborate with people we've never met - I feel funny about doing that. But I got a kick out of remixing Kraftwerk and Madonna. We were always big Madonna fans."

The album also features sampled guests including The Cramps, Ian Dury, Tool and Steve Ignorant, the latter of late '70s/early '80s anarcho-punks, Crass.

"Paul was a second generation punk," Phil recalls.

"Yeah, I used to love Crass," the younger bruv sparkles. "I got all my moral fibre from Crass when I was very young."

'The Altogether' should certainly not, however, be construed as a one-dimensional anger-fest. "Waving Not Drowning", for example, is an insane track that your Great Uncle Bob could easily bop to at a wedding reception.

"It's a total, happy, peel, the roof off your car and get driving down a country lane kind of track," smiles Paul, now scoffing his second giant cappuccino. "Fantastic. It's like music to spin around to in an old-fashioned fairground."

Media Cynics, us?

The Hartnolls' enthusiasm for their work stands in contrast to what some perceive as their reluctance to talk. They usually limit interviews to key publications. This is standard practice for any big act, but Paul and Phil insist it's simply because they have to prepare for their live shows.

"When we've finished an album," Paul elucidates, "we're getting ready for touring, and because of the way we play live, we have to sequence up these little sequencers. It's a hard, boring job to convert it all and make it run smoothly. You're setting up a studio on stage. It takes the couple of months where people would normally do press. It might look like we're unenthusiastic, but it's not that at all, it's a question of fitting everything in."

So they're not die-hard media cynics, then?

"Well, come on," exclaims Phil, "it's not a hard job is it, sitting chatting to people? I've done some shitty jobs in my life and I can tell you, talking about what you've just done creatively isn't hard. Who am I to complain about having to do an interview?"

So we won't hear them saying, "hey man, the music speaks for itself?"

"Well, we're instrumental so it doesn't say anything, haaaaa," sniggers Paul, momentarily lapsing into mischievous schoolboy mode. "The music speaks for itself," he continues, "but it's like, 'now I want to speak to the person behind the music.' It's a different thing. I like reading interviews of people I like. If I didn't want to do an interview, I'd just say, 'look, I'm tired. I don't want to do it.' I wouldn't say, 'oh, the music speaks for itself'."

Like most electronic acts, Orbital don't do the tetchy, suffering, suicidal rock cliché routine, where talking about what you do in a grounded way isn't seen as cool.

"The guitar thing attracts egocentric people that want to be pop stars," declares Paul, "and it's pop stars that get like that, not musicians so much. You don't get any suicidal bass players and drummers, it's more lead singers and guitarists."

"Keith Moon!!!" Phil smugly chips in.

"He wasn't suicidal, it was an accident," Paul counters.

"Yeah, he just went over the edge," Phil agrees. "Also, we're coming from the rave culture. We're talking about the revival of the hippy world. Love and peace and all that. [But] you get the odd wanker here and there, though."

"Haaa, ha hah!" Paul roars. "It makes me laugh, 'cos I know who you mean."

"But anyway - no, I can't tell you, 'cos it's hanging your dirty washing out," Phil declines. "Though they've done it to us many times. But anyway, you make good friends out of this, and it's all togetherness. I'm an old hippy ay heart - it's a unifying thing."

Having said that, Orbital's association with dance is not black and white. "It's always been tenuous," Paul ponders. "We've never really been played in clubs. We go down like a lead balloon at most raves. We go down well at rock festivals, but at dance festivals it can be a shady response because we don't pack it with Ibizan sounds. Some bands can play that dance game and do it as a band, but it's not us. We play heavy metal hip hop tracks next to fast acid house things."

Tenuous though it might be, the link does remain. Therefore, as they mature, don't they feel creatively constrained by operating within a predominantly youth-oriented scene?

"The thing about growing older as a musician," Paul responds, resolutely, "is that you take the music of your youth and develop it as you go. This situation had never been before. You know, we're taking our roots of acid house with us. It's the same as Kraftwerk taking their '70s electronic roots with them. Even old blues players started off young once."

If it's so easy…

Orbital are probably here for the long haul. Indeed, the sight of them at Glastonbury - the only festival they really love - improvising with loops and sporting those unmistakable glasses with mini-torches attached is one of music's iconic live images. But to play devil's advocate for a moment, what can really go wrong when you're just tweaking a few knobs, buttons and sliders?

"Fucking anything," Phil maintains, "and if it's a piece of piss, why isn't everybody else doing it? If it's so easy why aren't there loads of Orbitals out there?"

"Technically speaking," Paul asserts, "jamming with sequencers isn't that difficult. Although I'd like to see someone do it with the proficiency that I've developed over the last ten years. I know my MT8s inside out. I know how to punch sequences in half-way through the bar and get breakbeats to do different things. The fun of it is in the improvising. But it's not how difficult it is - it's about how entertaining it is. We use the same sequences every night but it's a different arrangement. I'm not much of an instrument player. We jam with the sequencers. The thrill for me on stage is arranging everything live. I can throw the loops in and keep it going as long as I want, [blending] elements in many different ways."

"We feed off the audience," Phil expands. "We can try to whip them up into a frenzy or we can go dub stylee. We've got the mixing desk, different effects, all the synths up there that are having MIDI signals sent to them, and the amount of manipulation of the sounds that you can do as it's going are amazing. It's a big organic quagmire."

Paul delivers the final word on the matter: "You've got to be creative to be able to arrange the track, because if you're not, it's going nowhere."

They're right of course. The Orbital live experience is an enveloping, unifying spectacle. The boys are occasionally accused of being musical magpies for sampling other musicians - which they do sparingly and creatively - but the fact remains that the biggest musical thieves are usually guitar bands. Those tired old riffs and chord progressions are smeared across the 20th century's vinyl detritus. Arguably, Oasis are the biggest thieves of all.

"YOU said that," smirks Phil, "though I wouldn't mind a fight with them, actually. Nah, don't put that or he's gonna fucking deck me. Wait till I've been to the gym for about 2 months." Too late, Phil - find those boxing gloves now.

Toys in the attic

When it comes to the matter of gear, Orbital have tons, as you might imagine. But that doesn't mean they use it all.

"This album's done on hardly any equipment," Paul illustrates. "We used to have lots of big, three-tier keyboard stands, and all the rest set up in the room and now we've got one keyboard stand with a K5000, Novation Supernova II [and] an E-mu sampler, and that's practically all we've made this album with."

"Yeah, and the Korg ER drum machine," adds Phil. "It's very easy for people starting to get hood-winked into thinking, 'God I can't do great music unless I have the latest bit of gear.' It's the ideas that count."

"Most innovation comes from people who don't have much gear," Paul proclaims, "Detroit techno came from people who could only afford to buy things like 303s. They couldn't afford to buy a big Jupiter 6, so they bought a 303 and a Juno, and they bought a 909 because they couldn't afford a 707."

That said, Orbital are still in the market for new toys. "We're always getting new gear," Paul admits. "In recent years, there was the whole virtual analogue revolution. [Digital is] different. It's not the same as if I turn on an ARP 2600, but the flexibility is what makes them exciting and gives them an edge that my SH101 doesn't have. We got a Nord Lead, but my favourite is the Novation Supernova II. We've got four of them now."

"We've actually got too much gear," he smiles, "but we've learnt to stick things in the cupboard and use a limited amount. It's better to learn to use particular pieces of kit fully. Like the Korg Z1 is fantastic. It's a bottomless pit of creativity, and I'm still peeping into the top of the well. The people that get to the bottom of it will really reap the rewards."

The way it all fits together is also important. "I feel like I've got a little robot orchestra," Paul grins. "That's what it is. You know, 'I'm gonna get the mono synths to do this, the poly synths to do that,' in the same way as you'd use strings or brass to do different things."

Although the boys use Logic Audio and occasionally compose with the use of a mouse and screen, their preferred method is to bang everything in - including rhythms - in real time, via a keyboard.

"Oh yes," Paul confirms. "We play everything. We don't use loads of pre-set military style drums and that sort of thing."

"When we first started, a lot of interviewers said 'the computer just does it, doesn't it?'" Phil recalls, "but you only get out of a computer what you put in. The computer just records everything - the velocity, pitch, everything."

In this sense, for Orbital at least, Logic Audio is primarily a virtual recording studio, and if what you get out of it is equivalent you put in, then it's worth spending time to get the right sound.

"Yeah, you put a basic riff into the computer," states Paul, "Then you find just the right sound. A sound that can be inspirational - it can just take you off somewhere else."

"Synths can disguise themselves," Paul explains. "If you look at our sounds on the Supernova, they'd be completely different to Sasha's. That's part of the challenge. With something like the Supernova, I nearly always invent a sound from scratch."

Totally Wired

So there you go - these veterans still get fired up. And Phil is particularly enthusiastic about the DVD version of their album, featuring 5.1 Surround Sound.

"You need three speakers at the front, two at the back and the point one is the sub-bass," he explains. "See, we get control of our recording budget, so we decided to put some of that into doing a stereo mix and then a 5.1 mix, in the hope that the record company would release the DVD. It opens up all horizons, because it's not just left and right, you can go backwards, forwards, around and around. Composition-wise, there's so much that you can do that you can't in stereo."

"Basically, there's a lot more space for you to put music in," Paul agrees.

They explain the virtues of Surround Sound at length, exuding an energy that many half their age lack. It's endearing. They're two ordinary blokes in awe of the fact that people 20 years their junior rave about them. For Phil, it's especially odd because it's transformed him into a contradiction in terms: a Cool Dad.

"I've got a thirteen year old son, a ten year old and four year old," he smiles. "My thirteen year old's not as embarrassed by me as much as he should be."

Despite the fact that there's no shutting them up, our time is done. Is there anything they'd like to add?

"I did want to discuss the future of techno," Phil jokes.

Paul rolls his eyes. "You wouldn't have got a sensible answer. Nobody else does."

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