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
 
Unknown
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
 
Unknown
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 - NME Paper - Brothers Up In Arms - 13th August 1994
Interview: Roger Morton
Pictures: Derek Ridgers

An interview with Paul and Phil Hartnoll which featured in the NME paper on the 13th August 1994.

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

In the ozone bright sunshine she doesn't look like a global techno killer. Parked at the quay, just outside the centre of Helsinki, the rubber- coated hulk of the Russian Navy's U406 Juliett class submarine looks far too battered to be capable of blasting a pair of 356 kiloton nuclear missiles at a target 1,500 kilometres away.

Flopped in the water like giant cigar, she stinks of salty fluids and petrol. The ice-cream booth which lazily trades in vanilla killers by the submarine's gangway seems about as potentially apocalyptic. But until February of this year, when the former 'evil empire' leased her to Finland as a tourist attraction, our Juliett was a working Russian sub. A few pre-Glasnost years earlier, she was the shadowy stuff of CND teenager nightmares and death of the planet scenarios."It's really freaky in there," says Paul Hartnoll, extracting himself from the 'electrotechnical room' deep in the squashed metal guts. On regular duty, 90 men would be enclosed for three months in the submarine's claustrophobic tube.Today the 30-year old vessel, designed, as the guide notes, by a woman, has a visiting crew of four- Paul, older brother Phil, photographer Ridgers and myself

"We should get one of these and park it outside The Aphex Twin's house," says Paul. "That'd show him."

Sonar bleeps are familiar aural territory for the Hartnoll brothers, but this is their first time in Finland. They're here to play a one off date in Helsinki, following a show in Norway. This morning they went to the local flea market and picked up a few Russian badges for their epaulettes. In a country which only split off from the Soviet Union in 1970, the reminders of the Cold War past are intriguing to the free-thinking techno-explorer.

"A few years ago who'd have believed you'd be on a Russian submarine," says Phil. "It's really odd."

Aged 28 and 30 respectively, Paul and Phil are of a generation who grew up with atomic nightmares. Paul has one particular recurring dream of holidaying at a caravan site near Hastings.

"I'd be be looking down the hill towards the sea and you'd see the mushroom cloud go up," he says. "You'd feel your bowel loosen and this warm feeling of horror. I could see my dad doubling up in pain. And then I'd turn round and try and go into the caravan, and someone would say, 'You can't go in there', and I'd say, 'Why not' and they'd say 'Don't you realise you're dead?'"

On a summer's day in cosmopolitan Helsinki, memories of the Red Threat seem almost medievally quaint. The town is full of sporty Euro youth, and Paul and Phil are relaxed after a week in a Norwegian chalet Or at least getting as much rest as you can when The Aphex Twin and crew are holed up in a nearby lodge. Phil has his wife and their two kids out with him. The most malevolent force that the Hartnolls have had to deal with on the trip are Norwegian jellyfish.

"They had three, foot stingy tentacles. They looked like space stations," says Phil. "Or big throbbing sexual organs," adds Paul.

World destruction doesn't feel imminent and localised cruelty is not over-obvious. But peek into the global info-net and things are far from idyllic. Today is the day a sniper blows holes in an intercontinental ballistic missile en route to a US airforce base, causing an $1.1 million micro dent in the county's humungous arms budget. Today Scotland Yard admit that the Metropolitan Police came within a hair's breadth of the first ever mainland use of plastic bullets at the previous weekend's Downing Street anti-Criminal Justice Bill protest. Today the M3 motorway through Twyford Down opens, watched by defeated environmental activists.

It's a regular weekend's catalogue of ambient power misuse, seemingly remote from the world of escapist 'techno bollocks'. Except that this week Orbital issue a third album, titled 'Snivilisation', as a signifier of their dissatisfaction with the myth of civilised society. The album's press release quotes Raoul Vanieigen: "The history of our time calls to mind those Walt Disney characters who rush madly over the edge of a cliff without seeing it: the power of the imagination keeps them suspended in mid-air but as soon as they look down and see where they are, they fall."

The 'suicidal irresponsibility' ( Orbital) of our leaders is not cartoon-splattered all over 'Snivilisation'. But in sampled environmental speeches, titles like 'Crash And Carry' and the schizoid spread of urban electronic styles, the album provides a hyper-stimulating, jazz-brained, trance-elated commentary on the modern jungle. Inconsequential sequencing, it isn't. We shouldn't be surprised. In 1990, with their first techno hit 'Chime', Paul and Phil went on Top Of The Pops wearing anti-Poll Tax T-shirts. They haven't been asked back.

Somehow, as tracks like 'Choice', with its ranting agit- punk Crass sample, and the obviously Gulf War-inspired 'Desert Storm' have stacked up, Orbital have still principally been portrayed as 'sound engineers', egghead science lab students with oscilloscopic thought patterns. But look at their past and they've got more in common with Chumbawumba than Kraftwerk

Paul and Phil were not ideally suited to the conformist semi-rural environment of suburban Sevenoaks. Both were too much into music to buckle down and "get something to fall back on". At home they were dealing with their mother's addiction to the side-effect ridden Halcyon tranquilliser (as referred to by the track on 1992's 'Radiccio' single). Externally, Paul was getting into anarcho-punkers Crass and US proto-hardcore-ists The Dead Kennedys and Phil was getting off on the radicalism of ANL rock events. The older Hartnoll still has a tattoo scar on his hand to remind him of his early demo days.

"I did it myself," he says. "It was a little swastika and I crossed it out and wrote ANTI. And I did MUM up here as a test pressing because I thought she would kill me. And that's the story about Halcyon and all that, because she was on Halcyon for seven years and it was really f---in' mad."

"I used to go to a lot of Animal Liberation demonstrations," recalls Paul. "There was a weird era of it being really popular, this was early to mid-'80s times and also there were the Stop The City demonstrations, anarcho unofficial type things where everyone was charging around the Bank Of England trying to disrupt the day. I used to go on them, which was really quite freaky when I think of it now; they were really quite vicious."

"I even used to be in the PDSA - the People's Dispensary For Sick Animals," laughs Phil. "This was when I was about nine or ten and you used to get little badges and do little jumble sales. So I suppose that sort of feeling of wanting to do something that's worthy has always been within me. But I don't really know with what I'm doing now, whether I'm actually doing anybody any favours in the grand scheme of things."

Scratch Orbital and they don't bleed silicon. They bleed niceness. You can't get away from it. Paul is louder than Phil, but both of them demonstrate an almost obsessional tendency for soul searching. Of course, that's what pop people do in interviews. But the regular split pop personality (fragile sensitive soul/ego crazed monster) is nowhere to be seen in the Hartnoll camp. Disavowing pop music as being too much the art of "compromise" is one thing. But getting spontaneously vociferous about the rights of pet animals is another ethical league.

"I don't like entrapping pets," says Paul. "It's just something that gives me the wigglers a little bit." "I nearly adopted Charlie Hall's (of The Drum Club) dog," adds Phil, "because he can't cope with it. It's this really lovely big floppy sort of English Mastiff Terrier but it's not like a nasty thing. It has really beautiful colourings and is so soppy and really good with the kids. But I've got a really tiny garden and it's just not fair."

The extent of Orbital's anti-nastiness is given a thorough testing at the local Helsinki radio station. Phil's wife, who works with mentally handicapped children in Hackney, could not have done a better job of caring for someone with communication difficulties. The DJ's Finn-English is a bizarre mix of backward tape looping and linguistic ambushing. Somehow Paul and Phil manage to answer a series of totally incomprehensible questions, plus one which asks "Is techno the new God?" and a challenging inquiry: "Usually the rave or techno concerts, must say, or live acts, they're kind of bore. What about you?"

Ice 'Motherf---in' T, whose signature is on the studio door, might have raised his voice, but Phil and Paul politely explain about improvisation. Later, at the gig, the same DJ will stuff chewing gum in his ears to block out the volume, only to find that the gum has set and he can't get it out.

Clearly the techno revolution has yet to reach all corners of the globe. But are Paul and Phil disappointed that techno has on the surface fallen short of turning into a socially engaged revolt?

Paul: "I think things like that have their influence and possibly you don't see it until 20 years later. Alcohol sales have gone down. Nowadays you go to a dance club and there's none of that, 'Are you lookin' at my bird?' stuff

Phil: "I find that it's been quite a positive thing, really. You do get loads and loads of pseudo New Age crap and I've been constantly disappointed with certain people's attitudes, but I think what was nice with the whole music and E thing was it seemed like unity was back again. I think that it's had its influence. It's not revolutionary. But then it has changed something. If you look at the Criminal Justice Bill and things like that, they're totally paranoid about it. So what does that say? It's like they're covering up their mistakes with things like the travellers. ."

Picture (Derek Ridgers) "They forced people to take this alternative lifestyle because of the housing situation and things like that, and then they go, 'Oh f---, what've we done? Let's ban them now'. It's like ethnic cleansing - subcultures not allowed. I mean, what's a New Age traveller? Me and my kids in my camper van? Am I a New Age traveller? It's horrible. Typical of the British Government to create the situation.

"It's like nuclear power. Everybody knows it doesn't work but instead of saying, 'OK, we made a mistake. We'll find alternatives', they just pump in more money trying to make it better. It's bizarre but that's what they do all the time."

Paul: "I suppose these sort of things are what we've been trying to conjure up with the music on this album. Music that is inspired by the emotions created by these insane things that go on."

Spanning the jackhammer intensity of 'Quality Seconds' (originally meant as part of a movie soundtrack); the piano glide of 'Kein Trink Wasser' (not drinking water); and the disembodied Cocteau-isms and breakbeats of 'Are We Here?' (beats inspired by pirate jungle radio stations in Hackney, vocals by their mate Alison Goldfrapp), 'Snivilisation' is a kind of instrumental 'What's Going On?' with auto-suggestive touches about a freaky, screwed up world of plastic surgery and mass- hunger.

It's a blurred protest banner, which comes into focus live thanks to the Orbital video backdrop. That night at Helsinki's municipal hall-cum-rock venue, Vanhana, stag night lads parade outside wearing false breasts and dresses (a Finnish custom, apparently), while a mini- Megadog's worth of evolved Finns freak to an hour-and-a-half's worth of prime Orbital and a video show of rainforest obliteration, baby scans and eco-slogans.

"We're not like saying, 'Oh look at you lot, because we're all part of it," points out Phil. "I understand fully that I am part of it," continues Paul. "I throw away rubbish, I pollute, I waste water, and so on." So what are the worst aspects of growing up in the current faux civilisation?

Phil: "The worst thing is when you realise that the Government and the police who you're brought up to believe in, are criminals themselves, and you're living under a criminal Government. And it's horrible to have your protection shattered and your feeling of security destroyed. I think that's what happens to a lot of people during their adolescence. That's why they go so f---in' crazy, apart from puberty and all that. It's that whole disappointment in the way things are on the Earth.

"The financial priority has taken over from humanistic values. That even comes down to homelessness and unemployment. I was talking to someone about homelessness here in Finland and it doesn't really exist because it's too cold in the winter and all these people would die. And in Britain they get away with allowing it to happen because of the climate. They get away with anything they want to. This particular Government has just made people think about themselves, by things like breaking down the community. Once you've broken the community there's no opposition because you've got no support from anybody. What you're left with is a bunch of individual selfish f---ers."

So have there been other civilisations that weren't so snivilised? Phil: "No, not really. That's the whole point in a way, in that all the civilisations throughout history have been deluded. And they've all been conquered and died out. I can't see this one sustaining itself for that much longer."

Darth Vader has come to life in a corner of the Helsinki radio station. Paul and Phil edge up to a computer screen while one of the station's technicians wields his mouse on a Star Wars CD Rom. The brothers are fascinated. They've never seen a CD Rom in action, which is odd for supposed techno boffins, especially considering that 'Snivilisation' carries a drawing on the inner sleeve of a white-bearded God wearing a Virtual Reality mask. The Hartnolls are technologically curious but not full-on 'Net- heads. They don't think the Internet is going to save us.

"There's an awful lot of information exchange going on between people that haven't got any qualification apart from access to a computer and I like that," says Paul. "But the more I hear about it the more I think this is just a brief period that's going to be clamped down on by the Government and you won't be able to do it anymore. It's like television. What a brilliant invention. But what do we put on it? Neighbours? EastEnders? It's the same with Virtual Reality- I think it's funny the way the first thing they're desperate for is Virtual Sex. It's hilarious."

Like when the wall came down in Berlin and queues formed at the porn shops. Phil: "But it's men though, isn't it? It wasn't queues of women. Men are a bit displaced in the 20th Century. Their primal instincts are not much use." Paul: "The weird chemical balances that men are left with that used to be very useful when you had to hunt, they're not necessary anymore." So penises are shrinking and sperm counts are down. Phil: "Well, that's good news." Paul: "Well, we kept our nipples, didn't we? Know what I mean? And I'm certainly not as hairy as I could be." Phil: "Maybe we are evolving."

As dusk falls on the green oasis of a park in Helsinki, Phil and Paul stretch out symmetrically on the grass, their heads almost touching. They look like a pair of fallen gnomes. A ladybird crawls through the grass towards Phil's lighter, maybe planning a fuel heist. But neither Hartnoll notices. They're lost in musings on the parasitical nature of mankind and the destiny of the planet.

"It's about power and money," says Phil. "Look at the Gulf War, that wasn't about saving Kuwait, everybody knew that. It was about oil and money." The ladybird scuttles off.

"Ultimately I don't care if the human race exists forever or not," says Paul, "because if we snuff ourselves out then maybe cockroaches will develop into five-foot tall creatures and make a beautiful world. I mean, who knows?"

The future is a cloudy chrysalis. The ice-cream booth by Helsinki harbour might launch a chocolate chip attack on Estonia, any day. But at least Paul has a vision for Orbital. He wants it to be like an Ealing movie, with the retired brothers smoking pipes by the hearth, remembering the old days, and then toddling off into the studio to finish their latest film soundtrack. That's if he doesn't get his wind-powered organic commune in Southern Ireland sorted first.

Paul: "At the end of the day my philosophy on things is that if you have an idea like that, no matter how stupid it might seem, you might as well believe in it and try for it because you have one life. It's pointless doing otherwise, because you live your life in anguish.

"You've got to lose that fear of failing in other people's eyes A lot of people are afraid to do something in case they fail and they get ridiculed. If I try something and fail, f--- it. If anyone wants to laugh at me I've f---ing tried anyway. I mean, goddammit, we need a bit more laughter."

Things are changing for Orbital. From the days of sleeping in Transit vans and setting up their own gear, they now take a seven-man crew on the road. The new album will further expand their empire of soundness in sound. There's already talk of hiring a jet from Heathrow to the south of France so that they can get back from Woodstock in time for a show.

Next thing you know they'll be opening biospherical rainforests with Sting. Well people can laugh all they want to. At least they'll have done their bit towards halting the decline of Western snivilisation. And they'll be remembered as the band who extracted the eco from techno, long after UBoat 406 has rusted away.

As we leave the park, Phil has a go at selling me a Greenpeace raffle ticket. Then as a punk gesture, Paul lobs his paper cup into the grass... But he picks it up, quite quickly.

 
 
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