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Global Dance Party: An Interview with The Orb’s Alex Paterson

Photo © Roney FM (K3 Media)

Global Dance Party: An Interview with The Orb’s Alex Paterson

No Sounds Are Out of Bounds is electronic collective The Orb‘s latest studio album, full of soulful vocals, silly samples, strange sound effects and quite a bit of Reggae rhythms. Alex Paterson has been making weird and grooving music since 1990 as The Orb, first with Jimmy Cauty (The KLF) and then a revolving and sometimes returning group of musicians and producers like Kris Weston, Andy Falconer, Andy Hughes, Simon Phillips and Nick Burton, with Youth and Thomas Fehlmann being the mainstays. They put Ambient Techno in our ears with their first two albums proper in The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld in 1991 and U.F.Orb in 1992, crafting often long, sometimes languid, often powerful compositions designed originally as a break from the pounding techno sounds heard on the dance floors at clubs. Alex and Jimmy Cauty would spin Ambient, Reggae and more chill tunes in a room with couches and places to lounge. From that came The Orb.

Their classic and timeless tunes have been the soundtrack to many, inspiring producers and DJ’s to have a go at it themselves. But there can be only one Orb with Alex Paterson as the constant, the joker, the audio prankster and lover of the strange and the soulful. The week before their Orbfest with GAS, System 7, Leftfield and Ulrich Schnauss, I spoke to Mr. Paterson about his legacy, what’s new and what is to come with The Orb.


I was listening to audio of a show you did one summer called Organic 96. It was with Meat Beat Manifesto and Orbital, up in the mountains above Los Angeles.

That was certainly a very good gig. One of the best gigs we’ve ever did, actually.  With Meat Beat Manifesto. I’d been a DJ with them all year as well.


The last time I saw you was with Thomas Fehlmann at the Henry Fonda Theater.

That was L.A. We’re coming back in November hopefully. Visas permitted if we’re lucky to be allowed back in to your lovely country. Fingers crossed, we’ll be there. It shouldn’t be a problem. If Jimi Hendrix can play a version of the Star Spangled Banner and become a national hero, surely the American authorities they’ll let us back in. We’re happy, we’re a good band.


The new album is a fun listen. I last talked with you for The Orbserver, with Lee “Scratch” Perry. On the new album was there a concerted effort to have more samples?

Many of the samples were really done by my friend Roney FM. He’s a ventriloquist and he can change his voice. He’s a shapeshifter, he’s really good. Not many people would know he’s Jamaican for that matter. That’s how good he is.


And you have a few guests on the album like Hollie Cook.

We worked on her new album last year [The excellent Vessel of Love] over at Youth’s studio and it’s sort of reciprocal, here’s one tune for you, here’s one tune for you. Lot of history there, [at this point I lose the phone connection. Hollie Cook is the daughter of The Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and was in the last line-up of The Slits]. Where were we? The Sex Pistols, not very ambient really. Radio 4 by Public Image Limited, PiL has some amazing tunes. Have you come across that one?


I‘m sure I’ve heard it, I have most of their music.

It’s the classical one called Radio 4. It’s on Metal Box, their second album with Jah Wobble doing a Korean bass line, with some mad strings done by Keith Levine. Anyway, over to you. The new album. It features lots of vocalists, that’s for sure. It’s a move away from the Teutonic German sound with Thomas. I’m happy that we’re back to it’s old self, the generic old self from the Ultraworld phase. When it was us against the world, as opposed to just a couple of us. And rather than use samples, get a singer in. That’s novel.


I enjoy the songs with singers, like off of Cydonia and The Dream.

On Chill Out World we did have lot of vocal samples. But on Moonbuilding we had hardly any vocals. The Orb just needed to be a bit more British again. And the humor that The Orb projects sits well with the American palette. It has a certain je ne sais quoi in how it can touch someone in Australia, New Zealand, America, Britain, all the English speaking countries. They don’t have to think twice about the humor, they get it, it’s there. But if I try to explain this to a German, (laughs) it’s difficult. The word humor isn’t in their vocabulary, for a start. They kind of like a laugh if somebody gets