Orbital: ‘We can’t argue with each other forever. It would make Christmas uncomfortable’ | orbital

This weekend it’s Glastonbury. What do you remember from your legendary performance in 1994 and why was it so important? Jamesis47

Paul Hartnoll: There we were, hammering on 909s and 303s [Roland’s TR-909 drum machine and TB-303 bass synthesiser], and people just got mental. It didn’t just bring dance music to Glastonbury; it took us to the rock arena. Then we were booked to play at all these rock festivals.

Phil Hartnoll: People gag at the electronic sound. We were touring [their third studio album] Snivilisation – which actually hadn’t come out due to the delay of the record company – nobody had heard of it after all. But still, the atmosphere of the audience was just incredible.

What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you at Glastonbury? TurangaLeela2

Phil: I have many memories of taking my kids to the kiddie field after Orbital performed and wanting to join in because by that time of the night/morning I had reverted back to their level.

Paul: I was out of sight on the cinema screen and I needed the toilet. I staggered into the darkness, had a pee, turned around and realized I was standing in front of the entire audience because I had just peed right under the cinema screen in front of everyone.

With your head moving up and down, pressing buttons and looking up every now and then to watch a huge field of ravers go mental…how a lot of your live shows is programmed and how much is ad libbed? Marco PoloMint and djw300

Playing the Other Stage in Glastonbury, Somerset, in 2002. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Paul: We don’t play keyboards, like we don’t in the studio. On stage we arrange the track, adjust the sounds and play with the synths. What you get is an improvised arrangement, mix and sound sculpture. so it is is live, but you can’t compare it to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example. We can surprise each other, which is part of the fun, but we can’t hear each other, because we wear ear monitors, so there’s a lot of sign language. Recently, I tried to say to Phil, “That went really well,” and had to keep doing the OK sign until I got a smile.

What did your parents say when you first started making music together? death is not the end

Paul: I used to play in punk bands, so all our dad used to say was, “I don’t care how much noise you make, just soften that damn curse.”

Phil: Our mother was very encouraging. Our parents had largely left home to run a pub in the local village, but once we became Orbital, they became our biggest fans.

Orbital, the Orb, William Orbit… have you ever booked as the wrong band? catchy title

Watch the video for Halcyon.

Paul: Not booked as the wrong band but if I got a pound for every time someone comes up to me and says “I love your song [the Orb’s] Little fluffy clouds…”

Phil: I was having a drink with my father at his house and this man – I assumed he was a big fan of Orbital – went home to get his CDs for me to sign. And bless him, he came back with Little Fluffy Clouds. I was so ashamed of him; I almost signed it anyway.

What was your strangest performance? brand adroid

Paul: We were booked to play on top of this huge metal tower in this strange park in the Black Forest. It had just started to rain, so there were only about six people watching from this little bus shelter next to the pool. Then it started to thunder and we saw lightning strike the ground 50 meters away. So we were told to stop and get off.

What are your memories of playing Chime? Top of the Pops, with the plugs to your keyboards clearly visible, gently mocking TOTP’s miming policy? bhunabhoy

Orbital at Womad festival, Malmesbury, in 2019
At the Womad festival, Malmesbury, in 2019. Photo: David Corio/Redferns

Paul: We asked to play live but they wouldn’t let us. So I said, “I’m fiddling with the power buttons, but that’s all.”

Phil: I think we got banned after that for being too boring.

Paul: We should have done it like Madness of Bad Manners, grabbed plastic saxophones and really blown it up.

you have dropped out a few times, but not as much as some other pair of musical brothers. Was it about the hair? TopTramp

Phil: No. That was a long time ago!

Paul: I seem to win foolishly in the whole family. Everyone else is bald except me.

Phil: You can’t argue forever, can you? It would make Christmas really awkward.

Paul: Liam and Noel have to get over each other.

Phil: Do we want to work with the Gallaghers? Why not?

Paul: I think I should work with Noel and Phil with Liam. That’s the natural fit.

Bon Jovi or Belinda Carlisle? DeJongandtherestless

Orbital at Traffic festival, Turin, in 2012
At Traffic festival, Turin, in 2012. Photo: A Astes/Alamy

Paul: That is up to the public to decide. I think there has been a lawsuit [Bon Jovi sued Carlisle for plagiarism], so we put them together in a Right-Rinder-like trial, because they fit perfectly over each other. You start with Belinda, adds Bon Jovi, turn Belinda around and that’s the maneuver.

What was your most memorable orbital rave growing up? Mattie

Paul: Have you been somewhere, Phil?

Phil: I never actually went to orbital raves. The best raves I went to were Mutoid Waste run by the waste company in King’s Cross [in London]† There would be fire jugglers, huge smiley faces, strobes, huge weeping willow sculptures made from shards of metal – all with this Mad Max vibe. I remember this dustcart turned into a woolly mammoth, with oil drums on fire. It was like they have in Arcadia in Glastonbury now, but in the middle of London in the early 90’s. I don’t know how they got away with it.

Now that you’re in the know, do your flashlight goggles come with prescription lenses? Do you ever wear them just to read a book in bed? TopTramp and vammy

Paul: You have to read a lot of little things on the instruments, so that came to my mind because I do need glasses to read. Originally, the glasses were designed for plumbers. Robert De Niro wears a similar pair in the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil. But no, I’ve never used them to read in bed.

I lost my wallet during an Orbital performance at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 1994. Ddid you find it by chance? stinky

Paul: Yes we all went to the Eagle and had at least two pints of real ale with you so thank you very much. haha!

You’re named after the M25, of course – but what’s your favorite gas station, M25 or something else? Mrblancmange

Phil: They all melt into one for me. Do you have a favorite, Paul?

Paul. Yes. Leicester Forest East on the M1. It is one of the originals from the 60s, with all the shops and restaurants on the bridge. [It’s now a Welcome Break.]

I was a huge fan and lived at home with my very strict Christian parents in the early 90’s. One day I received a promotional postcard for: [the Orbital single] Satan and had to answer some very tricky questions. Have you ever gotten into such trouble? Delay71

Phil: Once, in Poland, we got the Catholic Women’s Council outside the hall with banners and posters accusing us of devil worship. So I’m very proud of that.

Orbital’s album 30 Something will be released on July 15th on London Records. They headline Kaleidoscope festival, London, on July 23, and Stowaway festival, Buckinghamshire, on August 19

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