Where are you based?
Battersea. South by South West London.
Is this your home town?
Yes. I was born in The South London Hospital.
What is your first musical memory?
My brother playing guitar and “The Planet Suite” by Holst.
What was the first record you bought?
“Ride A White Swan” by T Rex.
What was the last record you bought?
“The Doomsday Files” by MF Doom.
What inspired you to start DJing / making music?
DJing, 98.7 KISS FM & WBLS out of NYC in the 80s. Making music, my brother Martin.
How did you get to hear KISS / WBLS? Did you spend some time in New York? I have a fairly hazy memory of a radio interview you did years ago where you talked about tapes of these shows, and played “I Am The Packman” by The Packman as an illustration. Didn`t Youth bring them back? When you started DJing were you playing Hip Hop and Electro? Were you scratching?
I never went to NYC until 89. The man behind the 98.7 KISS tapes was Kris Needs. He was Youth`s flatmate at the time. This was in my squatting days, Youth had a flat back then as part of the Killing Joke deal with E.G. Records. E.G. had an office in NYC too and I would get a lady there to record the Chuck Chill-Out shows every Friday and get them sent direct to E.G. Then a stranger thing happened in `87, in came, at midnight, Tony Humphries and House music. This was a turning point.
When I started DJing I was doing Ambient sets at strange West End events. Before that I had been DJing while a roadie with Killing Joke. I got to play my KISS FM tapes to Punks before the Joke. The band liked that as it would piss the Punks off and there would be more energy when the Joke hit the stage.
I know Youth is an old friend, did you meet at school?
Yes. In a galaxy not far far far away. We used to be friends at school, and when the Punk thing happened we met again and forged a great friendship. We`ve looked out for each other from a early age. He is as close as a brother and sometimes as distant as the moons of Pluto.
How long have you been DJing / making music?
Since the late 70′s. Punk bands to Ambient parties to morning-after parties in various squats in London. In the 1970′s I was singing in a band called “Bloodsport”. We recorded on Malicious Damage. DJing was at the Joke gigs. Loads & loads of Reggae as well as the KISS FM tapes. South London’s natural music. This was hand in hand with the squats and ambient shite.
How did you go from Punk to Ambient? I know you were a roadie for Killing Joke and that the band was signed to EG. One of the stories I heard way back when was that you had unlimited access to the E.G. catalogue, Eno and the Penguin Café Orchestra, and this influenced the creation of The Orb. Did you have a job A&Ring for E.G.?
Punk to Funk to Ambient please! That’s nearly true. I was listening to the Bowie / Eno albums in the 70′s , “Heroes” & “Low” are pure class. I did get a job at E.G. and that was good. I was also running a label with Youth called “WAU”.
I heard you DJ at the Land Of Oz and it was pretty unique at the time. There were backrooms, or upstairs, generally playing old Soul classics, some familiarity to ease blown minds, but no “chillout” rooms, no one weaving a tapestry out of “E2=E4”. How did you come to the decision to do this? Was Land Of Oz the first time you had played this kind of set? How did you meet Paul Oakenfold?
You have a thing about “E2=E4” don’t you? Land Of Oz was what I had been doing at WAU parties & KLF squat parties. I lived in Brixton in 83 to 86 in a squat in the Barrier Block (Southwyck House, Coldharbour Lane). We had lock-in parties in the Block and there were many situations, some good, some funny, and some down right bad, but there was a code and we had some damn fine times there. A mix of Killing Joke and Front 242 meets Brian Eno meets King Tubby, with Chic thrown in for good measure. I used to have a room that was full of 19″ speakers hanging off the ceiling, not in boxes, with some home made 15″ bass bins. Cassettes were big in those heavenly / hell like daze. Junkies were the arse holes of the neighbourhood. Coming from the Brixton 100′s I was never far from a smile and a laugh and ting.
Paul is a friend of Nancy Noise and she introduced us. When we, Youth and myself, had a vision back in `87, while listening to the newer 98.7fm Kiss tapes from NYC, we decided on getting three things together: a label, a radio station and The Orb. We achieved the label, WAU, and The Orb, and set out into club land. Youth had met Nancy in SAW Studios in his Brilliant days and she gave us an insight into what was about to kick off, House music coming into to the clubs, etc.
How about Andrew Weatherall? How did you meet? He gets a shout out on the sleeve of “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain….” and didn`t you give him one of his first shots in a studio, with the West India Company?
Strange as it seems, in `89 we moved into the same block of flats in Battersea. Andrew met Youth and we all started to become very good friends, having tea & scones, and, being a nice chap, Andrew began to chart our Orb stuff the NME. Battersea is also where Kris “Thrash” Weston came onto our lives.
Also on the sleeve of that record, you name check Mi Price records. Wasn`t that in Croydon? Didn`t Colin Dale work there at one point?
Yes it was. I don`t know if Colin worked there. Mi Price had charts in Black Echoes and Alan in the shop championed The Orb in those charts.
Who is Mr X?
Me, as in LXD or LX.
How did you meet Jimmy Cauty? How about “Thrash” and Thomas Fehlmann?
Jimmy? When he joined Youth in Brilliant in `83. Thrash at Blue Moon Studios in Battersea in `89, while remixing West India Company. Thomas? At E.G. when he came over with a bundle of amazing German House acts.
How would you describe your sound?
Chilled, chewy & fatter than your shit.
Which production / release / remix are you most proud of?
“Higher Than The Sun” by Primal Scream for production. “Little Fluffy Clouds” for release & “Satellite Serenade” by Keiichi Suzuki as a remix.
I can remember talking to Andrew Innes when “Screamadelica” was in production, and being a bit of a groupie all I wanted to talk about was Weatherall, but all he kept going on about was the mix that you had done. Hearing it live in Hammersmith and Leicester Square was probably the high point, when, for me, the wave crashed and broke for Acid House. At those gigs you were in the “VIP” rooms playing Punk and Reggae.
The nights I played “When The Levee Breaks” and all these kids thought it was The Beastie Boys!
Do you still get to do DJ gigs rather than Orb performances? If so what kind of stuff do you play? I`ve heard you play a warm-up of banging Techno at Sabresonic. You are also one of the few people to have been a guest at World Unknown in Brixton. I don`t think they do guest DJs anymore. What kind of music did you play that night? How was it? Do you know Andy Blake well?
I still do DJ sets, everything and the wash-board. I do remember the World Unknown gig and it was fun. Andy Blake did a blinding mix for another project of mine called “HFB” but he wouldn’t let us use it. It was 18 minutes long and well minimal indeed.
With regard to “Little Fluffy Clouds”, can you remember how you discovered Steve Riech`s “Electric Counterpoint”? Were you buying a lot of modern Classical music?
I got the music from a friend in Birmingham called Simon. On one side of the tape was the interview with Ricky Lee Jones and on the other was Steve Riech. No information on the cassette, and off we went looking for a reply to “Huge Ever Growing…..”.
Which production / release / remix would you most like to have done?
The Beatles` “White Album”.
Why did you pick this record?
Go away, wouldn’t you?
What are your favourite places to play / hang out in?
Forests & mud huts this summer. From Northern England to Middle Russia.
What is your favourite place outside of a bar / club / record shop?
Battersea Park, or any park. Also my father`s home land, Scotland.
Do you see yourself as part of any scene?
No, I`m way passed that sort of thing.
Did you ever see yourself as part of any scene?
Suddenly it’s a Roxy Music question. Maybe with Killing Joke, but I was a more of a modern lover for Soul beats kind of guy.
Who does The Orb`s artwork?
Mike Coles, AKA Mr Malicious. He runs Malicious Damage records & has been a friend for ages and ages. He’s always the best!
How did you meet Mike?
Malicious Damage in 78/79 with Killing Joke. I gave the label the its name.
Is a visual identity important?
Yeah of course it is. Logo has to be seen, not heard. Cover has to be looked at, not whispered to. The Orb over Jamaica is a statement. Kingston on fire is a statement. If you don’t have vinyl, or don`t know what I’m talking about, forget it and just carry on downloading music. It’s not the same as a record & all its art forms. The gathering of information off the sleeve. Skin up on it and rock to the beat. You can be there or not. The choice is yours.
Have you spent any time in Jamaica? Kingston? What statements are you making with the artwork?
Yeah I have a cousin out there. Lee wanted the fire in Kingston.
How does this reflect your own likes / inspirations?
The artwork ideas come from us. Inspiring is a way forward, not backwards. You`ve got to have an eye for a good shot with your camera, you just never know when that shot might appear. Visit my blog @ theorb.com
Which artists are you currently working with?
Lee “Scratch” Perry with The Orb, Screen with Gaudi & Chester, Rootmasters with Nina Walsh and HFB with Dom Beken.
What was it like to work with Lee Perry? His genius is self-evident, while his considerable wisdom, at least in public, and at least to some, might seem masked in a hermetic code. How did the collaboration come about?
M A D. My management got it together for us to record with the great man.
Who would you most like to work with?
David Bowie or Nile Rogers.
Does playing and making music pay the rent?
What sites, if any, do you regularly check on-line?
theorb.com , maliciousdamage.com , fnoob.com , HFB.com .
What was the last book you read?
“Underwear Origami” by Steven Fruhmoto.
What is your favourite book?
“Atlantis & The Kingdom Of The Neanderthals” by Colin Wilson.
What was the last film you saw?
“Princess DIE”, the true story behind the murder of the Princess of Wales.
Who did it?
Look on line.
What is your favourite film?
What is your favourite piece of music? If that`s too difficult, what`s your current favourite piece of music?
“E2=E4” by Manuel Gottsching. Current favourite would be “Moon Building 2703AD”. The Orb in Opera.
“E2=E4″ seems to be a key piece of music in your history and that of The Orb. Can you remember when you first heard it?
Back in the day, lost in time, but in E.G. in `87. What a tune!
The Orb featuring Lee “Scratch” Perry present “The Orbserver In The Star House” is released on Cooking Vinyl on September 3rd. You can listen to previews here.