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xmag.com : December 2000 : Orbology 101

The show at Portland's Ohm nightclub on November 18th had been sold-out well in advance. Reason being: the rare appearance of enigmatic Alex Paterson— one time roadie for Killing Joke, current record label impresario and last man standing behind the Orb, purveyor of exotic DJ electronica for over a decade. Alex had decided to go out on tour with Juno Reactor simply as a supporting DJ, not spinning Orb. Hidden away in a corner of the stage during his set, the crowd erupted in glowstick wavy gravy and sweaty dance gyration. After his first set, I joined Paterson in the back of the tour bus while he was taking time out to savor a large 'custom' cigarette.

Anon: So, I've seen the Doctor designation in front of your name and also without; which is it?
Paterson: Keep 'em guessing, that's the only way to be.
Anon: How have things been for you going out on tour with Juno Reactor?
Paterson: It's no problem whatsoever for me at all, but let me get it straight that I regard them as musicians and I don't regard myself as a musician.
Anon: What do you see yourself as?
Paterson: DJ.
Anon: How different is it for you to spin a DJ set by yourself and not be accompanied by the rest of the members of the Orb in a full stage show?
Paterson: No different whatsoever. I don't mean that in a condescending manner. We go into the studio and make beats and samples, and that all comes from the DJ anyway. We understand where it's coming from. We understand what makes it work for people in their heads as well as in their feet. The only difference is that I'm not a musician. I've never written music and I've never learned music. It's all basically just how I hear it and how I perceive it. I think that I've said that most of my life—that I've never been a musician—at least as long as the Orb has been around, and that's going on 12 years now. I've always championed the DJ. That's been the way forward.
Anon: Have you been following our election lately?

: Oh, can't help but follow it, you know? Just two days ago, one of our British newspapers had a picture of George W. Bush with "tyrant" as the caption. He just sent the 150th person to their death in Texas. Okay, so they might have killed someone, but we live in a day and age where we don't have to play biblical fucking Gods and Goddesses. We need to be civilized nations. Don't think that we (foreigners) don't know about American politics, because we're not that ignorant.
Anon: If anything, I think that Europeans on the whole probably know more about American politics than we do ourselves.
Paterson: I think that's because we have more of the freedom to choose what we can read about; in America, it's so hard to have any sense of what's going on because the print media isn't fucking giving you anything to grab hold of and understand! What they've done over here is taken religion away and given you this idea of false freedom. In fact, there still is a religion and it's called the dollar bill—the greenback. It's pure Capitalism, and that's where it hangs. I like playing and making money—I love my work—but I also try and give it back. I don't accumulate just to make my wallet grow... but that's just a personal thing. Let's make it clear that I'm not a Capitalist and the Orb has never been a Capitalist band.
Anon: So you're not a Capitalist band, but your act certainly brought attention to the electronic scene in the early 90s with that good old 'ambient' buzz word.
Paterson: Yeah, we created the fucking buzz! Leave me alone! Sorry, but someone has to do it. I mean, I even had Brian Eno giving me a hard time. He thinks I'm a cunt because I stole his thunder.

Dr. Paterson has now finally succeeded in rolling his 'special' cigarette... wets the rolling paper with his tongue and waxes on ecstatically.

Paterson: Out of all the places that I've been to in the world, New Zealand, here (Portland) and Seattle were the best places to get greenery. I've learned some of the tricks of the trade. Like, a 50¥ piece makes a really excellent roach clip. It's got a hole right in the middle of it that works perfectly.
Anon: The things you learn while out on the road.
Paterson: Yeah, you know, I've been doing this for a long time now and it's great work... and I can always tell people what I do like about it and what I don't like about it, but listen to me: seven weeks ago I had a baby girl and that (touring) doesn't even compare. All of this (gestures around the tour bus) has no bearing on any of that.
Anon: Congratulations! What's her name?
Paterson: Mia. She was 7 pounds at birth.

The next 10 minutes were taken up by Alex hauling out photographs of him and his baby daughter: one of Mia "pulling her first pint at mummy's work;" another "spinning her first record" next to a turntable; several more of her and Alex, including one of the Orb frontman with a larger-than-life golden boxing glove strapped to his head. I didn't have the guts to ask him about that one. Suddenly, this wasn't the brilliant man who'd sampled everything on the planet into song, or created the "ambient" buzzword, or started the first chill room at the Rave club Heaven, back in 88. This was a father out on the road who missed his baby girl.

Anon: The song "Towers of Dub" from Blue Room is a brilliant piece that has tons of samples in it, but why the barking dog?
Paterson: Otto the Barbarian. Yeah, that's actually Ben's (from Juno Reactor) dog, a Jack Russell Terrier who we 'borrowed' one night. We were playing in London and brought him out on stage and just sat him in front of a microphone, and the dog just went fucking mad. He's in front of 5,000 people and just completely nutty, and everyone's, like, "yes!!" So, the idea just seemed so perfect.
I like playing and making money—I love my work—but I also try and give it back... Let's make it clear that I'm not a Capitalist and the Orb has never been a Capitalist band.
Anon: There are a lot of references to UFOs and outer space in your tracks, especially on Blue Room, and, having taken its name from a place (Area 51), where supposedly the military keeps pieces of outer space objects...
Paterson: Yeah, and that's all before X Files, sweetheart.
Anon: Too bad none of your stuff has been used on that show, although, I have heard "Little Fluffy Clouds" in a Volkswagen commercial.
Paterson: Yeah, we got paid 50 grand for that one.
Anon: What are you working on currently?
Paterson: We've got a new album coming out in February called Cydonia and a new single coming in January. Also, January is when my new label starts up called Bad Orb, and that's got about nine acts on it.
Anon: Where do you stand on the whole Napster issue?
Paterson: Well, to be honest, I'm not that interested in computers at all, but I do like the idea of giving everything up for free... but only up to the point where we give you a minute of the song and then if you like what we do, then you can have the option of paying for the complete song. What we're hoping to do is set up a site where you can only buy tracks on the website. It should be up and running in January or so. The domain is going to be www.badorb.com, and the idea is that every release will be deleted at the end of the month. That makes it something more special to own. That's the idea that I like about it—the whole collectivity of it. Another thing, though, is that what we're releasing is records—which means that if you don't have a record player, then tough luck. In the world today, record players are outselling guitars. It's uncanny.
Anon: One last question, and that is: Where do you get the ideas for a lot of the samples that you use?
Paterson: I just collect interesting stuff. I'll get an idea in my head or hear something and if I
don't get it down, then poof, it's gone. I brought a few CDs full of samples with me tonight. I've even got one of the San Francisco quake from 1989.
Anon: So, no Jack Russell Terrier tonight?
Paterson: No, but on the same level of stupidity, I've got one of my brother, whom I love very much, and who also played harmonica on "Towers of Dub." So anyway, he's taking care of one of my mate's dogs and he calls me up one day and says, 'hey, you gotta listen to this,' and starts to play the harmonica... and the dog mimics him exactly. It was fucking nutty, you know? So I say to him, 'Hey, can you record that for me?' And he said that he would; so I've promised myself to eventually release a "Towers of Dub Part 2" with (the harmonica) on there featuring this dog. I called him up just the other day to ask him if he'd done it yet, and he hadn't, and I was like, 'fucking idiot! Just fucking record it!' See? That's the difference between him and me: I can see it in the music and he can't. But, he's a lovely bloke, it's a lovely dog and it will be a lovely sample in "Towers of Dub Part 2." Goodnight!



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