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'
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
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?
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 lifethat I've never
been a musicianat 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?
Paterson: 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
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
billthe greenback. It's pure Capitalism, and that's
where it hangs. I like playing and making moneyI love
my workbut 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
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 moneyI love my workbut 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,
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 itthe whole
collectivity of it. Another thing, though, is that what
we're releasing is recordswhich 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.
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."