Name: Alex Paterson / The Orb
Current release: Together with Andy Falconer, Alex Paterson has founded the new project Sedibus. Their first full-length The Heavens is out May 28th. The project is a return to the early days of The Orb: Falconer was part of the very first line-up and appears on The Peel Sessions as a performer and an engineer on the classic Orb album The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld.
If these thoughts by Alex Paterson piqued your interest, visit The Orb's website for more information and music. We also have an Andy Falconer interview if you want to dive even deeper into the concepts behind the soundworlds of The Orb and Sedibus.
This interview was originally conducted for Beat Magazine in Germany. The following is an edit of that conversation.
Alex Patterson / The Orb: "My first interest in sound goes back to listening to radio programs. It was Radio 1 and I remember hearing something that excited me and listening to selections of that on my mom's stereo. Then, suddenly, "Tie a yellow ribbon round the ole oak tree" came on , which really confused me. How could you have such shit music next to such great music? This fascinated me at the tender age of 13.
Then, when I grew up and left school, at the age of 16,17, albums that turned me on would be predictable I suppose. Led Zeppelin II … I though the guitar effects on that where something else, the panning on that! That's what got me into panning early on in my life. (humming) You had to listen to it in stereo, though, and on headphones, which was really pretty rare in those days …
The first album which blew me away would have been Love it to Death by Alice Cooper. To me, Alice Cooper was the penultimate showman and he had some very good singles under his belt. It was all of those things that you could use to escape. I was in a boarding school, I wasn't at home. Music was my escape even then. The weirder the better.
I was a roadie with Killing Joke, when we did the Night Time album at Hansa studio in Berlin. In terms of the music, Berlin was an incredible place. The greatest moment in my DJ career was playing the UFO club the night the wall came down. Beat that! (laughs) Great city, so many eccentric people that enjoy looking forwards, not backwards. During the album sessions, we'd go out with a recorder and we recorded really weird noises. You can hear them on the beginning of the record. They never gave me any credit, though. (laughs)
Why was I interested in the harsh sounds of Killing Joke? I don't know, really. With Killing Joke, it was a big, big learning curve for me. And when they got back together with the original four members, they asked me if I wanted to come back and be their roadie again. (laughs) On a very serious note, they are my brothers, musically and spiritually. We were a gang and when we meet, it's still good.
It's usually very simple melodies and noises like field recordings which inspire me to make music. We never save the sounds we develop for a project. We build everything from scratch. Every tune. Everyting's much easier now. Computers don't crash that much. And it's all done on the computer, then taken out to the mixing desk and then it goes back into the computer and it's mastered. Writing the songs … it's taking a myriad of samples just guiding them and then putting them in place. But when it comes to DAWs like Logic … I'm not very logical. So I use Ableton to make a seamless transition to the live situation, which is all working very well.
I have a piece on an old album, which starts off with somebody walking in the snow. And that crunching eventually becomes the rhythm. Another piece was based on the croaking of frogs. The rhythms of frogs, I find them totally fascinating. I actually like all kinds of birds. If you pitch these things down, you get these otherworldly noises no synthesizer would ever give you. It's a question of finding the right sound and then brushing it until it becomes that little bit of cream on top of the cake. That makes it more special when you taste it. Or when you hear it.
As an escapist myself, always trying to escape, music has been my escape. I camouflage myself with music and it's been a very, very surreal ride for me in terms of working with Lee Scratch Perry or David Gilmour. But I'm not a musician. But what I do with music dumbfounds a lot of musicians. And that's precisely why a lot of them want to work with me. They don't see music the way I see it through my ears. And that's what makes it special. It's not manufactured the way people expect music to be, the the way it's "supposed" to be", the is the way you're "supposed" to play music. There's no ego there, there's no preconceived ideas.
When I'm on tour, I'll capture a lot of sounds for future recordings. I have the same set-up on stage as I do in the studio. We've got a little sampler up there and we connect it to the computer and start making a little tune right in the moment. It would be different if we had a big tour bus, but we don't. We find ourselves doing things on a day off or when we're in the hotel room. We can write stuff in the tour bus and get some field recordings. All that shit.
And those field recordings could be from a restaurant in Istanbul or they could be captured on top of a mountain in the Himalayas. It doesn't matter, you're just picking the essence of that up and then you use it to create the atmosphere for whatever you want to achieve. It coud be a heavy dub tune. Or it could be a sweet, melodic lullaby that takes you into another world."