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For the last twenty-five years, Orbital has been a driving force in electronic music. Considered one of the early pioneers of electronica, Orbital has created a highly impressive body of timeless music. The iconic Hartnoll brothers Phil and Paul recently got back together after a five-year hiatus. Since rejoining forces, the brothers have performed at a myriad of high profile shows including the acclaimed Standon Calling, Bluedot Festival, and the first inaugural Electronic Music Awards after party in Los Angeles, CA. Orbital has received critical acclaim and praise for these performances continuing to gain new fans. This past August, the Hartnoll brothers released the first single “Copenhagen” off of the anticipated soon to be released studio album to rave reviews. In this exclusive interview, the Hartnoll brothers discuss their influences and inspiration, their music-making process, and lets us know what we can expect from them in the future.

Orbital-1-3 by Ken Eakins

For our readers who may not know, how did Orbital first start?

Phil Hartnoll: When I was sixteen and he was twenty we worked on building sites. Our dad ran a building company. We just started messing around from there on keyboards and synthesizers for the next five or so years on and off.

Who are some of your greatest musical influences of all-time?

Paul: Electronic wise Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, and The Radiophonic Workshop. But other influences as well, lots of punk music like The Dead Kennedys and Crass.

Paul: The disco stuff of the 1970s like Trojan Reggae. My mom’s cousins were DJs who were fifteen years older than us and they would play disco and Motown. Also artists like David Bowie and Lou Reed. Let's throw Queen and Abba in there while we’re at it.

What inspires you?

Paul: It’s a boring answer. Just life and everything else. Other people’s music can definitely be inspiring.

Phil: I like it when you get inspired by something abstract that isn’t music like a landscape like the Coastline of Cornwall. It’s something about how the rocks are formed. It looks like a drum machine sound. Crazy but true. It could be anywhere really.

How has the electronic music community changed since you first started Orbital?

Paul: I think that the electronic dance music community when we first started Orbital was run by very enthusiastic amateurs. They all seemed to have other jobs in the daytime. It built into the mad crazy profession it was over that ten-year period. There are many professional, business-minded people involved in it now. It’s developed into that. It is no longer run by enthusiastic amateurs trying to work it out. There’s a path and structure there now that has been built by those people who planted the seed years ago.

How has your approach to making music changed over time? Are you currently using more digital processing or synths?

Paul: We’re certainly using more synths than we once did. They’re my passion. I keep buying them. I do a lot of digital mixing in the box now but most synths tend to be hardware but not necessarily analog. I love plug-ins, software, anything that makes a sound.

Who is another artist you’d absolutely love to collaborate with?

Paul: Kate Bush.

Phil: We collaborated with Goldfrapp before she was Goldfrapp. We would absolutely love to collaborate with her. We’re going to wait until we have the right track ready for her though.


Do you have any plans to incorporate VR or AR into your experience?

Paul: There are no precise plans to do that but we have been talking to people who have been doing that type of onstage experience and concert videos.

What has it been like since you guys got back together?

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Paul: We’ve had a great year. Better than I expected. First of all, I got my brother back. We continue to do some great gigs. We’re playing great together.

Phil: And then the EDM Music Awards. We always love playing in America and this was a great start. We have a new single out and say like yeah we’re back, we’re back. We love addressing the American fans specifically. We’re back guys!

Which has been your favorite gig?

Paul: They were honestly all great. I really loved wandering around Blue Dot because it was a big science fair. I brought my sixteen-year-old daughter.

How is it different performing in America?

Paul: Well they’re all American. (we laugh)

Phil: Let’s just leave it at that. Well mostly at least.

Paul: The enthusiasm.

Phil: We have a great fan base here. The way people connect with the music here and then they tell us stories about it. It’s lovely.

How does your new material compare to your old material?

Paul: You’re always excited about the thing that you’re doing. We’re really excited to spend this fall and winter working on our new demos. And then hustling it all into the next Orbital album. And I have no idea how it all will come out in the end but that’s the exciting part.

Which artists are inspiring you now?

Phil: I absolutely love this French artist named Rone.

Paul: I’m waiting for the next Jon Hopkins album. I listen to a lot of modern folk music as well. My favorite two labels of the moment are Claypipe Records and Ghostbox Records.

What did you do on your five years off? What was it like not being together?

Paul: It’s always difficult having a rift in your family. I wrote an album. I did some TV and film tracks. This guy who works in another room in the studio we’re in now reckons I’m much happier now.

Phil: I love working with other people. I was DJing a lot and traveling around the world. I did a few remixes. That’s it and now I feel like I have a purpose again here.

What can your fans expect from you in the future?

Paul: More music, more gigs. I’ve got a slightly abstract theatre production in my head for a rock opera but it’s not a rock opera really. I have an album plan as well. I want to go around and sample out parts together, almost like an autobiographical type of album where we go around and get samples from the house we grew up in and hit it with drumsticks. Maybe when we get to the part where we would sample the four-tracks, we could sample those off of our four-track tapes. 

Check out Orbital's latest single 'Copenhagen' below.

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