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Interview: The Orb On Mixing Politics & Dance Music, Legalizing Weed, What Makes Ambient Music Timeless

We chat with The Orb's Alex Paterson as the group celebrates 30 years and their new album No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds.
Alex Paterson The Orb

Alex Paterson

The Orb is a group that need little introduction. The group has evolved over the years in personnel and sound, but it remains one of the iconic British electronic groups that have developed some most essential music for the UK dance music cannon. The Orb has a new album out today No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds that finds back in collaborative mode, working with a myriad of different artists like Jah Wobble, Youth and Pink Floyd’s Guy Pratt, while still remaining true to their ambient electronic sound. We had a chance to speak to Alex Paterson of the group about collecting all of the people on this new album, the power of ambient music, getting political and legalizing marijuana.

Stream the album below or pick up a copy here.

How did you put together so many collaborators on this album? Are there ever disagreements on how a song should sound?

Well it was easy really. Youth’s studio in London is a magnet for musicians. I knew Jah Wobble already from the "Blue Room" sessions & the "Higher Than The Sun" sessions back in the 90’s. I brought in Roger Eno & Gaudi. Gaudi & I did an album on Malicious Damage called Screen with Chester Far on vox. The only draw back saw Thomas not wanted to play ball with so many other people involved. But given that Thomas & I have worked together for 10 years, we needed a break from the daily routines of touring & there’s plenty of ideas to go back to in the future. I got to know Hollie Cook as she was recording her album at Youth’s studio & I was invited to do a track with her on her last album. I know Paul Cook from the Killing Joke / Pistols days. I worked for Roger Eno at E.G. records in the 80’s. Brother culture, a Brixton five-star general from the old school. I have done many reggae nights with this fine fellow. Andy Caine is the vocalist on “Soul Planet."

What is the main message you are trying to get across with “UnUnited States?”

We can only imagine a world like Blade Runner, so we decided to make music for an UnUnited Corp, while leaving Roger to do his tang on the masterpiece. One day it will come to pass, & all men will be treated equally. But maybe with the rise of right bigots there might be a change & UUS could be created. It could have so easily called “Little England.”

Do you think more dance musicians should use their platform to comment on political and social issues? Or should it just be an escape from that?

Good question. When you’re younger, there’s a real need to escape. When you’re more mature, like an old cheese, you start it question what this world is really for & who am I paying taxes to? The Orb didn’t do politics in the 90’s. But its 30 years of Orb & when we started Maggie thatcher was in power! Massive Attack sang raps about the queen bitch. The Orb didn’t. We wanted to escape to the dance floor, bedroom, chill out zone & relax. Nowadays we are seeing a bigger picture. No Moon landings, no Mars missions, total CC TV world. Who killed the president of the states in 1963? What did the Knights Templars steal from Jerusalem in the 11th century? Weed should be legal & hash oil should be on the nation health service.

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Are you afraid of the internet “stick to music” trolls?

Don’t care. There’s more to life than the internet, isn’t there?

I think more so the other genres of electronic music, ambient music has this really timeless quality to it. What is about the genre that has made some of its great records last so long and so easily repeatable?

Space, timing & the right keys to chill the bones & relax the body. Music For Films or FFWD are two great albums to understand what I’m saying. Maybe it could be labeled, “music to grow too,” music to grow up too. Synths have timeless sinkholes that can create a timeless melody so pure & simple. It becomes timeless. J Dilla is timeless too.

You guys are celebrating 30 years in the business this year. What are your plans for this remarkable anniversary?

Actually doing the Roundhouse in North London in a couple of weeks. It starts at 3pm with Gas & Chocolate Hills, System 7 & a DJ set by leftfield. Noon is already sold out. It is big fish little fish. We have an after party in south London with the location to be confirmed. We will tour South America in September and then UK & EU October, North America in November. Then we will do a cathedral tour in Jan 2019. We are also releasing 30 items like cd, tape cassettes, vinyl, art, posters, tees etc, starting formally this year. See for details.

Looking back, what were some crucial steps that allowed you to keep on doing this for so long?

Alex nightingale & Marc Marot our manager & MD, they came up with a plan after my original manager Adam Morris aka Mr. Modo, stole 850,000 off the orb (which I am still paying back). Great gigs in the states like Woodstock 2 helped the profile way out west & Hawaii. Keeping faith with my real friends after the distressfully sad period of modo.

As you have gotten older, how have you made touring easier on the body and mind or is it just more of a grind?

Same same. Cutting dairy out of my diet, I have found my weight has fallen happily & I look forward to the rest of the year touring & keeping well too. Seeing amazingly wonderful places along the way. I’ll miss my dog when I go on tour. That’s the only grind :(. 

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