Phil Hartnoll, the senior of the
Orbital duo doesn't mince his words, he also doesn't think that
music can change the world.
I've come to the conclusion that yours is an enigmatic, intelligent
Do you like that?
Yeah, that word intelligent… I don't think any of my old school
teachers would agree. Oh, I don't know. I dropped out of school
really, in true punk style.
Do you think that musicians have some sort of responsibility
to provoke people?
No not really.
But music can change the world.
No, of course it can't. I do not believe that really.
But they told us that in the 60s.
Yeah and look what happened. It didn't, did it? You know, I'm
coming from a punk background, very anti-establishment. Music
is very emotive and it can be a part of change but I don't see
it as that powerful… W hen we did have a very rare Top Of The
Pops appearance way back ten years ago, the only way that I could
possibly appease myself for going on Top Of The Pops and pretending
to play an instrument was to have an Anti-Poll Tax t-shirt which
was a very strong issue. And then you've got the whole Frankie
Goes to Hollywood thing - 'Relax' t-shirts… And you know, like
I was saying, coming from the punk world, it is very political
especially when the second generation punk lot came along - Jello
Biafra and people like that - I totally love what he does and
he's totally dedicated to setting the America's right, which is
great. And that can be very emotive. And the whole punk thing,
it wasn't just the music, it was the whole subculture.
You played at the second Woodstock, the second coming. Has
dance culture pick up where it left off 31 years ago?
But do you think that the drugs issue has spiralled it all
out of control and we're all a little too cynical to give a shit?
Oh… Let me just backtrack a minute. There are about ten questions
there. My opinion about it and I'm only talking about my little
nucleus around me, we went through the punk culture, anti-establishment,
in your face - 'fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off… don't
like you'. Okay, that didn't really work did it? Let's face it,
we don't have the great anarchy political party. It just picked
up on an attitude really. So the government weren't really threatened
by it at all. Something would have happened otherwise. The rave
culture came along and there was the introduction of ecstasy at
the same time but then what happened was that rave culture became
very subversive… The nature of ecstasy sort of chilled people
out. Through the generations, every music subculture has had drugs
associated with it. I feel that it's a bit unfair just to pick
on the raves. But I do actually believe that it did break down
barriers. Me being 36, I've seen it. I used to go to discos in
the 70s where you couldn't even talk to a girl without the threat
of being beaten up. What the introduction of E in the clubs has
done is break down the sex barriers. Rave culture was subversive
in the sense that we can have a party, we're not bothering anyone
because we're in the middle of nowhere, having a laugh. There's
hardly any violence whatsoever and at seven o'clock in the morning,
we're going to go home. Okay, there might be a bit of mess there,
sorry about that because we're a bit irresponsible young things.
· Rave culture aside, Orbital is where dance meets rock'n'roll
- without roll.
· Phil Hartnoll doesn't assume to be a rock'n'roll star, carrying
the entire weight of the world on his shoulders, but at the same
time, he has a slight aversion to calling Orbital a dance act.
This is after all, the band that committed itself to the equivalent
of a pub tour (well, in clubs) back in 1989, even before their
first release 'Chime' was a twinkle in the Hartnoll brothers'
collective eyes. On the other hand, they're very techno - the
DAT machine barely leaves their side - something which served
them well on their first trip to Australia in 1992. Talk to Phil
about our traffic lights and walk/don't walk signals and you know
that you've hit upon something. Paul Hartnoll, the younger brother
who doesn't necessarily bear evidence of his brother's punk roots,
has even attempted to slog it out on a didgeridoo, albeit pathetically
as his brother acknowledges. It's amazing what you can do with
a sampler and a computer - the results of both sounds can be found
on 'Walk Now' off their second (untitled) album known in some
circles as the 'Brown' album. Phil's fascination with this country
doesn't end there - he's a fan of the Severed Heads, can't wait
to catch up with Cabaret Voltaire's Steven Mallinder over in Perth,
loves Nick Cave (to my absolute displeasure) yet, lo and behold,
he has never heard Madison Avenue although agrees that Kylie's
a bit of a gem in the thorny Australian crown.
· Possibly the most ingenious act of benevolence that can be attributed
to Orbital, and perhaps Phil's uncanny sense of humour, is the
inclusion of dance acts on Glastonbury's main stages (namely,
the second stage) back in 1994. He ascribes this to "a top blag"
that he pulled on the organisers of the event. "Björk was on the
second stage, headlining and we approached [the organisers] saying
'look, why don't you have a bit of a disco bit at the end, after
the main act. Bring on Orbital. It'll be great.' Björk was up
for it because she was the mistress, she had a lot of power and
then nobody could really stop it. So that was a top one."
· Should rave culture be blamed for the downfall of a generation?
· Do musicians have a responsibility to educate or provoke their
Notable quotes by Orbital's Phil Hartnoll
· About the human race: "The human race is beyond it. I think
they've gone right up their own ass that they think that they
can do what they like. The arrogance! I would change the arrogance
· About the long-awaited follow-up to last year's acclaimed album
'The Middle of Nowhere': "Oh yeah, we've sold out. They're all
two-minute tracks. No, no, it's a hotch potch again. There's a
great psychabilly, psycho-rockabilly, pshychotechno sort of track
which was really fun."
· About drugs at dance parties: "Well I do feel quite strongly
about that. You can associate the drugs but I think that's a bit
unfair. Look at what happened at the Olympics. The Olympics! The
superstar sports people were getting caught left, right and centre."
· About mainstream success: "We've been accused of selling out.
What the fuck are they talking about? The only reason you sell
out is if you do a really contrived sort of thing."
· About writing hits: "We've tried. We got a bit drunk and tried
to make a hit and it just sounded crap, we're not good at this.
It's just not happening because our heart's not in it. I'm a bit
of a purist in that way. If the music we're making doesn't do
anything for us, it doesn't work."
· About DJs and music secrecy: "I think that's crap. But what
I can't get with these DJs and all this snobbery, like I'm not
a DJ, but nobody's picked up on MP3s where people have lots of
unpublished music out there… It's even better than a white label
if you ask me."
· Phil had to give up drinking coffee recently as he has "internal
heat problems". He overheats and breaks out in itchy lumps. Until
three weeks ago, he attests to drinking bucketloads of cappuccinos
each day - "it's worse that alcohol, worse than spliff."