Chiming with the Times


Running around record shops in Brighton with copies of 'Chime' under their arms led to huge success for Phil and Paul Hartnoll and five successful albums followed. A love of the absurd and the ability not to take themselves too seriously has kept the Hartnoll brothers at the top of the dance scene for 11 years, and spawned a witty sixth album 'The Altogether'.

Last weekend Orbital did what they do best and headlined Homelands festival. They took time to talk to Netscape.

So, how did you two get on as kids?

Paul: We got on okay until puberty and then we stopped playing together and went off and did our own thing. Skulking in our own rooms, and then when we were 16 and 20 we started getting on again. I only remember one big bust up. We were watching the 6 Million-Dollar man and we were slapping each other's backs as lads do. I slapped Phil on the back really hard and he started wailing and my Dad made us stop watching it.

I saw you on Top Of The Pops; do you find sharing a stage with Steps and S Club 7 a bit odd?

Paul: It's hilarious! It feels absolutely weird being on TOTP and sharing a stage with the likes of Steps. It's a great leveler, because we are there just doing the same thing: playing our music. I got my mates around and we watched it with a glass of champagne.

Where did you get your mad festival glasses [Orbital are notorious for wearing headpieces, fitted with LEDs, lasers and torches] ?

Paul: We got them from this place in New York called Space Aged Gifts. They've got sort of weird executive toys and gadgets. We've been through about fifty pairs and they always break! We've got super enhanced ones now. They are great in a power cut or if you need to find your way to the toilets at festivals…

Do you enjoy playing festivals more than clubs?

Paul: What we do works best outdoors but the sound restrictions on festivals are stupid. It makes me almost want to boycott UK festivals because the sound restrictions are ridiculous. The PA is geared up for about half the audience so anyone past the mixing desk is getting really poor sound. It's stupid in England, if you went over to Holland or Belgium you'd see it's much better.

You said that your music reflects your state of mind when you're recording; when you recorded In Sides, it was in a little room with no windows. I suppose, after a listen of The Altogether, we're to take it you were in a playful, positive frame of mind?

Phil: The last LP was more headphone music, I reckon: a one-to-one, very solitary listening album. I think this one: it's a with-your-mates album really. The vibe of a day out at the funfair, I'd say.

Paul: I like to think it's quite jolly; I'd wanted to do a jolly album for a while.

What makes you laugh?

Paul: That's difficult… other peoples misery! No, lots of things: Norman Wisdom, the ridiculousness of the human race. I like watching Spaced, it reminds me of so many people I know, and myself. Aspirational artists, they are so flaky and just get distracted all the time! League Of Gentlemen is funny - it reminds me of where I grew up, in Sevenoaks.

So you've never been in danger of taking yourselves too seriously?

Paul: No, house music was fun to begin with and then when the word techno came along people started frowning and scratching their chins. When the guys in Detroit started out I'm sure they didn't mean it to be like that. It's a European thing to take it so seriously.

 Why did you choose to cover the Doctor Who theme?

Paul: That kind of music made me do electronica in the first place. I think I only missed two episodes of Doctor Who when I was a kid. I remember I was at a wedding when I was little and I cried for ages because I was missing Doctor Who.

Were you scared of the Daleks?

Paul: Yeah but I always knew that I could walk upstairs! I was more scared of the slimy creatures but then I watched it a few years ago and they were covered in bubble wrap! When I got satellite TV, I used to watch it in the morning. The theme tune is brilliant, it is genius - I'd like to do another version for the BBC.

You've sampled Ian Dury for this album…

Phil: Yeah, actually my brother was working on that on the day he died and he didn't realise. A mate phoned up and said he's just heard that Ian Dury had died, so it was a bit 'Ooohh!' So it was done for the love of him in that sense, and it's a bit weird; the birth of that song and the death of him.

I heard that the David Gray track, Illuminate, is an old track too…

Phil: It was knocking about around the time of the last LP but it was just put on the shelf. And Dave is my brother-in-law and he popped round and started singing away and it turned out well, really. I've known him for about seven years and he is married to my sister-in-law and I've followed him around and watched him play and stuff, but when he actually made the demo, he wasn't 'Dave Gray'. He hadn't made it at all.

 Does the idea that some people have already downloaded The Altogether annoy you?

Paul: It's the beginnings of something developing, just like kids exchanging cassettes in a playground. I mean connections in the UK are so slow that it's not a major issue. Even when the download speeds improve, I just don't think it will prove fatal; people love buying things. I want more people to hear our music anyway and maybe other people hearing it will buy a copy. MP3 is a good thing. It means that in one phone call you can buy an album and that's good.

Do you ever chat on your own Web site?

Phil: [laughs] I don't make it known that it's me, if I do… I don't get involved that way, 'cause you're opening a can of worms if you start writing personally back, in my experience. But it's almost like their thing; it's almost got nothing to do with me. They like chatting about it as if I'm not there anyway and it's better that way, I think.

You did have a competition on there to remix your tunes. Any good ones?

Phil: I listened to all of them actually, yeah. There are some brilliant ones actually: amazing - I could never be bothered to do it. You know, they download all the samples, then go off and do their own thing and it's fantastic to hear what they come back with.

By Joel Quenby & Jo Roach


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