The Orb’s Alex Paterson Next Up in Ask the Experts
The Orb figurehead steps up.
Alex Paterson is best known for his work in The Orb who, it’s been said, “invented” ambient house, resurrecting slower, more soulful rhythms, and providing a soundtrack for early-morning ravers once the clubs had closed their doors. Members of the Orb have been fluid over the years, with Paterson remaining the only constant throughout. The other key players include Thomas Fehlmann, Youth, Kris ‘Thrash’ Weston, and Andy Hughes.
Paterson is a West Norwood resident, and punk and acid house veteran. His career in music started in the early 1980s as a roadie for Killing Joke for whom his childhood friend Martin ‘Youth’ Glover played bass. After leaving the Killing Joke crew in ‘86, Paterson met future KLF member Jimmy Cauty and the duo began DJing together as The Orb, starting with a residency in the chill out room at London club night The Land of Oz at London’s Heaven. Their style of sonic tapestry DJing soon morphed naturally into making records.
Since then, The Orb have released 15 studio albums, plus EPs, singles, compilations, and live recordings, influencing countless other musicians along the way. Included in their works are 1990’s classic “Little Fluffy Clouds,” which borrowed a sample from Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint; 1992’s “Blue Room,” which reached number eight in the British charts (despite its playing time of almost 40 minutes); and 1997’s “Toxygene.” Longplayers The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and U.F.Orb are often cited as seminal classics, with the latter reaching the top of the British album charts—much to the shock of critics, who were surprised that fans had embraced what journalists considered to be progressive rock. Paterson also co-wrote the peerless “Higher Than The Sun” by Primal Scream.
Following the success of U.F.Orb, the group signed to Island Records through which they released live album Live 93. The double-disc set—which hit number 23 in the album charts— included highlights from appearances in Europe and Japan, and featured another clever dig at Pink Floyd: the cover has a large stuffed sheep suspended over a power station, a la Floyd’s Animals cover. “Little Fluffy Clouds” and “Perpetual Dawn” were re-issued and became top 20 hits in the UK.
More albums followed, including 1995’s Orbus Terrarum, 1997’s Orblivion—the group’s first album to chart in the United States—and 2001’s Cydonia. The group subsequently left Island Records and released several albums on assorted labels. Of particular note is 2015’s Moonbuilding 2703 AD, a major piece of psychedelic synth bliss, obscure loops, and deep ambient textures, and COW / Chill Out, World!, featuring only the occasional presence of buoyant, gently rhythmic pulses and loops—described by Paterson as “our most ambient album yet.”
In 2016, The Orb performed their seminal debut album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld in full for the first time ever. For the gig, Paterson and collaborator Thomas Fehlmann were joined on stage by the original cast of collaborators who helped create the magic on this era-defining milestone including Youth, Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Andy Falconer, Hugh Vickers, Tom Green, David Herman, and punk icon Paul Cook. More recently, The Orb released their 15th studio album, No Sounds Are Out of Bounds, via Cooking Vinyl.
In a rare interview, Paterson will step forward to answer your questions. Whether it be playing live, production, DJing, or anything else, all questions should be sent to email@example.com with “The Orb” as the subject line. We’ll pass them along to Paterson who will then select his favourites, and soon we’ll publish his answers.