By Alan RantaYour first few albums, there was a bit more experimentation, like the Steve Reich-style phasing on "Time Becomes" and "Input Out" from the brown album. As you're using more things like Ableton Live, do you think you might return to experimental music at some point, like generative compositions? Paul: Experiments are experiments. They either work or they don't. If I listen to those albums, I smile and see a naive person making noise that gets on my nerves when I listen to the album. I don't dislike it, don't get me wrong, but I won't do that again. I tried it, and I enjoyed it. Phil: I suppose you go through phases. When you're younger, around that time you discover Steve Reich and that sort of thing, and you muck about with that. You tend to have done that, got it out of your system. Paul: I think a lot of it has to do with dope smoking, as well. Steve Reich is a dopey kind of thing, listening to that. I'm sure he wouldn't see it that way. I think, though, you do a bit of film scoring, and you get put in those areas, the more unusual, experimental stuff. Phil: Yeah, we just did a film soundtrack, a film called Pusher, which is a remake of, um... Paul: ... a film called Pusher, a Dutch film. No, a Danish film. Phil: Yeah, the guy that did Drive, his first film. A British production company just did an English version of it, a week in the life of a drug dealer all goes pear-shaped. He gets more and more into trouble as the week goes on. It's pretty grim in some respects. You get a chance to go off the rails a little bit with the music. Paul: It's not conventional music, film music. It requires a different approach.
'Cause then you're working around someone else's art, their demands. Phil: That ends up being more experimental, like with the slowing down of the breakbeat stuff. Slowing it down, such miniscule time stretching and things like that... like Paul was saying, you get it out of your system when you're doing things like that, and we don't need to put it into Orbital.
You've mentioned before that you weren't super happy about your last two albums, The Altogether and The Blue Album, but there's a wonderful, upbeat consistency in the new album, except for the rather scary "Beelzedub." How do you feel about that? Phil: When we stopped, we stopped for a reason. We stopped because we weren't feeling it any more, even though we were in a great position, in a band. We were creatively drained doing this Orbital machine, and so we chucked the baby out with the bath water, but really believed that was it. 'Cause we weren't feeling it... well, fuck it, let's go do something else, and so we did that. And now, this time around, after getting back together for the reunion gig that Big Chill asked us into, and doing a year and a half of reunion gigs, and that going so well. The vibe that we got off the audiences, the encouragement, and us really enjoying that... it's like, "Let's continue this." That's how Wonky came about. It does seem to me like we've gone back to, when we were writing it, the way it was. It's gone back to like when we first started, but with all that experience under our belt. It does seem a lot freer, certainly compared to when we left it. Paul: It's very free. In the past, we might have been writing our version of dance music, whereas this time around, we're writing our version of what Orbital'd play live, which is brilliant 'cause that's exactly what we were doing. We'd done two years of that, playing all our old tracks, and refreshed ourselves as to what it was that we thought was good about what we did or not, and then took that idea into the studio and said, "Right, let's make an album of stuff we want to play live." Nothing to do apart from please ourselves. We knew when it was working because we just knew, "Yeah, I want to play that live. That'll be exciting to play live." That's how this album developed. That's quite innocent, really.
You've talked about the favourite gear you own, like the Macbeth M5N and the Oberheim Xpander. What's on your wish list? Paul: I've just bought an EMS Putney. It's the original British synthesizer from 1969. I bought a Mark One off the original guy that was making them. It's like the ultimate guitar for synthesist people. It's such a warm, soft electronic sound. It sounds like the '50s and '60s, rather than now or even the '70s. It's what the Radiophonic Workshop used... They had a thing called the Delaware, which is a Synthi 100. I know two people that own them, which is really annoying. A Synthi 100, that's like the super version of what I just got. A Waldorf Wave, I'd love one of those. Wouldn't mind a Prophet 5, that's small fry. A CS80! I've got serious foam-mouth from talking to Tom Squarepusher the other week, and he bought a CS80. He said, "Oh, yeah, you should come up and play on it. I'm kind of fed up with mine now. Have a borrow of it. Buy it off me if you like it." I'm like, don't fucking tempt me. Maybe if you ask me in a year, I'll say, "Yeah, I just bought a CS80 from Squarepusher."