Belfast and the Other one

It’s been a while. I’ve been on holiday . Back now. Not much to say about recent events, I’ve managed to take August off. Only managed it once before in the last 25 years. Played Solfest. that was great fun, loved it. Little gig , massive PA , great crowd.

Two more gigs to go for the time being , them I’m busy with some different work.

So I’m going retro on this blog . Along side my video diary’s that I’ve been going through I wanted to listen to all my old 4 track recordings and unreleased dat material. Start sharing that too. I’ve just got my 4 track fixed so while I was setting up some gear in the studio for the next run of work , I’ve been going through some of the old tapes. One thing I was pleased to find was the original version of Belfast. I thought it was lost forever.

I’ve been trying to remember exactly when I recorded it. It comes from the era between my first ever release on the house sound of London under the name ‘ds building contractors’ and buying our first orbital D.A.T. after getting a proper record deal with Pete Tong at FFRR. I know it was recorded after chime because the track on the tape before it is a more typical house track that has elements of chime and Belfast in it. I”ve given that one to you too incase you want to listen to the one’s that never made it as well as the origins of the ones that did. Anyway I’ve always thought of them as a pair.

I think it was probably winter 89-90 and in the months between Jazzy M putting out chime on Oh-Zone and its release on FFRR. Because it was influenced by the wave of ambient house spearheaded by the Orb and their A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (EP).that came out early 90 I belive. It must have been then as chime was out and the orbital name was already launched because the simple truth  is I wouldn’t have called Orbital Orbital if id seen the Orb first, that would have been mad right? Far too confusing having orbital , orbit and the orb around at the same time. Funnily enough someone asked me if Id written Little fluffy clouds , just the other day at Solfest. That’s been happening for 25 years. I wonder if Alex Paterson gets asked if he wrote chime?

Anyway so there I was just finished an early shift at Pizza Piazza in Sevenoaks.  I decided to make an ambient song , it was a rainy melancholy mid-week kind of afternoon. I got the chords first and just went from there. Got it all in place as a drumless ambient piece, but I just couldn’t resist the call of the 909 drum machine. So in went the drums. Much better! So what you hear here is the Jam I did on a rainy afternoon, after work and before catching up with my friends for the evening. At the time I remember thinking, it was ok but I wasn’t over impressed. This was all recorded in my parents living room in the stairs alcove studio, that all the early stuff was written in, up to and including the first green album. the other one would have been recorded around the same time , probably a day or so before.

So Months latter after the success of chime in march 90 , I got a call from David Holmes, DJ , club runner and hair dresser from Belfast . Would orbital like to play at the art college in Belfast? Yes! So after the gig, in Davids Mum’s house’s spare bedroom David asked if we had any demo’s. I gave him a tape with both tracks on. Two week later David rings up and tells me that him and his friends all love the second track on the tape . We called it Belfast after the brilliant time we had there. So the track was named after, and dedicated to, David and all his friends.

Where is the vocal?

Well, when we were making the orbital ep III , we decided to put a version of Belfast on it , while I was re-recording it with all the lovely new gear we had bought from the record deal Phil was making at birthing tape for the imminent arrival of his second child. So he was at my Dad’s hi fi with the head phones on , while I was at the computer and sampler playing through the track . He popped the head phones off and said listen to this, it sound brilliant. So he turned the speakers up and hey presto! Hildegard of Bingen ‘o euchari’ burst through,in tune, in time, Job done!

I met up with David this May , he’d just won the Ivor Novello for best film score for 71. We were in the pub afterwards and he spoke about our trip to Belfast and the tape and how much it all meant to him and his mates at the time. I asked him if he still had it , as I thought it was the only one and had been quite curious to hear the other track. But alas , he said he had no idea where it went. So imagine how pleased I was when i discovered the original recording on Wednesday as I was setting up and listening to the old tapes and realised I’d only give him a copy , not the original after all. Here it is, all those years later. the Original Belfast and the other one.

The festival season and a visit to the Albert hall.

Did Beathearder the other week, that was more like it. In the woods 2am, christ I’m getting too old for that! I’m a morning person, put me on between 4 and 6am and I’m yours!

Proper fun though , loads of really loved up people plenty of opportunity to mess with their heads. In a good way , of course.

Such a good organisation and crew. These people really care about their festival and it shows.

Met up with Merv from eat static and the plump dj’s . So good to see some of the other foot soldiers of techno that I’ve grow up with over the years still doing well. Eat static were always one of my favourite uk electronic bands , probable the originators of trance, with their mix of psychedelic music and acid house. Merv is doing well , he’s the last man standing in eat static, although he was always the core of the band. New album imminent, sounds like its going to be a good one.

Plumps doing well too , looking fit and no older at all.

Then on the psychedelic Smithsonian tent and the SGP festival. Another great one , set up by Eddie Temple-Morris and Simone Marie. Rained all the way there , shit drive. But got there in the end , just in time for Mistabishi, what he does with one machine and one hand is brilliant, check him out. Then on to my set at 1am ( bit better ; ) and another crowd loved up and ready to have their melons twisted. Got even more dubby on this lot and it went down a storm , as another storm went down outside the tent. Couldn’t have been a better gig, everything came together , of corse I didn’t record that one, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Two more winners , with Standon calling coming up fast tomorrow.

Had a funny one last night, went to the Ibieza Proms , because I knew they were going to play Belfast with the heritage orchestra amongst a load of Ibeza classics. ( Is Belfast an Ibiza classic? Don’t know , I try not to go to the place, we’ve never really got on ) can’t even spell it.

Chris wheeler from the Heritage orchestra is my studio Neighbour so I’ve been watching him work on it for the last while ( he’s been arranging the orchestra for Pete Tong )

It was a fantastic show , good choices of songs , lovely rendition of Belfast, really reflective night for me .

I sat on the edge of my box balcony , there wasn’t a big fall on the other side but I had to as every one was up and dancing. And reflected on the last 25 years , there were people my age in the audience loving it , but the majority were all way too young to have remembered it first time round. That included most of the orchestra too. A whole bunch of young people playing and enjoying music , mostly, from before their time.

It struck me how big the whole dance thing had been and how far it had come. Being given a night at the proms for crying out loud!  Totally ingrained into the culture and history of music. So interesting , as it was born from rebellion and counter-culture and so shunned be the establishment at the time, criminal justice bill anyone? But this is the cycle , it happens to any youth movement worth it’s salt, its born kicking and screaming to disapproving parents , then becomes them with it’s own troublesome youths who ‘know better’ .

It’s just funny being on the inside for so many years still doing it, still enjoying it , then to see such a tribute to the youth movement I contributed to , was a part of , not that we really knew it at the time.

I was really interesting to watch and, I was a watcher last night, rather that participant. Having played there twice before it was really interesting to see it from the other side with the whole place happy and dancing and whooping ,I felt a strange mixture of pride, melancholy, and awe at how far we had come. How much time had passed.

There was also an element of satisfaction , for a job well done , for all of us that took part over the years and for my small part in it. Not even sure what we achieved but it ended up there in the Albert hall entertaining a whole new generation. nice.

Can’t find a you tube of the prom yet so here’s one i prepared earlier…

what’s in a name?

Well now, to the more observant , you may have noticed the name on all my social media has changed from 8:58 to Paul Hartnoll ( orbital ). I thought I’d have a little chat about that then.

I recently lost the use of my brand name Orbital , and had to think up a new one , which was fun as I picked one that had a lot of meaning to me . Nice. But having traded under Orbital for 25 years you, and the people you work with, are always going to want to let people know who you were . So all posters and adds for gigs , even stickers on the album have four bits of info. The logo, 8:58 , Paul Hartnoll and ( orbital ) . But having chosen a name that’s not too search engine friendly :- eight five eight, eight fifty-eight, eight hundred and fifty-eight, 8:58, 858 ,  2 minutes to nine, you get the idea, coupled with the desire to let people know who you are. Well, it’s all got a bit messy really .

Starting again like this with the 8:58 name has been a big learning curve, but lets get one thing straight here , I’m not talking about the music , cover , logo , ideas behind it . That I’m happy with , it’s an artistic choice that I stand behind.  However, on a purely business side , the 8;58 name may not have been the best idea!

Doing music that you like is one thing , but getting it out there to people can be trickier. I read an article by Caitlin Moran recently about dealing with depression, she was saying that she used a technique where she saw herself as a small friendly dog inside here head that needed looking after, needed kindness and exercise as a way of being good to herself, it resonated with me about how I view the business end of what I do . I’ve found that I think of it as a sailing galleon heading out from Southampton towards the new world, I’m steering the thing and I’m heading somewhere, I’m not too sure what’s there, but I know where it is, most of the time. I find that I have to make adjustments along  the way to Keep heading towards this mythical place. What I’ve found most important though, is that as soon as you know somethings not right you need to readjust as quickly as possible before you go too far off course and loose you way altogether. So with that in mind I’m steering this ship back on course ( for the meantime anyway ) And changing the name 8:58 back to Paul Hartnoll (with obligatory ( orbital ) of course ). Nothing against 8:58 it’s still the name of the album and the concept is still close to my heart but I’m just changing the name I go out as back to Paul Hartnoll . I’m keeping the logo, which has 8:58 written all over its face, but I feel I need to switch to simplify everything and help keep on course. As my wife Louise always says to me, ‘Keep it simple’.

One of the last straws in this decision is the amount of orbital fans and even friends that ask me what I’m up to now , when will there be a new record. When I tell them it’s out there they often look at me funny and say ‘oh I didn’t know, I searched on spotify for Paul Hartnoll and didn’t see it’. I then have to go throughout he whole , oh no it’s under the name 8:58 to which they usually look puzzled and say ‘why?’.

Don’t fight it Paul! Is what I’m saying to myself, anything that helps get it out to the right folks is good for me.It feels like the right thing to do at the moment so I’m going with it.

It’s funny as it doesn’t make any difference to the hard copy of the album as it’s always had a sticker in the corner that says:- ‘the new album from Paul Hartnoll of Orbital’ . Quite clear really isn’t it? It’s been staring me in the face from day one!

So that’s the current situation sorted , here’s the past…

So on to the next video,I had just got back from Australia and an illegal warehouse rave on new years eve 91/92 in Sydney ( I do have film of that too ) and we were asked to play at a 2000ad 15 years anniversary  party and charity event for great Ormond st . How could we resist that! I had been a long time fan of 2000ad comic, so off we set in a hired van , a little crew of friends fromSevenoaks, me and Phil, with Mike who ended up doing our driving and tour managing, not that we though of it like that then, Sally our good friend who went on to be a Photographer of choice for the early rave generation via the magazine , Volume.  Heres a little summery of the night with a good live version of fahrenheit 303 and crime.

Until the camera falls over anyway.

oh , and i’m starting the you tube channel again too , as when i started this I’d bumbled into a google auto channel by mistake, when i thought i was doing it on my 8:58 one (the one thats now become  Paul Hartnoll (orbital ) ) so all future uploads will be on this one below. if you subscribed to the other one please just subscribe to this instead. sorry for this minor course adjustment, and any confusion.

One place to put everything, one name to put it under. Keep it simple.

it’s not me , it’s you.

Heres a funny bit of film I found, it’s me remixing ‘it’s you’ for EMF in my parents house in time-lapse. A typical working day back then , lots of talking on the phone ( pre mobile ) and mates popping in and out all the time. I like the time lapse-sound as you can hear the development of the mix and the different elements that I’m working on as the day progresses.  This film and the halcyon one are both from the Dunton Green era of Orbital, I may stick to this chronology for a bit as I’ve found some good stuff from the Fun-Da-Mental tour of Amsterdam and Holland.

Heres the final mix:-

the start of the films

I’ve decided to start uploading short videos from my home recording archive. I always carried a video camera around with me for most of the time with orbital. I’ve been looking back at it recently and there is some remarkable stuff there.i look through it now and again and it grows better with age. Real time capsule stuff. It documents the path of orbital but also the rise and development of the rave scene in general. It covers all sorts from unreleased songs played live to time-lapse days in the studio to scenes of people , quite frankly, off their heads after a big night out. I have loads of footage from the first ewer orbital tour of the states with the fabulous meat beat manifesto and ultramarine . I keep putting it off as I never know where to start but I’ve decided to just go ahead and start any way , it might make sense eventually but I doubt it.

First one is ‘the making of Halcyon ‘

It’s some of the video I shot while cutting the original 12″  with Kevin Metcalf. Also some behind the scenes shots of the video shoot at my Mum and Dads house in Dunton green. You can see the lacquer being cut on the lathe and hear it going down, if you own one of these 12″ then that’s the mother of it right there! It was the first time we had seem the mastering oscilloscope , that was the inspiration for our live show for years to come. check out the glass bottom sink we got made via the blacksmith at the other end of the village ( that’s how old this is! so last century. ) It was such a home-made video but shot by  Seamus McGarvey who went on too much bigger things (google him ) so looks fantastic still.

Anyway have a look at this one , more to come soon.

‘the gig where everything went so wrong, then went so right’

not sure what to write about today , but i have some time so i want to write something. that’s what we do with blogs , right? Already this has become one of those things where I’ve started to think , ‘am I writing this blog often enough? How often do other people write their blog? Whats the expected input into a blog?’  I’m thinking this has to conform to some sort of unwritten rule of ‘blog’ rather than a spouting outlet. Even this paragraph is a sort of apology for not writing this as often as I thought I ought , aargh! Where does it all end…

Anyway.

could be after the I.O.W. entry i talk about the ‘the gig where everything went so wrong, then went so right’ to redress the balance.

so it was the Alternative escape , the great escape wouldn’t have me . not young or up and coming enough. can’t argue there. But managed to get a gig with the alt escape which is rising in popularity as the great escape grows and become harder to get on to . just to fill you in, the great / alt escape is a town festival in Brighton that runs for three days in various venues all over town, and is mostly about showcasing new bands for people and more importantly, A and R folks from record companies, to discover .

the alt escape built up around it as an alternative for the people who couldn’t get in to the great one. the advantage is , all the alt escape gigs are free.

so anyway , where was I? oh yes , standing on the street clearing beer can off of a borrowed kitchen table so Alex ( back line tech ) could set up my gear. but I’m getting ahead.

The particular venue I was booked to play at was a street party being held on a narrow rd outside the fiddlers elbow pub in Brighton. it was basically a couple of big , robust open sided awnings,the sort of thing people take camping with them to cook under,and a shut off street,with a nice P.A. All shoved up one end.

So.

9pm , stage time -1 hour

We were booked to play at 10pm. We got to the gig, met Chris , the guy running it, great person , totally on it and full of enthusiasm . Ran the stage with ruthless efficiency . I had though that the whole thing might have been a bit of a drunken affair with little regard for timings, but no it was a well oiled machine manned by people who knew what they were doing . So a great start. It was of course quite rowdy and drunken,but happy as you’d expect at an all day street party . We were shown to our kitchen table that had been supplied for my gear and proceeded to clear it off  of beer cans and other stuff. Alex got straight down to setting up the gear.

9:30 ,  stage time – 30mins

We had a little problem with the computer ‘seeing’ the sound card, that is the digital equivalent of a mixing desk, it’s the conduit that takes in all the synths and spits out all the sound to the sound man. Without it you have silence. So we played around a bit tried different cables , nothing, it was dead. I have no back ups at this point in my new career path as I don’t have the luxury of the double set up that we had with orbital , it’s all or nothing with this set up. I thought the gig was finished. Utter disappointment all round .

So there we were a fantastic, full street of happy lightly sozzled people patiently waiting for a gig that we couldn’t deliver.

Alex , conceding that the thing was truly bust ,but, pointed out he had an identical sound card at home, getting it and swapping it would be bound to make us late though. should we get it?

9:45 stage time -15

This was our last hope but the chances of sorting it out in time for the gig were dwindling , Gavin , my manager’s assistant ( who had taken up running in recent times ) volunteered to run around and get it , we though this might be quicker than getting a cab. So off he went.

The next 20 minutes were excruciating. I had my head in my hands for a lot of it white as a sheet , while Chris the boss of the stage , assured us it would all be great , every thing would work out , he was brilliant actually , he had a jaunty positive attitude the like of which was last seen on Eric Idol in the crucifixion scene in the life of Brian.

So many of my musical friend and others came up to try to help as they could see the horror on my face, but they all left helpless as the really was nothing they could do. We just had to set there and wait , and hope that it would fix the problem , while looking  at the faces of all the patient happy people in the crowded street. Thinking in half an hour or so I’m going to have to let then all down.

10.05ish stage time + 5mins

Gavin came sprinting back damaged foot but sound card in hand , Alex whipped it into place , turned it on…bingo ! It worked, but…

10:10 stage time +10mins

All the midi assignments were not working as it was a new set up . That basically means the computer won’t talk to my synths.

I’d had this problem in the week and it took over an hour to reassigned all the parts to the relevant synths so again I assumed the gig was dead. I moaned , I flailed, I spoke of doom and gloom , then got ahold of my self and proceeded to talk Alex through the process hopping we could salvage at least some of the set. We went at it working together properly focused with fear? Panic? Shock, not even sure what the emotion was. And got it done in fifteen minutes. Gave it a test. Everything seemed to be working…

10:35ish stage time +35

Lost 10 minutes in the panic somewhere.

We wheeled it all on stage , after I caught Alex resetting all the delays and faders on my controllers and had to explain that we didn’t have time for that and we would just start with it however it was set up and roll with the punches ( to be honest I may have said that with a little more impatience and a little less decorum )

10:40 stage time +40

Chris had made a little announcement apologising for the technical delay and that we were ready. So with a cheer, the patient crowd were ready , we were ready. Tom , who was in charge of the whole thing handed me a pint of ale and said the curfew was fairly soft and I’d get away with ten minutes or so on the end, so with a pint in hand and utter euphoric relief in my heart I went on.I lost the first two tracks and dived straight into a big Dancy number. The tiny stage was Surrounded on all four sides by happy dancing people, the barrier between us, a road works safety rail thingy just outside of the gazebo, ( that’s the word, gazebo . That’s what it was and that’s the word I was trying to think of earlier when I said awning ). I did one of the happiest carefree gigs of my life , rushing through the tracks , cutting a bit out here and there, putting it all into a few moment, seeing if I could get all that I wanted into the set. It felt like running through a maze, not bothering too much about where your going but getting there anyway. I got it all in , and had a totally brilliant time doing it . Such fun , such relief and such good ale.

And from what I hear , the PA was loader than the Isle of Wight! Pretty good for a street party in the centre of town.

Afterwards I went to a friends fortieth birthday party in a bar that was half parents from the school run,and half people who I knew, but hadn’t seen for ages from Sevenoaks , where I grew up. I stood and drank expensive pints of american pale ale from a massive bowl and watched two worlds collide ,  I was stunned.

not so striking

So ok, the isle of wight wasn’t so good. I’ve been lucky , so far with the first three gigs , starting over in my life after orbital.

Played on a nice big stage , the crew were great , the set up great , the sound system really good . Couldn’t have asked for more . Started 30 minutes before Fleetwood mac finished who had sucked up the entire population of the festival like a tsunami, taking all the water before it throws it back. So I knew the first part would be a bit of a warm up , no matter , we were expecting a flood of people when Fleetwood mac had finished. So half way in I could see the crowds beginning to come passed as the rest of the festival began to shut up shop for the night. I was hoping to bring them in for a last dance before bedtime with the nicely placed stage just back from the main drag. But alas, they came and kept coming and went and kept going ! No interest at all . I hurried through one of my new songs to get to Halcyon, surly that would bring in a few old ravers! But no . I had got some more folks in , it went from aground 20 people at the start to around 100 , if I’m being generous and accounting for the odd person spinning around by the speaker out of my line of sight but not a good turn out for a 3000 capacity stage. So I played to the crowd I had and was very appreciative of the 100 or so folks there especially the two guys right in front, around my age, and the two younger guys to my right who wooped and cheered thorough out, while one of them nudged, pointed and knowingly whispered to his friend throughout.

If your quick you may have noticed that I said whispered, well he was able to whisper too, as unknown to me , at 10:30 there was serious noise restriction put on to the stage( I came on at 10:35 ) When I finished I saw Chris , my manager, who looked white as a sheet, and not too happy, I thought he was going to commiserate me on the tiny crowd, but no , he just told me how quiet the whole thing was and how they had been battling with the council noise police to get it turned up . The sound man had done so at one point, only to be told off a couple of minutes later,and had to turn it back down again . apparently you could hear the 80’s disco tent over the other side of the drag louder than our stage at the front of house position. So I think that may have had something to do with not getting any of the passing trade in.

It’s a shame, as performance wise it felt like a good one, and Fable who had come along to sing cemetery did a great job too.

Now, don’t get me wrong , I do appreciate the lack of people isn’t all to do with the sound. They may not have come over even if it were blisteringly loud anyway. No one really knows what I’m up to at the moment , the old orbital fans have no real idea that 8:58 is my way of continuing with orbital. To be fair I went with that name as a creative/ artistic choice , to get some sort of new beginning and clean start with something that had a bit of meaning to me, but I’ve probably shot my self in the foot. It probably should have just been the album title. It’s really a bigger thing than I anticipated , loosing your brand. In seems like it means a lot more to people than I thought. Maybe I should have just stuck with Paul Hartnoll, but where’s the magic or smoke and mirrors in that? Maybe Paul Orbital like William Orbit or Jamie xx? How about 0rb1tal or Orbita11 like deadmau5? All be tall, ‘or beetle’, Orbit-all? I could go on…

I guess the brand name’s a seal of approval , a guarantee of quality , a no brainer. Where as starting again means proving yourself to your old customers that your still here doing your thing. I don’t blame them, we are a suspicious bunch us humans and I know I’ve done it too. Theres really not many people who’ve done better starting again after a successful band, Peter Gabriel maybe? Wings? It s a long haul for sure.

So four gigs in, it’s three to one for good v bad , I like those odds . But this hill, to win back the orbital fans ,might be a steeper climb than I first thought. I doubt it’s possible to get them all but hopefully I can get some new one’s along the way too.

After twenty five years of nearly guaranteed crowds, not always mind, orbital did some real shite ones in our day as well, I don’t think any one gets away with it totally. But after twenty five years, I’m ashamed to admit , it’s still a surprise when it happens , because you go in with the thoughts of full capacity ,loud sound and a cracking gig every time. Why wouldn’t you? You always hope for the best. And in the past,I’ve quite often got it.