Alex Paterson was born on October 15, 1959 in London
. He's best known for being the
central member and driving force behind The Orb
, an ever-evolving collaborative ensemble
that, as of the 1997 release Orblivion
focally included Andy Hughes
and Thomas Fehlmann
. (Andy contributed significantly to the as-yet-unreleased Orb
, but parted ways in the first half of 2000.)
Alex got his start in the music business as
a roadie (actually, a drum tech) for Killing Joke, and begain
touring with them in 1979. His high school pal Martin Glover, who by then
was going by the name Youth, played bass in the band. When Youth left Killing
Joke, he, Jimmy Cauty and Guy Pratt teamed up to make Brilliant, and Alex roadied
for them as well.
Alex joined Editions EG ( Eno's label) as an A&R representative and, in this capacity,
travelled extensively, meeting many musicians he would later work with.
Youth and Alex got together with Adam Morris to form the label
'WAU! Mr Modo', which turned out to be home for several ambient and house acts.
They began recording at Jimmy Cauty's
Trancentral Studio, and, in the summer of 1988, Alex and Jimmy laid down some
tracks that Youth cut on his album "Eternity Project One" as "Tripping on Sunshine",
which was the first Orb material to see commercial release.
Alex and Jimmy started the first ever chill out room at Paul Oakenfold's club,
Heaven, where they mixed ambient music and samples from films, soundtracks and
other sources. Here Alex met Steve Hillage, starting a relationship that would later
lead to collaborations such as System 7.
The name "The Orb" was inspired by the Orgasmatron scene in Woody Allen's Sleeper
where people are clamoring for a psychoactive party toy: "The orb, the orb, give me
the orb! I want the orb!"
The Orb's first release was "The Kiss EP", a sample-based tribute to the groundbreaking New York
ambient radio station, KISS FM, and recorded in October, 1988. All 949 copies
sold out, and it's never been
Next came "A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From
The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You)" which was the first release of Alex and Jimmy's
that began to really sound like The Orb. Recorded in 1989, it includes samples of
Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You".
They got in trouble for the samples, and for releasing a single that was 22 minutes
long, past the length allowed by UK Gallup (which keeps music popularity charts; they
didn't notice, though, until the single was in the top 50!).
Alex and Jimmy split up in 1990 over a disagreement -- Jimmy thought of Alex mostly as a
DJ, but Alex wanted to have more musical input. Jimmy joined Bill Drummond to form
The KLF, and Alex continued with The Orb.
His next project, begun in July 1990 with Youth, resulted in
probably the best-known Orb track, "Little Fluffy Clouds." Youth and Alex worked with
a talented young sound engineer, Kris Weston (aka Thrash), on mixes of this track
and a firm musical partnership was born. Thrash went on to become a vital musical
influence within The Orb, working closely with Paterson.
Alex gave up his day job finally in March of 1991, after "Little Fluffy Clouds" won significant
critical acclaim. He then felt he had the security to
focus entirely on his music. Alex's plan to
do live shows was soon hatched; He and Thrash toured a live Orb Experience throughout
the UK, Europe and the United States, while at the same time
and remixing other artists, including "Higher than the Sun" for Primal Scream and
"3am Eternal" for The KLF. .
Thrash, Youth and Alex pulled together a stellar array of musicians to produce the
first Orb LP, "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld" including Thomas Fehlmann, Steve Hillage,
Miquette Giraudy, bassist Jah Wobble, Guy Pratt, Tom Green, and Andy Falconer.
This was released in 1991. The Orb was getting some airplay in the US,
by now, and the label wanted to make a US release. Unfortunately they butchered
it -- It was cut down to a single disc (from two), omitting several songs and using
shortened versions of others.
The second Orb LP, "U.F.Orb", was released in June of 1992. It contained a top ten
single, "The Blue Room", and the album itself reached number one on the UK charts. By this
time Gallup UK had relaxed their length limits for singles, because "The Blue Room" was a
whopping 39 minutes long!
The Orb broke with their label, Big Life, in 1993, when the label attempted to
prevent them from releasing any more records. Alex and Thrash focused during this time on
remixing and producing for acts such as Front 242, U2, Yello and others. In November 1993,
they signed with Island Records and released "Orb Live 93", a compendium of live
recoordings from 1993.
The Orb released "Pommes Fritz" in 1994, and then, in 1995 the masterpiece " Orbvs Terrarvm". This album is epic in scope, evoking a complete and
well-articulated panorama of thought and sound, realized with deep layers of samples.
I wonder who "laughed their slimy laugh" on "Slug Dub"? Heh heh, heh heh...
Thrash left the Orb at this point, tired of touring. The next major release came in 1997
as "Orblivion", a collaboration with Alex, Andy Hughes and Thomas Fehlmann. This album
shows more dance influence, with SLIGHTLY more melody and beats than the previous release --
But it's still chill out music.
Material for the newest Orb album, titled "Cydonia", has been ready for over a year
as of this writing, but isn't due to be released until January of 2001.
Alex Paterson is an important figure in the development of ambient music, and
a complete discography would be a mile long if you include all his roles as producer and
remixer. (I've started compiling that list, and hope to finish it and add it here.)