The Orb

By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 1994

The Orb has never been known for being normal, so it comes as no surprise that they have released a double live album, something virtually unheard of for an electronic band. “Live 93” brings together tracks recorded from three separate dates last year, and the often radically different interpretations of the songs makes it essential for any Orb fan’s collections.

Leader Dr. Alex Paterson calls the LP “a stop gap, really,” as the group mainly wanted to get something out and was being held back by legal hassles with their record company. The Orb felt that Big Life wasn’t treating them fairly, so they decided to take them to court in an effort to get off the label. Ultimately, they settled out of court, but the whole incident lasted from October 1992 to November 1993.

“It was literally two weeks before the album was actually released that we sorted the whole thing out with the live album,” says Paterson. “We could have been put in a position of releasing an album without signing a record contract or signing away from a record contract. But we were quite prepared to just go ahead and break all the rules, because they seemed to be able to break them anyway and get away with it.”

Paterson says that since Big Life had top ten hits with re-releases of “Perpetual Dawn” and “Little Fluffy Clouds,” it looked like they would re-release “The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld” and put out a “greatest hits” compilation. The Orb are strongly against that, so they see “Live 93” as a way to “just sort of bury the past in a nice way, as opposed to letting them take control of the past and put out all these re-issues.”

Another major problem The Orb had with their old label was a lack of support for an American tour planned for early last year. All the shows were ultimately canceled.

“It got to the point where they were telling us that our records were selling 100,000 copies and getting a gold disk, but ‘sorry you can’t tour because there’s no money’,” says Paterson.

The group made up for this by doing a short, five-date tour in the late fall. Paterson says that with all the US fans have been put through, from “The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld” being watered down to a single album to the cancellation of the last tour, “to get a reaction like we did in October was brilliant!”

For the live shows, the Orb added an additional bassist and drummer (ex-Killing Joke member Paul Fergusson recently joined to take on that role). There are various keyboards, turntables and effects on stage, and all the sequences come of three ADATs running though a 24-track mixing desk.

“There’s four of use on stage and we can basically re-arrange the whole multitrack, so we get a live mix every night,” says Paterson on the set-up. “It’s quite bizarre, really, but it works.”

According to Paterson, there were several reason for culling the material for the album from several different shows.

“We were under lot of pressure from the management to release the Glastonbury set, but we didn’t want to fall into the syndrome of putting out a Glastonbury album,” explains Paterson. “So we decided to do an Orb live album and take some stuff from the Glastonbury set, take some stuff from a really small club in Tokyo and then from the Copenhagen gig, because that one is very special to us. It’s nice to put that on the album so people will always remember it, and those who weren’t there, we can always tell about it.”

That legendary Copenhagen gig took place on a small island, with the Orb doing a set at sunset and one at sunrise. The Orb played on a stage in the harbor that Paterson describes as a “massive ghetoblaster on water” in front of 4,500 fans. Eight days of preparation were needed to set everything up.

The island contained an old fortress, where Paterson says Napoleon had lost use of his arm. According to Paterson, Jean-Michael Jarre had wanted to do a show on the same island but was refused permission.

“The let us play there because they thought we could exorcise all the ghosts from it,” says Paterson.

Though he refuses to give any details, Paterson says that The Orb has begun working on doing similarly special shows in other parts of the world. He says that there will definitely be something big in America in the future, as doing unusual performances that people will be willing to travel to beats trying to go everywhere with a traditional show.

The Orb are currently working on a new album, which may be finished by the end of March. Paterson says it will probably take a little longer, as the group has just put the finishing touches on their own studio. The LP will feature more live instruments, and have a slightly different sound than the Orb’s past releases.

“I think we’re growing up a bit,” says Paterson. “The third album is going to be moodier, after our experience of the last year and a half. It’s quite bizarre.”

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