The Orb's Samples
I would like to learn more about The Orb's samples. I know that
the girl's voice on "Little Fluffy Clouds" is Kim Basinger and that
the conversation at the start of "Towers Of Dub" is Victor Lewis-Smith,
but I'm told there are loads of other hidden and obscure samples in
the group's music. What else have they used?
MARTIN STIKSEL, Wartberg, Austria
Here's The Orb's Alex Patterson with the low-down:
"The voice on 'Little Fluffy Clouds' is actually Rickie Lee Jones, not Kim Basinger. Most of the voice samples we use are American because, for some reason, they always sound dead cool. And a bit crazy. I've a tape of an American TV advert for war planes which I'm trying to work into a track at the moment. The bloke is talking about a 'Superior kill capacity', and then he suddenly says, 'Available in a choice of colours'. It's wild.
"That said, the beginning of 'Little Fluffy Clouds' is from a Radio Four interview I did about ambient music, and the voice on 'Spanish Castles' is a Russian radio programme about fish. The water of 'Spanish Castles' was recorded with one microphone below and another above the surface. We then used psyclosonic panners to give the sounds a kind of 3-D quality. The result is a surreal feeling of floating through nothingness.
"Clearing samples is often a big problem. A lot of the stuff we use is heavily disguised, and if I talked about it we'd be up shit creek. When Rickie Lee Jones' publishers heard 'Little Fluffy Clouds', for example, they demanded 100 per cent songwriting on it. We also had trouble with the Minnie Riperton sample on the first version of 'Pulsating Brain'. In the end, we had to get a singer in and effectively turned it into a cover.
"The first Orb album was a sample-spotter's dream, but we're now into the idea of taking weird noises and making them sound vaguely musical. It's just a slightly more intelligent approach to sampling. We do things like turning the pages of a book and treating the tape to produce a high-hat, and using cutlery or scissors or spinning coins as percussion. We once used two huge swords. Thrash and I had a fight with them in the studio. That was fun. Apart from the fact I almost killed Thrash.
"We're also really into natural sources. Listen out for the rabbits in 'Assassin'. And the elephant I taped when I was in Nepal. We've just finished a new track called 'The Valley', for which we set up radio microphones all over this valley down in Dorset. It's amazing what we picked up. We also recorded some stuff in a chicken hut. There was one particular rooster which went mad whenever somebody clapped their hands. He was the star of the record. The snuffing horse was pretty good, too.
"The next Orb album is just about finished and should be out early in 1994. Thrash and I have also been working with Robert Fripp and Thomas Fehlmann, who will be going on the road with The Orb in November, under the name of FFWD. If everything goes to plan, we'll be releasing a new album every three months for the next year or so. Three albums are already ready to go."
(INFO FREAKO, Melody Maker, October 9 1993, p.51)