sat 13/08/2022

The Orb Exclusive: Thomas Fehlmann DJ mix and Alex Paterson interview | reviews, news & interviews

The Orb Exclusive: Thomas Fehlmann DJ mix and Alex Paterson interview

The Orb Exclusive: Thomas Fehlmann DJ mix and Alex Paterson interview

A glimpse into the minds of the internationalist dub mavericks

The Orb and Lee "Scratch" Perry cut loose between recording sessions. L-R Patterson, Fehlmann, Perry

If anyone in British music still deserves that rinsed-to-death term "maverick" it is Battersea-born "Dr" Alex Paterson. From roadie for postpunk industrialists Killing Joke in the early Eighties, he went on to work as an A&R then - originally collaborating with The KLF's Jimmy Cauty - formed The Orb in the heat of the acid house explosion to bring the world "ambient house". 

Inexplicably the loose collective, which has featured Berlin producer Thomas Fehlmann as a key member, became huge, their dub basslines and loony-tunes samples somehow encapsulating the psychedelic oddness of the rave years of the early Nineties. From playing "space chess" on Top of the Pops to headlining huge arena shows, Paterson and friends took their psychedelic mischief to the heart of the mainstream - and have been a discombobulating presence in the music industry, right up to their brilliant recent collaborations with dub reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry, The Orbserver in the Star House and More Tales From the Orbservatory

The following DJ mix has been put together exclusively for theartsdesk by Fehlmann, and on the following page is an email exchange with Paterson on the past, present and future of The Orb.


1. J Dilla - Detroitgame - Instrm - Ruffdraft

2. Fela Kuti - Sorrow Tears & Blood - Arista

3. Don Preston - Electronic - Subrosa

4. Gudrun Gut - Simply The Best (Flowing Remix By T. Fehlmann) - Monika Enterprise

5. Depeche Mode - Heaven (Flowing Remix By T. Fehlmann) - Sony

6. Jan Jelinek - Fragment One - Faitiche

7. Moodyman - Technologystolemyvinyl - Mahogany

8. Owiny Sigoma Band - Wires (Theo Parrish Remix) - Brownswood Recordings

9. Roman - Goodby Bunny (Brantd Brauer & Frick Rmx) - Kalk Pets

10. The Orb Featuring Lee Scratch Perry - Ball Of Fire (Deadbeat Nya Dub) - Cooking Vinyl

11. Madlib - Excerpt From Beat Conducta In Africa - Stonesthrow

12. The Orb Featuring Lee Scratch Perry - Fuzzball - Cooking Vinyl

13. Theo Parrish - Dance Of The Medusa - Sound Signature

14. Don Preston - Electronic - Subrosa

15. Jeri Jeri & Mbene Diatta Seck - Mbeuguel Dafa Nekh - Ndagga.Com

16. Andres - New For You - Vida

"Dr" Alex Paterson and friendJOE MUGGS: Thomas Fehlmann is one of the most consistent members of a very fluid line-up – what is his relationship to The Orb?

ALEX PATERSON: He is part of The Orb. He's like a brother.

Can you explain why German electronic producers like Thomas seem to have had such an affinity with the Jamaican sound of reggae and dub?

Because reggae is universal. You can't pigeonhole it: you can feel it, taste it & hear it.

As a longtime reggae lover, it must have been a huge thrill to work with Lee "Scratch" Perry - what's your best memory of being in the studio with him?

The “Facebook is his Bible – Bible is his Facebook” moment... we never got that on tape sadly - damn!

Scratch has spent his life weaving wisdom and foolishness together - do you have any favourite Scratch sayings or lyrics?

“Lion blood” ... “This the return of the clay man” ... “Jungle dub”!

Has this whetted your appetite for full-album vocalist collaborations? Who would be your dream collaboration?

No! We have just done that. But in the future... a dream singer? Brian Eno as the dream artist / singer – or maybe John Foxx.

I think we have learnt that there is but one world & we all live here

You're playing Glastonbury with The Kakatsitsi Master Drummers from Ghana - how have the warm-ups been going, and is this going to lead to further collaborations?

It is going well, and yes we will be doing something special with them in the near future too, thanks for asking.

How would you describe that project - are we past the point where something like that has to be bracketed as "world music" or "fusion"?

I think we have learnt that there is but one world & we all live here. Journalists are the ones that label musical projects. Have you heard Mark Ernestus presents JERI-JERI? What would one call that? 

Dubstep and all that followed seem to have opened up large audiences to bass and soundystem music; are you happy with the current state of underground electronic/club music?

Yes and no. How far will house beats go? They're here forever now. Music isn't a source of making a living for up and coming artists, though, and that's sad. That said, there's always something that's above the rest and I think someone like Maya Jane Coles is such an artist. Shame about the fashion in the “2010000's” though!

The Orb has always involved an element of mischievousness - are there any newer artists in contemporary music who you feel share that?

Dexter, TEEBS, Kutmah & Tall Black Guy.

Why does the world still need The Orb in 2013?

That's why.

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