Time becomes a loop – classic British dance duo reunite for 2017 festivals and beyond
What goes around comes around. And there’s no more welcome return for 2017 than the groundbreaking British dance music of Orbital – creators of classic electronic symphonies and timeless dancefloor bangers, originators of live dance music as a must-see ecstatic festival experience.
After a five-year hiatus, brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll reunite to bring the acclaimed Orbital live show – described by both The Guardian and Q Magazine as among the greatest gigs of all time – to a new generation. Orbital kick off a new era in their acclaimed 25 year career with three outdoor spectaculars confirmed so far for summer 2017. The Hartnoll brothers will headline Dublin’s Forbidden Fruit, Standon Calling and a suitably cosmic date at the Blue Dot Festival at Jodrell Bank radio telescope. Fans can expect brand new releases later in the year.
Orbital’s 2017 reunion means more than the reforming of a musical partnership. It’s the end of a little-known, unhappy stand-off between two brothers, an estrangement that lovers of Orbital’s euphoric music might find surprising. Unknown to even the keenest Orbital fans, the relationship between Paul and Phil Hartnoll has often been a tempestuous one. Worse than musical differences, they’ve been through the personal clashes and resentments that only brothers can really understand. If not exactly the Liam and Noel of rave, Paul and Phil found themselves in an age-old quandary: can’t work together, can’t stand working apart.
Only now they’ve put it right. “I didn’t speak to Phil for five years after we split in 2012,” explains Paul Hartnoll. “It was horrible, like a black stain on your heart.” Every day at home Paul would pass an old photograph of the Hartnoll family on holiday on the Isle of Wight, back when he and Phil were little kids. He’d feel sick at how they’d fallen out. “You feel terrible,” he says, “and you want to fix it.” Paul spent the years since Orbital working on his own album ‘8:58’ and the Clarke:Hartnoll album ‘2square’ with Vince Clarke. He’s also been working on film and TV soundtracks including ‘American Ultra’ and the hit gangster series ‘Peaky Blinders’. Soundtracks was his long-standing dream, a challenge and a massive workload – but it wasn’t Orbital. “I kept asking myself, Why am I trying to do a new career when I had this a fabulous one, doing what I love?” he says. “In my heart I knew it was only because I fell out with my brother. I never fell out with the music, and in fact not doing what I love was what made me miserable. What's the obstacle to that? It's me not talking to my brother. So I thought, I can sort that out. And we did.” The brothers sat down, talked for the first time in years, got all their issues on the table and agreed that – whatever else happens – they’d rather be together in Orbital than not. Paul promised not to try to be a control freak. “I tried to turn Phil into me, and that drove us both mad,” he admits. “Now it’s just, be yourself. Be you. So far it’s working brilliantly. It’s really good to be talking and working together again.”
And Phil? “I didn’t want to split up in the first place,” says the older Hartnoll brother, laughing. “For me it was always never say never again. But sometimes you need that break, so we left each other alone for a couple of years. And now it's all come round again.”
Phil has been out around the world indulging in his great passion for DJ’ing. “It’s a different beast to an Orbital gig,” he says. “Half the crowd wants to hear Orbital and for half of them it’s Saturday night and they just want to get a groove on. I love that.” Phill has also produced, remixed and worked on projects such as Nøise, the electro-rock- punk collaboration centred on Shepard Fairey, the graphic artist behind the famous Barack Obama ‘HOPE’ posters. “But,” he admits, “I’m not very good at being on my own. Getting back together is a no-brainer for me. We’ve done what we had to do and now we're back in the Orbital seat. And these new gigs are right up our street.”
The new shows will be a chance to test out new material and get it right before they record the next Orbital album. Paul has “warped and changed” the classic Orbital catalogue so that faithful fans will get something familiar but new, freshened up for a new phase. Phil wants to “get the bounce back, make it really beefy.” The yin and the yang, the warp and the weft of Orbital are back in sync. Like their favourite Time Lord, Paul and Phil know that two Harts are better than one.
“The past is past, so forget it,” says Phil. “This is what we're meant to do.”
“Orbital is too big a thing for us to leave behind,” adds Paul. “I always wanted us to be the Status Quo of techno — I'm Francis Rossi by the way – because I always admired their staying power and their total tough motorik thing. If those two guys made their peace, so can we. “I mean, we’ve got a tempestuous relationship here, not because we don’t love the music, but because we do. Sometimes it’s been impossible to carry on together. But we’ve sorted it out now.
And this time, we’re going to keep it.” So we return to where it began. There is the theory of the Moebius, a twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop. Sometimes the good stuff comes back again – as brilliant as ever, but different. Orbital