For: The Warehouse Project
The solo project of Oxford’s Orlando Higginbotham, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs has become a leading light in UK electronic music since the release of his debut 2009 EP ‘All In One Sixty Dancehalls’ through Joe Goddard’s Greco-Roman label. Showcasing shimmering, melodic, pop-influenced house music, his releases to date have included a further set of EPs and a smattering of remixes for The 2 Bears, Friendly Fires and Crystal Fighters. TEED’s debut album ‘Trouble’ was released this summer and as part of our first season at Victoria Warehouse, Orlando will be taking of our venue for one-night only to curate a full line-up including Derrick Carter, Todd Terje and John Talabot and perform a headline live set.
Will Orchard caught up with the chart-topping producer to talk about his incredible rise, from the DIY roots of the Oxford music scene to his current global touring schedule.
You’re back on the road at the moment for a new UK tour. Shepherds Bush Empire started this set of dates. How was that?
It was definitely not my starting show of choice. You want that to be at the end. I think it was good. It was a good vibe, I had a good time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell but everyone who I saw afterwards thought it was great.
It’s weird to think of that as the start of a tour because it’s as if you’re never not on the road.
Well, exactly. I haven’t really stopped. This is like a specific UK tour; obviously I’ve played around the country all the time for the last two years but this is kind of the last one I’m going to do like this for a long time – going to these venues, doing a headline tour – until I’ve written another record.
A lot of the venues on this tour are more gig or band-orientated spaces than clubs. Does that feel a bit weird playing in those sorts of places?When I first started doing shows in these sorts of venues I was a bit concerned because I did think what I did was more of a club thing. I always wanted to do dance music out of the club and that’s what I did this project; to get out of the club. I love clubs but there’s something a bit cool about them and I wanted to do something that was a bit more free. Getting sweaty and having fun which I guess is what club music was supposed to be about, but it ends up being something else pretty quick.
Taking club music out of that context and into a different environment changes how the music feels completely. How did you go about creating the stageshow you have now?
It’s happened over time. I guess some of the key things for me were that I didn’t want to do a big LED screen thing. That was a major thing for me. Sometimes that works really well but 99% of the time it’s distracting and just a bit shit. I don’t think many people have done that well yet. Often it’s the DJ or the musician hiding behind it. I wanted to do something that was quite physical, slightly loose, not too shiny and pro-looking. Quite rugged. Hopefully create a friendly and open atmosphere, that’s always been the goal.
You’ve mentioned Basement Jaxx before as an influence for this stageshow too.When I was about 18, I saw Basement Jaxx play at Glastonbury. It was the year they replaced Kylie. I grew up on Drum ‘n’ Bass and dirty, stinking big raves and that was wicked, I miss it, but there was something about it that obviously wasn’t that friendly. Then I saw this Basement Jaxx show and I was like “Shit, everyone’s having a laugh here. I can actually see the artists. It’s approachable, it’s impressive.” I think that definitely inspired me at the beginning. I’ve gone off on my own little route now but that was something I was drawing from. Trying to create that fun feeling.
The Basement Jaxx experience was obviously a formative one. What about your time growing up in Oxford – how much did the music scene there impact on your work?
I started collecting records when I was about 13 and I had a Drum ‘n’ Bass obsession. That took up a lot of my musical time. I was listening to a lot of soul and hip-hop; things like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott when they were doing their first albums. Then I played in a few bands. Oxford had a few sides to it; one that people knew a little bit about and one that nobody knew about. People know a little bit about the Radiohead and Supergrass side. There’s always been a band tradition but not a tradition because we don’t really shout about it. Oxford is like Manchester; there’s never been a feeling that we need to stand up and shout about it. There’s always been this great gigging scene going on underground and as well there’s been a rave thing. Some of the first free parties happened in Oxfordshire and there’s always been a techno, acid techno and Drum ‘n’ Bass scene. I was kind of getting involved with both but not really DJing or playing in bands at those events; just going along and vibing, getting drunk.
The Oxford scene at this time has always appeared very organic – lots of collectives and DIY scenes popping up. It’s where people like Foals have their base, isn’t it.
That’s still going on. The Blessing Force lot, they’re buddies. That’s the scene at the moment really.
You’re good friends with Casino Times, who are also from Oxford originally. Is the dance side of things still healthy there?Yes but probably slightly less. The Drum ‘n’ Bass scene when I was growing up was a real big family of heads. I think there are slightly less local people around than there was when I was growing up. Right now, there are just 110 house music nights cropping up everywhere because student promoters have realized that people like Julio Bashmore are hugely popular and trendy and sell out venues. That’s what’s going on. It’s very much influenced by students and generations of students coming in and out.
What has your experience been like since the album came out in June?
I would say it’s hard for me to know how well-known it’s become; I get sales figures and how many people like it on Facebook, but really those things don’t mean shit. Really, I’ve always found it to be quite gradual and nothing’s been a sudden jump where I’m like ‘Woah, I’m playing Shepherds Bush Empire’. I went from Scala to XOYO to Heaven to Koko to Shepherds Bush over a year and a half. A steady build.
The reception the album’s received has been fantastic, from critics and fans alike. People have really gotten to grips with your music as lyrical, melodic music for the club and elsewhere.
That means a lot to me. To be honest, I have a pretty low opinion of music journalists these days and that’s not through bitterness, it’s just very strange the way people write about music. I try not to read those things because even the big broadsheet writers. When I’m reading about an album I know a lot about, I don’t ever really feel like they write about it in a very good way.
What matters most to me, and it may sound selfish, is that I’ve made music that I like and I’m proud of and that I can stand by and say “This is real, this is me, I mean this.” There’s no fakery, I just want it to be honest and me to be happy with it. I’m only blessed if it goes somewhere.
You can’t really blag honesty and integrity either. It’s very easy to see through. It’s something that perhaps links you and a producer like John Talabot; it’s electronic music with a club edge but there’s a melancholic and emotional depth to it that goes beyond just a three-minute track written for a dancefloor.
Definitely, I think that’s really important. I agree it’s something John does really well. Basically, allowing yourself to put your personality into music. I think everyone’s capable of it but people are a bit scared of it. People can think it’s not cool. You get much more out of it if you just let it do the talking. Let it be emotional, that’s the way it should be.
Tell me about the line-up you’ve curated for The Warehouse Project. You’ve picked people like John Talabot, as well as producers like Matias Aguayo and Todd Terje, plus a legend in Derrick CarterI figured if there was any time I could book a legend, The Warehouse Project would be it. I saw Derrick play a disco set at Sonar this year and then a bit of a house set afterwards and that sold it to me. I’ve seen him play a number of times and I know he can smash it. Todd I’ve always been a fan of with his edits and now he’s taken it to a whole new level. I’ve seen him play a few times this summer as well. John Talabot played before me in Ireland two or three months ago, after I’d booked him. I couldn’t see who was DJing but he was the DJ before I went onstage and it was literally the best hour of dance music I’ve heard all year. It was absolutely amazing. I didn’t know if it was some sort of veteran from 1988 or some new guy. I had no idea who it was and then I realized it was him at the end. Matias Aguayo, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know he’s going to do something mad and there’s something really invigorating about asking someone with imagination, who’s a bit crazy, to go on in front of 3,000 people. I think that’s going to be fun.
Another highlight is going to be Factory Floor, who performed for us last year with The Horrors and The Kills. They’re easily one of the most exciting bands in the UK at the moment for what they do. Completely unrivalled.
And underrated, too.
How are you feeling about your own set?
I did Crosstown Rebels last December, live. It was great, a mad time. The new venue I’m sure is going to be great.