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Phil Hartnoll 1

Phil Hartnoll Interview

17th December 2007

Interview with Phil Hartnoll for

Phil Hartnoll was one half of Orbital for fifteen years, responsible for some of the most spine-tingling hauntingly beautiful music of modern times. “Chime”, “Belfast”, “Halycon and On” – the list goes on (and on and on!) One of the first live dance acts to prove that two blokes twiddling knobs on stage can be as exciting as a lead guitarist throwing himself around (who could forget the legendary Orbital specs?) it was a sad day when they finally split in 2004.

Both, however, have gone on to exciting, and very different, new projects. Whilst Paul has been creating music with an orchestra, Phil Hartnoll is working with production partner Nick Smith to form Long Range. Here he chats to The Fly By Night, for, about moving on from Orbital.

How did you hook up with Nick Smith for your Long Range project?

He’s actually a mate of mine from when I moved to Brighton years ago. We worked with him on Orbital on a track called ‘Kinetic’, but he’s done loads of different stuff, adverts, films, he even did the opening credits for ‘Hannibal.’ When my brother and I decided to break up Orbital and go our own ways, Nick suggested we hook up and start a new project.

Long Range manages to be quite Orbital-esque whilst still creating a new sound, is this what you set out to achieve when you started?

Our sound is pretty loose, it’s more of a philosophy or an attitude rather than a set style. As with Orbital, we have been influenced by all sorts of different music and I think the album reflects that.

It’s quite a different direction to your brother Paul….

It was always one of Paul’s ambitions to go off and work with an orchestra, and that’s something he’s now achieved. That’s one of the reasons that we decided to go in different directions – he’s gone down the more Penguin Café Orchestra type route, whereas I’ve stayed with a more electronic sound.

Phil Hartnoll Long Range 1

Tell us a bit about how you programme your live shows as Long Range.
Will White from the Propellerheads plays drums for us, another mates of ours, Jimmy, does keyboards, plus we’ve got a couple of singers that come and do vocals, whilst Nick and I fiddle around with synths and computers – jamming and improvising within the structure of the songs. We’ve got quite a few UK dates lined up for February.

At Brighton Festival a couple of years ago, you performed with Irvine Welsh – tell us a bit about that.

We basically had Irvine Welsh at one end of the room, and Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) at the other, with all our band members on individual podiums. Irvine and Chuck took it in turns to read some of their short stories whilst we created an underscore, then we’d play tracks in between. Some of Chuck’s stories are really dark and twisted and quite grotesque, and about twelve people fainted as he was reading! He warned us beforehand that people have been known to faint whilst he’s telling stories, but I didn’t believe him until I saw it.

Last year Long Range did a gig in Second Life. What made you decide to do this, and how was it?

A mate of ours is really into Second Life, he owns an island and everything! Duran Duran and a few other people have d one gigs in Second Life, so he suggested we do one. We played a gig and it was broadcast live on our mate’s island. All the visuals we were using at our actual gig were also being projected onto the screens at the virtual gig. He even created some special dance moves you can click on, so your avatar can dance in time to the music that was playing! It was an interesting experiment, but I don’t think I can see myself getting really into it – I have enough trouble keeping my own life together let alone my alter ego!

What can we expect from the Phil Hartnoll DJ set at The End on Saturday 22nd December?

I used to play a lot of breaks, but these days I play a lot more 4/4 stuff as well. Expect a bit of everything… including a smattering of Orbital, of course. I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve known Mr C and Darren (Emerson) for years so it will be great to catch up.

On the Long Range website it says that we might find ourselves back on the M25 again waiting for a text message. Are you just teasing us, or are you planning on getting back on the illegal party circuit?

There was an idea to do something like that next year, but nothing’s really set in stone. I’d love to do an Orbital style rave again!

I remember seeing one of Orbital’s last gigs ever at T in the Park in 2004, it was possibly one of the most emotional gigs I’ve ever been to. Was it a difficult decision to hang up your Orbital specs, or had it run its natural course?

We just felt it was the right time, neither of us wanted to get stuck in a rut. Paul wanted to go off and do his orchestra thing, I wanted to stay in the dance world. We didn’t want to end up at a point where we might be doing something just for the sake of it.

What are some of your most treasured memories from Orbital?

This is always a difficult question, there are so many! I think one of them has to be Glastonbury in 1994 when we came on after Bjork. We weren’t even scheduled to play, someone dropped out at the last minute, so we got in through the back door. At the time Glastonbury’s attitude to dance music wasn’t great, I think there were only two dance acts booked to play, Bjork and The Shamen, funnily enough. I think the organisers weren’t that keen on booking two blokes surrounded by equipment just twiddling knobs. When we played, it was one of those magical moments where it just clicked with the audience, we got such a good reaction from the crowd, it was electric. That has definitely got to be one of the best mo ments for me.

Do you and Paul plan to work together on any other musical projects in the future, or are you sick of the sight of each other?!

Never say never, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. We’re not sick of the site of each other, we’ve had a break from each other now!

The Long Range album ‘Madness and Me’ is out now.

Published: 17/12/2007

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