Every show is special, The Orb’s Alex Paterson says after answering his phone from a bar in Liverpool. In just a few hours, The Orb is set to perform a show at Invisible Wind Factory.
“It’s never the same thing twice, so, therefore, in essence, you’re never going to get the same gig,” Paterson continues.
The ambient house pioneer and electronic group’s founding member says the tour has new visuals, and it is collaborator Michael Rendall who takes the stage with him at live engagements.
Those performances will continue Friday, November 9, when The Orb is supported by Sean Watson and Michael Hooker at The Pressroom in Phoenix. Paterson says he’s looking forward to the Valley, where The Orb launched its first U.S. tour in 1991.
Posters bill the 30th anniversary tour as a greatest hits set plus songs from this year’s No Sounds Are Out of Bound. Paterson says setlists vary.
“We’ll be playing tracks off the new album, but not the whole new album,” he says in his heavy English accent, changing focus to older tracks. “We’ll be playing what we consider favorite tunes. Sometimes we’ll drop “Plateau;” sometimes we’ll drop, oh, (“Star 6 & 7 8 9”); sometimes we’ll drop “Blue Room.” It depends on the evening; depends how we feel. Or, we might play all them. But, depends how long we got.”
He estimates it to be a 50/50 balance between new and classic material.
“We’re picking out real classic favorites – ‘Perpetual Dawn;’ ‘(Little) Fluffy Clouds;’ ‘Blue Room,’” he adds. “And I think, more than likely, Americans will know from the first two albums. ‘Towers of Dub,’ for example.”
But when it comes to keeping it fresh while touring the world, spontaneity is the key. Being less calculated is perhaps what works best for Paterson.
“There’s no method in madness,” he says. “But my method is to try and create a different style of the same tune … That’s the trick I have to play for myself to keep myself interested in the song. Otherwise I’d just play the CD and that would be really boring for me.”
Since its inception in 1988, Paterson has remained The Orb’s sole consistent member. He has worked with a rotating cast of members over the past three decades, namely Thomas Fehlmann.
The Orb’s new album, No Sounds Out of Bounds, however, is a bit different from recent projects, looking outside just Paterson and Fehlmann to involve a larger lineup of collaborators ranging from Killing Joke bassist Youth to Rendall, Roger Eno, Roney FM, Hollie Cook, Guy Pratt and many others.
“It became less Thomas and more of the people that I really wanted to work with,” Paterson explains of the change in process. “Thomas didn’t want to work with anybody else, so I got kind of bored and stuck in a rut, really. I come from London, Thomas comes from Berlin, and I felt that The Orb was becoming too Berlin-based, too German-based.”
He cites their Cologne-based former record label, Kompakt, as well as Fehlmann’s Berlin studio.
“I just wanted a change. I wanted it to be kind of British again,” he adds. “I asked Thomas to stay on board and he didn’t want to, because he didn’t want to work with various people.”
Paterson clarifies that Fehlmann still did a handful of tracks. “It’s not like he’s disappeared completely.”
Among No Sounds Are Out of Bound’s personnel is former Public Image Ltd. bassist Jah Wobble, who The Orb previously worked with on U.F.Orb’s “Blue Room” in 1992. Though that track is a significant moment in the group’s 15-album discography, this new collaboration elicits some friction in the group.
“It gets frustrating when you’re talking to someone who you’ve known for a long time who turns around and tells me he doesn’t like Jah Wobble’s bassline when we’ve been using Jah Wobble on a bassline for ‘Blue Room’ for the last 25 years,” Paterson says. “Got a little bit kind of confused on that one, me.”
Though he repeatedly suggests it should be Fehlmann who speaks on his own input, Paterson adds with finality, “I’m not the one who decided to leave because I was bringing other people in to enrich the sound. And then what was the first album like? The first album was exactly the same thing. I didn’t hear anybody moaning about that. What it was is 25 musicians or something on the first album. But then, you know, that’s how it goes.”
Though No Sounds Are Out of Bound is similar to The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld in terms of bringing in external help, Paterson says it’s not an attempt to recapture any specific sort of feeling or replicate past works.
As to whether performing has changed since The Orb was founded 30 years ago, Paterson says he doesn’t dwell on such things.
“Everything changes,” he clarifies. “Life is about change. The change is in everybody. It depends how much you want to change, and maybe I should change the name of The Orb and change it to something else next year, because it’s all about change.
“Life is all about change and The Orb is about change anyway,” he continues. “I have always changing personnel, I’ve changed people, but I’ve just kept the name. And, it’s kind of a popular name now.”
The Orb w/Sean Watson, Michael Hooker, The Pressroom, 441 W. Madison Street, 602.396.7136, thepressroomaz.com, 9 p.m. Friday, November 9, $20-$25.