We caught up with the BBC’s Biggest Weekend headliner, Orbital

Award winning Electronic Dance duo Orbital on Belfast, festivals and how to get into EDM

Last weekend the Titanic slipways were transformed into the stage for the BBC's Biggest Weekend. With rare summer weather and a fantastic lineup, the two day festival was definitely something Belfast should be hoping to see more of in the future.

The Tab Belfast were invited to cover the festival and were lucky enough to go along and meet headliners Orbital, an EDM duo, made up of brothers Phil and Paul Hartnol, who lead the way in the rave scene during the 90s.

We asked Orbital about the iconic track 'Belfast', their festival experiences and the best way to start out in the Electronic Dance Music industry…

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Tell us about your track 'Belfast': what inspired it? Why is it called Belfast?

Paul: That came from coming over here to do one of our earliest gigs in 1990. David Holmes got us over and we stayed in his mum’s house, you know, just played at the art college. When we left he said “have you got any demos or anything like that I can have” and I weirdly had a tape and said “yeah go on”, couple of tracks on it. He rang us up a couple of weeks later and said “oh God we all love that second track on that tape”, and it was a really nice, soft track and we had such a lovely time, such a friendly, such a warm experience coming over, and one of our best gigs at that point.

Phil: Yeah yeah it was really good. You’ve got to bear in mind that we’re 50s and our experience and what was on the telly and all the horrible news and everything, you know, what the British Army were doing and all that sort of thing, you know. Coming over here was, a great thing, to actually see it yourself and it was, like Paul said, such a contrast.
It would be so easy to do like an angry track and call it Belfast but it’s so beautiful and with our experience with the people here it was just like “ah that’s got to be it”.

Do you think that’s why it’s so positive that something like this is happening here in Belfast?

Phil: It’s great, it’s great. In fact, when we found out we were doing this it was like “oh yeah, this is gonna be good”.

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Who are you planning on checking out during the festival?

Paul: We’re going to see Beck.

Phil: Underworld tomorrow.

Are you staying for the weekend then?

Phil: I am, yeah.

Paul: He is, yeah, I’m not, I’m going back tomorrow morning. But I’d love to see Public Service Broadcasting, the Breeders and Beck, that’s who I’d chose.

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Which festivals are you most excited for this summer?

Phil: Well we’ve got lots of really good ones.

Paul: We’ve got so many, yeah all of them, honestly.

Phil: There’s one in Holland and I’m really looking forward too, we’ve never done this one. What’s it called?

Paul: Dekmantel.

Phil: Yeah so really looking forward to that one, well looking forward to all of them really, but we haven’t done that one before so that’ll be interesting. Lots of them, haven’t we?

Paul: Yeah, no I couldn’t pick one, they’re all really exciting.

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What has been your worst festival experience?

Paul: Oh worst ever festival experience? I’ve got this kind a of like mad kaleidoscope of stuff going on…it’s all pretty good actually!

Phil: Yeah, I can’t really think of anything, apart from like getting a tractor to tow me out of Glastonbury once, my campervan, but it’s just part of what happens at a festival. I don’t think I’ve been unlucky enough to have really bad experiences to be honest. I can’t really think of anything really.

Paul: Well, I nearly died in a car accident on the way to Glastonbury.

Phil: That wasn’t at the festival.

Paul: That was on the way.

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What advice would you give people trying to make it in the Electronic Dance Music scene?

Paul: Well I think a good place to start would be Ableton Live on a laptop because you’ve got an entire studio in your laptop and you can kind of from there work out what it is that you want. If you find your gravitating towards sort of sampling and audio you can head that way and if you’re finding you’re gravitating towards the synthesis side of things, you might start thinking “ok, I want to buy a real synthesiser”.

Phil: It gives you the basics, you know.

Paul: Yeah, it’s a good start.

So it’s about developing your own style?

Phil: It’s a programme for writing music and you can do it in block, logical ways. We call it ‘step write’ rather than playing.

Paul: And you can do other things, you can do it anyway you like.

Phil: You can go back and edit it, you get a real understanding. They’ve got synthesisers on there so you can sort of get an idea of how a synthesiser sounds. You can also download it, you don’t have to buy it.

Paul: You can download a trial version, yeah.

Phil: Yeah, I would point someone in that direction.

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Not only are Paul and Phil two of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, but they also put on an amazing performance: their energy on stage is infectious. Even in the face of a slight technical difficulty, the show went on.

Of course, 'Belfast' was one of the highlights of the set and being able to experience it live in the city it was named after made the night all the more incredible.

To Phil and Paul – gentlemen, it was a pleasure and we're keeping our fingers crossed for your swift return to Belfast!