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Another Fine Day on Salvaging The Orb and Coldcut

Author: Skruff
Sunday, May 27, 2001
Long-term Orb collaborator Tom Green spent his formative years in the early 80s studying philosophy alongside Coldcut's Matt Black before going on to work with Alex Patterson on the first 3 Orb albums. Always keener on jazz than house ('I was never a great raver; I never took any ecstasy') he's recently completed his second solo album Salvage, a collage of his own samples and African thumb pianos clips, ripped up and re-arranged to impressive effect. Mezz caught up with him this week in his Brixton studio.

Mezz: Was Salvage a deliberate concept album-
Tom Green: "The music came first then I sat down thinking about it and realized the record was a kind of salvage job. Which surprised me because I suddenly realised that I'd taken a load of old tunes and turned them into new ones. My main method is improvisation and with this album I wasn't thinking about the dance floor at all, there were absolutely no drums on the album and at one point it was going to stay like that. I was thinking I'm fed up with dance music. Then I decided to have some because I found myself cured of "4 on the floor-itis." (aversion to 4/4 beats)

Mezz: What cured you of your "4 on the floor-itis."
Tom Green: "Years ago when I started working with The Orb it was all very fresh and interesting but by the time I started working on this album, it wasn't anymore, it was more being used to sell things on the TV. Also, as I was getting older I wasn't thinking about going clubbing again. There's a certain pressure these days to make music that's going to work on the dance floor so if you deliberately make music that doesn't, then people think you're shooting yourself in the foot. But there is other music out there, which I think deserves attention. Nobody seems to know whether a record is good anymore unless a DJ says it is. Is it necessary to go to a club and hear the same music that's almost the same record for five hours in a row- I was getting bored basically."

Mezz : You studied at college alongside Coldcut/ Ninja Tunes boss Matt Black, where exactly-
Tom Green: "We were at Oxford about 20 years ago, we were both at New College. He had a tiny electro harmonics mini synth thing and used to play in a band called the Jazz Insects, a new wavey, punkey/ song band. I had a tiny WASP synthesizer and I was playing in a slightly more vicious punk band called Dumb Dumb Dumb. It's only recently that we've started collaborating together, I tend to pop around once a month for a live jam with him."

Mezz: When did you first cross paths with Alex Patterson (from the Orb)-
Tom Green: "In 1988, I'd been sending tapes to EG records because I'd always liked ambient music then we also had a friend in common. I remember going to see Alex and seeing the cover for the first single that hadn't been released yet and I laughed so much that he said 'Do you want to come on board-' I thought the whole thing was a wonderful piss take which indeed it was. He really didn't care at all about loads of things that others thought were important. There's a track called Start 6,7,8,9, which is pretty much my tune in its entirety and I did little bits of programming for the first two albums. But I might record a synth line for one track then go back and hear it on a different one, slowed down and going backwards. When I still work with him now, it's the same approach. I don't go around when they're mixing, I prefer when a tune is 'half -sketched' so I can chuck a load of bits in."

Mezz: Were you a big raver during the late 80s acid house days-
Tom Green: "I was in my late 20s so I was relatively old when it kicked off, and acid house reminded me of speeded up hippy music really. I never liked the early Detroit stuff either, I was never a great raver. I never took any ecstasy, I hung out with people who did, but to me it was all about being a teenager and taking psychedelics for the first time. I'd already done that and wasn't interested