Show 'n' Tell: Alex Paterson of The Orb

The Orb's Alex Paterson, a man whose career in and style of electronic music has not only survived since the '88 British "Summer of Love" but had a genre — ambient-house — coined for it, has been quite busy of late. The group has just released Cydonia — the latest in the Orb's series of exploratory albums influenced by space and the infinite ways to fill it with sound waves — and finished up European tour dates.

Now, the Orb is readying to return to the Masquerade, a venue Paterson played on his first American tour in 1991 for only "six people and a dog." In his sparing spare time, Paterson, who now has quite a large audience, is compiling a second collection of Orb remixed tracks, completing remixes on the road, dreaming of looping and linking and mashing up Jimmy Page and/or Bob Dylan, contemplating similar club fashions the world over and taking time to talk from across the Atlantic.

CL: So what has been pulsating recently in the ever-growing brain behind the Orb?

Paterson: Just finishing off a remix for a band called Creature on Bad Orb, which is coming out this summer. BadOrb.com is a virtual record label I've got together on a website.

Also preparing for the next round of touring?

Next round, next week, America. I think we'll be in Atlanta next weekend. Not far away. I like Atlanta. I've been to the Masquerade many times now. I had one of the weirdest experiences, though [in Atlanta]. I went [to Little Five Points] to one of those little goofy shops (Junkman's Daughter) with souvenir things like fridge magnets and pajama bottoms and little shit things like that. And the alarm went off as I left the shop. So the security guard (Chad Radford, a Creative Loafing contributor) called me over and was like, 'Do you mind if I check your bag,' and I was like, 'No problem, mate.' 'Oh, you're not from around here, are you?' 'No, I'm up the road at the Masquerade DJing.' 'Oh, what's your name?' 'Alex Paterson.' And he pulled his trousers up and had a Pomme Fritz (an Orb album from 1994) tattoo on his shin. Kind of freaked me out a bit really. Million miles away from home and that.

Says something about lasting work. from the beginning with Oz [The Land of Oz chillout room at Paul Oakenfold's club Heaven, where Paterson DJed in the late '80s] to now, how have things changed, both the sounds and the scene?

It's changed dramatically, splintered into so many different styles of dance music. It was already splintering when we came up with the term ambient-house. Now the digital era is definitely upon us. You don't have to have the gear, just buy a plug-in.

Are you going to skip the gear live? Will we only get backing tracks while you sit and play chess (which the Orb did in the early-'90s on Britain's "Top of the Pops"), or something more exciting?

I think the most surreal thing is pictures of my baby daughter during "Blue Room" coming up among pictures of aliens. Well, it's like a throwback to the beginning, visually. It's a lot of our own ideas and visuals that we've gone out and filmed ourselves. Visual aspects of how we live here which I'm sure Americans will find fascinating while also watching the show of dancing monkeys and skeletons.

Several critics have considered your new album, Cydonia, to be a throwback as well, tracks that sound similar to past Orb albums. Have you been looking back to classic tracks recently? How did you approach the new material?

Not necessarily. I think that may be a little compliment there. First of all, primarily [Cydonia] was Andy Hughes and myself but then Andy left. We had an album done but I thought half this album could be a lot better, so I made it so. More arrangements with vocal tracks and some ambient hip-hop. I think the favorite track over here is "Thursday's Keeper." But I don't know what the Americans are going to do when we play the heavy, heavy extended drum 'n' bass version.

So when we hear tracks, they aren't going to be straight album tracks?

We wanted to be as experimental as possible live. Almost like a sound clash. You will get new versions [of mostly newer material] definitely. We did five gigs last week and rocked the fucking hole, man.

The Orb perform at the Masquerade Sat., April 14. Show time is 9 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 404-249-6400.??