Interview: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

If your new single just earned Record of the Week on the most talked about radio show in the whole country, I would expect you’d be pretty ecstatic, right? Well, if you’re Orlando Higginbottom, aka Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, you take it in your stride. “Obviously its great, but its not like I’m suddenly going to wake up and drink a bottle of champagne.”

Aside from not caring too much about his popularity, Orlando has other reasons to be feeling a bit nonchalant about this achievement as things have been looking up for the Electronica/Dance producer. Trouble, his début album was released earlier this year on Polydor to very enthusiastic reviews, whilst his colourful live shows and unique dress code on stage have earned him a reputation for being one of the more eye-catching artists around. Elsewhere he has remixed songs for some very high-profile pop stars, toured the world and recorded with Damon Albarn and friends for a special African Express project. Not too shabby, I suppose.

He does, however, have some choice words about the dethroning of Chris Moyles: “It’s a fantastic thing that Nick Grimshaw has taken over that show because he’s not just playing my music but a whole load of other music that Chris Moyles would never have played. I think that’s a victory really”. It certainly is. Not only is Grimshaw playing some pretty good music (most of the time) but he has also performed a near-miracle in making Fearne Cotton seem fairly unobjectionable during the obligatory 10 minute crossover at the end of the show (before we promptly turn over to Lauren Laverne, of course).

Being born to an Oxford Don (a music professor no less) has obviously had its influence on Orlando and not just in light of his profession. He’s very forthcoming, honest and follows a rational logic, almost to the point of bluntness – not unlike a few lecturers I encountered at university. An icebreaker question about feeling any excitement for performing on home soil again is not indulged with any forced sincerity. “Yer, of course, but in some senses it doesn’t matter where you are in terms of the crowd, y’know? It’s not necessarily based on nationality or geography. Sometimes you have a great crowd or sometimes less of a great crowd”.

If you’re not familiar with TEED already, his sound can be safely found in the Electronica/Dance section, but there is one, perhaps subtle, but important difference in his music. Orlando is one of very few dance producers who will sing on most of his records. It gives his music a much more human experience and helps join up the dots between songs, making it a more identifiable, connected project. This appears to have sprung about by accident. “When I started the project I wasn’t singing at all, it didn’t cross my mind to do any singing. I didn’t see myself as a singer or hear myself as a singer. It kind of started by accident and by the time I was writing the album, half way through I was like, ‘I want to sing on everything and write songs‘. It felt like that was the music I was writing, they were songs, obviously it’s dance music in a sense, but I like having a story, having content and adding emotion in music, that makes it feels more real to me.” It certainly seems to work: one friend of mine recently confessed to have fallen in love twice to his music. Will there be more singing in the future? “I have no idea, I will definitely be singing but I don’t know to what extent”.

Despite his successes, Orlando has previously expressed a more critical opinion of his first album. He insists that he wouldn’t go back and change anything he’s written. “You have to except what you’ve done and honestly I’m very pleased with what I’ve done so far”. However there is a desire to change how he approaches his music, physically and mentally. “Lots of practical things in the studio I could do differently but also the way I prepare myself mentally with music and thinking about why I’m writing music…trying to make it as honest, real and original as possible without thwarting it.” It’s an admirable and discerning goal, as well as a personal quality, one which negates the trappings of fame or a shallow quest for success. He gives a sense of caring a considerable amount for what he does and not taking it for granted. When I ask whether he would consider working with Albarn and the African Express project again, his earnest side comes to the fore: “I hope I will. Anything to learn more about music and expand my horizon, as it were, of my ear to music; that’s the goal right? You can’t just sit down once you’re in your 20s and say ‘Oh right, I’ve worked it all out, I know music, I know how to make a fat beat’. You’ve got to keep on going and those kinds of things really do challenge that stuff”. Outside of African Express, he is working with a few other artists, but collaborations aren’t his focus.  “What excites me more is sounds rather than people. I’d love to work with more some musicians who play different instruments to me. The truth with music is that it is not really a collaborative thing, it’s a compositional point. How many composers (historically) wrote music with another composer? Everybody does it on their own. You don’t see two painters together on the same canvas; it’s kind of a weird idea.”

Some of TEED’s first EPs were released on a record label run by Hot Chip. Would he consider setting up his own label? As it turns out, he has been setting one up on the sly. “That would really interest me…I do have a kind-of-label set up ready to go, it’s just when we can in fact find time and get going, but there is no rush.” Does he have anyone in mind that he would like to sign? “Yer sure but I’m not gonna go around naming names of people I really like and want to sign”. Once again, he doesn’t beat around the bush. But despite not giving anything away, its still exciting news and it seems what with this, writing a new record and more touring planned into the new year, Orlando will be a very busy man in 2013.

Words: Woodrow Whyte