Phil Hartnoll of Orbital: My Festival life

Featuring The Clash, Doctor Who and blagging...

Chris Eustace - 06 June 2012

The first festival I ever went to was WOMAD in Shepton Mallet. I was 15, maybe younger. I went there purely to see Echo & The Bunnymen. I don’t remember much else, but they were brilliant.
The best festival show I’ve seen was definitely The Clash in a big field around the same time. I can’t remember where. I absolutely adored them. It was great to see them in the flesh, people were going crazy. It was perfect for someone my age, I got to feel all rebellious!
When I go to festivals, I go more for the atmosphere. I don’t really go there for the bands. If I see a band I like, great, but I end up just wandering about.
I’ve got a feeling my favourite festival is going to be one of the ones I go to this year that I haven’t been to before – I’m going to Secret Garden Party, which I’m looking forward to a lot, I’ve heard good things. Then there’s Beat Herder, which came up from the free party scene, and Bloc will be a bit naughty, back to the warehouse days! We’re doing Bestival too, so I can’t wait to see what that’s all about. Glastonbury is always fun, but when it takes a year off, there’s all these other ones to discover.
 
The strangest thing that’s happened to me at a festival is how we got to play the Other Stage at Glastonbury in 1994. We ended up filling in after Leftfield had to drop out for personal reasons, we literally got in there through the back door. We asked Bjork if she minded if we played after her. She said no, and from there it went really fast, like suddenly I found myself on the stage! It was all bit of a blag. It was a very quick, last minute thing.
I couldn’t say if it was the best festival show we’ve ever played, but it was a critical one for us. I heard Michael Eavis say that that it was one of the moments that made them take dance music a bit more seriously. Glastonbury was still stuck in its rock roots a bit, but Michael was noticing how popular dance was, that the crowd were ready for it. It made them sit up and look at it, and now you have a whole field of it. Obviously, it’s not solely due to us, but it certainly made them think. 
Getting Doctor Who up on stage [at Glastonbury 2010] was another top blag! We just met Matt Smith at a party and the idea came up, and then we saw it through.
 
I think our music suits the night time and the open air. So maybe we’re more for a festival crowd than a rave crowd. Raves can be intense, but outside you have more space. It’s all about the connection – that’s all I’m looking for. Well, that and the moon, and then I’m happy!
 
I do forget where am I am onstage at festivals. I get totally caught in the moment. At Scandinavian festivals like Roskilde, people bring these big flags, you do get some of the Viking spirit. Looking at into the crowd, it’s like World of Warcraft!
I’m lucky that I haven’t really had any bad festival experiences. The worst thing was getting stuck and having to get pulled out by a tractor, and breaking down in a camper van on the way home with the kids and having to call the AA. Actually, cars breaking down has happened a few times, come to think of it! But I’ve had great times for the most part.
 
Festivals are the only place that I can get away with…pretending my children are part of my workforce! Anything to get a few more people in. I might now get away with it now though!
 
My advice to a festival first-timer would be to make sure you think about the weather, and bring baby wipes.
 
My dream festival line-up would be: Madonna, The Clash, Bob Marley, Neil Young, The Knife, Plump DJs, Steel Pulse and X-Ray Spex. That’s the Saturday night line-up!

Orbital are already confirmed to play a host of UK and European festivals this summer - click here for the list!


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