Behind the doctor’s Screen: an Alex Paterson interview

Joe Taylor speaks with Alex Paterson about his latest project Screen, returning to Glade and how he once lost a dog at a festival.

“Don’t believe what you read in the mainstream press – that everyone’s really poor and that no-one’s going to go to the festivals this year.” The Orb’s Alex Paterson is offering up some words of wisdom in advance of his headline set at Glade 2012 with his new project Screen.

In the 1980’s festivals were almost solely the domain of rock and guitar music; fingers-in-ears folkies and hair-metal posers ruled supreme. Then a little neon-clad genre known as acid house came along, transforming the face of festivals and getting the punters on their feet and dancing again. Almost overnight a generation became switched on to a new sound and Thatcher’s Britain got a brand new bag.

Fast-forward to the present day; Tories rampaging through the headlines, pop chart’s saturated by severe haircuts, synth-heavy sounds and a new brand of electronic music sweeping the nation. You may feel like you have been thrown back 25 years. Well, Dr Alex Paterson knows a thing or two about the music industry and has seen it all before.

Starting his career as a roadie for Killing Joke in the 1970s he progressed to become a veteran of the rave and king of the comedown with The Orb and has been dishing out the perfect prescription ever since.

SCREEN – we are screen! (Malicious Damage Records 2012) album teaser by SCREEN

“I know that from 23 years of The Orb, you can be flavour of the month one year, you can put an album out with David Gilmour, and then you’re just back on the stuff again. That’s the longitude of someone doing music for a long time.”

Famed for various collaborations throughout his illustrious career, Paterson has teamed up with Glade favourite Gaudi and percussionist-turned-vocalist Chester to produce ‘We Are Screen’, the group’s forthcoming album. “It started off really when Gaudi and I met each other in June 2010,” he says. “I was doing a festival in San Francisco to 15,000 people, bit of a bottom-squealer really. He was on before me, we had the same dressing room and we got talking. We had a lot in common, a love of dub music and reggae.”

Bologne-born Gaudi closed the InSpiral stage at Glade last year with a stonker of a set that cemented his festival reputation with his psy-infused dub beats and heavy bass, but what about Chester? “We have a real character fronting the band, that’s Chester. He really should be doing the interviews, but I think everyone wants to talk to myself at the moment unfortunately, but times will change. You want to talk to me now because you kind of know who I am.”

He may not have fronted a band before, but Chester is no stranger to the music industry. Like Paterson, Chester was heavily involved with the acid house scene since the late 1980s and known to The Orb as a percussionist in Brilliant, the band formed in the aftermath of Killing Joke’s split.

“Andrew discovered that Chester was actually a really good vocalist, with some very good rhymes, he’s kind of like a white Tricky and on the ball with a lot of the shit that’s going down. A lot of topical subjects, which we’re all in agreement with.”

Paterson certainly has no fears for Chester in Screen’s live act, which they have yet to perform in front of an actual audience.

“He’s a Libran monkey, if you know anything about Chinese Astrology he really does fit that part very well, jumping about all the time, he’ll be perfect. [The live show is] going to be difficult to describe until we’ve done it. We have a gig coming up in March and we’re looking for some more before we get to the Glade but I’m going to Australia in a couple of weeks and I’m taking a load of Screen stuff with me to see if I can get festivals for next summer.”

The Orb
Despite his lack of experience as a vocalist, Chester will definitely not be daunted by festivals like Glade, being an organiser of European psy-trance events, from which Glade draws much of its influence. And it’s not here that Screen’s party-pedigree ends: The Orb’s music was famously described as “Ambient house for the E-generation” and together with various incarnations of the band, Dr Alex Paterson has played in some of the biggest clubs worldwide and is something of a veteran of the festival circuit.

“We did a Roman Ampitheatre in Nimes, quite a famous one. 15,000 people in there. It was The Orb, Underworld, and a couple of American DJs. [The festival] had a gladiatorial thing going on, we had people climbing up the outside of the coliseum to get in!”

And what of the album? “There’s a couple of epic ones and a couple of ambient hip-hop tracks on there. We’ve got a groove, not far removed from a Massive Attack style in that sense, because of the reggae influences that both me and Gaudi possess.  We’re not a techno band, far from it. It’s there for Chester to really show the world what he can do, use the band as the platform.”

Finally, we couldn’t let all these years of experience slip by without a few festival tips to guide readers through the Glade. “Make sure you have one sensible bloke around you, because if you’re all off your tits, then something silly is going to happen. I lost a dog in Wales once because there was a ditch there and nobody knew about it! Watch out for those at festivals you never know.”

Glade Festival 2012 will return to Houghton Hall, Norfolk from 14-17 June with shows from Screen, Sven Vath, Vitalic, Andy C and many more.

Glade Festival tickets
are on sale now, with weekend tickets priced at £135 plus booking fee.

Click here for Glade Festival tickets.