If it happens that you meet a guy on the street wearing a dinosaur costume, claiming his father’s a professor in Oxford and the world’s most beautiful was written around 300 years ago in provincial Germany, you might tend to call him a lunatic not for bad reasons. If the same thing happens at a club, you better watch your mouth because you speak to Orlando Higginbottom alias Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Beginning a bit more than one year and a half ago with the bouncy, energetic debut EP All In One Sixty Dancehalls, the Oxfordshire talent has continuously gained more and more interest and popularity with the video for “Garden” becoming a semi-hit on Youtube.
And he’s not the usual next big thing. Not because of his wide musical knowledge and interest, including sharing a passion for Johann Sebastian Bach with the likes of Francesco Tristano and a love for all kinds and styles of electronic music with his con-genial label home Greco-Roman, which he’s about to leave. Nor his ability to create something like a smart and still fresh electro-house. But because of his condensed main thesis: Pop music is a tragedy. It’s time to discuss the approach, the costuming and the future and it’s an old video game console in the backstage of Magnet Club, Berlin, we find him at.
Orlando: Hej sorry, I haven’t played Sonic 2 on a real SEGA for years.
Good to see you did enjoy it! Have you ever been a computer or video game fanatic?
No, but there was a game for Mac called Civilisation, which was fucking amazing. The idea of conquering the old world was something cool for me when I was six or seven. And because of that game I got already draw a map of the world at that young age, so I think it was educational.
But you turned out to be an electronic music producer and not a second Napoleon. And you made some developments on you three first EPs. I even think, that the third and lost one, the Household Goods EP, was somehow a synthesis or hybrid of the two prior Sixty Dancehalls EPs.
Yes, the third one was part of a whole series so I was going to that point. Really I see the second and the third one as a come-together, they’re in a same sound world for me. But all my music is never planned, I just look what tracks I got I can put out.
Still, you seem to have found your sound. And although their common core is more distinctive now, all the three songs vary a lot as usual.
It’s important to me that dance music is not one single bpm rate. But all the styles are good and all the styles are related. There’s always bass, drums and a melody. And if it’s a good tune, it’s a good tune. More producers should try writing other styles, because I think they do amazing music. Imagine Skream writing a tech-house tune: that would be fucking wicked.
Or the complete opposite.
You never know. What’s the harm in trying? I think, the fans are cooler now and up for producers challenging themselves. Things have changed because of the internet and Annie Mac. I feel, you can get away with more things now. When I first started playing sets with all kind of stuffs in it, I was scared that people could hate it. Was I not allowed to play electro-house any longer, for instance? Was it that uncool all of a sudden? And then I told myself: Fuck it!
How does it feel to have the Annie Mac or Greco-Roman’s Joe Godard (aka Joe Hot Chip) as your supporter?
The scene is very friendly and nurturing. People make an effort looking after you. Annie Mac and other BBC Radio 1 DJs took me under their wing, concious or not, but that feels amazing. But especially in the UK the people were always more interested in underground stuff, so actually if I become more successful it could be harder, ha.
“I try writing happy songs but whenever I play at the synths or the piano etc it turns tragic.”
In the UK underground genres are often rapidly turned into as anaemic as successful decal acts like Modstep.
(Creasing his face, when the name comes on) You can’t do anything about it. If you are 13 years old and start listening to the radio, then you don’t know the history but go straight in where everyone’s at now. That’s normal and why things move forward. Acts like Modstep will always happen and then there’s a backlash against it. But for a lot of people being into dubstep that one act could end it all. As Pendulum did with drum and bass. That was when a lot of people including me, who liked DnB for years and years, turned around. You feel something special is gone and look for something else. For myself, I just don’t want to ever not put a record out because people might not like not. Maybe I’ll have do someday, but I don’t hope so.
Instead you play a lot with different sounds and styles as for instance James Blake or many other newcomers do as well. Do you think this open approach is genuine to your producer generation?
Maybe. I know it’s happening, but I’m not sure why. If you are a kid now wanting to make music, you need no band but just a computer to start with. So thousands of thousands of people are getting really into it. There’s a lot of love inside and people feel that. They see the care others put into writing and recording their music. There’s a huge appreciation for it, especially for James Blake. Not only he is really talented, but obliviously cares for every sound. It’s a good time.
You again used to be a duo before.
I was not. In the beginning it was just me, then Boxman (Edmund Finnis*) joined me live for a year. Now he’s a serious music composer for orchestras and the opera. I again have now dancers on stage and sometimes Louisa (of Lulu and the Lampshades) from “Garden” with me.
*Finnis and Higginbottom, both used to sing in The Choir of New College Oxford directed by Orlando’s father Edward.
That song is a perfect example for what’s special and outstanding about your music – apart from its diversity: A certain vibe of melancholy.
I try writing happy songs but whenever I play at the synths or the piano etc it turns tragic. And I think, there’s something tragic about both, clubbing and pop music, and about being me and you.
What do you mean in particular?
On a very single level, you go out for a night out with dreams on what your night might to be: I’m going to get drunk, kiss a girl, have a great night… bla-bla. Most of the time this never happens and you get home slightly disappointed. Even when you had a great night, you’re sad about that two days later. For me, dance music is full of nostalgia, which is a really powerful emotion, and I hope, that’s what my music feels like. You best listen to it on a Wednesday, so after the weekend. Clubbing goes by like that and I’m back in my studio writing music about experiences I can’t really remember.
“I’m dressed as a dinosaur. I can’t be cool!”
In a way this contradicts with your funny, entertaining live shows.
Yes, that just happened and I don’t know why. I hope, it works.
How many dino costumes do you have? They must be very sweaty by now.
They are okay. The girls’ ones are worse. Mine are washable because they have a tail, so I dry-clean them. It’s two green ones and one of each, black, light blue and African-styled print. And I’ll get more. The black one is my favourite. Nina (Rebina), who also joins me as a dancer, makes the costumes, so whenever I have a hundred pounds I call her.
And they make you quite fashionably looking. Has ever someone from the fashion industry try to get you involved there in any way? Apparently you are always in Berlin around fashion week.
Yes, I have worked with designers on a head dress for myself, but I’ve never done fashion shoots or any related stuff. I’m not saying that I’m fashionable or that this is cool. I’m dressed as a dinosaur! I can’t be cool dressing like that and I’m not trying to. I actually try the opposite by telling my audience to be themselves, relax and have fun, not thinking about anything, because the guy on stage is dressed as a dinosaur, making a fool out of himself.
The whole thing reminds me of Max and his wolf costume in Where the Wild Things Are. Do you see your playful costuming as an escape of anything?
Escapism? Probably. Music is often escapism and this might be part of it. Sometimes I think I write music that is a get-away. But I don’t know, all I do, is that I enjoy it and see myself able to do it for a few more years. I can earn my living and people like it, so it works. There’s no great philosophy in the basket.
No agenda, no sub-context?
Of course not.
Why ‘of course not’? Why do nowadays’ thoughtfully and conceptionally working artists like you deny any kind of personal or aesthetic agenda?
Maybe we need some more poets, but I’m… Okay, if I have an agenda, it’s to entertain, but there’s no deep meaning or clichés in the lyrics. I just hope, people are humming my tunes somewhere. If I wanted to write serious music, I would write contemporary classical music. The world’s most beautiful music is Bach and why should I try competing with that? If I would try being deep and amazing, I would just play piano and other people’s music.
“Greco was a perfect home to me, but there’s another label.”
Does this all arise from your father Edward, who is a professor of choral music at the Oxford University?
From my mum and my dad. I learnt how to use a CD-player very young and listened to a lot of records. I loved playing the piano, sang in a choir as a kid. All of that was very important to me. Classical music is serious and incredible stuff but I’m doing something light. The melancholy, the tragedy of my music… it’s heavy but it just happens, it’s nothing I think about.
Do you exchange thoughts with him about your music?
Yes, he wants me to change it more, to develop ideas more. To him a loop going around for a whole track – which makes good dance music – does not make sense to him. He loves minimalism, Reich and Cage, but, I think, techno is beyond him to understand. But to be fair, when you dedicated your life to classical music and you’re sixty-something, techno is going to feel quite alien. But I can feel the same kind of energy in both and how do you explain that?
I guess, it’s the same approach but different techniques. Speaking about composing: What’s the state of your debut album?
The album is being written now and I have to finish it in three weeks, so it will come out in summer. Maybe there will be some features. I’m currently recording some people and will see how it goes. You have to try things. I was very happy with that EP format and putting three, four tracks together to take you into different directions. Now you have an album, the whole cut. Many people will listen to it. How are you going to present it? It takes me around for a few years now so it has to be right, giving the right message across.
And I won’t be releasing any more music with Greco for now, because there’s another label, a major. But it was a perfect home to me. They enabled me to do this weird project and I’m sure that we’ll still do parties and other things together.
Later Greco-A&R Alex Waldron will tell us, that Orlando’s plans were just too big for the small labels budget, so we’re looking forward to the things to come. Also his collaboration with Riton is still on with two tracks already been recorded. Next thing coming up is Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs supporting Darwin Deez in the UK and Germany, starting today in Manchester – find all dates here. In addition, read an interview with Nina Rebina on her design work at Amelia’s Magazine.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs Household Goods EP was released by Greco-Roman.
The 2 Bears : The Lunatics (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs Remix) (Stream)
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs : Household Goods (Justin Martin vocal remix) (Stream)