Sounds Like Trouble! A Totally Enormous Interview With Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
A full-body dino-suit, a voice like an angel, and some of the most genuinely inspired dance music we’ve heard in a long time: Trouble, the eagerly awaited debut LP from the UK’s Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (TEED) is only a week from its worldwide release. This means two things. 1) You’re about to hit the motherload in summer jams, and 2) If my predictions are any good, dance music is about to have a new Deadmau5. In anticipation of the album, we sat down with the fresh-faced Orlando Higginbottom aka TEED to talk dream shows, dubstep, and dance-floor dino-no’s.
Creators Project:You’re releasing an album in one month despite the fact that you’ve had tracks out since 2009. In a world where Logic Pro basically has a “Send to Youtube” hotkey, why so long for a full release?
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: A lot of reasons, one being that I wanted to get it right—something that I felt was complete. I started writing it a year and a half ago. I was just touring so much that whole time that getting quality studio time was quite difficult. It was really important to me to make sure that, you know, for the very reason that there’s the internet and a “Send to Youtube” button, I wanted to make sure it came out in every country at the same time. To put a record out and say to the people who want to buy it, “Actually, you can’t have this yet,” even though everyone else can just seems so stupid. And I really had to fight for that. It wasn’t something that the labels were planning on doing. I think it’s the only way it should be done, you know? The way it comes out, it’ll be one big energy burst.
Absolutely. So in a video interview, you openly voiced your distaste for genres because you feel they’re limiting, in that you don’t always end up getting what you expect in a show. But at the same time, the TEED sound definitely falls somewhere within the deep house/house/techno sphere. When you sit down to write a track, what do you go for?
Well, that changes every time I sit down, but sometimes I think about just writing a club track, and I’m just thinking about making people dance. I might’ve heard an old Chicago house record, for example, and be buzzing off of that, so I’ll take some influences from it. Other times, it’s like I’ve written a song and I just want to get these lyrics and chords and everything out. I guess I don’t mind what it ends up sounding like in terms of genre, but it’s about feeling at the beginning that you don’t have to worry about it. I mean, there are a lot of producers that want to stick to a sound, and maybe I’ve got a sound, but I wouldn’t say that I ever feel limited by it.
It’s a sound definitely your own, but I’d never, for example, expect you to crank out a hardcore dubstep banger. Would something like that ever be a possibility?
I wouldn’t say no if it sounded good to me. If I found a way of writing a dubstep track that sounded good, I’d put it out. But I’m not a huge dubstep fan…
OK. You started using Cubase at 13 with a strong dislike for the “four on the floor” house beat. Things have obviously changed. What were you doing before the TEED project, and when, where, and why did this one come about?
The first electronic music that really caught my ear and made me want to write was jungle, and that was because I liked the drum programming. With jungle, there’s only like four or five breakbeats that were ever used and resampled, but the art is making them work, and I loved the fact that I was listening to tracks where no two bars were the same. 4/4 beats sounded really dumb to me when I was a kid— I thought “That’s not music!” But I guess I became so involved in jungle and drum and bass that I was like, “I’ve got to get out, I feel like this is crap. I’m not getting anything out of it.”
There’s so much music that I love that’s got nothing to do with this at all, and I feel like there’s this big division between it all. So I wanted to write something I didn’t know anything about, just for fun, and that’s when this started. I wrote a couple of tracks and I wanted to put them up on MySpace, so I went, “This is called Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs,” with no goal or plan to take over the world or even release it for that matter. It was for the laugh, or the freedom.
So did the dinosaur suit come soon after?
As soon as I came up with the name, I was like, “And I’m gonna dress up as a dinosaur.”
Orlando Higginbottom, relaxing au naturale.
I love that suit. And it’s handmade?
All of them have been handmade, yeah. I’ve actually used a different suit for every tour. This one is an African print with like a feather collar.
Sick. So in addition to performing live, from the costumes to the dancers to the visuals, you incorporate a pretty heavy multimedia aspect into your performance. Can you talk about the nature of the intersection between those different disciplines in your work?
Yeah! Well, one of the things that struck me recently, is when I started doing the costumes—I wasn’t at all interested in fashion, but since I’ve been making outfits with people, suddenly I’m really interested in fashion and clothing design. It’s interesting stuff, because that’s someone being creative with threads. On the technology side, I’ve put together this lighting rig that I can use in the UK and in Europe where I can drive it, and that’s using pretty old technology.
I’ve got lights that program with different parts of the tracks, so I have a MIDI track for each main part of the tune, and I trigger them at the same time using the pads. It’s pretty basic stuff, but the effect of having a synced lighting setup is great. I think you have to be really careful because you can do something that’s really impressive with lighting, but it takes away from the personality of the person on stage. But if you’ve got the budget, the equipment out there for a lighting show is unbelievable. You can blow people’s minds. And I’m really up for doing that. The dancers are just about encouraging people and putting a bit more of a show into it. Not too much thought behind it. I just want the show to feel balanced, and filled with little bits of surprise.
But if budget was no object, what would it look like?
Oh man. So much. SO much. I’d love to put people in pitch black, for like half a set. And then just go mad with lights. I’ve always wanted to do something like a balloon drop, but balloons that are HUGE, that when you hit them up in the air, take like a minute to come back down. I’ve got a lot of ideas, but the truth is that it’s really about making the most of what you’ve got and the venues that you’re playing in, and I’m still not very good at that, so there’s work to do then.
No Totally Enormous Extinct dance party is complete without confetti. Lots of it.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. On Twitter you mentioned that you’re making a video in Miami. What’s the deal with that?
It’s TBA, but to release with my album, there’s going to be a double-A-side single. Not like a big tune like “Tapes or Money” or “Garden,” but two dance records, so we’re doing two videos. Not like big budget things, but I got loads of treatments for them but the one I liked most happened to be in MIami. It so happens that I was in Miami at the time anyways… But I’m not gonna tell you too much about it— would ruin the surprise!
Do you have any remixes planned for the album? And if so, from who?
I can’t tell you that either! But yeah, there will be a couple of remixes for this double A-side, and hopefully we will put something together with the rest of the album. Maybe do a remix album, maybe a remix EP, maybe something that’s just on Beatport for DJ’s… A lot of the album is made up of “songs” rather than club tracks, so it’s not all DJ-able. Yet. I never wanted to write a record that was like, “This is a record of my dance music in 2011,” because I think that’s a shame to do music like that.
So what are your feelings leading up to the release? Are you excited? A little terrified?
Yeah! [laughs] Both! I’m excited, but it’s been a long time coming. It’s also quite strange to think that people are only just hearing some of these tracks that I’ve been working on for so long. And of course, I want people to like it! But it’s nice to just be able to go, “Here it is! That’s my album. That’s it. This is my music now, I’m going off to make a new one.”
Well, we’ll be bumping this one up until then. Best of luck to you!
Trouble, the first studio LP from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is out June 11th on Polydor Records. Dig in!