Ever since I saw the music video for 'Tapes & Money' I have been fascinated with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. When I found out T.E.E.D (or Orlando Higginbottom, as he is otherwise known) was playing at Ofxam in Dalston as part of the Oxjam international festival, I leapt at the chance to pick the brain of the prodigal producer and find out about his unique musical vision and work with the charity...
Coming from Oxford I imagine Oxfam means a lot to you?
Yeah I guess, partly because I’m from Oxford and it doesn’t get more Oxford then Oxfam, and I also did this project last year with Damon Albarn, Richard Russell the head of XL recordings, Kwes and Dan The Automator. We went to the Congo for a record called Kinchasa 1-2. It was a weird bunch of producers- we were there to work with local musicians. We didn’t know what we were going to do when we got there. On the first night we arrived we laid down the rules: We have to do whatever were going to do in six days, we can only use sounds we collect here, no synths, no samples brought from home. So that was the kind of basis for it and we managed to make an album. I mean It’s crazy, it sounds fucked up but it’s incredibly honest. If you spend as much time as I did with my own album- over a year and a half of writing something- you polish it and change it and it's so thought about, and then when you only have six days you cant really hide anything.
How was the DRC as a country?
Fucked. They have been having civil wars for generations over there and no ones got any money and all the big western and Chinese companies go there to mine for diamonds, it’s like a no mans land with lots of violence, lots of guns. It was a challenge to make something out of that chaos, but the musicians there make something amazing out of it themselves; everyone plays homemade instruments, one guy would tap on the drums he made from two barrels and make them sound incredible.
What other projects have you been working on post-Trouble?
I have basically been touring. I’m absolutely desperate to get back in the studio, it’s really bringing me down because I really need to write music again, but you have to tour. I’m going to Indonesia tomorrow night, Jakarta, Japan, Sydney And then back here- the day after I get back here I start on my biggest UK tour to date which is quite scary, cool but scary. So the next time I will be able to write my own stuff will be in January, but I’m doing some collaborations to keep things moving in the meantime.
You are classically trained. Do you plan to venture out into other areas of music?
I know how to write for an orchestra, so I’d like to do some of my songs with an orchestra and something like that, but not in a way that’s contemporary classical music, more pop music but with an orchestra.
Lots of musicians distance themselves from their music. They are not in the artwork, music videos, album covers and stuff but you are very much entwined with your music, would you say there is a reason you went down that route?
I think once you have written something and you are going to call it art, you are part of it, however pretentious that sounds. It’s not pretentious at all in fact, it’s very simple and I mean initially the reason why I was willing to put my face on all the stuff was when I was a teenager I was seeing all these cool DJ’s and producers and they were just acting so cool, not really saying anything or showing their face? So unapproachable, I love your tunes but I don’t feel like I could come and say hi to you,….so are you a dick? I didn’t get it so I wanted to do the opposite and be like it’s me, here I am, I’m dressing up as a dinosaur-eat it, basically.
The video to 'Your Love' is pretty cool. How did that idea come about?
This isn’t really the way I want to do it but there’s a standard model; we get a load of treatments that come in, we send out the track to a load of production companies and the directors we would like to work with and we choose the best idea. I usually give a rough idea and direction and angle but the problem is if you do that people take it so literally and you get treatments like “oh we love this and we think we can do the best treatment for it, wer'e big fans of Orlando blah blah”, I’m like are you? Or do you just want a bit of money and a job? The guy who did the 'Your Love' one sent us an email of all this amazing footage in Japan he took and he sent me a demo reel of the Japan footage edited to the song. It was one of the first videos I showed my girlfriend and she didn’t cringe.
I recently saw that -graphic designer and illustrator-Kate Moross designed one of your flyers; do you have any plans to work with her more in the future? You both seem quite aesthetically matched.
Yeah, we have just decided to strike up a partnership, we have had preliminary chats about stuff, I feel like I want to take the identity to the next stage and I also want to work with someone who is up for throwing new ideas out all the time. Like with my Tumblr, I love using my Tumblr, but I would love someone to redesign it so I can say to people hey come check out my Tumblr it looks different. , I mean I have never met her we just talk on the phone but she seems super fucking nice.
In terms of your costumes, do you have a hand in designing those?
Yes very much so, I work with a few people, one is one of my dancers she’s like the first person I worked with, she does all of the dancers costumes and some of mine. I have been working with lots of people for headdresses, like at the moment I’m obsessed with fringing, like cowboy tassels..
Your costumes are pretty elaborate do you think that subconsciously makes you dress down in real life?
Probably, I like to strike a balance!
Is there anything you have ever refused to wear?
Sure, people have sent me stuff that’s just wrong and if I’m doing a photoshoot for a magazine and they want to style it, I’m cautious. I made some mistakes early on trusting stylists and I knew I wasn’t happy. Now I’m a bit of a diva with that shit now, but you have to be right otherwise you wear someone else’s clothes.
Your current position must be quite a feast for your ego. I’d imagine that would affect me quite a bit, does it affect you?
I have enough crushing moments. And I try hardest to hang out with my friends who don’t know anything about this world, but you know I’m not a high flying popstar, I’m not on T4 and its gone steadily enough for me to feel grounded, but yeah it's weird and its incredibly hard work sometimes but its good fun.
Is there anything you could have done in life apart from music?
I don’t think so, I have become quite dependant on music, it’s like one of the only things that makes me feel I have any worth or anything to give to people.
There was no other path you would have taken?
Acting. I always liked acting.
I get the feeling that you’re having fun with this while at the same time putting your art out there;is there a point where you’re going to use your music as a platform to explicitly express your personal opinions?
I would really like to, I want to do that all the time but it’s so dangerous. And I feel like I have to put myself in a very solid position before I do that, I have lots of opinions on the music industry and journalism, the way people make and push music, the way people buy music and the way fans work. There so much I want to say but people in the industry get so fucking scared, bitchy and fickle. But one day I will dish the dirt.
I look forward to that day. Your production is good as it is, what made you add vocals to it?
It was an accident and then it kind of worked. Before T.E.E.D, I was in the studio working on hip-hop and drum and bass. I started recoding some vocals and chopped them up so you couldn’t tell it was me, then I was like let me try sing a line or too, most of the stuff people preferred was the stuff with my vocals on it, I still feel a bit funny about my voice, but I love writing songs.
Pretty romantic songs too?
Yeah, I guess I’m a romantic at heart.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve just started to get obsessed with Prince again.
Yeah I go through Prince phases as well, he was a maverick wasn’t he?
Yeah it’s strange. Sometimes I think that we are all just trying to achieve what he already has. I’m also listening to Wish Mountain which is Matthew Herbert’s weird new project where he has made an album out of things he bought at Tescos. I mean I’m constantly searching old dance music and I have an ongoing obsession with jungle and hardcore. I’m desperate to hear the new Flying Lotus album and I listen to a lot of Basque. It’s a hard question to answer without looking at my iTunes!
You can get info on everything Oxjam here
If you liked this, check these out
Click here for more articles about Music in Sabotage Times
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook