M People: William Orbit
The English chap from Shoreditch who “didn’t reinvent Madonna at all”
THE MAN once knows as William Wainwright lives in a nice house in the woods north of Los Angeles, where bears will come to your window if you leave food around (this is not a good idea). A multi-tasker by nature, today he’s thinking about Madonna music, dealing with rising US interest in his classics-on-synths album ‘Pieces In A Modern Style,’ and mulling over the consequences of the recent Time Warner-AOL merger.
Madonna has already set up The Madonna Channel on AOL. Orbit is a Warners artist too. “There are some very, very interesting business thngs we’re about to do,” he says, “but I can’t tell you about them yet. I’m dead excited, though.” Quick, everybody – buy shares in williamorbit.com.
So, Mr Orbit, did you reinvent Madonna as the dance diva we always wished she was?
“I didn’t reinvent her at all,” he says. “She’s much, much more of a self-directed person than that. It was more that she produced me producing her. She turns me on to far more stuff than I do her. When we went to heaven to see The Aphen twin, that was her idea, not mine.”
The Madonna/Orbit connection predates ‘Ray Of Light’ by years – in 1990 he remixed ‘Justify My Love’ into a sexier-still electroid filth-fest. But it was ‘Ray Of Light’ which finally recording his ‘Strange Cargo’ series of ambient albums and remixing artists as diverse as Kraftwerk, The Shamen and Betty Boo. He attributes this to Madonna’s anything-goes approach to music, similar to his own.
“She is one of those artists who you really do not know which direction she’s going to go in next,” he says. “They’re the kind of people I like to work with. Beth Orton and Blur are the same – you go intro the studio with them and they have an idea, but that idea will change enourmously in the making. I prefer that to simply realising an idea that’s been prepared elsewhere, and I think Madonna does too.
“She brings an open attitude and a lot of broader knowledge. She’s a great conversationalist, very well-read – she can talk on any subject, from history to religion to art to pop culture, and she almost always tells you something you didn’t already know.”
In December, Mixmag noted that “‘Pieces In A Modern Style’ is hardly going to get Orbit’s name back in the charts.”
Sorry about that – it went into the charts at number two and clearly has a future as the Mixmag reader’s calm-down music of choice. Now Orbit has a “big, boshing, banging” pop album on the go. next he wants to work with US wear-rock stars like Korn and Limp Bizkit. “I enjoy the hard-rock aesthetic,” he says. “Arsehole rock! I reckon I can do that.”
And what’s his motto in life? “You’ve got to get into the groove. Without getting into a rut.”
M People: Mirwais
The French guy who provides vocoder psychodisco
Never accuse Madonna of following the flock. Instead of recruiting Daft Punk, Air or Cassius to add a dash of Francais to her album, she’s gone to the man they learnt their French tricks from.
Back in the late 1970s, Afghanistan-born Mirwais Ahmaezai formed a band called Taxi Girl. They tried to mix punk, disco and Kraftwerk-style electronics, but after initial success in France, they blew it all. Drugs were the problem – the drummer died of an overdose aged 20 and the singer was on heroin. “People liked us because we weren’t in it for the money,” says Mirwais. “And we proved that we weren’t in it for the money because we destroyed a brilliant future.”
After ten years in wilderness, making acoustic pop music with his ex-model girlfriend, Mirwais got into dance muisc in 1994. “The dance scene reminds me of punk,” he says. “It’s only less violent. At the end of the 70s, we were so bored of everything, we were suffocating. There was no teenage culture, like there is today. Music was the only way out, the only way to express yourself.”
His first UK release, ‘Disco Science’, sounds like Flat Eric at Studio 54 – a deep, acid-fuelled groove with a poppy vocoder melody over the top. It founds it’s way to Madonna via Stephane Sedanoui, the Parisian photographer who briefly went out with kylie Minogue, and directed Madonna’s Fever video. He also made the incredible sexy-geisha-in-psychedelic-orgy video for ‘Disco Science’.
“Madonna just picked up the phone and called me,” he says. “I was… very happy. She knows when she has to do something for herself. That was important for her, and for me. It wouldn’t have been the same if it was just a guy from record company.”
Mirwais is working on four tracks for her. “It’s surprising to myself working the most famous artist in the world. But in the studio you forger. She’s a simple, normal, sociable person, with a really good sense of humour.”