All pictures courtesy of the "Passive Soul" website
When Orlando emerged in the mid-90s it seemed as if our prayers had finally been answered. The band came at a time where lad culture was literally being smashed in our faces and dumbing down was the order of that day. Apart from a few notables such as Pulp and Echobelly the scene was baron mess of art school fakers and working class scallies - so when Orlando arrived stating they were a cross between "Take That and The Manic Street Preachers" and were like "Stock Aitken And Waterman with intelligent lyrics" you can imagine the shock to the senses. It was result that saw journalists forning over them and sadly also it seemed Orlando were too much for the general public and hence only reached out to small passionate group of disciples.
Designer Magazine caught up with former Orlando frontman Timothy Mark Chipping to discuss the "Passive Soul" album (an album which ranks with the Manics "Generation Terrorists" and The Smiths "The Queen Is Dead" as one of the all time classic albums), the lost "Sick Folk" album which was influenced by Bob Dylan and them onto Chipping's current project with legendary pop producer Ray Hedges which claims to mix S-Express with George Michael and Betty Boo.
Q: Obviously it's a while since Orlando released the "Passive Soul" album, so I think for the sake of our younger readers it's best to start right at the beginning when the band formed. Could you tell us about the early days where two lost souls, Dickon Edwards and Timothy Mark Chipping, came together to change the world?
A: We didn't really ever think we were changing the world, I think like all the best bands it comes out of being very bored with everything that was going around and when you finally run out of bands to listen to , you form your own. We really just formed it as something we could talk about and think about for hours on end rather than actually doing anything about it.
For the first 2 years after Dickon left Bristol and moved to London, we just spent the first two years sitting in my room practising interviews. We would get the questions from Smash Hits and just answer them - we would have arguments about how the questions should be answered. It was all just theory about what a perfect pop group should be, so before we'd written any songs we had everything else down.
We had nowhere to go out, we always used to end up going to G.A.Y. That's the only club we would go to because it would play Take That and stuff like that. And then we heard about this place called Club Skinny, which sounded like our sort of thing, and we'd already started hanging around in Camden because the whole Menswear Britpop thing was really kicking off and it was a good time to be dressed up. Everyone would take your photo and I got asked to be in a Pulp video at that point. It was one of those things where everyone was famous for 15 minutes!!!
We just happened to walk into Club Skinny and they had this movement starting where they wanted to change the world and they thought me might make good figureheads for that. They just plumped us on the stage and we always said we would never say no to anything. People said that we shouldn't have got involved in this movement because it was called Romo and that gave it connotations it was a New Romantic revival. People have often said that we never really fitted in, but we just did what ever we were asked to do. We didn't feel we were any position to say no to anything at the time.
Q: As someone looking in from the outside and being based in Manchester as well it always appeared that yourselves and Sexus were the outsiders of the Romo scene. Did it feel like that at the time?
A: We were coming at it from a very different angle and I think Sexus were too. They were really exciting times, but the truth of it was that most of those bands just weren't very good. The initial idea was really exciting and some of them were great for 5 Seconds. Like Dexdexter were great - when we first saw them we couldn't believe we were going to have to play on the same stage because they were so fantastic - but they seemed to lose there spark very quickly. Plastic Fantastic were great until you really heard the songs...and they were dreadful people. And Hollywood looked great as well.
But we had a much wider influence than any of those bands. And we were only really lumped in with that because they were looking to the 80s for inspiration because that was the uncool decade. It's seems bizarre now that it's the coolest decade because there's that ten year gap. We were only 80s in the way that we were so completely influenced by Motown and Soul and so many of those bands were like Culture Club, ABC and even Soft Cell. That's how we really fitted into some kind of 80s ethic, but the rest of them were into the electronic and posing side to it, which I love now with all the electroclash thing. At the time me and Dickon were just going to Northern Soul clubs and we were going to pop clubs and mixing the two together made us sound a bit like Culture Club. I wish we could have been a little more electronic and robotic for their sakes, but we really just wanted to be a soul band!!!
Q: As you were saying before you spent 2 years in your bedroom theorizing over what would make the perfect pop band. I think the 2 main statements everyone remembers from you is that you wanted to be "Take That crossed with the Manic's" and "Stock, Aitken and Waterman with intelligent lyrics". Was it really that thought out in advance?
A: Completely, because that was the contradiction we were finding in our own lives. Since Dickon and I split up the band we've both gone in opposite directions. Dickon now only listens to very indie and small things and actually hardly listens to music now, he just listens to spoken word things. Whereas I completely listen to nothing but mainstream pop music and I have absolutely no interest in any of the things the NME are writing about.
At that time we had this mixture where we loved the intelligence of the Smiths and we love the intelligence of the Manic's and yet we were so excited by Take That. They we just so beautiful and so funny and witty. We loved Stock Aitken and Waterman and Ian Levine Hi-Energy records. It was What if you could combine those two things?
The problem now is that there is no intelligence in music. Bands are being formed by quite stupid and dull people and that's never going to go very far. Dumb groups can make great records, but they can't sustain interest for very long because there's just not enough going on. So you have a band like Hear'say or S Club and they've got no idea how to be in a band because they've never thought about it. And they've never spent any time listening to music properly so they're not bringing anything. And the same with a lot of these rock guitar bands like Sum 41 and Blink 182 - What kind of education are they bringing to music? They really don't know enough about music to go and make it. That's why everybody's fed up with bands at the moment , because there's no thought involved there. They can just do what they do and that's about it.
I think all the best bands are people who just listen to everything in the world and just have too big an appetite for music and want to make records which combine every single thing. If you think about what Phil Spector did - he's just throwing everything he's ever heard into that - and the same with the Beach Boys. And that's what Orlando tried to do with Passive Soul!!!
Q: When I read back through old Orlando interviews it's very apparent that even though you both shared the Orlando vision, you and Dickon are two very different people. What was it like in the band together?
A: I've been seeing Dickon a lot recently and we've been having long conversations about it and we realize we have absolutely nothing in common anymore. Everything he says his diaries and in Fosca I just don't agree with and it's quite funny - we fought enough when we were in the band. If we were in the band now it would be dreadful because we'd never get anything done...cos I just don't share his world view at all.
All we have is a common love of intelligence, which sounds ridiculous, but sometimes it's hard to get anywhere in the media. The things where we used to gain inspiration, it seems like a rare thing now. Nobody intelligent is making films or television or writing books even. All that me and Dickon ever shared was that same frustration and that same longing for a bit of intelligence in the world!!!
Q: The album "Passive Soul" was released with even the NME admitting that it was one of those classic pop albums, yet it still never sold as much as the press coverage would have suggested and shortly after Dickon announced he was leaving the band. What was the main reason for his departure?
A: His NHS Psychotherapist told him to for his own mental health. I think the fact that we weren't the biggest band in the world hit him harder than anybody else. I think he really thought it was going to happen...and none of us did.
I remember on a Sunday we (Us, Simon Price and a few people from the Romo Scene) were travelling to a party and he said "I hope it gets into the Top 40". We all looked at him and we were like "it's not going to, do you not understand". And he really didn't understand and I think he was so naive to it all that he really thought if you signed a quarter of a million pound record deal you have a hit single. It hit him so much that he didn't quite recover and he really locked himself away and didn't come into the studio when we were recording...and when he did he wasn't very nice to have around. In the end we ended up saying Dickon go home and he rarely played a note on the album!!!
When it came to doing the Schools Tour, that was when it got really bad, in that it was such a bizarre and ridiculous experience that the whole band bonded. And Dickon didn't at all because Dickon doesn't bond with anyone, full stop. That just made him feel that typical thing of why do I feel an outsider in my own band and there's nothing you can do about that situation because the more he feels like an outsider, the more we bond. On the way back from that, he just said that he'd been seeing this Psychotherapist and she kind of said the band is making you worse and worse and we had to let him go really.
In the end he it was quite clear that he had to go, for his own sake. And to be honest it was right because he's happier now with lower expectations and without people to make him feel lonely.
Q: You then decided to continue with Orlando yourself. Was it big shoes for you to fill replacing Dickon on the lyrical duties?
A: Yes, it was because i'm not prolific at all. I don't write naturally, I have to force myself to write and it's a very slow process. I kind of thrive when everything's thrown on top of me, so I just had to learn to write lyrics. I don't think I'll ever be as good as him, but I think I'm a better editor than I am a writer. Someone said that we don't really write - there's just lots of words floating around the air and you just snatch them and put them in an order. And that does sound a bit pretentious, but that's how I feel.
Q: So how was it recording the 2nd lost Orlando album "Sick Folk" and why did you finally decided to leave Orlando behind you?
A: Two lost albums in a career...only Neil Young has more than that. At the time it was just to try and prove everyone wrong because obviously the whole ROMO thing had gone and Passive Soul had been and gone and everyone was just like "well, it was nice while it lasted". I had this desperate urge to prove everyone wrong and make an album that no-one expected.
The idea being that since "Passive Soul" was everything I could think of to put on a track, that the album "Sick Folk" would be as few instruments as possible to make the song work. I discovered Bob Dylan and through that I got a real understanding of folk music in a true sense - in that it really was about getting the song across by the quickest means available.
I think sometimes you have to do the opposite of what's in your heart and I'd always said I'd do Orlando just to prove everyone wrong. So sometimes its liberating to do the complete opposite of what you had promised yourself. It's kind of like throwing out things you had kept for sentimental value and seeing what happens.
Q: As you said earlier you've always had a love of pure pop music. What do you think of the whole Pop Idol and Popstars craze? Do you find yourself cringing when you watch it?
A: I love those programs, but I think it's a bad way to put bands together. Not because of the bands themselves, but because the people behind these shows don't tend to grasp what makes a good pop group. Everybody looked to the Spice Girls and said we'll keep doing that, but what they completely forget about the Spice Girls is they wanted to do it themselves and they understood everything. They were all in love with Madonna and Neneh Cherry and Banarama and so they were completely in control of it and they had their own ideas.
You can't form bands with people who haven't got ideas because it's dead. And they want to do that because they think it's dangerous if people have ideas - but it isn't, it's what makes it exciting. It's what made Banarama great and it's what made the Spice Girls great. They're picking these people who are perfectly trained and are great singers and are great dancers and are pretty people, but that is not what makes great pop music. The Spice Girls when they came out were not conventionally attractive - when you first saw them they were all odd shapes, all odd sizes and quite old looking and they weren't choreographed and they didn't all wear the same clothes - and that's what made them fantastic!!! Yet, all these people like Simon Fuller who should have learnt from being with them are trying to create things that do all look the same and are all pretty and do all sound the same.
And this obsession with bands that can't sing, but I don't know who wrote that rule book. Because singing is whatever noise comes out and if that is out of key it's out of key. Dylan is my favourite singer of all time, John Lydon's a great singer and none of these people sound like Hear'say. They're really not remembering that and it will eat itself!!!
Q: I'm presuming you're on the Gareth Gates side as opposed to Will Young camp?
A: I think Gareth Gates is fantastic because I do think that Gareth Gates knows what he's doing. I just hope that the record company let him at some point because obviously this first album is going to be lame...and they don't understand what a great singer is because they keep covering his voice with terrible backing vocals. But he really does know what he's doing and he really does love pop music and understands it.
Will Young will be gone in six months or a year. He's a nice guy, but he doesn't know what's hit him. He entered a competition because people said he had a great voice - well, that's not enough!!! I always said that what I wanted to get into pop music was for everything. You have to love every single part of it or it destroys you and Hear'say are part of that...they just didn't know what they were doing. They got into it because people told them they should and that's not reason to do anything. And Will will be the same and he will end up bitter and miserable when his second album fails to do well and they all start looking around.
Whereas Gareth wants everything - he wants to be a one man Westlife, which is funny because Westlife don't want to be Westlife. I do think he could be around in 40 years time. I think he could be the next Cliff, which is what we need - we need people we can will and trust to be around!!!
Q: Pop music has always been seen as quite a low art form and of very little depth. What keeps you interested in pop music after all these years?
A: I think girl bands are always more interesting than boy bands because there's always a different ambition there. The boys are there to get laid and to make money. And that's a pathetic reason to start a band really because you can just drive a flash car and go round the right nightclub's and you'll get laid...and go into IT if you wanna make money!!!
It's always very boring, look at a band like Blue. You can see the look in their eyes - they're just thinking where's the next girl coming from. Girls Groups are always more interesting because they have got a completely different agenda and usually they start thinking of themselves in relation to other women in the world and usually it makes for an interesting band. They realize that they're actually making a political decision just by being a girl band.
The feeling around now is that they're some nice songs and production out there, like the S Club Juniors record. But there's no real bands to care about and I think that most people who really love music get into the whole package. I thought about Adam Ant everyday of my life while I was a kid and I didn't think about the songs. I thought about him, I thought about what he was doing that day and how he decided to that particular make up and clothing and the videos. You knew everything was coming from him, whereas you know nothing is coming from S Club Juniors. No one is listening to them, they're being ignored and why? Kids have fantastic ideas so they should be saying what happens in their video's and what clothes they wear. So really it just comes down to whether you like the song or not and that's not really enough to sustain interest.
Q: Taking right up to the present day now. You're currently working on an unnamed project with legendary pop producer Ray Hedges and Nige Butler formerly of The Audience (Sophie Ellis Bextors old band for our younger readers). What's happening with that at the moment?
A: In my head it's a S-Xpress kind of thing - so it's quite clubby, but it's got to be song based because I don't like dance track persae. And there's a George Michael "Fast Love" era to it and the female rap side of things will always bring in my love of Betty Boo. It's just incredibly pop and there's nothing alternative about it whatsoever - all the songs are about dancing!!!
We've got half an album demoed...and I've said this so many times it's becoming like a stuck record...but we need a female rapper. At the moment we haven't found anybody because we've been through everyone we wanted. We originally wanted Jazzy P who did the rap on Kylie's "Shocked" and then I wanted QT and Wildflower who St Etienne have worked with. Ever since then we've been auditioning and we've had surprisingly few responses - so any female rappers who read Designer Magazine get in touch!!!
For more information and rare and exclusive Orlando tracks check out
Ear Medicine - Tim Chippings Personal Webpage
Passive Soul - A Dedication To Orlando
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