AN INTERVIEW WITH DICKON EDWARDS
An interview of Dickon by Pete Thonemann...
Angles of questioning, one to ten: (no frills)
How aware is Orlando that it is making its stand against the world
(on one level) and projecting its creative impulses (on another) within a
medium which is both transitory and, ultimately, artistically worthless? To
put it another way: is Orlando a respectable career for an intelligent
young man? Does it matter to you?
I don't concede for a minute that pop music is low culture anymore. The
Mercury Music Prize is a good example of the growing gentrification of the
medium...a Pop Booker Prize in everything but name. The ultimate triumph of
the CD format and the attendant hunger to re-issue everything that's gone
before over and over again, spurred on by the increasing circulations of
magazines like Q and Mojo, has elevated pop from disposable youth whimsy to
lifestyle essential. Everyone is a teenager nowadays. As for transitory,
tell that to the Beatles. The decorated moptops seem to be as ubiquitous and
as untouchably sacred as ever. This week, Orlando have appeared in both The
Guardian and Coronation Street. Both are equally viable outlets in our eyes.
Orlando are making a stand against the world purely by definition of
our love of intelligence, our inherent uniqueness, and our simple compulsion
not to chase our own tails. No other band does this at the moment. It's the
most important thing we could do with our lives.
Orlando - in interviews, letters and person - seem unusually
politically aware and even opinionated, yet your songs are invariably
personal and apolitical. Is it appropriate for Pop songs to express desire
for social or political change? Are Orlando a force for change? Does it
matter to you?
I think the danger of writing songs with a wholly political theme nowadays
is seeming banal and token. It should appear obvious that we are left-wing
in our beliefs, and to state so in our songs would be preaching to the
converted. I personally find it hard to write about anything but my own
personal, honest outlook on the world. Orlando support political change, but
personal awareness has to be looked into first. Also, I'm a pessimist by
nature. I can't wait for the Apocalypse, so great is my exasparation at
humanity. Reproduction is still Pollution. Orlando are not a force for
political change, but we can change people's personal, emotional lives. For
the better. If nothing else, we tell them they are not alone.
Orlando come across as defiantly pro-Pop and even anti-Rock, yet
Orlando make music (melodic rather than rhythmic, intricate rather than
brutalist) utterly unlike the Popular music of the day. Does this make them
an anachronism? Does it actually make them ANTI-POP? Are there "real" sonic
distinctions between Pop and Rock which make Orlando Pop and Ocean Colour
Scene Rock, or is it all relational? Does it matter to you?
I would vouch for saying that we are wilfully unfashionable rather than
anachronistic. We dare not to sound like Oasis, but we work with the most
up-to-date Pop producer in the country, Ray Hedges, creator of Take That,
Boyzone, Ant and Dec and so on. We are Pure Pop, and definitely against the
Rock ethic in all its forms. Ocean Colour Scene write unashamedly
traditional rock-pop songs, steeped in their favourite old groups so much
that they have nothing else to offer but someone else's music. Orlando are
steeped in themselves first and foremost, like all Pop Groups. We are
Orlando first, songwriters and performers second. Like the Supremes and
Carpenters, our songs will remain timeless simply because it will become
impossible not to associate them with ourselves as characters. OCS don't
have character. That's the main difference between Pop and Rock: Pop Star-ness.
However much I enjoy your live shows, I always feel that I'm being
presented with EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO SEE - entertainment rather than
provocation. Is this necessarily a problem? (Clue: yes!) ARE you trying to
do more than just entertain? If so, in what way are you challenging your
(growing) audience? Do you have a responsibility to do so, or is Pop as
"mere" celebration justifiable? Does it matter to you?
We provoke by existing. Our very appearance and continuing survival as
outsiders is provocation de facto. The Quentin Crisp factor. By putting on a
passionate, energetic concert we are entertainers at face value as well, and
it is with this coin that we buy back the respect lost by our refusal to
conform. We are on a very basic level an extremely good band live. You might
argue that we are also educating the indiekids into liking pop music and
soul music too, especially when we occasionally play carefully-chosen cover
versions such as Reach Out For Me, and branch out into phat swingbeat like
Fatal...there's more to life than Ash. On the subject of Pop as mere
celebration, I would have to disagree: Pop to me is my main comfort in adult
life. It keeps me company in my darker moments. It makes my joyous when I
most need to be so. And when it gets really good, it can be the only reason
for staying alive.
Orlando appear to consider themselves "outsiders", yet both members
have girlfriends, comfortable personal wealth, and a wide circle of friends
within the London music scene. Does being a little shyer than most people
you meet really make you an outsider, or is one part of your persona simply
faked? Does it matter to you?
I have never had a girlfriend or indeed a relationship of any kind. Merely a
smattering of ill-advised flings, trysts and affairs, all of them under the
influence of alcohol and passivity. Comfortable personal wealth? Well, I'm
not In Trouble like I used to be, but neither of us can afford to move out
of our squalid little rooms just yet...Wide circle of friends? I only have a
handful of acquaintances that tolerate my presence. There is nothing faked
about Orlando. We are the most honest band in existence. That's the trouble!
I CLAIM to be an outsider at least...it's up to you to believe me or not.
The whole point is that unlike most of society, I have spectacularly FAILED
to repress my persona in order to Get On, so much so that the only place
left for me is The Profession Of Being...and pop is the most instant outlet
for this particular career.
How important is mainstream acceptance and success? How important is
a) a successful live show, b) a successful TOTP appearance, c) a successful
Live Aid appearance? What excites you more, massed response or individual
response? If the latter, how important IS mainstream acceptance and
success? What, specifically, are you trying to ACHIEVE?
They are all important means of reaching out and touching. And the only
barometer of success is the letters of devotion Orlando receive daily from
young souls all over the world. I listen to no one else. And I am only
trying to achieve Worldwide Acceptance for being Dickon Edwards. That's all.
Had you signed either to an indie or to a major for less money, your
single would have been released six months ago. Any thoughts?
Yes I agree. Still, we have no indie aspirations whatsoever, and Geoff
Travis of the Warners-backed Blanco Y Negro (also of Rough Trade and Trade
2) remains the one label MD I've met who is neither evil nor depraved. That
we have to do things the Warners Way is a price to pay for now...but the
pay-off will be worth it in the end. And our fans are always welcome to
contact Blanco is they are ever annoyed at the label's efforts (Write to
them at 66 Golborne Road, London W10 5PS, fax 0181-9686715, e-mail:
A Pop group invariably has an intense effect on its fans, to the
extent of changing their very attitudes toward their lives, most obviously
in the cases of the Smiths and the Manics, two groups to whom you've been
compared. Knowing this, do you feel comfortable giving out messages of
passivity, dignity in solitude, abstinence, "knowing one's place", and
self-loathing? Are you there to comfort people in misery or to elevate them
from misery? Does it matter to you?
Oh, everything matters to me all right. We serve many purposes: the basic
good pop tune appeal, the soundtrack to loneliness, the catharsis of
longing, the importance of Being There as role models for the
off-kilter...It's all important. It's all deliberate. It's all The Point.
Are you lonely?
Alone, yes. Lonely, no. I don't have the time to be lonely! It would be nice
to one day acquire a dog when I can live somewhere big enough to accomodate
one...cats say "Love me - I am wonderful", people say "I'm not letting on
what I really think", but dogs say "I love you, and will always do so
unconditionally." Dogs are the only true companions.
Are questions like these the right way of going about the interview
process? How much of yourself are you prepared to reveal in interview? What
sort of questions "sell" a group to the reader best? Did the Melody Maker
interviews present you in a light you thought appropriate? Do people care
how musicians view their music? What is your favourite food? What is your
favourite item of clothing? What do you look for in a girl?
Well I always prefer e-mail and the Net to real life...no body language, no
skin complaints, no speech impediments... I have such a lot to say, so to
ever turn down an interview, even if it's for a fanzine that will never see
the light of day, and is only created as an excuse for the "writer" to meet
the band; would be a crime. I will say everything I am required to, although
I must always be careful not to say anything that might reflect on others in
any way, and to hold back on details that I anticipate the writer would
rather not know. For example, I was once asked by a newspaper what was the
strangest place I have ever had sex. To have given them a straight forward
answer would be tedious and out of character, so I instead opted for "sex at
all is strange for me"...they seemed happy enough with this response.