Q&A: T.E.E.D. On Surprising Himself With His Singing, Bandwagon-Jumpers, Remixing Katy Perry And Lady Gaga
Primitive plodding creatures and an environmental catastrophe that wiped them from the face of the earth: not topics that usually loom over enjoyment of spit-shined synth hooks and gleeful twists on dance-pop. However, that's exactly the case with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, the willfully weird professional name of Oxford-born producer Orlando Higginbottom. More manageably abbreviated as T.E.E.D., the 29-year-old Higginbottom's reputation for electronic eccentricity has grown in the last year following releases on Crosstown Rebels and Joe Goddard's Greco-Roman labels, a remix of Lady Gaga's "Marry The Night," and the appearance of his single "Garden" in a commercial for Nokia.
Despite the crowd-pleasing nature of T.E.E.D's appealing tunes, which draw from all manners of thickly-produced dance music with a smattering of ornate flourishes, the name Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs was actually chosen to drive away uninterested, interloping listeners. A name so absurd, Higginbottom has figured, is a poke in the eye for the music industry, a name that could never be sold as hip. Within the world of dance music, though, a series of high-profile remixes have garnered T.E.E.D. even more attention, with contributions from the likes of Soul Clap, Jamie Jones, and John Talabot teasing out an undercurrent of romantic resignation and paranoia to thrilling effect. Both Jones' remix of "Trouble" and Talabot's treatment of "Tapes-N-Money," (dubbed a "Ritual Reconstruction") latch onto repetitions of the word "lies," Talabot's vocal loops in particular smearing into a gorgeous, claustrophobic soundscape of sighs.
Ahead of the opening night of his U.S. tour, T.E.E.D. spoke to Sound of the City about the remix he's most proud of, hating the sound of his own voice, and why he'll never touch hundreds of his unfinished tracks again.
It's the first night of your tour. Do you ever get opening-night jitters?
Sometimes. When I did my first UK headlining tour, I was nervous for the first night. You take a new show on the road and you just want to make sure it works. But I'm always on the road at the moment, so I know I can do what I'm going to do and get away with it.
Have you noticed your crowds changing at all as the run-up to the new album started?
The last two big trips I did a UK tour and a German tour. Those both sold out, everything sold out, which was great. In America, I've still got a long way to go, so I'm just really happy when people turn up at all. More people are coming, which is nice.
You're still living in Oxford, right? Do you think you'll ever move?
Sure I will. Right now it's where I want to be. When I'm touring this much it's nice to go somewhere that really feels like home, to get my feet back on the ground. And I really love Oxford. Maybe when I've got a big break from touring I might move somewhere else for a bit, but right now it's working for me.
I read an interview from February where you said you were living with your parents. Moved out yet?
Yeah, I moved out last week! But I've only spent two nights in my new house.
Can you talk about "Trouble," and how the construction of the album was different from the EPs you've released previously?
The first thing for me was looking at the difference in length, obviously, between an EP and LP, and thinking about how I was going to keep things interesting for so long. Also, I was thinking a lot about why dance albums are so often the lowest point in producers careers. It's more the singles and EPs in dance music that are successful. I was aware of the problems of electronic music albums and I wanted to do something with as much variety in my sound as I could get. I don't know if I fulfilled that, but that was the idea. Also, that it would listenable at home and also good to dance to.
In the process of making the album, did you find yourself naturally leaning more towards a side of making things for the dance floor versus home listening, and did you have to consciously balance it out?
It's strange, I think it just kind of happened the way it has. With the instrumental and production side, it's definitely dance floor, and then when I start singing and writing lyrics for the songs they suddenly become... more songs, basically, more actual, individual songs, which balances those two things out. It's been an accident that it's a bit of both. More and more, certainly with the music I'm going to be writing, I don't even want to think about those two things, I don't want to think about dance floor or home listening. Because I think it will just happen naturally, a track will work in some circumstances and not for the other. I don't want to write music for specific things too much.
You draw a distinction between the vocals and production side of your music. What are your different influences from dance music for the production side, versus vocal influences?
With the kind of dance music thing, my tastes are pretty broad. I really love people like Kerri Chandler and Green Velvet, classic house and techno people like them. But I grew up listening to more bass-y music in the UK, I grew up listening to jungle and dub and things like that. And then I've always loved classic pop and people like Stevie Wonder when I was a teenager, and Erykah Badu when I was growing up. But I never really thought I'd do any singing. That was never something at all. I am genuinely surprised to be putting out a record that has me singing on most of the tracks.
Why is that?
Just because I don't really consider myself a singer. It was just something that happened in the studio, and I found the results interesting.