“When I started making music for this project, I didn’t know how to make house and techno music," Orlando Higginbottom (AKA Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) admits. "I would put my hand up and say, ‘I still don’t know how to make house and techno music.’ When I’m sitting down in the studio, I’m just trying to find a vibe."
Despite the rocky start to his latest EP, the classically trained, London-born, Los Angeles-based producer has been enthralling dance floors with memorable live and DJ sets for over a decade.
Known for his fun, dance-crazed tunes and his unfettered range, Higginbottom can set the mood with a harpsichord and then take listeners down a house-centric hole while throwing some acid in for good measure.
And while morale is lacking these days, the time off has given Higginbottom a new perspective, and exciting new projects to boot. Recently, he collaborated with fellow British expat Bonobo (AKA Simon Green) to produce Heartbreak. Released November 13 on Bonobo’s new label, Outlier, the two-track EP highlights the pair's dexterity with unimpeachable rhythm.
"It was quite a nice one because it was probably one of the easiest collaborations I've ever done because we never really planned on doing it," Higginbottom tells New Times. "We became friends, moved to LA around the same time, and got to the point where we were playing each other's demos in the studio — sort of being like, 'Hmm, what do you think of this new idea?'"
The EP's self-titled opening track is a euphoric battle cry meant to show that everything is possible again. Released as a single back in September and already clocking in at over a million streams on Spotify, “Heartbreak” kicks off with a spastic drum pattern joined by joyful synths creeping in and out. The vocal, a sample from Class Action’s “Weekend,” scales through the filters: “Holding the heartbreak/Can’t take the heartbreak.”
“[Green’s] got a pair of ears that are different from mine that I really trust, and that’s a really nice thing to find," Higginbottom adds. "I can say, most definitely, we made two pieces of music we would have otherwise not made on our own.”
On the B-side, “6000 Ft.,” Green and Higginbottom continue to showcase their musical chemistry with a groovy, melodic sunset-in-Ibiza vibe. The song flirts among acidic synths and lo-fi melodies joined by plenty of bass, a sullen piano, and a steady kick drum.
Aside from his recent collaboration, Higginbottom has had quite the summer. He partnered with SG Lewis, Robyn, and Channel Tres to produce the funky single "Impact" and, unexpectedly, produced a standalone ambient album, I Can Hear Birds. The record plays the airy elements of ambient music only to be disturbed by iPhone recordings of birdsongs sent to Higginbottom by his friends all over the world.
Later this month, Higginbottom will play his first show in San Fransisco since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I’ve been biding my time, waiting for this thing to settle down a bit. It still feels a bit jumpy out there,” he says.
As far as what's in store for 2021, Higginbottom hopes to give his fledgling label, Nice Age, proper attention.
"It’s a record label that I would love to expand and build much faster than I am, but this year, obviously, is tricky," he explains. "People just aren’t playing parties, and DJs aren’t buying records.”
Higginbottom is also looking forward to wreaking havoc as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs on stage once more.
How does he know when he's playing a good show?
"Because I feel really happy when I'm on stage," Higginbottom replies. "I'm having a really good time, and I feel like warm and fuzzy. When I'm feeling shy and sort of hiding, that's when I know I'm not having a good show."
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