Whenever you ask Glastonbury veterans for some of their favourite memories, one name comes up time and again, particularly among gnarled-looking ravers: Orbital.
Their 1994 set is seen by many as the moment when Glastonbury fully grasped dance music. Rave culture was in the bones of the hippies who attended the festival (or snuck in at least), and Underworld’s Experimental Sound Field in 1992 brought repetitive beats into the overall musical mix – but this Orbital set was a mainstream moment, hosted for 40,000 people at the NME Stage.
With their bobbing head torches and already sizeable bank of anthems – such as the chunky breakbeats of Are We Here? and the brightly melodic rave of Chime – they converted a small religion’s worth of people to dance music, and the next year Glastonbury had a devoted dance stage.
This was just one milestone in one of the most storied careers in British dance music. The Hartnoll brothers started out in the late 80s in their dad’s home office under the stairs of the family home, and quickly notched up chart hits as the acid house scene went overground. They were engaging with the climate crisis earlier than most musicians, recording The Girl With the Sun in Her Head with solar power provided by Greenpeace; scored three back to back Top Five albums in the mid-90s; and took high-profile commissions for movie themes, such as their rework of The Saint and a spin on an Angelo Badalamenti theme for The Beach.
They split up in 2004 and reformed in 2008, performing at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in tandem with Stephen Hawking donning a pair of their trademark head torch-specs. Then, in 2014, they split again in a very final-sounding announcement, having fallen out with one another. “We ended up not speaking to each other for almost five years,” Phil Hartnoll said later. But come 2017, any hatchets were buried and the pair returned once more, and are now following up comeback album Monsters Exist with new LP 30 Something – which features another guest appearance from Hawking.
They may not be playing Glastonbury this year, but they’ll have plenty of memories to share and expert advice for any festival first-timers – plus an entire career of ups and downs to discuss. Post your questions for them in the comments below by midday Tuesday, and they’ll answer as many as possible.