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22 August 2022

“I’ve Never Had Death Threats”: William Orbit Talks Blur, Madonna

William Orbit Blur Madonna Producer 2022
Photo: Rankin
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Composer and producer William Orbit has admitted to being “worried” when he first started working with Damon Albarn during recording sessions for what would become Blur’s acclaimed sixth album, 13, but that even Pharrell Williams would reveal himself to be a fan of the record.

Released in 1999, 13 took the one-time Britpop pioneers down an art-rock route that no one could have predicted. But, with soul-baring songs such as the gospel-infused Tender, the album was received as one of the group’s boldest efforts.

“I hope people don’t hate me for it”

“Along with The Dandy Warhols and Metallica, Blur were a band I loved, loved, loved,” Orbit tells Dig! ahead of the release of his own hugely anticipated new album, The Painter, which will be released on 26 August. “They’d done this marvellous body of work with [producer] Stephen Street, and I just thought, Oh, God, we’ve made this jam record. I hope people don’t hate me for it.”

Yet 13 was not the first time Orbit had given an era-defining artist a complete sonic overhaul. Released the previous year, the Ray Of Light album saw Madonna embrace electronica and trip-hop music for a record which topped the charts around the world, asserting the “Queen Of Pop”’s continued relevance on the dancefloor.

“Madonna has such a profound instinct”

“I wouldn’t care to hazard a guess as to how much Madonna has thought about prevailing trends – I have my own opinion that she doesn’t,” Orbit says of the singer’s decision to work with him. “Madonna likes to know what’s going on, but she always has such a profound instinct that she can trust.

“With Damon, it’s the same,” Orbit continues. “Both albums were done in a real bubble, with absolutely no thought whatsoever to prevailing trends. It’s a joyful experience for any record producer to be in that kind of bubble.”

“We were catalysts for each other’s change”

Now preparing for the release of The Painter, his first album of new material in eight years, Orbit reveals that Blur and Madonna influenced him as much as he did them. “We were catalysts for each other’s change – though I’d say it was reciprocal,” he says. “You can’t not work with an artist and not have all sorts of influences rub off.

“I’m pleased that the Blur album comes up, because it’s very special,” Orbit adds. “I never knew how it was going to go down in the wider world. But I’ve never had any death threats from fans. When I met Pharrell Williams, he was like, ‘Oh, Blur – 13!’ I’ll take that.”

Buy limited-edition signed prints and ‘The Painter’ vinyl at the Dig! store.

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