Orlando Higginbottom—whose name is so English it almost defies belief—is the real name of DJ/electronic artist Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. If you're a fan of Cut Copy or Hercules & Love Affair, you'll find plenty to satisfy the urge for intelligently crafted dance music on his debut Trouble. That 2012 album was a winning mixture of disco, house, indie electronica and unforgettable melodies. Just listen to "Tapes & Money," easily one of last year's best dance tracks.
We spoke with TEED about the "mess" of American radio, why he remains unimpressed with music journalism and the reason we may see less of him on the road in the future.
Your real name already sounds so much like an artist name. Why did you go with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs?
TEED came out of a conversation about how I was bored with "cool sh-t." I was bored of trends. I was bored of the artist ego and I wanted to do something that could never be cool. So I thought I'd come up with the most ridiculous name I could possibly come up with. It's always slightly tongue and cheek.
Your father is a music professor. Did you grow up in a musical household that fostered your interest in music?
Yeah, I'd call it [a musical household] but it wasn't a pushy thing. It was just that I had this music around me and I got involved with it. I grew up by choice listening to classical music and then when I was about 10 or 11 I started discovering more and more UK artists, and then I got into electronic music.
How does your father see dance music? Does he like it or is he more classically oriented as a professor?
He wouldn't see it as lesser. I would 100 percent agree with him that way more craftsmanship, talent, learning and skill goes in to writing for an orchestra than programming beats on a computer. There's no question about that. If anyone wants to have an argument about it, I will have an argument about it. But music is not something that has to be judged on those things. It's what comes across to you when you hear it. That's how you should judge it.
“No disrespect, but music journalism is like a dirty, essentially powerless thing.”
How do you write music?
It's different every time. Sometimes I go into the studio and I write a track. More frequently it's about creating an atmosphere or an emotion or a vibe. My goal is sitting around in the hope that I find what I’ve been looking for. Most of the time it doesn't work.
Are you working on a new album?
I'm going to start working on a new album pretty soon. I've been doing a few collaborations. It's nothing pre-arranged. Most of it has come across in an organic way, just based on friendships. But it wouldn't be right for me to say who with right now.
Dance music has traditionally been a lot more popular in Britain than it has been here. Why is EDM hitting America so late?
I don't know, man. It was a cultural thing that happened in Europe. The disco thing in America is what shot [dance music] down, you know? Some Americans saw disco as a gay thing so they didn't like it. Racists didn't like it because they assumed it was a black thing. In the UK it just wasn't like that. Everyone's welcome with dance music in a way that just hasn't been true in America. Obviously there's Detroit, Chicago, New York and other places, but in reality they've been kind of small things. I do wonder about American radio, I think your radio is a mess.
What do you mean by that?
There are just so many stations fighting with each other and they just play crap. There are a few good stations but it's so complicated. BBC's incredible. Musically, I can't see why [electronic music] wouldn't be played on American radio. Because there are these stupid rules that these people have, like "songs need to have vocals" or "it needs to be less than three minutes long." Honestly, I don't really give a sh-t. The way it works now is that you can speak to your fans so easily. You basically have your own radio stations with Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Obviously that's not going to make you a load of new fans but it keeps you with contact with everyone. But for me, I'm not going to chase American radio.
Do you like touring?
Oh, sure, I like playing shows, but what I was doing last year and the year before that was kind of brutal. A lot of the time I wonder if it's really worth it. Bands have to tour a lot at the moment… well, that's what people say but I'm not sure if that's really true. I’m going to do quite a lot of just writing the music and putting it online.
Do you think it’s possible to forego touring as a musician?
Sure, there are musicians that I love that I've never seen live, so it doesn’t bother me.
But is it possible to make a living off of it? Because it seems like touring is where most of the money comes from in a download age.
Only if you're massive. Basically, it costs a lot of money to take a band on the road. Employing like nine people plus hotels, flights. Work it out. It's like $18 a ticket and you have 300 people in a venue.
You've done pretty well with Internet bloggers and reviewers. Have you taken notice of that? Do you enjoy it or does it not matter?
I'm pretty much making my music regardless. No disrespect, but music journalism is like a dirty, essentially powerless thing. I don't know anyone that reads reviews. Most interviews I've done are boring—not to do, but to read. I don't know what the qualification of these writers are anyway, you know? If I sat down with someone and we had a big chat about music and we had loads of common ground and then they reviewed my album, I would be like, "Okay, interesting." But that's on a personal basis. You just have to ignore all that and get on with your thing, because someone is going to hate it, someone is going to love it. And the Internet is so big. I'm not going to go Googling and see what people are saying.
So even seeing a nice review doesn't do much for you?
I’d rather receive a tweet from a fan who's saying, "I really loved your show last night!" That's a buzz. A newspaper writing about it feels different. Someone is being paid to do it. When someone makes the personal contact and sends me the message saying, "I love your record," that's way more important to me then a review. I hope that's ok.
No offense taken.
I’m not actually a moody guy. It's just that my go-to face is one of basically looking unimpressed with life, which I can't help.
Do you ever try to change that?
I make a conscious effort. Sometimes in concert I'm like, "Well, I haven't smiled to the crowd once, I should say 'hi' with my face." I'm not very good at it. I just don't want people to think that I'm not enjoying them.