Jurassic-themed dance artist Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, aka Orlando Higginbottom, tells TIM HUGHES about his rise to success, and how it all started right here in Oxford.
MONSTER beats, killer breaks and great stomping basslines... it can mean only one thing: a dinosaur is in the house!
A giant of Oxford’s new crop of musical pioneers, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is fast becoming a global draw, playing clubs around the planet alongside some of dance music’s biggest names.
It is clear, indeed, there is nothing prehistoric or lumbering about this enigmatic young DJ and producer.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – or TEED for short – is the pseudonym of Orlando Higginbottom, left, a one-man-band of chunky electro, who flits between sampler, laptop and keys, to conjure up a spangly set of intelligent genre-bending dance music. Oh, and he does it dressed as a stegosaurus.
“I play live dance music and dress as a dinosaur,” he says.
“I don’t do it for any other reason than a desire to do something I enjoy and am challenged by. I’m certainly not trying to do anything super-cool or trendy.”
Orlando is speaking on the street outside his South London studio, where he is taking a break during final preparations for his first headline tour, which tomorrow arrives in Oxford.
“There are 13 dates,” he says, squaring up to the challenge. “And I’ll be destroyed by the end of it! I’m working on the lighting rig at the moment. It’s quite complicated – though, as you’ll see at the show, it really doesn’t look it.”
The gig, at The Bulllingdon, in Cowley Road, follows a break-neck year for TEED. And he can’t wait to get back to play the city he still calls home.
“The last time I played Oxford, was really good,” says the Cherwell School old boy. “It was the first time I’d played since everything had started to happen, so people knew the songs. Previously I’d just been playing to friends.
“I love being there. It’s where I grew up and have my friends. There’s a good mix of university and non-university, and a definite feel that it has a purpose. It’s not a lazy town. People are busy doing things and making things happen.
“I’ve been around the world but there are only a few places that make me think I could live there, and Oxford is one.”
The son of Edward Higginbottom, Professor of Music and choir conductor at New College, Oxford, Orlando grew up immersed in sound, learning piano, singing with the college choir and listening to his father’s music – something which, he admits, continues to influence him.
“It was great,” he recalls. “There was always loads of music at home, and I still definitely bounce off what I learned as a kid.
“I still play the piano when I have the time and listen to a lot of classical music. In fact, I don’t believe in leaving too much of a gap between classical music and the rest. I’m certainly inspired by it, and the techniques I learned when I was studying still come in handy.”
Tomorrow’s show comes ahead of the launch of his debut album this summer, and follows the release of clutch of EPs, airplay on Radio 1, a tranche of storming festival appearances, and packed-out gigs, everywhere from London (where he played a gig beside the Thames streamed online to hundreds of thousands of people from half-way up the Millbank Tower) to Los Angeles (where he shared a stage with the mighty Soulwax). So why dance music?
“I’ve always been into it,” he says. “I love it. When I was a teenager I’d go to raves in Oxford rather than indie gigs. I DJ and produce dance music – and that’s what has always inspired me.”
And this city is where it’s all going on, he insists. “There’s loads happening in Oxford now,” he says. “And more nights where you can dance to local DJs than listen to local bands.”
One nagging question remains, however. Why dinosaurs? The damaging result of one too many childhood visits to the city’s Museum of Natural History maybe?
He laughs. “I did go to that museum a lot, but that’s not the reason.
“It actually came from a drunken lunch with a friend, and is not really the result of any great affection for dinosaurs.
“However, I do like it, and enjoy the fact people always double-check to make sure they’ve got it right.
“I just didn’t think for a moment it would go this far.”
Still, he is embracing his inner reptile.
“I wear a dinosaur suit for every single show, which are stitched together by my dino-dancers,” he says. “For this tour I’ve got a blue all-in-one with spikes.”
And his favourite giant lizard? He pauses, deep in thought for a moment, before answering. “Definitely iguanodons,” he says. “Though I don’t know why.”
* Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs plays The Bullingdon, Cowley Road, Oxford, tomorrow.