Orbital: Brian Cox will help us get the monsters

It's 30 years since Orbital, AKA brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll, recorded 'Chime' on their father's cassette deck. Paul tells The Big Issue why spectres on the horizon mean the time is right for a return

Your new album is called Monsters Exist – but who are the monsters?

Everyone’s got their own version of who the monsters are but my personal monsters are all human ones. At the moment they’re all politicians; Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, anyone in the British government who is aiming for Brexit. They’re complete idiots and don’t know what they’re doing, passing the buck by saying it’s the will of the people.

Does the political atmosphere now feel similar to when you first started making music?

I didn’t like Margaret Thatcher but I do think she had the courage of her convictions and she believed wholeheartedly and vocationally in what should be done. She wasn’t so much a career politician, but someone who genuinely believed what she was doing had to be done. I’m not putting her on a pedestal but it feels different now. It feels like everyone is afraid and scared to say what really needs said.

Do you think making music is an opportunity to say things that aren’t being said?

Maybe a little bit. But I don’t think music has ever really changed anything has it? I’m a musician, I write music because I love it but at the same time art does inspire, I hope it would inspire a change in culture along the way.

Orbital are back, Underworld are back, Prodigy are still out there doing it – is the old guard here to sort things out?

I’d love to think so! Like the Dad’s Army of techno. Don’t panic – we’re here! It’s good to see your old muckers when you’re out about and doing the festivals circuit. It brings a nice bit of focus to the wave of what went on in the Nineties. It can only be good really.

You’ve been doing this for 30 years now, do you see the same people pop up in the crowd  at shows?

You see people turn up with their kids who are probably as old as they were when they first saw Orbital. It’s definitely a family affair. I feel a bit like the Grateful Dead sometimes. But I am grateful for it.

Will the newer generation of Orbital fans look to your new album and recognise the sound their parents knew?

From where I stand I feel like I’m doing the same thing I was doing 30 years ago, but I’m probably not. It’s always an exploration when you sit down to write music, you’re always looking to write something that’s the best thing you’ve ever written. You can get too caught up thinking about style, but the key is to ensure the emotional heart is still there.

Brian Cox appeared on Monsters Exist – how did that come to be?

I actually just sent him a tweet asking if he wanted to be on one of our tracks and he got back within the hour! He’s an old raver anyway but I’ve always loved him since I saw him front a documentary about CERN. He dressed and looked like someone from a 1970s Open University ad, but here he is bringing science and physics to the world in the way that David Attenborough brought nature into your living room.

We kept Monsters Exist as the opener to the album and made Brian almost like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy relaxing ending, summing it all up and giving you an overview after you’ve been thinking about these monsters that exist and where they are and where we are. We’re just a tiny blip in the universe, and we could all just be nice in our tiny amount of time we have here.

Monsters Exist is out now. Orbital play dates across Europe from October