Andy Hughes: DJ and mixer whose work with The Orb entranced a generation
Tuesday 04 August 2009
While the producer and DJ Alex Paterson has been the core member of the ambient, electronic group The Orb for over 20 years, he has been ably seconded in his pioneering sonic endeavours by creative musicians such as Jimmy Cauty, Kim Weston (aka Thrash), Simon Phillips and Thomas Fehlmann.
The tenure of engineer and producer Andy Hughes, between 1993 and 1999, coincided with The Orb signing to the Island label, and took in the high watermark of "Toxygene", their Top 5 single from 1997, the studio albums Orbus Terrarum, Orblivion and Cydonia, and the EP Pomme Fritz. Hughes' role within The Orb encompassed mixing, remixing and arranging as well as engineering, production and live performance.
Born in 1965, Hughes grew up in Harrow and became a music and technology obsessive in his teens. In the late Eighties and early Nineties, he produced, mixed, remixed and engineered many tracks for acts such as Fuzzbox, Working Week, Galliano, Mica Paris and M C Wildski. He also began designing and building studios to specification. This brought him into contact with Paterson and he joined The Orb as sound engineer. Having built Bunk, Junk & Genius recording studios in London, he helped to mix The Orb's Live 93 album.
His role within The Orb grew after Weston's departure following the release of the Top 10 Pomme Fritz in 1994. Now comprising Paterson, Fehlmann and Hughes, The Orb completed Orbus Terrarum. In partnership with Paterson, Hughes also remixed "Zombie" by The Cranberries, as well as "Halleluwah" by Can and "Towards the Evening Star" by Tangerine Dream.
"Toxygene" started life as a 20th-anniversary remix of the Jean-Michel Jarre composition "Oxygene 8", but featured so little of the original track that the Frenchman opted not to use it. Undeterred, Paterson, Fehlmann and Hughes made further changes and issued the hypnotic, trance-like single, much shorter and punchier – and therefore easier for radio stations to playlist – than The Orb's other signature tunes, "Little Fluffy Clouds", "Blue Room" and "Perpetual Dawn". It duly became the biggest hit for a group that had always operated outside the mainstream on its way to becoming the Pink Floyd of the chill-out generation; the band were equally at ease collaborating with the guitarists Robert Fripp and Steve Hillage or adding techno and house beats to their groundbreaking sound.
The release of Orblivion coincided with a renewed bout of touring which took The Orb around the world, much to Hughes' delight. He relished his occasional turn at the wheel of the group's truck while on tour in the US and Canada, and enjoyed their sell-out headline appearance at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1998.
That year, Hughes also arranged, mixed and co-produced a dubby version of "I Started a Joke", credited to The Orb vs Robbie Williams and the most unusual contribution to a Bee Gees tribute album and charity project entitled Gotta Get a Message to You. Having helped Paterson build his Back Passage studio in Clapham, Hughes left The Orb in 1999, before the much-delayed appearance of Cydonia, which sat on the shelves for more than a year due to restructuring at Universal, Island's parent company.
He subsequently wrote and produced several tracks for the deep-house act Powder Productions and worked with Kovak and Basement Jaxx, as well as mixing the "Vuja De" single and other tracks on The Dream album for The Orb in 2007. Hughes died of liver failure at King's College Hospital in London.
Andrew Paul Hughes, engineer, producer, songwriter, DJ, arranger: born Harrow, Middlesex 11 November 1965; (one son, one daughter); died London 12 June 2009.
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