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William Orbit

William Orbit
Birth name William Mark Wainwright
Also known as William Orbit
Born (1956-12-15) 15 December 1956
Origin Shoreditch, Hackney, London, England
Genres Electronica, trip hop, ambient, trance, house, downtempo, IDM
Occupation(s) Composer, record producer
Instruments Keyboards, guitar
Years active 1982–present
Labels IRS, EMI, Virgin, N-GRAM, Maverick, Sanctuary, Kobalt, Decca
Associated acts Torch Song, Bassomatic, The Supernaturals
Website .com.williamorbitwww

William Orbit (born William Mark Wainwright, 15 December 1956) is an English musician, composer and record producer. In the early 1980s, he formed synthpop act Torch Song with Laurie Mayer and Grant Gilbert. In 1987 he released the first of his Strange Cargo album series, containing ambient music.

By the 1990s and 2000s, Orbit had started to work with bigger name artists, producing songs on Ray of Light and Music by Madonna, 13 and Think Tank by Blur and Saints and Sinners by All Saints. His work with Madonna led him to win three Grammys. He worked again with Madonna on her 2012 album MDNA producing six songs.


  • Biography 1
    • 1956–1980: Early life and work 1.1
    • 1981–1993: Torch Song, production and remix work 1.2
    • 1990–1992: Guerilla and Bassomatic 1.3
    • 1993–2000: Strange Cargo III and Madonna 1.4
    • 2001–present 1.5
    • DJ and radio 1.6
    • Personal life and interests 1.7
  • Discography 2
    • Solo 2.1
      • Studio albums 2.1.1
      • Compilations 2.1.2
      • Singles 2.1.3
      • Bassomatic 2.1.4
      • Strange Cargo 2.1.5
    • Torch Song 2.2
    • Production and songwriting 2.3
    • Miscellaneous 2.4
  • References 3
  • External links 4


1956–1980: Early life and work

William Orbit was born William Wainwright in London's East End in 1956. His mother, of Italian and Swedish descent, and his father, from Yorkshire, were both schoolteachers.

He did not have a formal education, having left school at 15 and being entirely self-taught. Aged 16, squatting in Norwich and working as a strawberry picker in the summer, he started to devote himself to guitar playing. He then lived in squats around Europe and worked at various jobs including hotel kitchen worker, motorbike messenger, at a ladies shoes factory, as an accounts clerk (in the days before computers), a night shift worker at the old Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam and junior draftsman at a North Sea oil rig design company.

In these early years, he was creatively frustrated, with no means to bring his ideas to life. But an opportunity to work as an assistant at Basing Street Studios just off the Portobello Road in West London gave him a first glimpse into the world of recording.

Aged 23, he met Laurie Mayer who had just moved into a squat in an abandoned primary school in Paddington. This semi-derelict Victorian building was the perfect environment for live music to flourish, with bands such as Throbbing Gristle performing there. Meyer and Orbit held mini-festivals in the deserted classrooms and workshops of the old school, known as Centro Iberico.

It was around that time, in 1980, that William was asked to model clothes for the designer Takeo Kikuchi in Tokyo and this experience opened his eyes to the world of fashion and the visual arts. On that same trip was also the young Hamish Bowles, now International Editor at Large for Vogue magazine.

His (very modest) participation in the design of the Shell North Cormorant North Sea oil platform led directly to him being able to afford to almost clear out the entire musical instrument stock of a second hand shop in Paddington, yards from the old school.

1981–1993: Torch Song, production and remix work

Laurie Mayer and William Orbit formed the band Torch Song. An experiment in audio cassette soundscapes that also included the graphic designer Neville Brody.

Record label owner and publisher Miles Copeland signed the band to his IRS label in 1982.

William went on to work with Miles on his new Strange Cargo album series.

Laurie and William have been close friends and creative collaborators ever since, with Laurie in 2012 writing the melodic top line for Madonna's track "Falling Free" from her twelfth album MDNA.

Encouraged by Laurie's creative zeal, he went on to build a commercially viable recording studio in Little Venice called Guerilla Studios (later situated in Crouch End, North London). A variety of clients booked the facility, including: The Cocteau Twins, Colourbox, Stewart Copeland, Belinda Carlisle of the Go Gos, Etienne Daho, Howard Devoto, Erasure, The Fall, The Frank Chickens, Goldie and Metalheadz, Martin Gore, Kemistry and Storm, Laibach, Lords of the New Church, Daniel Miller, S'Express, Gary Numan, Renegade Soundwave, Les Rita Mitsouko, Sting, The Swans, 23 Skidoo, The Waterboys, Jah Wobble.

He began to create remixes for a long list of artists. At first for free, then later on, as word spread, for considerable sums. Remixed artists include: Prince, The Cure, Seal, Nitzer Ebb, Peter Gabriel, Depeche Mode, & The Human League

1990–1992: Guerilla and Bassomatic

Orbit founded Guerilla Records at the beginning of the 90s, releasing vinyl discs from artists such as Leftfield, Underworld, Felix Da Housecat and DJ Pierre in the then-new genre of 'Progressive House', and hosting illegal rave parties in disused warehouses in Central London, before forming the band Bassomatic, Fascinating Rhythm being their biggest hit.

1993–2000: Strange Cargo III and Madonna

Orbit then moved to California, living in the surfer haven of Hermosa Beach, and had a radio program on the Southern Californian radio station KCRW since he had always had a fascination for radio in all its forms.

At KCRW, he met the actor and radio star Joe Frank with whom he collaborated on the track "Montok Point".

He also began recording his album Strange Cargo III, including the track "Water from a Vine Leaf", written with his ex-girlfriend Beth Orton.

After traveling the world, and encountering different cultures and worldviews, he met Madonna in New York in 1997 and they recorded her multi Grammy Award winning seventh album Ray of Light. The two have remained friends since, and created tracks such as "Beautiful Stranger" (1999) and other tracks for her eighth album Music (2000).

He has said on many occasions that he remains truly grateful to Madonna for seeing what nobody else saw at the time, and giving him a global platform for his work. Since then he has written and recorded with a wide range of artists, from Andreas Scholl, Jocelyn Pook and "The Sixteen" in the classical world, to Beck, Pink, The Cure, Kraftwerk (a project with Ralf Hütter), Blur (the album "13"), All Saints ("Pure Shores" (winner of an Ivor for most played song on UK radio), "Black Coffee", "Dreams" and other songs), Katie Melua, Robbie Williams, Sugababes, Ricky Martin and Malcolm Mclaren.

He lived at the Leonard Hotel just behind Oxford Street in London for three years where he recorded most of Bono's vocals for "Electrical Storm", a track that he produced and performed on for U2.

He also had a house in Venice California, where he retreated to write a series of classical renditions "Pieces in a Modern Style", from which came "Adagio For Strings, Ferry Corsten mix".


In 2007, Orbit composed an orchestral suite for full orchestra and choir, in nine movements. It debuted in July 2007 with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. There is also a remixed version of the work, which is not yet released as a commercial recording.

In 2009, Orbit began working as part of the art collective Luxor, with former English National Ballet dancer Anna-Mi Fredriksson and the artist Pauline Amos. In 2010, he released Pieces in a Modern Style 2, on Decca, which is follow-up a to the successful Pieces in a Modern Style. The two CD version containing some notable remixes of interpretations of Vaughan Williams Violin Concerto – Lark Ascending.

He produced Katie Melua's fourth album, The House, and produced a track on Nadine Coyle's debut solo album Insatiable (both 2010). Orbit collaborated on Madonna's twelfth studio album, MDNA (2012), producing six tracks including "Masterpiece", which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. Orbit co-wrote and co-produced the 2012 Chris Brown single "Don't Wake Me Up" and "Alien" for Britney Spears' album, Britney Jean, released in 2013.

In 2012, Orbit did a talk with Khalil Fong and Pharrell Williams at the Liberatum Hong Kong International Festival of Culture. In 2013, he started his own YouTube channel to experiment with filmmaking and to release new music. The channel includes "William Orbit's A to Z of Sound". He and performed a prototype concert in Shoreditch in 2013 as part of the London Electronic Arts Festival (LEAF). This event included the use of cybernetic and mechanical musical devices that he had been developing with his friend and fellow Torch Song member Rico Conning.

He has a new album due for release in 2014 and is planning to tour with a live show. Orbit said in an interview with M Magazine that he will be writing with Adele for her third studio album in early 2014.

His favourite synthesisers remain the

  • Official website
  • Barber's Adagio For Strings (Ferry Corsten Remix) Review by Trancefixxed

External links

  1. ^ "FA-18 Hornet breaking sound barrier – from WorldHeritage]". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  2. ^ "". SoundCloud. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ex leaves Orbit feeling Blue". Sky Sports. 21 November 2009. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Chart Stats: William Orbit". Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  5. ^ Tobias Zywietz. "The Official Zobbel Homepage". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  6. ^ a b "Discography William Orbit". Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  7. ^ "William Orbit > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums".  
  8. ^ "Orbit Symphonic". SoundCloud. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Strange Cargo 5". SoundCloud. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "William Orbit > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles".  
  12. ^ "Hinterland – William Orbit, Strange Cargo : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Hinterland: Music". Amazon. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Strange Cargo Discography at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  15. ^ " link". SoundCloud. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  16. ^ """Ministry of Sound "Odyssey. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 


‘Odyssey' is a compilation of 42 tracks, including some of William Orbit's own exclusives. The album was released in January 2010 and is divided into 3 discs; Discs 1 and 2 are unmixed, with many tracks reinterpreted to a greater or lesser extent, while Disc 3 is a continuous DJ mix by William Orbit.

  • Stereo Odyssey – 4-CDR set of KCRW radio show William produced circa 1996
  • Rare Orbit Vol.1 – A 3-CDR collection of rare & unreleased material & productions. 2008, source unknown. Contained unreleased sessions with Madonna, and some new material.
  • Essential Mix – 2-CDR set of UK BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix, 6 February 2000
  • XFM 2003 – 30-minute CDR of UK XFM Radio 'Superchunk', a mix/mashup collection of special rare and unreleased material, 17 August 2003
  • XFM 2006 – 30-minute CDR of UK XFM Radio 'Superchunk', another mix/mashup collection, 12 March 2006
  • World Odyssey Mix – 25-minute CDR of UK BBC Asia Network Radio 'Pathaans Musical Rickshaw', a diversified mix/mashup collection, 17 May 2009
  • KCRW 2009 – 40-minute CDR of Los Angeles KCRW Radio Station show 'Morning Becomes Eclectic', a two piece live session with Laurie Mayer and interviews with Jason Bentley – 2 July 2009
  • In 2010, some of the rare tracks were made public on[15]
  • William Orbit Odyssey[16] by Ministry of Sound


Title Year Artist(s) Album Credit(s)
"24 Hours" 1990 Betty Boo Boomania
"Don't Wanna Know 'Bout Evil" 1993 Beth Orton Superpinkymandy
"Faith Will Carry"
"Yesterday's Gone"
"She Cries Your Name"
"When You Wake"
"Roll the Dice"
"City Blue"
"The Prisoner"
"Where Do You Go"
"Release Me"
"Turning Ground" 1995 Caroline Lavelle Spirit
"Moorlough Shore"
"Dream of Picasso"
"Forget the Few"
"Lagan Love"
"A Case of You"
"Waiting For Rain"
"The Island"
"Drowned World/Substitute for Love" 1998 Madonna Ray of Light
"Ray of Light"
"Candy Perfume Girl"
"Nothing Really Matters"
"Sky Fits Heaven"
"The Power of Good-Bye"
"To Have and Not to Hold"
"Mer Girl"
"Has to Be"
"Tender" 1999 Blur 13
"Coffee & TV"
"Swamp Song"
"Mellow Song"
"Trimm Trabb"
"No Distance Left to Run"
"Optigan 1"
"Be Careful (Cuidado Con Mi Corazón)" Ricky Martin and Madonna Ricky Martin
"Beautiful Stranger" Madonna Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
"Go!" Melanie C Northern Star
"American Pie" 2000 Madonna The Next Best Thing
"Time Stood Still"
"Runaway Lover" Music
"Pure Shores" All Saints Saints & Sinners
"Black Coffee"
"Making Out" 2001 No Doubt Rock Steady
"Thinking About Tomorrow" 2002 Beth Orton Daybreaker
"Electrical Storm" U2 The Best of 1990–2000
"The Hands That Built America" (Theme from 'Gangs of New York')
"Sweet Song" 2003 Blur Think Tank
"Feel Good Time" Pink Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
"Dice" 2004 Finley Quaye Much More Than Much Love
"Louise" 2006 Robbie Williams Rudebox
"I'd Love to Kill You" 2010 Katie Melua The House
"The Flood"
"A Happy Place"
"A Moment of Madness"
"Red Balloons"
"Tiny Alien"
"No Fear of Heights"
"The One I Love Is Gone"
"Plague of Love"
"God on the Drums, Devil on the Bass"
"The House"
"Unbroken" Nadine Coyle Insatiable
"Gang Bang" 2012 Madonna MDNA
"Some Girls"
"I'm a Sinner"
"Love Spent"
"Falling Free"
"Don't Wake Me Up" Chris Brown Fortune
"Alien" 2013 Britney Spears Britney Jean

Production and songwriting

DNV 2012

Year Album
1984 Wish Thing
1986 Ecstasy
  • Labels: Y II Records
1987 Exhibit A
  • Labels: I.R.S.
1995 Toward the Unknown Region
  • Labels: N-GRAM Recordings

Torch Song

Year Album
1995 Hinterland[12][13][14]
  • Labels: N-GRAM Recordings

Strange Cargo

Year Album
1990 Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass
1991 Science & Melody
  • Labels: Virgin


Year Single Chart positions Album
1987 "Feel Like Jumping" Orbit
"Love My Way"
1993 "Water From A Vine Leaf" (William Orbit featuring Beth Orton) 59 Strange Cargo III
1999 "Barber's Adagio For Strings" 4 23 13 Pieces in a Modern Style
2000 "Ravel's Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte" 31
2003 "Feel Good Time" (Pink featuring William Orbit) 3 7 8 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (OST)
"Dice" (Finley Quaye & William Orbit) Much More Than Much Love (Finley Quaye album)
2009 "Optical Illusions" My Oracle Lives Uptown
2010 "Nimrod" Pieces in a Modern Style 2


  • The Best of Strange Cargos (1996, I.R.S.) – A compilation from Orbit's first three Strange Cargo albums, highlighted by two versions of "Water From A Vine Leaf", another collaboration with Beth Orton
  • Strange Cargo Vol.1–3 (2000, EMI Records) – 3 CD Box Set
  • William / Orbit (2002, Universal) – U.S. two-disc publishing CD set to support William Orbit's publishing catalogue[10]


  • A^ The original 1995 release was credited to the Orbit alias 'The Electric Chamber', but was withdrawn from sale almost immediately. Re-released in 2000 with additional tracks taking the place of un-cleared tracks from the first release.
  • B^ CD release has 4 additional tracks which are not available as a digital download
  • C^ Released on single CD and double CD including notable remixes, and a digital version with a bonus track
  • D^ Available for free download from SoundCloud [8][9]
Year Album Chart positions
1987 Orbit
Strange Cargo
  • Labels: I.R.S.
1990 Strange Cargo II
  • Labels: I.R.S.
1993 Strange Cargo III
1995 Strange Cargo Hinterland - - -
1999 Pieces in a Modern Style [A]
  • Labels: N-GRAM Recordings (1995 release), WEA (2000 release)
2 33 198
2006 Hello Waveforms 136
2009 My Oracle Lives Uptown [B]
  • Labels: Kobalt
2010 Pieces in a Modern Style 2 [C] 185
2014 Orbit Symphonic [D]
  • Labels: –
Strange Cargo 5 [D]
  • Labels: –

Studio albums


More details and information about his discography can be found when exploring external links

William Orbit discography
Studio albums 15
Compilation albums 3
Singles 9


He spends much of his free time watching cartoons, drawing, taking photographs, and curating his collection of antiquarian books.

He primarily records in London, Los Angeles and at The Palms Casino's in-house studio in Las Vegas. Orbit now lives in North London and Los Angeles and has his office and studio at Hoxton, London. He is an avid football fan and supports Premier League side Chelsea, having been a season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge.[3]

Personal life and interests

Orbit has recently enabled an internet radio (streamcast) which allow listeners to hear more than 10 hours of his music, completely for free. In the playlist are variations of his well-known tracks, as well as released material. In addition, and what's more appreciated by fans, unreleased and rare material can also be found in this streamcast.[2]

William deejays occasionally, with a hardcore techno set, in various locations around the world such as Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Ibiza, Thailand and Novosibirsk, Siberia, and even at HM The Queen's private staff and family Christmas party at Buckingham Palace. He has described his mission as 'to get everyone on their feet, despite what they usually listen to'. He conducts lectures, master classes and appears on BBC Radio and the BBC World Service discussing his work and guest editing music and arts programmes. He has a lifelong interest in poetry and recently collaborated with David Thewlis, to create a words and music tribute to Alfred Tennyson on Radio 3. Additional information concerning the dates and places of his live performances appears[1] on his webpage.

DJ and radio
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