Monument Interview: Orphx

Between 700 and 600 BC; there existed a man who sang and possessed an instrumental talent so divine, people worshiped him as a God. This man was such a commodity, he even had the power to travel down to the netherworld and confront Hades himself so that he may bring back his sweetest love. This captivating man was named Orpheus and he lead a group of mystic followers who praised his miraculous artistry.

Miraculous artistry.. Let’s discuss what this means for a brief second:

The definition of the word “Miraculous” is: “Occurring through divine or supernatural intervention, or manifesting such power”, and these two artists hailing from Hamilton, Ontario encompass that definition because of their exquisite sound design and powerful performance power.

Rich Oddie and Christina Sealey aka. Orphx are two of the most prolific and respected artists in both Techno and Industrial circles. With over 70 releases on imprints like “Sonic Groove, Hands, and Hymen” they’ve crossed paths with familiar artists such as Rrose, Ontal, Wata Igarashi, Ancient Methods, Oscar Mulero, Developer, ASC, and plenty more. 

Please enlighten yourselves with this informative interview which shines a spotlight on these two incredibly talented tastemakers, and enjoy a special recording of their performance at Katharsis Festival last year at Elementenstraat in the Netherlands. 

Q: So, how did you two meet?

Rich: We met in high school and, soon after we met, we started a band together. We were inspired by shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and Ride. We played some shows and released a cassette. As that band was dissolving, my friend Aron and I were experimenting with more industrial sounds. We had recorded a few demos and asked Christie to join us. She was experimenting with reel to reel tapes and tape loops at this time and that became a big part of our sound.

Q: How did you come up with the name Orphx?

Rich: Aron and I were both studying philosophy and history, and we were obsessed with religious cults at that time. We were talking about the Orphic mystery cult of Ancient Greece, which was based around the idea of a direct ecstatic experience of the divine and a mythical narrative about descending into and returning from the underworld. We found these ideas really compelling and we liked the sound of the word “Orphic”. In a very teenage way, we also wanted something that sounded visceral and offensive so this word got combined with “orifice” to create Oriphix. Soon after we released our first tape in 1993, I noticed that the name sounded similar to a popular denture cream so I proposed Orphx as an alternative name that was a bit more ambiguous but still referenced the Orphics and their spiritual concepts.

Q: Your music thrives off of heavy distortion, with a prominent sense of aggression. As artists, who/what inspires you to create such emotional music?

Christina: I find the noise and heavy beats to be very cathartic, a way to release emotions. For me, the aggressive elements have a positive and ecstatic feeling rather than being “dark” or negative. 

Rich: I have a similar view. I think the music is a way of channeling negative energy and emotions, all the tensions and anxieties of daily life, and changing them into something powerful and ecstatic. I hope other people can experience that feeling through the music. 

Q: Growing up, what kind of music were you two into? Listening to your music, I can hear alot of Punk and Industrial influences. 

Christie: I grew up listening to a wide range of music that included synth pop, punk, industrial, goth, shoegaze. The shoegaze band that we started in high school included segments of improvised noise and that drew us into exploring noise and experimental music.

Rich: I was also into synth pop bands like Yello, New Order, and Depeche Mode. I was always most excited about the darker sounds and songs from these bands, and I soon discovered post-punk and industrial music that really delivered what I was looking for. Skinny Puppy was a major influence and that led us to first wave industrial bands like SPK, Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubauten. Aron was more inspired by noise and metal and he turned me on to grindcore, doom, and black metal. 

Q: You’ve explained your latest EP “Learn To Suffer” as “dance floor tracks with an experimental edge and a pervasive sense of dread.”  I love this description; as strong advocates of the punk scene, what does being an anarchist mean to you?

Rich: You can find references to anarchist ideas in many of our titles and samples, but I don’t think either of us would describe ourselves as anarchists. I’ve read and deeply appreciate a lot of anarchist philosophy and I think the principles of autonomy and direct democratic control are very important. But there are different forms and interpretations of anarchism. I find some to be very creative and inspiring while others are dogmatic and counter-productive to making real systemic change. I think there are important critiques of the state and important democratic principles to be learned from anarchism but I’ve learned to be wary of following a single political ideology and believing that it has all the answers. 

Q: Can you give us some equipment details about your live rig? I’m loving the “in-your-face” style of percussion with the sudden changes of modulation.

Christie: For our live sets, I focus on improvisation using a modular synth. The modular provides a way to add elements of chance and provides ever-changing and shifting sounds. Creating everything in the moment helps me connect more with the sounds and the audience seems to enjoy the sense of immediacy and risk. I’m using a wide range of modules in a case created by Submodular Systems.

Rich: I use a laptop and controller, usually along with a drum machine, some homemade noise machines, and/or a mono synth. I also add vocals which are processed through my setup along with the outboard gear.

Q: You’ve performed at some of the world’s most celebrated venues. Which venue has given you the most excitement?

Christie: The first time that we played at Berghain was a special moment, as well as our first time at Tresor. Rural and Labyrinth were amazing experiences that also come to mind. They are outdoor festivals in the mountains of Japan that both have very special atmospheres. 

Rich: Some other recent highlights included playing the massive Kraftwerk venue for Berlin Atonal and Forte Festival in Portugal, which is held in a ninth century castle.

Q: What are you working on at the moment? 

Rich: We can’t say too much before the releases are announced but there are some new remixes coming out soon, some appearances on vinyl compilations, and upcoming Orphx releases on Hospital Productions along with a reissue from our back catalogue that we are very excited about.

Christie: We will touring again soon and we are confirming dates for the spring and summer in Europe, North America, and possibly Asia. We are also working on a special audio/visual performance with Montreal video artist Patrick Trudeau (aka Diagraf) that will experiment with infrasound: sounds below the threshold of human hearing that can still be sensed physically. The first performance will be at McMaster University in Hamilton this spring.

Catch Orphx at one of the following dates of their tour:

23.03 Hamilton, Canada
30.03 Toronto, Canada
18.04.TBA, Maca
19.04 TBA, China
20.04. Beijing, China
26.04 Shanghai, China
27.04 TBA, China
17.05 Bordeaux, France
18.05 Paris, France
25.05 Detroit, USA
11.08 TBA, Belgium
16.08 San Francisco, USA
13.09 Budapest, Hungary
14.09 Brussels, Belgium