Name: Orlando Tobias Edward Higginbottom aka Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
Occupation: Producer, songwriter, DJ
Nationality: British  
Recent release: The new Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs album When the Lights Go is out via Nice Age.

If you enjoyed this interview with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official website. He is also also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

The ideal mindset is soft and focused, and I can get easily distracted by the environment I’m in. I’m very sensitive to exterior noises and cannot work if I feel someone is listening to me.

I quite like the buzz and crash of coffee, but I’ve never written good note of music after a drink of alcohol. Being overtired can be wonderful for creating, but not for finishing.

I like studios that feel personal and loved.

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

I start with no expectations, it’s just play. Playing with musical ideas as a craft, ideas that have very little to do with me as an artist. Throwing around sounds until I get a bite.

So many things that go nowhere and I love it. Because when an idea hits I feel a responsibility to take it to it’s correct destination and I don’t know how or if we’ll get there.

When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?

There’s no right order for things to emerge. I often find one line of lyrics and melody will appear in the initial moments of the idea, and I’ll hang on to that for as long as possible.

I’ve never noted a finishing success rate in relation to how a song starts.

What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?

With other people’s music I like lyrics that sound phonetically like they belong with the rest of the instruments, a few key phrases are sticky, and then a few listens later I’ll notice the meaning of the words. Good lyrics come across as natural expression in the song, and something like relatable poetry when written down.

With my music I’m too close to it to hear it from that perspective most of the time, so I focus on how it feels to sing. This ends up being pretty particular to my voice as I’ve got a very limited range and generally am not a great singer. I’ll look for a different vowel sound so I can carry a note, and that could change the meaning of the line.

I go back and forth between the meaning and the sensation of singing it, until it works. Or doesn’t.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?

There is a tricky part where you are holding a simple idea that has captured your imagination - some chords, a hook, or an upside-down sample or something - and you are aware of its potential. This is the hardest part for me.

I generally tread very softly and make sure the original idea is protected and I can always return to it. I’ll prod it from a distance and see how it reacts to tempos, keys, rhythms, and only add things if they don’t take away from its initial magic.

I’ve messed up so many ideas by not taking care at this crucial point. I think it’s about nurture.

Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

There’s always a simple route, an obvious thing to do. Especially in this long pop era we are in, the rules are well loved and we all instinctively know them. Sometimes the right thing to do is to follow them.

“Be a wally” is my studio motto relating to this. It means “don’t be a smartass, try the simple thing”. Other times magic happens from pushing against gravity, and deliberately forging a new path.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?

If there is a creative state then I’m only in it for very brief periods of time, ten minutes now and then in a cloud and things flow through. The rest of the time I’m doing a craft and battling my own special demons.

I’m two carpenters in a workshop, one is busy making chairs and the other is in the corner boiling a kettle saying “chairs are shit, nobody sits down these days”.

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

I want the music to be perfect, but it can’t be, and I really would never finish anything if I tried.

Often there a corners in a track that make me uncomfortable like they aren’t in their true home and I can’t find a solution. So I ask myself if it’s above or below 7/10, if it’s above then it’s good enough, if it’s below then I have a problem. I think for a long time I was trying to get everything above a 9/10 - too hard for me!

Finishing (once the idea is decided and the work is done) is decision making and letting go. I like the idea of artists making changes to released music though, and it’s interesting to think about what stops this from happening.

After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?

It’s not an emptiness for me, it’s a relief and a release. I feel a weight off my shoulders, space on my desk, and the future looks cool.

Truly I love release day, I’m no longer responsible for the music, it’s all grown up and looking after itself. I get very excited about what I’m going to do next.

Momentum is very important to me, hitting bullseye may or may not happen, and my work has a purpose regardless of its reception.