An Interview with Joe Acheson of Hidden Orchestra

Hidden Orchestra is the solo studio project of composer, musician and producer Joe Acheson. Joe and the Hidden Orchestra live band are currently on the road of their extensive European AV tour, following the release of ‘Dawn Chorus’ which has been received great acclaim by critics, ‘Dawn Chorus’ is built around a collection of birdsong and other field recordings. The sonic snapshots were captured across many years around the UK and abroad, and have been intertwined with layers of bass, drums, percussion and eclectic instruments.

Joe Acheson has been kind enough to answer some questions for Art In Brighton whilst on the road...


For those who don’t know your music, how would you describe it?

Dark orchestral music with lots of bass and drums – electronic music made entirely with acoustic instruments and natural sounds.


How would you compare your most recent album, ‘Dawn Chorus’ with your previous albums such as ‘Night Walks’ and ‘Archipelago’?

Musically, it's very much in the same tradition, keeping with the Hidden Orchestra sound.

The main difference is the use of birdsong, a different dawn chorus in each track. It also contains more autobiographical elements - many references to my past travels and exploits, musicians I have worked with, field recordings from all around, archive recordings and excerpts from old compositions..


Your music is often rooted in nature, what is about nature that inspires your compositions?

I grew up in the countryside, and I have always enjoyed listening to the sounds of the outdoors, as most people do. I also use lots of recordings from urban and industrial environments, creaking doors, traffic, ventilation fans and factory machinery. I treat all sound sources as potentially musical. I sift through my field recordings in the same way that I do with my instrumental and drum recordings, looking for little nuggets of rhythm or pitch that contain some kind of quality that makes them suitable for sampling.


How would you describe your relationship with music?

 Constant, with occasional turmoil but mostly very happy.


 Alyth has recently been lifted from ‘Dawn Chorus’ and remixed by Nuage. What was it like to hear your composition reconstructed by another producer?

Nuage did a fantastic job – as did all the producers who have remixed each track from the album, for the remix album coming out in January. There are so many layers of sounds in the tracks, it's really good to hear which hidden sounds the different producers choose to draw out in the remix – there's enough raw material in there for several more remix albums.

I love hearing how other producers distil the material and restructure the tracks, and I think it's resulted in a remix album, which is really cohesive as an album in its own right.


What is the proudest moment in your career so far?

It was honour to perform at the Royal Albert Hall with an extended line-up last year.

Though personally, I'm most proud of the radio documentary I made about a blind school in Finland for the BBC World Service a few years ago.


 If you could collaborate with any musician or composer alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Impossible choice, but the first one that comes to mind is Maurice Ravel, because he was a master of orchestration, manipulating the sounds of the orchestral palette. Hwoever, I would very happily work with any musician from any culture or background from any era, I love variety and discovering new instruments.


What can we expect for Hidden Orchestra in 2018?

The ‘Dawn Chorus’ Remixes album, each track has been remixed by a different producer, including some of my favourite artists, collaborators and influences.

We also hope to do a lot more touring next year, and I'm working on some new material (no birds this time, I'm done with birdsong for some time I think).


What was the last band or song that you each listened to?

 I'm on shuffle while answering these questions – just had Pavel Dovgal, Derek Gripper and Danny Breaks.


Brass or Strings?



Dawn, Day or Dusk?



Three words to describe Brighton

A liberal enclave.


Hidden Orchestra will be playing at ACCA in Falmer on December 9th. For more information and tickets see HERE

Christopher Spring1 Comment