William Orbit

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William Orbit
Birth nameWilliam Mark Wainwright
Also known asWilliam Orbit
Born (1956-12-15) 15 December 1956 (age 64)
OriginPalmers Green, Enfield, London, England
  • Composer
  • record producer
  • artist
Years active1982–present
Associated acts

William Mark Wainwright (born 15 December 1956),[1] known professionally as William Orbit, is an English musician and record producer who has sold 200 million recordings worldwide of his own work, his production and songwriting work. He is a recipient of multiple Grammy Awards, Ivor Novello Awards and other music industry awards.

Early life[edit]

Orbit (Wainwright) was raised in Palmers Green, a suburb of London.[1] His parents were both schoolteachers; he was the older of two sons.[1] He left school at the age of 16, and subsisted for a number of years in various low-paying jobs, while seeking an outlet for his creativity.[1] Around this time, while rooming with a friend who was trying to start a recording studio, Orbit found his musical calling.[1]

Torch Song and Bassomatic[edit]

In 1980 Orbit teamed up with electronic musician Laurie Mayer and Grant Gilbert to form the electronic/synth group Torch Song. They initially self-released recordings in an audio cassette series, generated from their home-built studio in a disused school in Notting Hill Gate, in London, alongside the Grand Union Canal. Richard Law, who was the A&R for IRS Records, was a follower of their music and aesthetic, and took it to industry mogul Miles Copeland, who had discovered and managed the Police and the Bangles in 1981. When Copeland signed them to the label the deal enabled them to build their ideal studio. There they recorded two albums and four singles,[2] the most successful being the dance chart hit "Prepare to Energize",[3] which was featured in the film Bachelor Party.[4] Orbit and Mayer also composed the soundtrack to the ice hockey movie Youngblood,[5] starring Rob Lowe and Keanu Reeves, and recorded "White Night", written by colleague Rico Conning, which was used in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.[6] The band re-formed briefly when Orbit worked with Laurie Mayer and Rico Conning. They released their final album, Toward the Unknown Region in 1995.

This first incarnation of Guerilla Studios had a Trident 80B mixing desk and Otari MTR90 MKII 24 track (2 inch tape) multitrack housed in a back garden on the canals of Little Venice[7] in Paddington, and they also ran it as a commercial enterprise.

Bassomatic was another of Orbit's group projects. The band recorded house music in the 1990s. The band included vocalist Sharon Musgrave and rapper Steve Roberts, also known as MC Inna Onestep amongst others.[8] For the second album, singer Sindy Finn replaced Musgrave on vocals.[8] Both albums were released by Guerilla Studios, founded by Orbit with Laurie Mayer and Grant Gilbert.

Bassomatic's first album was 1990's Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass, the title track derived from Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun".[8] This album was re-released in 1997. A subsequent album, Science and Melody, was released in 1991.[8]

Bassomatic's biggest hit single was "Fascinating Rhythm" in 1990, which reached No. 9 in the UK Singles Chart, and performed well on the UK Dance Chart.[citation needed]

Around this time, Orbit's studio chiefly consisted of a pair of Akai S1000 samplers and a Roland Juno-106 synthesiser.[9][10]

Productions and remixes[edit]

Collaborations and productions included Prince, Madonna, Britney Spears, Mel C, Pink, U2, Katie Melua, Ricky Martin, Beth Orton, Sarah McLachlan, Queen, The Joy Formidable, Robbie Williams, All Saints, Kraftwerk, Harry Enfield and Sugababes. When working with Beck, the two of them wrote a song for Pink, "Feel Good Time," which Orbit then produced for the soundtrack for the 2003 film Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

He produced the album 13 by Britpop group Blur, in London and Reykjavík, Iceland.

Orbit had created remixes for Madonna previously such as "Justify My Love" and "Erotica" but he didn't meet her personally until 1997. That summer and autumn they worked together and produced her multi-Grammy/award-winning seventh album Ray of Light. The album took four months to record and it was the longest she ever spent recording an album. It was released on 22 February 1998.

In 2000, Orbit continued working for Madonna on her album Music, recorded at The Hit Factory in New York .

At this time he also co-wrote and performed with her, the song "Beautiful Stranger". In 2011 he worked with a team of writers including Jean-Baptiste Kouame, Julie Frost, Klas Ahlund, and brought their compositions and his production work to contribute to the twelfth studio album by Madonna, MDNA, released on March 23, 2012, by Interscope Records. He co-produced 6 tracks on the album, including "Masterpiece" which won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song in the Miramax movie W.E., at the 69th Golden Globe Awards. After the release of the album, Orbit openly expressed in various media sources his dissatisfaction and disappointment with this Madonna project. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/madonna-mdna-failure-william-orbit_n_1527939

In 2018 he worked on "After All", a song by English-Canadian girl group All Saints from their fifth studio album, Testament (2018). Written by group member Shaznay Lewis along with Peter Hutchings and William Orbit, whilst produced by the latter, it was released as the album's second single on 26 July 2018, by AS Recordings.

Classical work[edit]

Inspired and encouraged by Rob Dickins, Orbit's first commercial release in the classical sphere was Pieces in a Modern Style. It was originally released in May 1995 on Orbit’s N-Gram Recordings label, and then again in 2000 by Warner Music in the UK and Europe, and on Maverick in the U.S. The album reached No 2 in the UK album charts. The first single release from the album was "Barber’s Adagio for Strings", and a dance remix of the track by Dutch DJ Ferry Corsten was hugely successful. The single reached number 4[11][12] in the national singles chart. In 2010 he teamed with Rico Conning and Laurie Mayer to make a follow up album, '′Pieces in a Modern Style 2′', which was released as a two-disc set on the Decca label. The album featured German countertenor Andreas Scholl[13] on an interpretation of Henry Purcell’s "Dido’s Lament".

In 2007 he took part in Alex Poots’ Manchester International Festival, and composed a symphonic work in nine movements, "Orchestral Suite" which was performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, augmented by additional harps, pianos and percussion, and with The Manchester Chorale, conducted by Alexander Shelley at Bridgewater Hall.[14]

Live performance/media/DJ work[edit]

In the early '90s, Orbit briefly developed a new label which he called N'Gram. During the N'Gram period, he co-directed a showcase of the label at Queen Elizabeth Hall[15] on London's Southbank. The acts included The Electric Chamber (which performed the Pieces album), Strange Cargo, and Torch Song.

In 2001 he took part in the Stockhausen Electronic Festival[16] at the Barbican Theatre.

In 2013 he took part in the London Electronic Arts Festival.[17]

He participated in the Liberatum International Cultural Festival[18] in Russia, during which he performed DJ sets in Moscow and Novosibirsk, Siberia.

More recently Orbit has deejayed at various clubs in London and Ibiza and at Buckingham Palace[19] for Her Majesty The Queen’s annual staff and family Christmas party.

In 2013 Orbit worked with Britney Spears and Will.i.am on her album Britney Jean, with fellow songwriters Ana Diaz and Dan Traynor with whom he wrote and produced the track "Alien". He was one of the writers and one of the producers on the Chris Brown song "Don't Wake Me Up" which was recorded at Record Plant in LA and for which he received an ASCAP[20] award in 2013. The song has had 180 Million views on YouTube.[21] This was followed by a production of the Queen track "There Must Be More to Life Than This", which featured archive vocals by Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson. Orbit went on to produce another Queen song, "Let Me in Your Heart Again". In 2015 his composition "The Name of the Wave" was used in the Oscar winning documentary Amy directed by Asif Kapadia.[22]

He performed in 2015 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and at a gala at Banqueting House in London's Whitehall for the charity Together For Short Lives, a group that sponsors and supports children with terminal illness and their families.[23]

Solo discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

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: –
  • 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[27][28]


  • 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[29]


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

Ensemble discography[edit]

With Bassomatic[edit]

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

With Strange Cargo[edit]

Year Album
1995 Hinterland[31][32][33]
  • Labels: N-GRAM Recordings

With Torch Song[edit]

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

DNV 2012

Production and songwriting credits[edit]

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
"There Must Be More to Life Than This" 2014 Queen and Michael Jackson Queen Forever
"After All" 2018 All Saints Testament
"Testament in Motion"

Awards and nominations[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d e "William Orbit." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 30. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2000. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, 2017-05-07. Available online via Encyclopedia.com.
  2. ^ "Torch Song". Discogs. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  3. ^ "Torch Song - Prepare To Energize". Discogs. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Bachelor Party (1984) Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  5. ^ YouTube clip: "William Orbit - Opening Score(from Youngblood Soundtrack)", YouTube, Sept 12, 2012.
  6. ^ YouTube clip: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 Soundtrack White Night By Torch Song", YouTube, Sept 12, 2012.
  7. ^ "Guerilla Studios". Discogs. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Nineties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 35. ISBN 0-7535-0427-8.
  9. ^ Goodyer, Tim (November 1990). "The Heart Of The Bass". Music Technology. United Kingdom. pp. 52–56. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  10. ^ Tingen, Paul (October 1991). "William Orbit: Urban Guerilla". Sound On Sound. United Kingdom. pp. 58–64. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  11. ^ a b c "The Official Charts Company: William Orbit". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  12. ^ UK Official Singles Charts "Official Singles Chart Top 100, 12th Dec 1999", [1]
  13. ^ Andreas Scholl Discography. "Andreas Scholl Discography", [2]
  14. ^ Aspden, Peter (June June 22, 2007). "Alluring echoes of Hoxton". Financial Times: FT Weekend, Life & Arts. www.ft.com. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
  15. ^ Performance: WILLIAM ORBIT Royal Festival Hall, London. "Performance: WILLIAM ORBIT Royal Festival Hall, London", 'Independent', Monday 24 July 1995.
  16. ^ The sound of discord. "William Orbit, who appears alongside Stockhausen in next month's Elektronic Festival ", 'The Guardian', 29th Sept 2001.
  17. ^ William Orbit confirmed for first London Electronic Arts Festival. "Georgio Moroder and William Orbit confirmed for first London Electronic Arts Festival", 'Indie London', Nov 2013.
  18. ^ Carrera Presents Liberatum Hong Kong International Festival of Culture. "Carrera Presents Liberatum Hong Kong International Festival of Culture", 'Lisa Baker Associates Limited', 22 March 2012.
  19. ^ William Orbit at Buckingham Palace. "William Orbit played the national anthem at Buckingham Palace party", 'irishexaminer', Thursday, 4 June 2015.
  20. ^ ASCAP Awards. "ASCAP Awards 2013", 'ASCAP', 2013.
  21. ^ YouTube. "ASCAP Awards 2013", 'Chris Brown - Don't Wake Me Up', June 2012.
  22. ^ Amy (soundtrack). "Amy", 'Amy (soundtrack)', Oct 2015.
  23. ^ The midsummer ball. "Together for Short Lives’ Midsummer Ball", 'The Midsummer Ball', 3 June 2015.
  24. ^ Tobias Zywietz. "The Official Zobbel Homepage". Zobbel.de. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  25. ^ a b "Discography William Orbit". Australian-Charts.com. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  26. ^ "William Orbit > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  27. ^ "Orbit Symphonic". SoundCloud. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  28. ^ "Strange Cargo 5". SoundCloud. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  29. ^ "William Orbit - William / Orbit". Discogs.com. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  30. ^ "William Orbit > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  31. ^ "Hinterland – William Orbit, Strange Cargo : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  32. ^ "Hinterland: Amazon.co.uk: Music". Amazon. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Strange Cargo Discography at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g "William Orbit - The Recording Academy". GRAMMY.com. The Recording Academy. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  35. ^ "William Orbit - Awards - IMDb". IMDb.com. Retrieved 11 August 2019.

External links[edit]