Atari Teenage Riot 2010: The First Interview
Techno terrorists Atari Teenage Riot are back, and Artrocker.TV has got the first exclusive interview...
ARTROCKER.TV: Excuse us for starting with an obvious question, but why are ATR coming back
ALEC EMPIRE: Hanin Elias contacted us last Autumn about doing some ATR shows. I was a bit surprised but thought it would be something that nobody expected... so I was kind of into it, but needed to check first.
A few months before Nic Endo recorded a collaboration with me and CX Kidtronik for his album. CX is a New York based MC and DJ, who's worked with Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West and many others. We clicked and I thought he might actually bring the fresh air into ATR that it
needed after all those years.
Since then things almost took their own turn. I asked a friend of mine to turn a planned Alec Empire show into an ATR show to see what the reaction might be because when we checked nobody really wanted to touch it. Tickets for the London show were selling so fast, that now the project is very much in demand. Which is a bit going against my own plans to be honest as I was focusing on other things lately.
ARTROCKER.TV: You released the new song 'Activate' on Soundcloud (LISTEN HERE" - why did you choose that delivery method?
ALEC EMPIRE: It will go up everywhere else on May 17 - iTunes and all the others. I kinda like Soundcloud, the way it can be embedded everywhere and shows the comments from fans... it's just fun to use.
It is no secret that I think music critics have to reinvent themselves in our decade. It's a tough job because the emotional reaction the listeners have when they are exposed to a song is so much stronger than words can ever express. So of course I love the idea of letting the 'people' judge first. The German music critics hate the song to death, it is actually funny. The German authorities did censor ATR records in the past, it seems every time I do something with ATR Germany is waiting to beat me down. Ha ha!
ARTROCKER.TV: You mention "too much government control" in 'Activate' - are you referring to the German government, and if so in what context?
ALEC EMPIRE: Oh yes... I am really a libertarian anarchist on most issues. The history of Germany has shown how dangerous it can get when the government becomes too powerful. We could look at the 3rd Reich, but also of course at the GDR. I think the film The Lives of Others gets this across very well.
The music industry in France is so corrupt, because the government has too much control in it. They have laws for radio stations to play the majority of their music in French. They have to invent rules, so people are being forced to listen to national music. In times of the internet this is absurd. Let the people decide what they want to listen to!
The Germans are very similar to the French. That's why there was never any great pop music coming out of those countries, apart from a handful of exceptions maybe. And when we need the government to protect us from the dangers of the financial systems for example? They fail, they sleep - they do to NOT solve the problems.
In Germany we have this big discussion about how much the internet should be controlled by the government - the very idea is insane. We can create more laws, as many laws as we want - but if people are not educated to treat each other with respect and understand the bigger picture, we'll just end up spending more and more tax money on one problem after the other...
Where I come from you take care of business and not always start crying for the police to come to help you.
ARTROCKER.TV: Despite ATR starting in 1992, you still sound more alert and energetic than most 'regular' bands we hear. Are you reacting against a culture of lethargy or are you just naturally hyperactive?
ALEC EMPIRE: ATR sounds like that because I am applying a writing technique here... the way I produce the records. I could do it while I watch TV at the same time. It's like when a film director tells me he needs the audience to start crying in this scene. But of course this doesn't go for the vocal performances. They add that something extra which makes the song come alive. live.
CX Kidtronik and Nic Endo were really on fire when we recorded it. The human voice carries more information than just the words. We all felt this needed to be said.
Most 'regular' bands are so scared to not fit in, they end up with a huge compromise. I always loved the bands which didn't go conform. To me this created the most exciting music ever. The Clash, Public Enemy, Die Antwoord, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane... the list goes on and on. Only that stuff survives at the end, because it inspires people to think into a new direction.
That's why it's sad that the music industry can't afford to invest in innovation anymore, they are just selling the same thing with new faces again and again. I find this very boring.
ARTROCKER.TV: There have been a lot of groups reuniting recently - Pixies, Suede etc - and they don't seem to be enthusiastic about writing new music. Will we be hearing more than 'Activate' from the reformed ATR?
ALEC EMPIRE: Oh yes. Pixies used to be one of my favorite bands back then, these frustrated interviews Frank does now really drag me down.
Writing new music and creating a new concept for ATR is the only reason I signed up for this reunion idea... I click with Nic and CX more than with anyone else right now.
Some fans might be shocked, but sometimes I have the feeling that this is the line up we always wanted. The moment when I didn't even think about looking for it anymore, it fell into my lap. The great thing is that I can honestly say that we don't need the money - I make more than I need from films and all other porjects I am involved in. That's why there is no pressure at all.
It can be artistic suicide to just do it for the money, like most of the other reunion bands. If you're not an artist it's maybe hard to understand, but to get back together can be a dramatic thing. A reunion brings a lot of surprises.
Imagine you know you have fucked up your life and you have to go back to school again for some years with the same people....what a depressing thought!!!
ARTROCKER.TV: Is the reunion expected to last a while, or are you improvising?
ALEC EMPIRE: We have this punk rock approach...we rather burn out fast then fade away slowly. That's part of ATR's thing. Atari Teenage Riot has always been a collective of people instead of a more traditional rock'n'roll band. I wanted it to become a band, but that never happened in reality - I wrote all the songs, wrote the lyrics.. and got together with other artists.
The truth is ATR is not about rock stardom - it's about the message and its physical impact. When we were on tour with the WuTang Clan, I realized ATR was a similar type of group - instead of The Beatles or Spice Girls. I quite love the idea right now to play London for the fans and then let it implode. Most festivals have the
exact same line up these days, the vibe got lost about going to something that will never happen again. I can hardly see ATR going conform with the Walmart rock'n'roll...
ARTROCKER.TV: Are you expecting any rioting on your forthcoming live shows?
ALEC EMPIRE: When I want a riot I tell Nic Endo to press the red button on her sampler... ha ha! This is how it works... But seriously I am doing a documentary film with German TV station ARTE on music being used to torture prisoners by the US army in the Autumn - this stuff is serious. Music can be used as a weapon.