Atari Teenage Riot was the brainchild of Alec Empire; it was born out of excitement at the social and musical possibilities following the fall of the Berlin Wall and creating a new sound to suit those febrile times. He instinctively resisted the pigeonholing of pop punk and happy hardcore; the prevalent styles foisted upon teenagers at the time and in a series of home recordings broke the free of expectations and redefined the role of a young musician in Berlin.
He went on to form Atari Teenage Riot; a revolutionary melding of breakbeat, dance, electronica, hip hop and punk to create an entirely new approach to expressing his hopes and frustrations. Although confined to playing cellars on the periphery of the Berlin scene he was soon joined by like-minded iconoclasts and the nucleus of a new movement was formed.
Inspired by the book "Electronic Revolution" by William S. Burroughs and specifically the section about "riot sounds" Empire applied a similar cut up technique to sampling technology as the author had done with snippets of text, ripped from newspapers and books. The musical result couldn't be easily categorized by journalists and DJs. Soon a new genre name was found to describe Atari Teenage Riot: Digital Hardcore.
Alec had been releasing solo records for Achim Szepanski’s Force Inc. and Mille Plateaux imprints but Atari Teenage Riot were snapped up by the UK’s Phonogram label. The usual major label staff reshuffles left ATR back on their own but now with an album under their belt and a wad of cash - enough to start their own label, Digital Hardcore Recordings. Reconvening back in Berlin they planned the release of their album and along with some close friends launched a new assault on the world’s ears.
Lacking a US outlet but with John Peel on board as an avid fan they won the attention of the Beastie Boys and signed to Grand Royal. Burn Berlin Burn came out and shook the college airwaves up so much, offers to tour with Beck, Wu Tang, RATM, Jon Spencer and Nine Inch Nails soon followed.
The band went from strength to strength releasing two further albums and a clutch of singles; they broke through in the Far East playing Japan, Korea and Taiwan, they toured Australia and after raging through Europe with 60 Second Wipe Out conquered South America.
The group shuddered to a halt when ATR's rapper Carl Crack was found dead in his apartment in Berlin in September 2001. Falsely reported as a drug overdose, Carl had had a psychotic reaction to the various drugs forced on him by a doctor’s misdiagnosis of his illness which left him unable to cope.
Alec Empire and Nic Endo decided to focus on the Alec Empire solo project for a while. Between the ATR releases Empire had continued to release solo albums and his remixes for Björk, Thurston Moore, Rammstein, Primal Scream, Slayer and Gary Numan had cemented his reputation as an artist in his own right.
Freed of the constraints of a regular band format they experimented with new musical permutations adding live guest players such as Charlie Clouser (NIN), Gabe Serbian (Locust) and Masami Akita (aka noise godfather Merzbow). They headlined various festivals across Europe and Japan with changing line ups and used the experience to reassess their approach to recordings.
The outcome was Intelligence and Sacrifice, universally recognised as Alec Empire’s definitive musical statement.
In the meantime demand was growing for the return of Atari Teenage Riot. Live shows from London to Tokyo were on offer so in 2010 Empire and Endo began collaborating with CX Kidtronik, the rapper and beat producer for Saul Williams from Brooklyn, New York. More shows followed and a whole new audience found the band. ATR had captured the spirit of the moment when they first began and struck the same chord with a brand new audience when they reformed.
From the very start ATR had taken a stand against the growing problem of overtly racist Neo-Nazi organisations and the associated rise in violence in Germany. As in his homeland, governments the world over reacted against anyone who questioned the status quo, whether they were regular citizens or jihadists, in exactly the same way; a clamp down on freedom and increased surveillance. As a new generation identified with ATR’s message and political viewpoint YouTube visits soared and back catalogue went through the roof.
At Summersonic Festival in Japan Steve Aoki invited the band to record a new album for his label Dim Mak Records. Atari Teenage Riot found itself right in the heart of America's exploding EDM scene with Skrillex opening for them at their New York show.
From the outset Alec Empire perceived ATR as open project; a way of expressing the attitudes and opinions of its members through music. The current line-up features long time member Nic Endo and newcomer Rowdy Superstar. Both contribute their own talents and perspective; Endo taut hard hitting melodies and Rowdy SS lyrics to the upcoming album and a new vibrancy to MC duties.
Endo has carved a solo career with her own albums and her celebrated live deconstruction of ‘The Rite of Spring’. Her emphatic stand against human trafficking with ‘Blood In My Eyes’, from Is This Hyperreal?, made her an exemplar of modern feminism. Rowdy Superstar has collaborated with such diverse artists as Patrick Wolf, Micachu, Zero 7 and Lee Perry and last year released his Matthew Herbert produced debut album Battery. Rowdy commutes between Berlin and London where he is a respected DJ and runs his own “Soap” night in Dalston.
RESET is the new ATR album. It distils their thoughts on the current state of society; it takes the individual talents and moulds a new musical vision. They still embrace the disruptive effect of seemingly chaotic rhythms and arbitrary noise but also hits home with nerve shredding hooks and bone crunching riffs that characterise the essence of Atari Teenage Riot and thrust the future of visceral mind searing music firmly into the next era.
“Atari Teenage Riot is not about preserving something as if it sacred and inviolate; we recognise what belongs in the past. We are about constantly updating our music and our message so it remains relevant. We connect to our audience by the sheer power of our performance and try to give them an unrivalled live experience which affects their lives today.”
NEW EP - OUT 6TH OCTOBER
Like a machine gun stuttering out the beginning of an urgent message in Morse code Modern Liars opening salvo warns of how our putative democratic guardians plan to steal our dreams.
Each news broadcast features stories of how modern technology is being used by governments and corporations to snoop into your personal life. Search engines are used to monitor your aspirations and mobile phones to track your every movement.
The lyrics of Modern Liars caution us that acquiescence is not an option - but don’t leave it to anyone else; it’s your life and your responsibility.
Atari Teenage Riot’s message is as positive and uplifting as their music. Guitars shudder with excitement, synths soar and the detonation of a skein of snare and toms announces a hook line that embeds itself in your brain like a cleaver in butcher’s block.
The band commissioned a video which undermines the deceptive gloss of modern society and exposes its dank corrupt underbelly. Multi award winning film maker Rob McLellan takes the heart-quickening surges and reflective passages of the song and twisting the clichéd motifs of the video game in some imagined future world, weaves a tale about the price of fame.
The anthemic chorus of Modern Liars trumpets the freedom offered by the modern world. Despite the best efforts of the hegemonies, the computational power with which they attempt to shape and control society is also a means of resistance and salvation… Just take it!