Alec Empire in 2009 isn’t the sloganeering noise terrorist that formed Atari Teenage Riot back in 1992. He’s no longer the riot-starter that tore Reading Festival several new arseholes with Atari Teenage Riot’s legendary 1999 main stage sonic-enema. He’s not the man who one-upped Trent Reznor by turning a support slot under NIN into 45 minutes of white-noise mayhem. Alec Empire isn’t the nihilistic agent of self-destruction, that sliced himself open and bled all over a terrified Highbury Garage in 2001.
Because Alec Empire embraced electro. With 2008’s The Golden Foretaste of Heaven, Empire ditched digital hardcore, that unholy mash of hellish white noise, sampled Slayer riffs and firestorm jungle, for a clinical, cleaner electronic approach. Doesn’t exactly fall under the Thrash Hits remit, right? Right. But the announcement of his forthcoming The Past-The Present-The Future tour, when he revealed he would include Atari Teenage Riot material in his set for the first time in a decade, changed all that.
Alec Empire’s got his shitkicker shoes back on, and he’s coming for you.
Talking about Past-Present-Future Tour – what made you decide to re-incorporate ATR material into the set?
“I really wanted to avoid that all the time. To me, it would’ve been…I just couldn’t. I felt with the Atari Teenage Riot songs, when Carl Crack died, and the way the whole thing ended, I didn’t really feel that I wanted to go back to that at that time. I think now, one reason, to be honest, the political situation made the decision for me. The past maybe six months, or even longer, I feel so angry about just about the banks and all that stuff. For me, I haven’t looked closely enough at the British situation, but the way people react in Germany it’s like…are they walking zombies? It seems like so many people don’t want to see where their problem is. A lot of these songs that we’ve written with Atari Teenage Riot describe it so well, what has been going on with the Iraq war, and they way the financial world is tied in with all that. To me it was “why don’t we play some of these songs?” I don’t even need to re-write new stuff, because we’ve had it.
“Also, what I quite liked about the idea was we have to re-work that stuff to see if it works now. The songs won’t sound so different that you can’t recognise them anymore, but it certain stuff had to be updated. I felt also distanced enough, it was the tenth anniversary of the May Riots, when we played the streets of Berlin, and it really made me think back about what has changed, how do people react to the political situation, and somehow I thought I can’t ignore this.
“For example, a record like The Golden Foretaste of Heaven I would not have done this year, because it just not felt like it. I think the weird thing is that a lot of people at my shows now don’t really know Atari Teenage Riot so well. That’s the feedback I’m getting most of the time. People go ‘you played in this another band?” as they were just too young when it happened. Most people maybe when I started years ago, they started with Intelligence & Sacrifice. It’s kind of strange. We’ll see what the reaction will be, but we’re looking forward to doing stuff like that again.”
Watch the video to ‘On Fire’ by Alec Empire
On the last tour, the vast majority of the set was the lighter, Golden Foretaste material. How do you marry the harder stuff up with your newer electro sound when playing live?
“I always remember when we once did a 3CD compilation called The Geist of Alec Empire, which was almost like a ‘Best Of’ from all Mille Plateaux albums I did in the 90s. I remember when we compiled it we were like ‘can we even do this? This might not even fit’. The weird thing is, when we compiled it, it made perfect sense. I find that very often with my music that even if one record feels to be so different from another one – maybe if you were to play them next to each other and you don’t know the context, it would be weird – but in a live situation, these things are much more linked together than most people would think.
“To give you an example, we played a show in Spain last month, and tracks like ‘New Man’ and ‘The Ride’ and harder stuff, completely was working very well next to each other. I think sometimes it’s much easier than some people think. And it wouldn’t like “now they’re going in one direction, then they’re going off like this”, it’s because there’s this signature on all of these tracks. I haven’t found this to be a problem so far to be honest.”
For the full, unabridged transcript of this interview, go check out MusicTowers.com.
The new mini-album from Alec Empire, Shivers, is out on Eat Your Heart Out Records on May 8. Empire is also touring the UK before its release.
Alec Empire May 2009 tourdates
01 London Camden Underworld
02 Manchester Satan’s Hollow
03 Glasgow Ivory Blacks
05 Norwich The Waterfront