Alec Empire was – and is – the lynchpin of Atari Teenage Riot. Even after the band’s implosion around the turn of the millenium, Empire’s songwriting continued the band’s white-noise assault with the nihilistic and violent Intelligence and Sacrifice solo-album, but like his frequent co-conspirator, Nic Endo, Digital Hardcore is not the be-all and end-all of Empire’s talents. His next two solo albums showcased two completely different forms of electronic savagery – first came the digi-punk riffery of Futurist, and then the cleaner, razorblade electro of The Golden Foretaste of Heaven.
The only person that knows what the next Alec Empire project will sound like is, well, Alec Empire. And it’s because of that musical unpredictability, that of all the members of ATR, it’s Empire’s top five Atari Teenage Riot tracks that we were most intrigued to finally discover.
1. ‘Atari Teenage Riot’
“This was the first ATR track I had written for the project. It sounds so glued together now, but back then it was quite a journey to figure out the sound. It always sounded like something else…early Manchester Rave which was very popular at the time, then like a rock band who gets some hip hop elements into their songs…I didn’t want that at all. But when the first DJs started playing it in Berlin and London, we saw that it really stood out from everything else. Now I sometimes think it’s weird how the first track determined everything else that the band did over all the coming years. In Germany, there are not many songs which describe the situation right after the Wall coming down, it’s often referenced these days.”
2. ‘Revolution Action’
“In my opinion this track sums up everything one needs to know about ATR. When people ask me what ATR sounded like, I always just play them this song…I have a lot of memories…the riots in Berlin May 1st 1999, when we played the song for the first time in Germany, then of course John Peel’s birthday event at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, when there was a huge stage invasion during that song. The meaning of the song is more relevant today than it probably was back then. We have to create the world we want to live in, not let others do it for us.”
Watch ATR get arrested for playing ‘Revolution Action’ at the 1999 Berlin May Day riots:
“Since the beginning this track stood out from all the other ATR tracks. it was one of the first 5 songs I wrote for the band. It became very popular when it appeared in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift. It’s the perfect example of a track which finds its own way over time. In the beginning we always wanted another fast and hard track to play live, but then it grew and grew. Of course Carl Crack’s vocals take on another dimension when one knows how he died in 2001. It’s about living in the red all the time, being into adrenaline and danger. I know many people who are into extreme sports who get really pumped up when they hear this one. I always think of Carl when I hear it. In a way I wrote it for him at the time, because I knew he could really nail the vibe, tell the story in an authentic way.”
4. ‘Destroy 2000 Years of Culture’
“I wrote this song when I was still at school. The church in my neighborhood was built by the Nazis, every day when I walked to school, I passed it. It is a really really ugly building. I actually have never seen any church which looks like that. Then ten more minutes into my morning walk to school came the Wall and the observation towers with soldiers and their guns…I remember sitting in class, doing a test, and writing Destroy 2000 Years of Culture! in huge letters across the sheet…I was so angry and didn’t have any respect for the past and the traditions at all if they can lead to the Third Reich and more wars. I then wrote the rest of the song in the following days. I knew I had to sing it, and in 1996 I pulled it out for ATR’s The Future of War album. It became a lead track for ATR. When I sat down with Ice Cube in Los Angeles two years later and discussed possible production on his comeback album and played him this song…I mean I will never forget his face expression…when the beat kicked in on this one, he was like WTF??? That’s one of these personal moments for me…”
Watch the video to ‘Destroy 2000 Years Of Culture’ by ATR:
“This is so ATR. It all came together so fast…it was this in the moment thing…and brought so much life into the 2010 project! The feedback we received from fans for this was so crazy… Nic Endo and CX surprised me on this, they added so much energy to it. I feel that ATR now is in better shape then ever before. Maybe it is because we didn’t lay out this big masterplan for a reformation or so…we’ll play a handful of shows and that’s it. There is no pressure, we just feel we owe it to the fans to go out there one last time and have a blast with them together. The shows will be confrontational, especially for those who have never seen ATR. We want to make people think, then take action. This is not entertainment.”