By: Chris Fishlock
Having released their latest album since 1999 in the form of ‘Is This Hyperreal?’ , we caught up with Alec Empire from Atari Teenage Riot, who are currently touring the US and preparing to release new single Black Flags. We talked to Alec about the new video, the latest album, the music industry and more.
You have teamed up with activist group Anonymous for your new video for ‘Black Flags’, do you support the work Anonymous have done so far? What do you think of their high profile attack on Sony earlier this year?
Alec: We referenced them in our song which we recorded a few months ago, so when we announced the concept for the video, a few of them got in touch to participate on some level. Of course we totally loved that. I mean, there are so many people involved, you can’t really say that ‘they all’ got involved because they don’t function like that. I love their sense of humor, their actions, the image.
I witnessed a protest a while ago against Scientology in Germany and that was really powerful stuff. But I have to say that I also like the trolling and all the non political joke stuff… It’s just my sense of humor. Some people call that ‘childish’ but I like it… And their political activism is right. In the situation we are right now with the authorities making peaceful protesting impossible and mainstream media ignoring those protests, taking down a website of a corporation can send a message. Can it change anything? Let me put it this way, it can change more than democratically elected politicians can change right now. Because people see the actions and question the status quo. That is good and important.
You are getting fans to contribute to the ‘Black Flags’ video, you also often talk to fans via twitter and social networks, is connecting with your fan base and making them part of things such as music videos something you find important?
Alec: I think it’s good to let others participate in projects like this. It’s also a lot of fun. We were surprised by all the clips we got sent by fans. They had good ideas. It takes some balls to film yourself and appear in a music video. Especially one with a message like this one. Some people sent in crazy black flag corpsing shots… In a shopping mall for example – seconds later the security guards would appear. The best thing is when you watch the whole takes where people lip-sync the song, they have such a fun time doing it – that just put me in a good mood! In times when record labels go down, who do you listen to… Yes, the fans! Everything else is just bubbles which burst after a few weeks.
Before the reunion of Atari Teenage Riot you were ready to release a new solo album before deciding to concentrate on ATR, any plans for the album’s release?
Alec: Yes, it’s still waiting for its release. I am not rushing it.
‘Is This Hyperreal?’ has been well received critically, how do you think it stands up against the other Atari Teenage Riot albums? And which of the four albums is your personal favourite and why?
Alec: It’s the best ATR album in my opinion. The only problem is that some music critics can’t decipher the lyrics when they don’t deal with those political topics. I read some of the dumbest shit I have ever read. Journalists write things like we are ‘against the internet’ for example, but then authors like Steven Levy did great interviews/conversations with me. That’s what I love most about this record. The type of people it made me come in contact with. People who really know their shit. I also realised that anything related to internet swarm buzz hype shit is not for me at all. I am very very bored with the music industry at this point.
Atari Teenage Riot – Activate!
You have blogged about how the music industry has changed and that both file sharers and major labels are greedy. How do you think the music industry needs to change in order to prevent both the major labels and file sharers from running the industry?
Alec: They run the what’s left of the industry and they all run it into the ground. Governments try to help with funding in various countries – I see that as the biggest threat to free art.
I am on the side of those who create and produce and not of those who exploit and consume. In the blog you mentioned I spoke about a ‘new mindset’. People have to understand that they drive the music scene and should be in control. So their choices should motivate the artists to create, not only what people expect them to but also to surprise them.
The problem of our era is that music has no value to most people. It is expected. Like the food that is stocked in supermarket chains or the water that’s coming out of your bathroom tub. I am only speaking about it because people ask me, I don’t really care about what happens to the music industry or scene as a whole. Mainly because I don’t see myself as a part of it.
Despite all members of ATR not being British, the band have been based in London with both the comeback and album premiere shows taking place in the city, do you find that the band have a special bond with London and what do you think about the recent riots that have taken place in the city?
Alec: London always played a key role for us. We were first played on the radio by John Peel there, got signed to a Major label, then created our label Digital Hardcore there. We mastered almost all records there. I blogged about the riots in London a few hours after they occurred. I suggest you read the article. It did receive over 100,000 unique views in the first day it went up and was quoted in various articles about the riots in Germany.
On a bit of a different note, you have plenty of young and new bands supporting you on tour, what newer bands do you recommend we check out and what older bands are you currently listening to a lot at the moment?
Alec: Yes, amazing stuff. Otto Von Schirach with his new music has been killing it every night on the US tour so far. Retox which is members of All Leather and Locust were blowing people away. We have Rowdy Superstar opening up for our dates in October. I love that guy. Very very good stuff. Do they have beards, stand around and play safe to death guitar indie electronic crap that pleases boring people? No. That’s why I love playing with powerful musicians, they are part of a great night.
You can currently download ‘Black Flags’ for free here, and make sure you check out the bands phenomenal live show, at the dates below:
05.10.2011 AT-Vienna, Szene
06.10.2011 AT-Linz, Posthof
07.10.2011 SI-Ljubljana, Kino Siska
12.10.2011 DE-Berlin, Astra
13.10.2011 DE-Leipzig, Werk II
14.10.2011 DE-Cottbus, Gladhouse
15.10.2011 PL-Warsaw, Progresja
16.10.2011 PL-Wroclaw, Firlej
21.10.2011 AT-Dornbirn, Dornbirn
22.10.2011 DE-Stuttgart, Universum
28.10.2011 NL-Dordrecht, Bibelot
29.10.2011 NL-Haarlem, Patronaat
31.10.2011 FR-Lille, Aeronef
03.11.2011 FR-Saint-Etienne, Le Fil
04.11.2011 FR-Nantes, Le Ferrailleur
23.11.2011 RU-Moscow, Tochka
24.11.2011 RU-St. Petersburg, Glavclub
25.11.2011 FI-Helsinki, Nosturi
26.11.2011 SE-Stockholm, Debaser