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Atari Teenage Riot, Blurring the Line Between Instrument and Artist

January 1, 2011
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atr9613ea3.jpgWith tracks titles like “Destroy 2000 Years Of Culture,” “Start The Riot,” and “Deutschland (Has Gotta Die),” Atari Teenage Riot (ATR) offered a harder-edged electro-punk alternative to the bigroom trance and glowsticks that defined the mid- ’90s electronica explosion. The mastermind of Atari Teenage Riot, Alec Empire, recently resurrected the band for a world tour (the US leg was completed in October) and the new track, “Activate.”

The Hellish Vortex Studios in Berlin is ground zero for ATR’s productions. While the band’s early albums were created mainly with the Atari 1040ST computer, Roland TR-909 drum machine, and the Akai S1100 sampler—or what Empire refers to as a “very basic early rave setup”—the newest material marries the old with the new: “The latest version of Pro Tools is great to have, because it is very easy to use in tandem with all the old gear. For example,” he says, “The Atari 1040ST is still our main sequencer for everything but we just slave it to Pro Tools. The Roland TR-909 is still the main drum machine and we still use the old Akai samplers like the S1100, S6000, or MPC 2000XL. We also use an API 1608 desk and compressors like the Universal Audio 1176s and the blue dbx 160 SL series, but I still prefer my old Lexicon 480L to the digital plugins. These machines are part of the band’s identity; especially when you apply distortion.”

While Empire’s set up is still relatively simple, it’s his love of experimentation that leads to all sorts of happy accidents that end up on record. Besides ATR, Empire has also released a bevy of solo material that ranges in style from ambient and film scores to digital hardcore. “Most sound engineers find my whole approach totally weird,” he says, laughing. “To me, there is no line that separates the instruments, the mixing desk, the computer, and the artist. It all works together, and one element can suddenly change all the others. For example, we took the Metasonix S-1000 Wretchmachine, put it through Antares Autotune 7, then into a Mesa Boogie guitar amp, where it was triggered by our Doepfer sequencer. When it was in Pro Tools, we fed it back into the API EQs, drove the input gain super-high to give it even more crunch, then compressed it again before finally putting it through the filters of the TB- 303. I had mine changed so the mix input routes through the internal filters. It sounded awesome; first, we wanted to have that sound determine the whole track, but then I changed my mind and it ended up being eight bars. I believe that when you send your brain onto these journeys, you change the way you think; every step matters—even if you don’t use it at the end of the day.”

Justin Kleinfeld

Want more? Read the entire interview with Alec Empire HERE.

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