Atari Teenage Riot
is the sound of punk, breakbeat and glitchy electronics, with a message behind the noise
, something of the modern version of a riot set to music
. The German group was briefly associated with the Phonogram record label
back in 1993, but only long enough get a record deal with an unrecoupable advance
, piss off the label, cut those ties and form their own new label: Digital Hardcore Recordings
. From there, the group made three albums and about a dozen singles and EPs, toured the world, then went quiet in 2000. That is, until last year when the group reformed to tour
, and the revised cast of characters recorded a new album, which is streaming online
. Step inside for more history and noise.
The story of Atari Teenage Riot started before the 1990s, with the background of front-man Alexander Wilke-Steinhof, better known as Alec Empire
. He grew up in Germany near the Berlin Wall, with what he described as "[t]his tension every day that things might go off
... It's not fear, it's being alert." Protests and demonstrations, mixed with the new American music brought in by US soldiers. As a youth, he was a fan of rap, but came to feel the genre was too commercial. Then he was in a punk band, but felt that the punk movement had nothing new to say. His next venture into music was the world of raves and electronic dance music.
Initially going by the name LX Empire
(mis-credited as LX Emoire
on one of his few discography listings for this alias), he signed with Force Inc, along with future band-mate Hanin (Elias), with whom he produced a 1992 EP
). While with Force Inc, LX Empire became Alec Empire, and he released a number of singles
under his solo alias, including his 1991 take on the acid house/techno style
. In 1992, he released three solo singles with a new sonic direction, two of which included some odd notes on the record labels: Warning! Alec Empire is a member of Atari Teenage Riot!
and Warning! Never trust a DJ! A.T.R.'s gonna fuck you up!
While the sound
wasn't too hardcore
, ATR had formed, and it had a purpose
: to provide a response to the neo nazi movement
of the early 1990s, who had "declared techno as the 'true German music'" as part of an attempt to appeal to German youth. Empire's reply was to use music "rooted in Afro-American funk music in the late 60ties and 70ties" that was also related to civil rights and radical political groups, sampling and modifying the breakbeats from funk tracks. (Tangent: in recent years
, faster beats have been adopted by some neo-nazis
From this blend of underground techno and political activism, Alec Empire, Hanin Elias and Carl Crack (born Carl Böhm) created Atari Teenage Riot. At the young group's second show, A&R reps from various labels were present, looking to sign the band as a way to cash in on the Dance Craze of such acts like The Prodigy
and 2 Unlimited
"So we went for the deal with the highest unrecoupable advance which was very high in those days. Then our goal was to get out of the deal as fast as possible by sabotaging the whole thing. It worked. A year later we started DHR with that money, pressed up the first 12 inches, John Peel loved those and then it all started to happen..."
DHR, Digital Hardcore Recordings, was funded with the funding that Phonogram gave the group to record an album, but they did everything they could to ruin the deal. In the end, Phonogram released two singles
from the group in 1993
, and in 1994 the first DHR single was released
, and it was getting hardcore (sample: Pleasure Is Our Business (live)
). The label was bigger than ATR, and included many like-minded artists
The next year Atari Teenage Riot released a full album of material, initially titled 1995
, then re-titled Delete Yourself!
when the album was re-released two years later. Tracklist: 1. Start the Riot!
/ 2. Into the Death
/ 3. Raverbashing
/ 4. Speed
) / 5. Sex
/ 6. Midijunkies
/ 7. Delete Yourself! You Got No Chance To Win!
(Live In Glasgow 17.10.1993) / 8. Hetzjagd Auf Nazis!
(original version, not Live In Berlin 25.2.1994) / 9. Cyberpunks Are Dead!
/ 10. Atari Teenage Riot
/ 11. Kids Are United!
) / 12. Riot 1995
To that point, Atari Teenage Riot had released any music directly to the US, but that changed in 1995
when members of the alt/math rock
introduced Mike Diamond (aka Mike D of The Beastie Boys) to ATR, and got DHR connected to the Grand Royal label
(which closed in 2001; label discography
In 1997, the group released their second album. One reviewer said the album was more diverse, but with less of an impact than the first album
, noting that 1995
included a number of previously released singles. Tracklist: 1. Get Up While You Can
/ 2. Fuck All!
/ 3. Sick To Death
)/ 4. P.R.E.S.S.
/ 5. Deutschland (Has Gotta Die!)
/ 6. Destroy 2000 Years Of Culture
/ 7. Not Your Business
/ 8. You Can't Hold Us Back
/ 9. Heatwave
/ 10. Redefine The Enemy
/ 11. Death Star
/ 12. The Future Of War
. The Japanese edition, as well as the second DHR pressing, included three bonus tracks: 13. She Sucks My Soul Away
/ 14. Strike
/ 15. Midijunkies (Gonna Fuck You Up) (Oscillate Mix)
. That same year, Grand Royal put together a compilation for US audiences, titled Burn, Berlin, Burn!
, taking tracks from the group's first and second albums.
The group's third album, 60 Second Wipe Out
, was released in 1999 in various editions
. The album featured work by Nic Endo
, who had previously toured with the group. 1. Revolution Action
(video with Space Invaders
, or text messages
) / 2. By Any Means Necessary
/ 3. Western Decay
/ 4. Atari Teenage Riot II
/ 5. Ghostchase
/ 6. Too Dead For Me
(HD video) / 7. U.S. Fade Out
/ 8. The Virus Has Been Spread
/ 9. Digital Hardcore
/ 10. Death Of A President D.I.Y.!
/ 11. Your Uniform (Does Not Impress Me!)
/ 12. No Success
/ 13. Anarchy 999
. The US edition included a bonus track (14. No Remorse (I Wanna Die)
), from the Spawn soundtrack
The studio work is only half of ATR. ATR toured with a wide variety of groups
, backing Moby in Holland, Rage Against The Machine and Wu-Tang Clan on a US tour, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
. JSBX even collaborated with ATR for a track called Attack
But the group wasn't always so cordial. Live shows could be a bit intense, as during a show in Brazil, Hanin Elias punched a security guard with her microphone when he groped her
, and at another show, Carl Crack had a psychotic breakdown on stage and tried to stab people with his microphone stand because he thought he was a Zulu warrior. In March of 1999, John Peel invited ATR to play at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
before the band released 60 Second Wipe Out
, and the show sold out, and ended with a riot
. In a review of the evening, an NME reporter pondered, "If Atari Teenage Riot can do this in a chamber orchestra hall, imagine what havoc they could wreak with a baying festival mob
." People didn't have to wonder for long, as on May 1, 1999 ATR played at the Revolutionary Labour Day event
, and were arrested for inciting a riot (context: May Day for Dummies
, and an extended clip with commentary by Alec Empire
). The band ended with one last blast: Atari Teenage Riot played in November 1999 at Brixton Academy
. Instead of performing individual tracks, it was solid sound. The show was less than half an hour, but it was recorded for posterity -- "Live At Brixton Academy is the sound of a riot in progress
The group was worn from an extended period of touring
, and they unofficially disbanded in 2000. Hanin Elias had a child around that time, making an imminent return to ATR unlikely. Then in 2001, Carl Crack died of a drug overdose
, at age 30. The remaining ATR members went their own ways - Elias formed a small label
and recorded some solo work, and Nic Endo released a solo album
, too. Endo's album was released on Geist Records
, a short-lived sub-label of DHR. Alec said he was involved in more records than in the '90s
, including running a new label - Eat Your Heart Out
DHR released two compilations of ATR material: Redefine The Enemy!
, a rarities and b-sides comp. in 2002, then a broader retrospective titled 1992-2000
in 2006. Alec put his old label on hold in 2007 to focus on his new label
Last year, Atari Teenage Riot announced a reunion tour
and released a new single
, B side
on Soundcloud). Except the new ATR was only half of its former self, with Carl Crack dead, and some weirdness/ugliness between Alec Empire and Hanin Elias
(posted on Facebook, to boot). Nic Endo took on some lead vocals, and the group now includes Atlanta-based veteran of the underground hip-hop scene, CX KiDTRONiK
, who wasn't intended to replace Carl Crack, but to provide a new voice and sound in ATR
ATR was backwith an extended tour and new US label
, Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records
. The touring went well
, and one single lead to a video
and another single
(MP3 on RCRD LBL), and finally a whole album
(track-by-track review, streaming online without track breaks
, and on YouTube as single tracks
More Bits and Pieces
* There used to be a detailed Alec Empire fansite, but it's now reduced to a semi-functional copy on the Wayback Machine
* Another Alec Empire interview
, this time with talk about his new gear and studio set-up
* ATR still has troubles in/with Germany: the 1997 ATR album The Future of War was banned in Germany in 2002
(Wayback Machine), and the German branch of the iTunes Store doesn't like part of an ATR app
, called "Riotsounds Produce Riots," an audio player that features sounds that ATR used at a May Day protest in 1999, at which the band members were arrested, noting that the app feature generates "very low sub basses, square waves, noise sounds which trigger hysteria and panic within the audience."