Recently, I’ve been moaning about the dearth of good, specialised (non-electronic) festivals in Berlin. But while the first Lollapalooza Berlin is failing to live up to the event’s legacy (hear me rant about it on Radio überlin), back in the 90s the city hosted a one-dayer with a lineup to rival Perry Farrell’s finest. Information about the apparently one-off event called Berlin Rocks Festival 1993 is scarce, but the billing speaks for itself: Iggy Pop, Anthrax, Living Colour, Suicidal Tendencies, Monster Magnet and these guys…
Rage Against the Machine, with a short, high-impact flashbang of a set that includes an early version of “People of the Sun”:
And the mighty Faith No More, on top of their game and led by an especially intense Mike Patton:
Faith No More play Zitadelle Spandau in June, and for some reason there are still tickets left. Pick up yours here.
A Pet Shop Boys jingle? The One-Hit Parade is not messing around! The new season of what is probably the best, certainly the most kitsch, showcase of upcoming Berlin artists has just wrapped up. If you’re stuck for time, check out the above trailer – but we absolutely recommend watching the whole season, posted below. Of the ten cherry-picked pop acts, look out for our favourites: art rapper Black Cracker (who I had no idea lived in Berlin!), dub queen Anika, minimal weirdo Christian Naujoksand po-faced, iPad-headed robot rocker Wellness.
Jamaica Suk is originally from California, but her music was born for Berlin. Just check out “Qurated”, the title track of the EP of the same name, recently released on Tim Xavier’s Face to Face Recordings imprint. Suk may have studied jazz and played in psych, shoegaze and math rock bands, but today she is laser-focused on rolling, big room techno. Get a free download of “Qurated” and hear more crisp productions on Jamaica Suk’s SoundCloud.
Young Legionnaire are back! Something of a supergroup from the UK’s post-post punk scene, YL consists of Bloc Party’s Gordon Moakes, drummer Dean Pearson and frontman Paul Mullen, formerly of yourcodenameis:milo (one of our few sources of North East pride), and now the leader of the brilliant Berlin-based-ish electro rockers Losers. Young Legionnaire are writing news songs (yay!) and will be threatening to blow Idlewild off the stage at Lido this Sunday, March 1st. Come get some.
Music activist Mark Reeder selects tracks from the 80s underground, to celebrate the release of his film “B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin”. Featuring Bowie, Einstürzende Neubauten and lesser known artists, this was originally posted on Red Bull Music Academy (tracklist here).
Mark Reeder grew up in Manchester, England, and just at the turn of his twenties, he moved to Berlin, after co-founding The Frantic Elevators with Neil Moss and Mick Hucknall. It wasn’t long before Mark had formed his synth wave band Die Unbekannten, while he was also Factory Records’ German representative, and general cultural activist around the Berlin Wall – he took the popular UK TV show The Tube around Berlin, organized gigs behind the Iron Curtain and wrote the soundtrack music and played a leading role in Jörg Buttgereit’s controversial movie Nekromantik 2. As well as being the founder and owner of the first East German electronic dance music label MFS (Masterminded For Success), he also mentored a young Paul van Dyk, helping the DJ to his world-conquering career. Apart from remixing several groups, such as Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and John Foxx, he has also made the film B Movie: Lust & Sound In West-Berlin, a documentary about the city’s hedonistic melting pot of music.
Atari Teenage Riot are back! The kings and queen of digital hardcore have dropped their new album today, so we thought we’d celebrate a band that is keeping the spirit of rave era Berlin alive – the only overtly political musicians we knowingly listen to. Buy Reset as a limited-edition bundle on the Hellish Vortex store, and check out the video for “J1M1″ right here. And below that, read an interview with bandleader Alec Empire, conducted just before the release of their last album Is This Hyperreal back in 2011. Restart the riot!
May 1st 1999: Atari Teenage Riot are arrested for “inciting violence” after an open-air performance at an anti-NATO demonstration leads to clashes with the police.
Unplanned and unintended, the May Day riot is nevertheless the clearest statement of intent from Berlin’s most politically active, socially aware and sonically confrontational band – a group whose first single threatened to “Hunt Down the Nazis” in the city’s notoriously nationalistic rave scene. By 2000, ATR have unofficially disbanded, in the words of mastermind Alec Empire, “burned out and fucked up”. Swansong Live at Brixton Academy, which records their onstage meltdown when vocalist Hanin Elias doesn’t show up at their all-important Nine Inch Nails support slot, leaves white noise crackling in its wake…
May 1st 2011: A reformed Atari Teenage Riot takes the stage for the recording of a Motor FM television show. The trio that have toured together since 2010 – Empire, singer/screamer Nic Endo and new MC CX KiDTRONiK – showcase songs from upcoming new album Is This Hyperreal? The show feels like a controlled explosion, thanks to pauses for onstage interviews and sets from other bands, and its location away from the epicentre of this year’s (peaceful) protests. But the originators of digital hardcore perform with the same commitment as ever. As Alec Empire explains when we catch up with him, “If you don’t do it with 100% of the energy, it’s very depressing!”
When we ask what prompted the prolific producer to make another album as Atari Teenage Riot, he explained how he got tired of watching the world sleepwalk into the future: “Hacktivism, cyberwars, the Government using technology to control and spy on people, while the music industry is going, ‘Hey, we’ve found the next business model…’ His eyes bug in disbelief when he recalls asking, “Why is nobody saying anything about what’s going on? Are you blind?! It felt like, ‘Sorry, we just have to do this!’”
Empire calls Is This Hyperreal?“the definite protest album for the Google age”. Atari Teenage Riot’s most focused and fully-realised work to date, it explores the power of the internet – how it can be used to promote or to restrict individual freedom, to challenge or prop up corrupt governments, how it is eroding our sense of history, and how we might move beyond it in the future in order to escape monitoring and control.
Smart stuff. But then this is the whole point of songs like the thrash-gabba anthem “Re-arrange Your Synapses”: “if there is no smart thinking behind political activism and it’s purely controlled by hate and anger then it doesn’t achieve much.” Empire thinks of this track in particular as an extension of earlier work, like 1995’s rallying cry “Start the Riot!” – which recreated the sound and the energy of a demonstration with “very simple lyrics and very simple music. You can go only with it, you can’t escape. And even if you can’t sing, you can get involved.” If ATR’s 90s incarnation was the perfect soundtrack to a May Day riot, then Is This Hyperreal? is a call for awareness and independent thought.
“Alec Empire” by Yo Pizza. under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)
“Germans believe so much in the state,” Empire says. “Every problem that comes up, they always ask the government for a solution.” While his band is now as American as it is German (CX is from the States; Endo was born there), he feels that his home country serves as a good example of what can happen when governments are allowed to interfere in their citizens’ private lives. A recurring theme on the album is state efforts to control the internet or use it to spy on the people.
Empire draws parallels between this current, “very dangerous” situation, and the surveillance states of the DDR and, before it, Nazi Germany. A firm believer that “there is always a positive solution to be found”, he looks back into Deutschland’s dark past for answers to its current problems – specifically, the overthrowing of the monarchy after World War One and the breaking down of the Berlin Wall. The title track to Is This Hyperreal? features Empire shouting down a megaphone in German, addressing his government directly with a threat that he expects to draw the attention of the authorities: “If they continue to be corrupt and act in the interest of a few, rather than the majority who elected them, we as a people can always march up to the Bundestag, arrest them and start a new republic.”
If the nightmare scenarios depicted in it come to pass, Is This Hyperreal? could become a handbook for survival. In a neat demonstration of the “off the grid” lifestyle predicted by Detroit/dubstep pounder “Digital Decay”, the entire album was programmed on an old Atari ST1040 computer not connected with any network. According to Empire, the machine’s “smaller than small” 2MB memory does one thing well, “it forces you to get back to the basic ideas.” In an approach that will sound familiar to the 70s punks who took rock n’ roll back to its roots, he did “the exact opposite of how people do things these days, even with a laptop. And I find that liberating.”
Hyperreal? squeezes a surprising amount out of this vintage machinery, from the chip tunes churn of “Shadow Identity” to the title track’s throbbing, beatless homage to synthpunks Suicide, to the more familiar digital hardcore of “Codebreaker”. What’s more, the tag team approach of ATR’s live shows found its way into the studio, allowing Empire’s cohorts room to fight their personal causes – for KiDTRONiK, racism in the US, and on Nic Endo’s lead vocal turn “Blood in my Eyes” (available for free download), human trafficking and sexual exploitation. This new-found range has led Empire’s friends to reassess the band’s previous studio album (and überlin favourite), asking, “sorry Alec, but why wasn’t 60 Second Wipe Out like this?”
Atari Teenage Riot will be showing off their new breadth and depth with a European tour that kicks off next week with a London show featuring Big Pink and junior Atari pops Kap Bambino. Germany will have to wait until the MELT and Mera Luna festivals to catch sight of them, but until then, there’s Is This Hyperreal? itself – out June 12th. You don’t have to be an ATR fan to agree with Alec Empire when he says, “it’s important that certain music exists.”
This edition of Stay True Germany, produced by the Boiler Room crew, focuses on the connections between classical and electronic music, which are particularly strong in Berlin and Deutschland as a whole. The beautiful mini-doc includes some of our favourite producers, including Carl Craig, Francesco Tristano and Berlin’s own Brandt Brauer Frick, so it’s well worth a watch. Also, look out for Klavírní, the forthcoming classically-influenced album from Emika, . Check her Facebook page for updates.