Album Premiere: Atari Teenage Riot "Riot in Japan 2011" and Exclusive Interview
Tue, 21 Feb 2012 16:38:07
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"It's about energy," exclaims Atari Teenage Riot singer Alec Empire of the band's live gigs.
The digital hardcore pioneers distill visceral energy into Riot in Japan 2011. Captured during their triumphant set at the Fuji Rock Festival, the group's latest release for Dim Mak is an explosive and energizing snapshot of one of their legendary live performances. The band sounds intensely infectious as they run through classic songs as well as "Activate!" Empire and co. did something that's normally impossible for rock and electronic acts—they made a live record that really does make listeners feel like they were there. Not only that, it's as potent as one of their studio efforts.
Riot in Japan 2011 drops on February 28, 2012 via Dim Mak, but Atari Teenage Riot has partnered with ARTISTdirect.com to exclusively stream the album below.
Listen here and read our Q&A with Alec Empire below!
How did you want to differentiate Riot in Japan 2011 from other live records out there?
Well, we don't sound like any other live band [Laughs]. We were always thinking that we should really capture this experience. It was like, "Why aren't we doing this?" Of course, people will film stuff or there will be a TV station there certain occasions. Sometimes, live recordings are out online, and often you listen to them and they're not really exciting because people don't approach them as records anymore. When people had to make a decision about putting something out, they used to have to actually put something great out [Laughs]. Now, the mentality is, "We have these live recordings. Let's just put them up on the web site." It's lost the value. We decided to just record the show in Japan and see how it was. It was such an exciting show, and we thought it was actually almost like a statement because electronic music people don't think like rock 'n' roll bands. They don't think of putting live records out. An hour after we came off stage, we went to a studio in Tokyo and mixed it down. That was part of the excitement. We will sweating, and it was the same vibe. It goes into the recording. If you just came off stage, you have that approach to the mix. When I listened back to it, I wanted us to put it out.
Was there something special about that show in Japan? What stands out about that night?
I think a lot of the shows we've played are exactly like that. It's really crazy. There's always a lot of energy coming from us and of course that translates to the crowd. People give us such incredible energy back. That's really what Atari Teenage Riot is about. First of all, it was a spontaneous decision to record the gig. It was a sold out show, and we thought we could give everyone who bought a ticket Riot in Japan as a thank you. It grew into more though. It was so good we wanted to put it out properly. When people listen to Riot in Japan in London or Berlin, they're like, "This reminds me of the show I went to." It works like that for other people too, not just those who attended the show. The atmosphere in Japan was crazy. A lot of kids are so emotional about the disaster that happened there in Fukushima. This time, it felt like there was another level of energy released from people. Nice pop music doesn't reflect how they really feel because there was an atmosphere of destruction and death. What happened there is so horrible. We walked into the club, and there were these girls there. They immediately starting crying and hugging Nic Endo saying, "Thank you for saying that stuff because people in the media and politicians are lying." When something like that happens, you're really moved. It's deeper. We're always really serious about what we do. At the same time, it's a lot of fun to attend these shows. When you meet people like that though, it's about more than playing another show on a tour schedule. I think that's also in Riot in Japan.
Is "Revolution Action" something of an anthem for you live?
People go absolutely crazy when we play that song. It's funny. Sometimes, the beats are still coming from the Atari computer. It's this little '80s computer with 2 megabytes of RAM. To this day, I think it's incredible that we can play a big festival with 20,000 people or something going crazy when that beat kicks in. It was done with that little machine [Laughs]. In terms of the meaning, there's a certain energy captured in that information or music, and people respond in such a physical way to that energy. It's great. It's still one of my favorite tracks that we can play in the set.
What's the story behind that song?
It's from our third album, and it sums up what Atari Teenage Riot is about in some way. It's that moment when you realize, "Okay, I've got to be in control of my own life." I've got to self-determine it. I shouldn't look towards whatever Big Brother government is out there to help me or blame others all the time. Outsiders might think it's an aggressive song, but it's actually giving you a lot of energy and power for whatever you want to do. It's funny. I've had people who work on Wall Street tell me, "Yeah, every morning I listen to that song and get pumped up before I go into work." I was like, "Really?" [Laughs] Then you see people playing it from their sound systems on big trucks during protest marches. It doesn't matter what field you're in. Some authors have told me they listen to while writing. We've always connected through the shows. It's amazing how that track traveled through all of these areas music can go. There's a lot of stuff from the video that resonates today.
What song would you want to be remembered by?
That's a good question! My whole catalog, man [Laughs]. If you ask me today, I think if someone didn't know what we were doing and they listened to "Revolution Action" they would get a good idea. There's other stuff that has a special meaning for me. I think of that track "Activate!" It was spontaneous and it was done in about two hours. We wanted to give it to our fans as a free download before we played the first show in 2010. It was strange how that track defined the future now for us rather than going back to the past. We ended up playing more shows and eventually hooking up with Dim Mak Records and Steve Aoki. I often think about that track. If we were to have done the wrong track in that night, it could've been completely different. I love that instant. I'm excited. Let's get it out.
Does the Japan show encapsulate what the band is all about?
At this point, yes. I hope people understand it's really about the live show. Once you're in there and exposed to the sound, it's very different from other stuff out there. It's a very physical experience for people. It's really exciting for everybody.
Did you dig Riot in Japan 2011?