Alec Empire - Biography

Alec Empire
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Alec Empire Biog

"My music takes people to places where they've never been before. Some never return, and those who did are scared to go back." - Alec Empire, September 2001

Empire is many things to many people. A man with an extraordinary recording history. The musical revolutionary behind avant garde noise-punk outfit Atari Teenage Riot. The electronic music experimentalist who has made records on a Gameboy.. A consummate musician who has worked with an extraordinarily broad range of peers; for example he is the only producer who has remixed artists as diverse as Blues legend R.L. Burnside, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, Bjork, Rob Zombie, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Slayer,

Einsturzende Neubauten, and members of the new Hip Hop generation like Company Flow or Prince Paul's Handsome Boy Modeling School amongst a host of others. He has toured with Rage Against The Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Beck, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails to name just a few. He has played in over fifty countries - as a DJ in small clubs mixing a remarkable set comprised solely of Sun Ra Records, leading Atari Teenage Riot on world tours and most recently the triumphal appearance at Fuji Rock in front of 20,000 people.

The head of a series of labels that have produced music of an abrasive and forward-looking quality unmatched anywhere in the record industry. But 29-year-old Berliner Alec Empire is more even than all this, as his expansive new double-album, Intelligence And Sacrifice, clearly demonstrates.

"Intelligence And Sacrifice really reflects what I am about right now. To keep it simple I recorded and produced CD1 with a new band. I took the hard metal element of ATR, added electronic rock beats and a lot of guitars and noise, and then, of course, my vocals. Yes, you're right: It's Digital Hardcore's Rock album, our ticket to headlining festivals and the stadium tours.

Alec Empire @
Alec Empire @
We played the first big shows at Japan's Fuji Rock Festival. Some of the guys I used on the record will not be able to tour constantly, so I called up some friends. I had Charlie Clouser from Nine Inch Nails on synths, famous Japanese noise legend MERZBOW on drums, Gabe Serbian from The Locust on a second kit, and ATR's NIC ENDO on synths/keyboards. Nic is in fact a permanent member in the band and is responsible for all the special effects, sounds, noises, and the "Third World War" 14 minute apocalyptic finale of the last song "New World Order." We left the place in ashes. Kids went totally insane and they didn't even know one of the new songs! So CD1 is like driving an expensive car very fast and crashing against a wall.

CD2 is the opposite. It's not songs, it's very "far out" electronic music without any vocals. The concept is, "A cycle that never ends," you find the beginning of track one at the end of the CD, so you can loop the whole thing, and it goes around and around. It's a downward spiral. It's very personal. The making of this album was very complex and each CD took over a year to record. With ATR we used to have 8 tracks or less, here I had up to 120."

"I was born in West-Berlin in 1972. I grew up in a city with a wall around it, occupied, a warzone that inspired David Bowie and Iggy Pop and many others. I was born into this intense atmosphere. And it is a part of me, no matter where I go in the world. Of course I started in punk bands, then for a while in the early nineties I made underground techno records, up to 100 Eps for DJs. This is where I learn how to produce. I had to have the right ideas very quickly to survive. We used to make a record a month, they didn't sell enough to chart, but we did so many, that we made quite a lot of cash. Then I started ATR in 1992 and left the dance scene behind. It was a political move to fight Germany's upcoming nationalism that led to the racist attacks in parts of the country. We soon realised that this was a European problem.

ATR is 100% about politics, in my own work I also deal with more personal issues, things that happened in my life, and so on. Even if I don't separate that approach from politics, I had to make that step because I felt that people might understand my views better if they know what goes on in my life. It's exciting, there is a real fresh new wave of enthusiasm at DHR about this record."

Digital Hardcore's first releases arrived in 1994, and within four years the imprint had secured worldwide distribution, opened offices in London and New York and set up subsidiaries for experimental offerings (DHR Limited), music by people under 20 years old (LESS THAN 20), Hanin Elias' Digital Riot Grrrl Label (DHR FATAL) and the revered progressive electronic music imprint Geist.

Alongside this feverish level of band and label activity, Empire continued his own journey through sound. During the early '90s he released a clutch of EPs and five full-length albums on the Mille Plateaux label that showcased his own evolving sample-based compositions. While ATR were embraced by fans of progressive and avant garde rock - from the renowned BBC DJ John Peel, who was an early champion, to the Beastie Boys, whose Grand Royal label released the first ATR records in America - Empire's solo and remix work built him an enviable reputation among European electronic music aficionados and the American industrial/rock audience. And it's this duality; this ability to be at ease in both camps that has led to the creation of Intelligence and Sacrifice.

"Some people don't know in which "category" to market my album. It is indeed two albums combined into one, for the price of one. I see this as an advantage these days. Times are changing, the barriers between genres are fading. This album will reach many people and I know that one of the two CDs will introduce something new to them."

"Some people won't know to which audience my album will appeal, it is indeed two albums combined into one, for the price of one. I see this as an advantage these days. Times are changing, the barriers between genres are fading. It's quite possible to enjoy both Nu Metal and experimental electronica. This album will reach many people and I know that each of the two CDs will introduce something new to them.

In many ways, it feels like this is my first real album." He has a point. This is the first time the two facets of Empire's musical output have been put together in the same place, and, in a world where music as abrasive as that of Slipknot or Staind can find itself topping sales charts world wide, this may not simply be Empire's finest hour, it will also surely become his most widely accepted recording to date. Constantly ahead of his time, Empire may at last have found that the rest of the world has caught up with his expansive and extreme form of creativity. Don't get left behind.


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