Wicked Channel Interview with Atari Teenage Riot’s Nic Endo

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I want to start this differently; there is a woman who worked very hard for this to happen for us. Everyone seems to forget the PR people, but I want to bow to Holly, you fucking rule. When she emailed me and said, “James, remember us from a long time back and you wanting to do something with Atari Teenage Riot?” I was proud we got one of the first cracks with the new cd, and I was floored to find out that I would get to talk to the beautiful and awesome Nic Endo. I found out about ATR when I was managing an indie record store in 1997, we would get all these promos. One day I got this package that had a promo of Burn Berlin Burn and a t shirt, little did I know the second this cd played it would be my bible. 18 years later we have Reset which is the best thing since Berlin, and without any further ado, this is Nic Endo.

1. I have to start off by asking, what was the first record or song that inspired your pursuit of music?

Nic: I was inspired by mainly two different musical things: Jimi Hendrix and the way he created unusual sounds with his guitar, which just fed my imagination; and I loved the idea of creating unknown worlds with sounds.

But then I was also into classical music. For a short period of time I took ballet lessons, but mostly because I loved the music of Tchaikovsky. That was when I was almost ten years old. I decided to learn piano instead. To this day I am more fascinated by the structures of classical music, while pop music leaves me pretty bored.

2. In 1996, you joined Atari Teenage Riot. How were you discovered? Also were you familiar with the band before joining?

Nic: I knew about Alec Empire and Atari Teenage Riot through a friend of mine and had been to a couple of Bass Terror parties and hung out in the DHR scene, where I’d met the band and other DHR musicians in 1994/1995, before I actually moved to Berlin. I’d lived in Frankfurt before and shortly after I made the move to Berlin, Alec and Carl approached me about joining them for a US tour supporting Beck, as Hanin’s pregnancy with her first child prevented her to come along with them.

Yes, I was part of the scene, but controlling the machines on stage, adding white noise and sound effects was something I didn’t think was possible at first. But at that time the fans just wanted more energy, so I just pushed the music further, made it harder. Alec and Carl gave me total freedom, Alec encouraged me to push it all to a new level during the live shows. I was surprised that he even allowed it, but he said: “That’s cool! Don’t respect the songs too much. This is about anarchy and freedom.”

I understood years later that he wants musicians to always add their own thing, develop their own personality on stage, also in the ‘Alec Empire’ band. Usually when you come on board, a band wants you to fit in, find your little space, but with this thing… It’s like coming in and figuring everything out for yourself.

These were big shows. I started with Atari Teenage Riot in these places in the US with a few thousand capacity, so suddenly there is a lot of pressure, but it’s not about following the rules, so you learn very fast that it’s about letting go of fear and respect and to decide in the moment what will work.

3. ATR have a new record out called Reset, which I will be honest is the best record since Burn Berlin Burn. At this point in your career, is going in the studio easier for the band? Also how long did it take to make this record?

Nic: Thank you. I agree. Reset has that spontaneous uplifting energy that makes Atari Teenage Riot special. It didn’t take long to record it. It was like,“okay this is what we must talk about and it must sound like this!” We work on music all the time, so there is no real line between our personal lives and being in the studio. It’s all one thing, one ongoing process. Each album is almost a snapshot of where we are at that point. But that progresses every day, every week. It is amusing to hear from critics that either Atari Teenage Riot always sounds the same or that because it sounds more “commercial” now we have lost it. When I look at the archives of Digital Hardcore Recordings, these same accusations were made by people twenty years ago, people who are not even around anymore. So I can only say… Always trust your intuition, do what you love to do.

4. If music did not work out in your favor Nic, did you have a backup plan?

Nic: I am always an artist, a creative person. If the music industry doesn’t resist the ongoing attacks from Silicon Valley, then it won’t be around anymore in a few years. But I don’t consider myself as a real part of it anyway. I do so many different things… My own music is very different from Atari Teenage Riot. I am a photographer and designer amongst other things. We will probably see an era when artists have to merge all these different aspects into one. That is the future somehow. At least that is what it feels like right now.

5. Was it planned by the band that there would be a long absence after 60 Second Wipe Out or was this something that just happened?

Nic: This happened because Carl Crack died. None of us wanted to even think about getting together with Atari Teenage Riot. The ‘Alec Empire’ band was taking off and somehow after 9/11 the world had changed. The local Berlin based digital hardcore scene had faded out. Some artists started to make electro clash or tried other genres of music. I released this album called ‘Cold Metal Perfection’ and was in another place.

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6. This is what I call name association, I will name something and you just say anything that you think of…

a. Hanin Elias (ex member of Atari Teenage Riot)

Nic: Hanin added her thing to the band at the time and it was really valuable. But she was never 100% on board it seemed, at least not when I was there. She quit every two months for bizarre reasons. It’s strange… back then I always saw so much more in her, but she never made that happen. However, her strong stage persona influenced plenty of girls and that is something important.

b. Burn Berlin Burn

Nic : I was already on board when this album hit the US and it was super intense. Everywhere we went people went absolutely crazy. Success is one thing that artists can experience, but to experience something like this almost never happens!
It wasn’t that a new generation was exposed to another band, it was a completely new sound which nobody else was able to make. It was also the only album that came out of Germany that took such a clear stance politically and was understood internationally.

c. Cold Metal Perfection

Nic: It’s like this strange place that is very far away, but I can always go back to if I wanted.

d. President Obama

Nic: I didn’t vote for him but he became president at an important point. That was needed. People tend to forget that it was a nightmare time when George Bush was in charge.

e. The American Media

Nic: Certainly not as independent and free as Americans claim they are. Partially totally uniformed and deceiving, which makes it very entertaining to watch or follow nonetheless.

7. Let’s talk about Atari’s last record, Is This Hyperreal? This was your comeback record of sorts, but it was meant with mixed responses. Was this surprising for you? Also looking back were you happy with the end result?

Nic: The ‘mixed’ responses came from two groups of people: conservative music critics, who didn’t even listen to the album and old fans who were confused.

We basically described a lot of stuff that Edward Snowden proved two years later, and we were able to do that because of our connections to the hacker scene. The music press was still praising Thom Yorke and Amanda Palmer and social media and they didn’t see how all this stuff would have a negative effect on them.

I only need to look at the results of ‘Is This Hyperreal?’… We toured the world three times, had massive stage invasions, played all major festivals and the singles were the highlights in the sets. The song “Blood In My Eyes” which deals with human trafficking is very confrontational; people are too scared to deal with that reality. Atari Teenage Riot did something that hardly any band does: we managed to get through to a completely new audience while reshaping the band‘s sound. But the most important thing for me are the topics we spoke about on the album.

8. Do you think downloading truly killed the music industry? Also, do you think the government truly does everything in their power to stop piracy?

Nic: No, they don’t. I don’t know if piracy kills the music industry. But to take away the rights of artists to control their own work, when and where it appears, is very very damaging. People don’t realize how much damage this is actually doing. If the same thing happened to property rights and anyone could just break into anyone’s home all the time, how would you feel? I was born in Texas and I am very skeptical of socialist bullshit that doesn’t work. We see that the system doesn’t work. However, I think, we as musicians must find the solutions; old record companies or YouTube won’t do it for us.

9. Do you think females in music get a fair shake? Does it disturb you that most females this day and age in music seem to be posing more than playing?

Nic: Yes, the 90s were very hopeful, a lot of progress was made. But then many people were busy pushing things back into the 50s again. When I speak to younger female artists I am always shocked about their lack of self confidence. Online bullying is playing a huge role in that. I can only advise people at the moment to try to do many things anonymously online. People should judge your music not because they know your gender, they should just like or dislike the music itself.

However, I see many new female artists discovering Riot Grrl and feminism, that is very good. But there is a long way to go. Many men say EDM is the future, okay, if that’s the case, then look at the roles women play at those events…a nightmare. That must change fast. Not because of fairness but so we can get the best music. Right now too many women are excluded.

10. Let’s be honest a band like Atari Teenage Riot have their rabid fans and also the flip side people who are not so much rabid or fan. Do you read all the press your band gets? Also, does the bad stuff hurt you or upset you?

Nic: The thing is those people don’t attack what’s there, they invent things. I just read a stupid review, where a journalist quoted lyrics that were nowhere on the album. That is such a classic example. I think music journalists must be held responsible for doing a bad job, nobody grabs them and says: “What on earth are you talking about? You are not even qualified to write about music.“ I know it sounds harsh but the idiots drown out the great music writers at the moment. That is why the music press is losing readers. And that is bad for us musicians too.

I personally love when someone holds up a mirror to my face and criticizes my work. You can only grow and evolve this way. It is more complex than pressing “like” or “unlike”. I’m trying to stay away from social networks especially, now as much as possible. I don’t Google myself or the band simply because I’m not interested in other people’s opinions. And that has always been the case anyway. I’m interested in what close friends and people that I respect have to say and their critique about my music or projects I’m involved in. But trolls? They don’t bring anything to the table.

11. What was the last record you went out and bought? Also, what is the most embarrassing record you own?

Nic: You mean vinyl? I don’t remember. It must have been over a decade since I last bought a record. I mostly buy music on iTunes nowadays. Music is never “embarrassing” for me. I either like it or I don’t. Right now I am listening to either Jazz or Grunge…

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12. Beside your solo work or the band, what is on a Nic Endo Ipod?

Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, N.W.A., Ministry, Nirvana, John Coltrane, Public Enemy, Faith No More, Frank Zappa, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Underground Resistance, Miles Davis
etc.

13. When you are not on stage performing or making a video, do you get recognized? Say when you are shopping or hanging out? Does a Nic Endo shop or hang out?

Nic: Yes, I that happens. Not very often though, maybe I just don’t realize it. The funny thing is when I don’t wear make up, especially not the face paint, people don’t know it’s me. In Berlin I go out very rarely. When I am not on tour I love to be on my own, working in the studio. If you are confronted with large amounts of people every night while on tour, it’s important to gain focus again by staying away from social events.

14. What kind of kid were you in school?

Nic: The quiet introvert.

15. How was it being part of Alec’s touring band when he went solo?

Nic: It was more like we kept going after Carl Crack’s death, got great musicians on board and merged digital hardcore with a rock set up, two drummers, live guitars and so on. It was really intense.

16. Atari and you have been on a ton of tours, a ton. Who were some of your favorite people to tour with? Also, who were some of your least favorite? Now, Nic I am begging you, only one person out of a ton has dished us a little dirt and named names, I am begging.

Nic: The truth is that the musicians were always really cool. There wasn’t a single incident. But that is because we choose very carefully who we work with. I mean, in 1997 when Hanin Elias was on board, she would have tons of complaints, about flying first class, or this and that. It was never my problem. We once got into a fist fight because I lent her my tooth brush and she didn’t want to give it back and got really mad. But I realized it was probably because she was pregnant again and she had a lot of stress with her personal life, so that stuff was forgotten 5 minutes later… Usually it was more people working in the crew who couldn’t deal with this amount of energy every night. But then you just find somebody else. Not everybody is made for this, that’s okay.

17. You know Valentine’s Day is next month, if someone is trying to impress a Nic Endo, what would they need to bring you or do?

Nic: I am only impressed by people’s intelligence and skills… not flowers. Haha…
When men listen to lame music, where guys whine about stuff, that is not what impresses me at all. So beards, little hats, all that stuff… forget about it.

18. Are there plans for a tour in 2015? Also, do you know what happens next, is this going to be the last record or are the band thinking about more records down the line?

Nic: Tours and festival dates are still being planned and arranged, but we’re first going to start off the RESET 2015 tour in London at The Garage 20th of March. Then there’s the Berlin Festival and a few other shows in Germany. A lot of other stuff will come up. We toured more in the years from 2010 to 2013 than in the 90s; so right now we want to keep making music in the studio and not be on the road for the whole year. On the other side we love it, so let’s see.

19. If you had to sum up your whole life in one sentence what would it be?

Nic: American Psycho haha….

20. This is called fill in the blanks….

___________is the one vice I wish I could give up

Nic: Playing GTA V and going on a killing spree

______is the one person who I wish was in prison for their crimes against society

Nic: Whoever it is who invented the concept of stealing time

__________ was the last film I watched

Nic: Under The Skin and The Knick.

___________is the band or singer I wish we could tour with

Nic: Kluster.

_________is the person I would want to play me in my life story

Nic: Rooney Mara

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