- fighting the future

By: Mike Whyte
Photos by: Digital Hardcore/Hardbeat Propaganda

Alec Empire is back with a new solo album called "The Futurist". An album of noise and attitude that, like the title suggests, aims to put the rock back in to rock'n'roll - with Alec's inimitable stamp of course. This album seems to focus more on live instrumentation, rather than the electronic-fuelled rage that Alec used to be famous for; chiefly with the now legendary 90:s group, Atari Teenage Riot, but also more noticeably seen through his more minimalistic Geist Records output. I asked him about this development, among other things (as well as a pry into his own musical tastes!) recently.

Noise and attitude
The album "The Futurist", like previous Empire albums works well as a whole, with each track sitting well with the next, clear and cohesive; something few are able to master. Alec describes his own particular formula to this art through the making of this album:
- When I have an idea, I just put it down. The challenge was more to capture the authentic feeling. Sometimes I would record a vocal at 5 o'clock in the morning, just because I built up the intensity for hours. You know, I always write my songs when I feel in that exact way, and so I want the recording to sound at the end. I find that sometimes with other bands, they have a great new song, it sounds fresh and exciting, but when they record it months later in the studio, the spirit is gone somehow... I try to avoid that risk. I think I found a good way.
Alec Empire spent
much more time on the lyrics this time.
- I felt I could go deeper. You can see that in songs like "Terror Alert:High!", for example. We recorded different parts in different cities. We would put drum tracks down in Chicago or LA where some friends and musicians are based, that I wanted involved in this, then record guitars in London and I would add vocals a few months later in Berlin. This was a lot of fun. There was such an energy in the studio, and that during a time when the rest of the world seemed depressed with the war in Iraq war, Bush and so on... We didn't want to react to all that. We wanted to create something powerful that works against that just because of its existence.

The response to oppression
I quizzed Alec about on track in particular: "Make 'Em Bleed" - a ferocious track which struck a chord with me. It seemed this one had particular significance for Alec too.
- I almost threw this song away, because I felt I give too much of my personal life away in it. It stands out from the rest, for sure. In a way it's the best example of what the album is really about. This very instinct we all have, this extreme emotional response to oppression. I wanted to get this energy across. That's why I chose rock'n'roll. It's the best music for that because it has this primitive, simple structure that can create the atmosphere I wanted on the album.
Alec Empire's output sits in many a music fans record collection, not just from new-found fans of his previous success "Intelligence and Sacrifice", but from his landmark Geist Records/Mille Plateaux output, and of course the landmark sounds of Atari Teenage Riot. I am eager to hear what influences this influential German.
Many records have been influential for me. Almost too many to mention. I have a very wide taste in music. I collected old Jamaican ska when I was 15, I was so into the 77 punkrock, also early 80:ies rap and later on Public Enemy, Slayer, but also jazz. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, all that stuff musicians just have to know and like, otherwise you shouldn't be allowed to record and perform music in public, haha... The first song that actually "meant" something to me was Grandmaster Melle Mel's "The Message"; hip hop had its peak right in its beginning, it's sad. But the song is great anyway. On the current music scene, it's hard for me to have an opinion. I get the impression that the musicians don't give a shit. It's all retro, it seems people are scared of the future and want to go back to formulas that are safe.

But Empire feels he shouldn't judge other musicians.
- I personally find myself listening to older records instead of new ones. Maybe that's why other bands go back in time, to find something inspirational. But I want to be excited by music. I don't want to hear the same joke over and over again, or watch the same movie again and again... I focus more on my own music right now. I do what I miss in music out there.

Live is where it happens
This vast knowledge of music obviously leads to compelling DJ sets, something Alec enjoys also, but choosing between playing live and spinning records is a difficult choice:
- Both parts are equal for me: I'm 50% DJ, 50% musician. I'm spinning every once in a while. I used to do it more often, but I don't find the time as much anymore. But I like doing it. I just DJ:ed in Paris. It was great.

It seems the prospect of playing live is something Alec loves most of all.
- My music has always been about playing live. It's that physical energy that comes across best over big PA:s. I love it. I spent too long in the studio now, I want to get out there and rock! OK, it wasn't like I was only in the studio, but you know what I mean. Playing that stuff out...
He remembers a gig in London last year.
- We played some tracks of the new album and they were the best in the whole set! That's what we (Nic Endo - the co-producer of Alec's recent output) want...
So, with the album imminent, there must be a tour, right?
- Yes, we're starting the first shows now. We plan to tour this album a lot. It's just perfect for that. We are rehearsing with different musicians at the moment. Live is where it really happens! I like to play all kinds of shows, from big open air venues to small and sweaty clubs. I even like supporting other bands! When the fans freak out, it's a confrontation... it's like a fight, a fight that leads to something good...
So prepare yourselves for the onslaught; Alec Empire is getting ready to bring his vision of the future to you.