Interview: Alec Empire

posted August 12, 2008

by Corinne

Alec Empire

How are you?

I am very well - thanks. I have just had a whole week of intense recording at The Hellish Vortex with Patrick Wolf. On the side I am scoring this film about a cop killer in Germany.

What made now the time for you to do something different musically?

You know I have been always about different things. all my more ambient work, my remixes for other artists...all that stuff was totally different from my hardcore material. So to me it didn't feel like this huge change, it felt more like a honest picture of where I am right now. I know that in the US since 911 I have been super absent and nobody really followed was I did over the past years. But you know I have been touring almost everything else outside the US...been to Russia the first time last year..it was amazing...I hope that the missing steps don't feel to confusing to people who last heard of me when I did ATR or The Destroyer.

You open "The Golden Foretaste of Heaven" with "New Man." Is this a new Alec Empire?

not really new...but I guess it's a side of me which is new to many people out there. This side was always there, people who are close know that. But I applied the synth new wave side more to other artists when I produced them. Hanin Elias with In Flames is a good example. Or the more bluesy "1000 Eyes," if I hadn't worked with R.L. Burnside and had been to New York so often, I could have never written that song.

Did you approach the process of writing and recording any differently for "The Golden Foretaste?"

Yes, that's true. this is totally analogue. I am know for being something like a godfather for digital hardcore and digital distortion and glitches and fucked up loops, but before I started that, I did many electro and techno records which were completely analogue based. So this time round I wanted to get back to that, and add more to that. I felt we have to redefine the Berlin sound since many Canadians fucked it up with their electro clash and minimal boredom. So I remembered where I came from and combined that with my idea of my future...I wanted to make a record which has nothing to do with what's going on in the crippled music industry. No reaction to it even. So we did record a lot of stuff on analogue tape and were micing up old synths through amps...like Eno and Bowie did when they were in Berlin. But I didn't want to go retro on this either. I think it explains itself pretty well when you listen to it.

Do you ever have any hesitation concerning the personal nature of "Golden Foretaste," or any of your music, for that matter?

no, not really....sometimes I hide really personal events which happened in my life behind weird metaphors...like in that song "You're a bug on my windshield"..I don't see myself as an entertainer, so I have to put myself out there and be prepared to deal with the consequences.

Do you have any plans to tour North America?

When you guys get the dollar exchange rate back to normal then maybe yes...I'd love to come back...though I think the last years have done so much damage to the country and its music scene... It makes me feel uncomfortable to see how scared everyone is to open their mouths...I am just being honest...at the moment there is not much that makes me go "yeah we must be there and be a part of that"...on the other side American music has influenced me more than anything else...The Brits are just crybabies, and I mean the music scene here...If there was any way I could be a part of changing the American scene to something more inspiring again, I would move over there and tour....even if I had to sleep every night on the floor for that.

How are you feeling about the recent release of "Sixteen Years of Video Material?"

It felt so good to get this thing out...this stuff was piling up and I was getting tired of being asked why in the world our stuff is not out on DVD...What I never expected to happen is that there is a whole new generation now which looks at this stuff as music history... kids come up to me after shows and kneel down and stuff and say that now no band would have the balls to do what we did..maybe they're right...but I never think back...starting riots in the streets, saying the stuff that we did, but also breaking musical boundaries for people...which never felt like that when we were doing it.

In an interview, I read that you said, "My thinking is way more radical than it used to be but I'm afraid that the next steps would involve getting weapons." Could you expand on that?

This meant that it gets pretty hard to say what pisses me off in a pop song ...and I mean 3 minute pop song formula... don't worry I can control my anger and channel it, but when I am really honest and see that parents can't send their kids to the right doctors because they can't afford it and then I see Paris Hilton on TV, a woman who hasn't done one good thing in her life yet, yes, I feel that one day people like her will regret who they are... you don't need me to tell you that, but people in Germany really get emotionally involved when they see how the situation in New Orleans was handled...just an example...and there is a real division between that reality and the music scene which seems to ignore all these things....I don't expect other musicians to write big political songs, but just music that reflects our times....to me that's part of the excitement about music.

I know you have a lot you're currently working on. What are you most excited about?

I wrote the score for a 30min episode directed by Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano who played Ichi the Killer and Electric Dragon, just to name a few...the film is called 224466 and is part of a longer film. My score is physical while it still supports the story...we are going new directions here with film and music/sound...this is so great....I wish Hollywood would experiment more in that direction. We are preparing a club night with the friends from Merok Records in London, Klaxons are DJing, THe Horrors join in as well, Alec Empire & The Hellish Vortex, The Big Pink, DJ Emma Eclectic from Berlin....the night follows a new super intense concept in terms of frequencies....I am excited about that...too many festivals right now which are sponsor driven and have the same line up...feels like going to the super market...we are all equally tired of that.

Who are some underrated bands that you think deserve more attention?

can't really answer this one... in my opinion bands get too much attention to quickly these days...I can tell you who should get less attention...but this wasn't the question...

What have you been listening to recently?

a lot of different music styles... I bought a bunch of stuff when I was in Japan a few months ago. MC E.T. and Dark Star ...great stuff...I love US 69....I listen to LOVE a lot...again...Nic Endo's new album which is not out yet... friends of mine called The Big Pink are doing cool stuff...

If you could have written any song what song do you wish you had written and why?

That would probably be Beethoven's 5th.....what a genius to come out of Germany.....show me anything as perfect anywhere else...would take Hip Hop a couple of hundred years to evolve to that level....hahaha...

Anything you would like to add?

move to Berlin. It is so great!

Thanks very much for your time!