Atari Teenage Riot leader Alec Empire ought to be more careful about what he
wishes for. When Empire exhorted his digital hardcore minions to "Start the
Riot," on the band's domestic debut, Burn, Berlin, Burn!, and to "Fuck
All," he couldn't have imagined they'd take him so literally.
whose technology-meets-punk sound--a torrent of beats, shouted lyrics and
metal-crunching samples, is cut whole from a cloth of aggression and pent-up
rage--were recently in Chicago as part of their stint opening for Beck when an
after-hours show turned a bit chaotic.
The 2:30 a.m. show at Metro this
past Saturday night (April 12), began with a set from DJ Jethrox of the
Milwaukee-based Drop Bass Network, followed by Chicago scene veterans Seam,
and, finally, ATR, who hit the stage around 4 a.m. A witness told ATN that the
sell-out crowd of 800+ were primed for the high-energy show, so hopped-up, it
seems, that one patron pulled out a pocket knife more than a half-hour into the
show and severed Empire's microphone cord.
According to the witness,
Empire continued to scream into the mic for a bit, not realizing what had
happened, then got flustered and threw it down, tipped over his equipment and
left the stage.
We recently spoke to Empire...
We recently spoke to Empire about ATR and the (sometimes
mixed) response the band have been getting from American audiences on their
first tour of the U.S., including our suspicion that some of his new fans might
not exactly be down with the program as Empire envisions it.
think what we're doing is aggressive in the way NIN is aggressive," Empire
said, citing the frequency with which ATR is compared with Trent Reznor's
more-industrial leaning band. "The energy is different, because we never
listened to that music and never really liked it. Ours is aggressive in a more
positive way, sort of like the aggression in 70's punk rock."
of his doctrine that "riot songs produce riots," and of his desire to use his
music to "push adrenaline through the body and give people a push," a push that
sometimes results in excess energy that must be channeled somewhere.
Empire, anything that damages the "system" and costs the state money qualifies
as a riot, since "it always helps to destroy the system."
So, since Empire
told us that some of ATR's hometown shows in Germany have actually sparked
mini-riots, we wondered what he expected from American audiences in terms of a
response and whether he thought Yanks could understand ATR's message.
not sure about America," Empire said, a week before the cord-cutting incident.
"In Europe people listen to us because of the message. They get it and I
was surprised how many Americans seemed to get it also."
As for those, who
like the misbegotten youth who saw Nirvana's "Polly" as a call-to-arms for
violence against women, might take ATR too literally, Empire said, "I see a
danger in that there's always that percentage of people who are there just for
entertainment. But you must be very stupid if you shout these statements or
interpret these statements and don't think about it."
We can only assume
he was talking about knuckleheads like that pocket-knife-wielding fan in
Chicago, who, ironically, in Empire's world anyway, is more a part of the
solution than the problem.