Alec Empire
de | Label: Eat Your Heart Out

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Alec Empire has been in the music business for a long time. His first record was released while he was still at school. At the age of fourteen he formed his English-speaking band, Die Kinder (The Children), supporting bands like Die Toten Hosen.

With his last band, Atari Teenage Riot, he incited rebellion, battled as a DJ with Q-Bert and Mixmaster Mike, and made more remixes than most people can take drugs (or have had hot dinners!).

In a 2002 edition of Kerrang Dave Grohl stated: “He’s Alec’s number one fan…Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) met Alec backstage at a gig in Australia and declared: ‘You inspired me!’” (…and we have the witnesses to prove it!)

Empire’s first post-ATR solo album, Intelligence and Sacrifice (2002), on Digital Hardcore Recordings lead to the English press calling him a rock god. Photos from a Japanese show of this era feature 20,000 kids enraptured as Alec, Charlie Clouser (Nine Inch Nails), Nic Endo (Atari Teenage Riot) and two drummers give it their all. Intelligence and Sacrifice went on to sell impressive numbers and won a Kerrang award.

After great success during his time in London, including the creation of the genre-defining label Digital Hardcore Recordings, Alec decided to return to Berlin and start afresh.

What happened?

Alec: “I wanted to reorient myself completely. I had the feeling I needed to drive my music in another direction.”

For a time Empire played only very select electro shows; just man and machine alone on stage. Then followed the recording of Futurist with Nic Endo and band, an art side project on which he played electric guitar displaying a more rock/punk influence. Empire played with different live line-ups and toured in primarily underground and independent venues.

And next…

Alec: “I remember very clearly how we began ‘The Golden Foretaste of Heaven’ after ‘Futurist’. It happened very quickly. I saw it mapped out before me. England at the edge of Europe – I mean, how often do I have to read about the Beatles’ Revolver album? I suddenly found everything from Berlin eastward far more intriguing and exciting. I bought a Russian synthesiser and Nic Endo and I devised a new direction which we’re now moving in.”

The Golden Foretaste of Heaven is an album which cannot easily be pigeon-holed, exactly like Alec’s fanbase.

The album pushes forward with renewed energy. Huge synth riffs meet distortion and electronic guitar. The live shows introduce electronic drum beats and other new features.

This new direction is evident on ‘1000 Eyes’ – a seven minute ballad which was written on guitar and recorded as live. The microphones were set up in an empty factory and very old, rare synths add to the special sound quality. In this way the recording is unique. The song “concerns my return to Berlin, sex, love, passionate separation, destructive relationships…Anyone who wishes to know who I am need simply listen to the lyrics. They are very important, I have made them very clear.”

‘On Fire’ pushes the needle up into the red; electronic sounds with the primal energy of guitars and ‘real’ drums. Extreme sex on drugs. The song so inspired the actress Natalia Avelon that she insisted on playing the main role in the video. The shoot was highly emotive. “We had this amazing performer displaying genuine passion. Nic and I had to rein in some scenes as it was simply too much. Anyone who was there knows what I mean.”

ICE (As if she Could Steal a Piece of my Glamour) is again totally different so better to let Alec explain this one:

"I wanted this drumsound from the 80s, SP-12 level, Brian Eno, New York and so on. I found that exciting synth-riffs from Rage Against the Machine or Hendrix could be transformed into something Kraftwerk-style. Rock n roll, pretty cool like when I’m sitting on the plane after a party and looking out of the window into the blue sky. At shows the track comes over very well although it’s so absolutely clean. But I find that very cool…like a clean mirror in the backstage on which white poweder is piled up…no one thinks that over 30 tracks were needed in the studio to capture that. I like producing this way, like earlier…building layers, precision work…I have really begun to cherish my collaborations in the U.S. with people like Dave Sardy or Andy Wallace. I produce electro tracks like the Americans mix rock songs. I’m all about the sound."

“Generally we experimented with my voice and moved away from digital effects to the analogue sound of the 70s… Lee Hazlewood, David Bowie etc…though naturally I sing completely differently. But anyone who is a bit streetwise can see that the tracks can be categorised more as traditional New York rock n roll than Nine Inch Nails".

This change of direction is also evident in the live shows.

The Hellish Vortex is the band this time.

“We do not pretend to be four friendly neighbours. We simply share the same vision.”

Nic Endo controls the show via various machines and is at the centre of the sound. New Yorker David Fisher plays electronic percussion and in doing so enlivens the beats. Londoner Zan Lyons contributes further layers via electric violin and laptop. In a world in which many young bands follow the tradition of guitar, bass and drums, this instrumentation surprises and challenges the audience.

"It would not work if The Hellish Vortex did not rock so hard. We don’t have to be restricted to an improv-industrial number as we might with another band. We have more in common with Depeche Mode than Neubauten.”

Nothing is ever enough. Changes require extremes. The new label clearly indicates this. Who else would create a new label, Eat Your Heart Out, when he already has a successful genre-defining label in Digital Hardcore?

More will follow…!


Eat Your Heart Out Records(2009)
The Golden Foretaste of Heaven
Eat Your Heart Out Records(2008)
Intelligence & Sacrifice