CONTACT is the word of the moment, a fitting title for what is ATB’s ninth studio album – CONTACT will be released on the Kontor Records label on 24th January 2014. A great reason to let Andre speak about the new album, his life as deejay and producer in the last years and a little bit more. Enjoy! 😉
It has been almost three years since your last album Distant Earth, one of your most successful to date. You took four months off from touring so you could focus completely on the production of Distant Earth. Whilst “Future Memories” was created over a period of two years or more, alongside your touring schedule. How was it on CONTACT? When did you decide to produce a new album and how did you approach the production this time?
ATB: Producing a new album was less of a decision and more a personal wish of mine. I usually stick to a set rhythm with regard to album timing, then the production starts more or less automatically, I get itchy fingers, so to speak. But there just wasn’t time to do this one, sadly, so it took almost three years to come up with a new album.
The way I work on an album tends to follow the same pattern. I’m travelling so much, I collect new impressions and ideas along the way. Sometimes that itchy feeling takes hold of me and I automatically think about which direction these new experiences can take me and how I can channel them into an album.
Basically I felt it was important to present new voices, as well as to work with vocalists who have appeared on earlier ATB records. I want to continue developing my sound, which hopefully means my albums remain interesting to the listener. For me, there’s no such thing as standing still.
Where did the title CONTACT come from and what is the meaning behind it?
ATB: This album title is really important for me in various ways. Ever since I have been making music, direct contact to those listening to my music has been essential. I could go so far as to say that, when I am asked in interviews whether I prefer to play at a festival or in a club, my answer is that I want to be as close as possible to the crowd.
I need this immediate contact to the people, I need to see them and them me, so they can feel what I feel and I can feel what they feel in the music. So contact in every direction is unbelievably important for me, essential even.
That apart, I just find CONTACT a great title. Short, snappy and it sounds good as well.
You always manage to lend your album a distinctive quality, its very own feeling which guides the listener through the album. How would you describe the character of CONTACT, what can the listener expect to feel? ATB: Of course it is extremely difficult to explain a feeling generated by music, but I think my musical character comes naturally, it comes from something I love doing, it comes from the heart.
Electronic music has the unfortunate tendency to appear impersonal, overly rational. Often it just sounds hard, but danceable. For me it’s mostly about creating and conveying emotions. That can only work with electronic music if you work from proper, traditional songwriting.
That means I write songs, not necessarily on my own, but with other songwriters or singers, and when the song is written, the sound is built around it.
Then the emotions flow automatically, it’s a real song, not just sound structures, synths and noises. Songwriting makes the music more personal, which is crucial for me.
You have been a key player in the electronic music scene for more than 15 years and CONTACT is your ninth studio album. If each album has its own characteristics, there is nevertheless a musical soul to ATB, which is reflected in all of your tracks. What can you tell us about ATB’s musical soul and how hard is it for you to reveal this soul in your music?
ATB: I am so proud to have been in the music business for more than 15 years as ATB and more or less exactly 20 years altogether in the game. I think the foundation can be explained by the fact that I make music that I like and I’m lucky enough that my musical taste coincides with that of many other people. So there isn’t really a secret recipe to what I do, it is simply part of my musical personality.
I guess that’s why it always sounds like me and you can sense this musical soul we talked about. I’m just sitting in the studio, making the music I like. Everything else follows from there. Which I’m very happy about.
Looking at your previous albums, is there anything about CONTACT which you wanted to do completely differently, or something that made such an impression on you that it just had to be introduced to the album?
ATB: Whenever I produce an album I want to make something new, I want to extend myself. Still, I have to careful not to lose my old musical feeling as i develop. So the greatest task is to make each album sound new and different without losing that feeling which I and the listeners like so much.
It starts with simple, but essential things. On this album, for example, I definitely wanted to produce more striking beats. The result sounds very much like ATB but the beats sound more sophisticated, very much of their time.
Boss and Swan, Taylr and Vanessa are all new voices, relatively unknown artists presented by you on this album. Boss & Swan actually have three tracks on the album, as many as JES, making these the most featured artists. How did you spot them and how did you get to work with them?
ATB: Boss and Swan are the biggest new discovery for me on the album. One of the great new discoveries for me on this album is Boss and Swan. I heard one of their tracks quite by chance on an in-flight movie soundtrack on the way back from Asia and spent the following days tracking them down. When I found out that their music had not actually been released, I spontaneously flew them in from Canada to Germany and we spent a week collaborating in the studio. They are brother and sister and unbelievably talented. What we came up with together is simply amazing.
JES is one of the best-known voices in the electronic music scene. What is it about her voice that you like and how did this collaboration materialize?
I have been in touch with JES for quite some time. We kept seeing each other at gigs and wanted to write together. Finally we managed to do it.
The ATB IN CONCERT U.S. Tour 2013 back in October was the first chance we had to get to know each other properly and share the stage together. Her voice is so impressive. She has a great personality with a distinct musical character, which I really like.
Sean Ryan and Jan Löchel also appear on the album, along with the rock band Stanfour. How do you know each other and how did this genre-transcending cooperation come about?
ATB: I listen to the radio a lot during the day, keeping track of the current music scene outside of the electronic music scene. So that’s how I know the Stanfour boys, they’re also from Germany, and of course they had a hit with “Wishing you well”.
We actually met at an event, which cut across different scenes and we started chatting. It was clear from the off that these guys were passionate about making music, we were immediately on the same wavelength. I told them I was working on a new album and we decided there and then to produce a track together.
Within days we had created “Face to Face”, a fantastic number and the first single off the album. It was also one of the highlights of the ATB IN CONCERT Tour, which the Stanfour boys were also part of.
You mentioned the ATB IN CONCERT Live U.S. Tour, which took you to the four cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. This gave your fans an unprecedented, exclusive opportunity to see you live with a band and the original singers and hear tracks from the new album. What were your expectations for the new songs going into the shows and how was the feedback from your fans? ATB: I don’t like to go into a project with fixed expectations, but naturally you hope that everything will go well. At the end of the day, ATB IN CONCERT is not a regular DJ Show, it’s a concept, a concert with a corresponding programme. So I couldn’t say beforehand how the fans in America would react and whether or not they’d take to the concept.
The first challenge we faced was letting people know just what ATB IN CONCERT is, as this was the first time we brought it to the USA. Concerts are not that much of a rarity in the electronic scene, but more often than not, all it means is a DJ and a singer on stage.
My biggest concern was that people would expect the same from ATB IN CONCERT and not get the concept. The first thing the people heard on entering the venue was not dance music as they might normally hear at one of my sets, but an ambient show, which introduced the evening.
Months before the tour started, we began with an extensive promotional campaign to show people that ATB IN CONCERT is more than just a DJ set, it’s a proper concert with a carefully constructed programme and a full live band plus vocalists.
We ended up selling out almost every venue and everyone was totally enthusiastic in all of the cities. New York, the last stop, was an extra-special highlight, the feedback from the fans was huge and talking to them during meet and greet sessions before each show made it clear to me that they totally got the idea and understood the concept.
The crazy thing is that we received loads of requests from other countries to organize ATB IN CONCERT shows whilst we were on tour in America. I would dearly love to present the show in more places but it’s a pretty big production and not always practical.
You traditionally devote the second side of the album to ambient tracks, your self-confessed passion, where you can express your own thoughts and feelings. Are there particular moments you like to recall with regard to these new ambient pieces?
ATB: I love working on these songs, which usually come to life in the more peaceful moments of my day, or rather the evening. I sit down in my smaller second studio and simply start to play.
There is no actual story behind their creation, they are like snapshots, music which arises from situations. Even when you listen tot hem, they do not tell an actual story, they just capture the moment.
It’s as if I immerse myself in a different world where I can forget the thought processes and worries of everyday life. If my tracks can have the same effect on the listener, either in dance or ambient mode, then I have succeeded.
As you already told, you were almost the last 3 years on the road and always have been looking for contact to great and inspiring people. I imagine there are always those magical moments, which causes an idea for a track. Do you have such a moment in mind when you reflect the last 3 years?
ATB: There are definitely too many. I have had uncountable, awesome and unique gigs all over the world the last three years. They have been in fantastic locations with fantastic crowds, especially at my ATB IN CONCERT, where I celebrate my tracks live with thousands of people. These have all been amazing and there is no possible way to select just one moment!
You started to make music in a time where producing music happened in a studio mostly with hardware. How has the technical evolution changed your way to make music?
ATB: The quality of the productions has significantly improved, especially the overall sound quality. This is due to the modern ways of production available these days. Digital sound tools have had a huge influence in the whole production process, making it easier to explore and try out new things that were just impossible to do years ago.
With your whole experience in the business what advices would you give to young talents to stand out from the crowd?
ATB: Be yourself, be authentic, love what you do and show it to your audience!
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