Atari Teenage Riot (abbreviated ATR) is a German band formed in Berlin in 1992. The name was taken from a Portuguese Joe song entitled "Teenage Riot" from the album Teen-age Riot, with the word 'Atari' added as an Atari ST computer was used to create compositions. Highly political, they fused left-wing, anarchist, anti-fascist views with punk vocals and the newly emerging techno sound called digital hardcore, which is a term band member Alec Empire used as the name of his record label.
The group was founded as an attack on the Neo-Nazi subculture by fusing hardcore punk views with German techno; it consisted of three Berliners—Alec Empire, Hanin Elias and MCCarl Crack. ATR's early releases (which included the track "Hetzjagd Auf Nazis!"/"Hunt Down the Nazis!") were surrounded by controversy in Germany.
The major label Intercord signed the group in 1995 for Germany. ATR's record label Digital Hardcore Recordings released the debut album "Delete Yourself!" internationally. In 1996 the Beastie Boys licensed the album and released it in the US with extra songs under the title "Burn Berlin Burn" on their label Grand Royal.
In 1996, ATR was joined by Nic Endo, a Japanese-German-American noise/soundscape artist, who played her first live show with ATR in the spring of 1997 during the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas.
In 1999, ATR released the album 60 Second Wipe Out, which featured a number of guest artists, including New York City rappers The Arsonists. According to Magnet, "Empire's guitar-playing values speed-thrash malevolence, and when paired with Endo's painful skronkage, the album is decidedly denser than its predecessor".
Elias left ATR at the Brixton Academy show in the winter of 1999. The plan had been to tour with Nine Inch Nails in the US during the spring of 2000, but ATR decided to cancel the show to recharge. Crack also needed time to recuperate from his psychosis attacks.
In the autumn of 2000, ATR started working on their fourth album. The song "Rage", featuring Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine, was chosen as an in-between single until the release of the fourth album. Rage was part of the recording sessions for 60 Second Wipe Out, but Empire didn’t feel it would fit the album.
On 6 September 2001, Crack, who had long struggled with psychiatric issues, died from an overdose of unspecified pills. The media hype surrounding Crack's death is disputed by ATR. According to a friend, he had spoken a few weeks before his death about a doctor's report which said his psychosis attacks would worsen with age. According to that friend, Crack said he would rather kill himself than become a "zombie" and not be in control of his life. Witnesses have said Crack tried to reach out to his friends because he felt the psychosis starting again. When his body was found by police with large quantities of medication in his stomach, this suggested suicide. It is still unclear if this happened while he was in a state of psychosis or not (while in a psychotic state, it could be interpreted as an accident rather than suicide).
The other half of the band continue to work together. Endo assisted in the production of Empire's solo recordings, as well as being a key member of his live band. DHR released Atari Teenage Riot: 1992-2000, a collection of the band's best known recordings, on 3 July 2006.
In October 2009, Elias contacted Empire to play some concerts together, but had to refrain because of her voice. When it became clear that Elias wouldn’t show up to the first show, the band published a statement 30 minutes before show time.
In January 2010, it was announced ATR would reunite for a few live shows in Europe. Later in the year, they announced additional shows in Europe, North America and Asia. In early March 2010, Empire released the new ATR track "Activate" via SoundCloud, which is the first song featuring their new MC, CX KiDTRONiK. Activate was recorded on 3 March 2010 in Berlin at the Hellish Vortex Studios. Female vocals were provided by Endo.
The band played most major festivals throughout Europe in 2010, including Reading and Leeds, and headlined the Fusion Festival in front of approximately 20,000 people (which led to a massive stage invasion by thousands of fans). In the same year, ATR headlined a stage at Japan's Summersonic Festival, returning the following year to play at Fuji Rock Festival. Another triumph was the band's headline slot on the electronic stage at the Berlin Festival, which is held at an old military airport in the centre of the city. These live shows were perceived as better and more energetic by critics and fans than shows during the 1990s. Enthused, the band decided to add more dates. The live line-up of ATR, as of June 2011, consisted of Empire, Endo and CX KiDTRONiK.
On 12 October 2010, Steve Aoki and Dim Mak Records announced the release of Atari Teenage Riot's new single "Activate", with the full-length album Is This Hyperreal? released in 2011. While the record was described as "redundant" by Pitchfork Media, in what Empire called "probably one of the dumbest reviews I’ve ever read about any record.", other magazines gave it great reviews. New Musical Express wrote:"“Few bands have ever detonated as powerfully in the underground as Atari Teenage Riot. Put simply, they were the conscience of electronic music. They were a band that sounded the way you always wanted The Prodigy to sound. A band akin to Black Flag if that outfit had existed in an age where every home had a computer. And their influence burned big and bright.” Artrocker Magazine put them on the cover in their May 2011 issue and wrote:"“Make no mistake, ‘Activate’ is the most exhilarating, futuristic and punk rock single of the month. (...) ATR aren’t like any other band. They’re the only group that could have cut a record with Rage Against The Machine and have it be their meekest recording. They’re the only group that iTunes have censored on the grounds that their music could create riots! Ten years and several line-up changes makes no difference to tonight's immediate onslaught of rave, punk, screaming and pounding gabba. The finale consists of the fiercest white noise squall of the evening, and the audience's reaction (moshing, screaming, crowdsurfing, shoes flying through the air) seems to indicate they don’t care either.” That month the band headlined the Bang Face Weekender festival in the UK.
Their album Is This Hyperreal? was celebrated as "the ultimate protest album of the google age," dealing with WikiLeaks, Anonymous, hackers, the freedom the internet brought to the suppressed, censorship, the surveillance state, cyber terrorism and digital decay, a term which describes the disaffected masses abandoning the internet when they realized that it was not free but infested with government controls. The campaign for Is This Hyperreal? took an interesting turn when the Black Flags viral video was taken up by Anonymous whose members and supporters sent in clips from the Occupy Wall Street protests last autumn. Remixes, mash ups and alternate versions created by fans to represent their own dissatisfaction proliferated and captured the mood so accurately it was played in a CNN broadcast to summarise the zeitgeist behind Anonymous' cyber attacks. In December ATR got the news that WikiLeaks could provide exclusive footage from Julian Assange speaking at Occupy London. Boing Boing blog and Dangerous Minds were calling it the first anthem of the Occupy movement. Dangerous Minds: "While personally I would have thought it would be a new act to break through representing a new generation, no-one can doubt ATR’s credentials when it comes to this kind of thing. In fact, maybe in this age of ultra-commodified music it would HAVE to take a more veteran, established act to represent OWS and Anonymous so as to avoid claims of false appropriation? You have to hand it to ATR though; “Black Flags” is a pretty great tune. I’d say it's one of their most accessible yet while retaining all that dark techno-punk scuzzy energy we know and love."
In Spring 2012 the music video for "Black Flags" was nominated for the MTV O Music Awards in the US in the category "Best Protest Song Of The Year".