With MAYDAY Dortmund now just two weeks away, German producer ATB told us about his new album, the state of EDM today and why one of the longest-running raves in the world is still going strong after 26 years.
Next month you’ll reach a pretty significant milestone: your 10th studio album, neXt, comes out on 21st April. How does it feel to look back at the last two decades since the very first, Movin’ Melodies?
Well, I started 20 years ago with the project ATB and back in the days it was my dream to still be around 20 years later. I’m very happy that I’m still making music, that I’m still touring, and the 10th studio album “neXt” is a perfect reason to celebrate. Many things have changed over this amount of time, but I’m glad to say that electronic music has become an important part of the music scene worldwide.
If you had to recommend one album in particular for someone who is new to ATB, which one would you start them on?
I think to understand ATB, you have to take a day off and listen to all of them. From Movin’ Melodies via Two Worlds and Dedicated to Future Memories and Contact to name just a few, there’s a development in sound, but you can always still hear that it’s ATB. It’s been my goal since I started making music to create my own sound and continue to develop it.
Millions of fans around the world have joined you somewhere along the line, and are proudly part of the ATB family. If you could pick out one life lesson you’ve learnt over the last 20 years to pass on, what would it be?
Remain true to yourself and don’t always follow trends. This is hard sometimes as there will be always ups and downs, but in the end it’s worth it.
You said in 2012 that you thought EDM was moving too fast, with the market becoming oversaturated. Do you think things have settled down a little now, or do you still have reservations?
The reason why I said that: in the beginning of the millennium, dance music grew too quickly in Europe, we had an over-saturation and many clubs and venues died. People were sick of listening to the same beat, same sounds, the next copy of another tune. Growing so fast isn’t necessarily a good thing.
As EDM got bigger a few years ago in the USA, I was concerned that the same process will take place again as we’ve seen it before. And that’s exactly what happened. Too many tracks that sounded the same, everything got bigger and more challenging, and the quality of the music went down.
There will always be guys out there who started creating music because they love it, with real passion. But when there is money around, passion sometimes gets lost. And you could sense that the audience was getting tired of too many festivals with the same sound.
Meanwhile I would say, the sound has changed slowly, moving back to great melodies. I just got back from a 6-week tour in the USA as I love to play there and I have done so many times since 2000. And I can feel it: people are falling back in love with melodies and it’s amazing to see that the American club scene hasn’t died.
One of your latest singles, Connected, was a collaboration with fellow trance producer Andrew Rayel. How did the track evolve between the two of you? And what does the track title mean to you?
Andrew Rayel and I first met backstage at a show in San Jose, CA. We had a nice talk and decided to start on a track together. So Andrew sent some piano melodies and the one which we’ve been using for “Connected” immediately stuck in my head. So I sat down in my studio and built the track around it.
The funny thing: most people think I played the piano and Andrew played the other melodies and produced the track. The name Connected popped up as we thought about the working process. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to sit together in the studio. But sending ideas back and forth, we’ve still been connected in another way.
You teased us with a documentary trailer a few days ago – what can you tell us about the full-length film?
I worked on the trailer while having some off days during my USA tour. And on my new album “neXt” there are so many tracks I love that I had to pick a few of them for the trailer, as they match my different moods perfectly when I am on the road. People often ask me how it feels to be touring so much and what my days are like. So the full-length documentary is a very personal and intimate view into life on tour.
2017 will be your first time at MAYDAY Dortmund since 2013 – how will it feel to be back?
It feels amazing, to be honest, and I’m proud to be part of it again this year. It's an event with a lot of history, and besides that it takes place close to where I live. So I’m sure to see many familiar faces!
MAYDAY is one of only a handful of things in electronic music that has been around for longer than you ;-) What can you tell the international audience about it if they’re not familiar with MAYDAY?
First of all: good to know, that I’m not the dinosaur ;) But honestly: in times of change it’s great to see that a festival like Mayday is still going strong after 26 years. Imagine how it all started back in 1991, and in 2017 it’s still there, against all odds.
Since ’93 it has taken place in Dortmund, a city better known for soccer than for music, but people are coming from all over the world to be part of the Mayday movement. Mayday is a festival you have to go to, as it’s been a pioneering work and an inspiration for many festivals worldwide.
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