Alec Empire, the founding member of Atari Teenage Riot and Digital Hardcore Recordings, stands up for the political activisim and psychedelic idealism of Bobby Gillespie’s Primal Scream in a text that originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine. Also, watch Atari Teenage Riot’s Fall tour trailer below.
I’ve been into Primal Scream since the very beginning and by extension always had an interest in the scene that gave birth to them. Manchester’s rich dance music history appears, to the outsider like me, one of inclusion and coming together—a kind of sixties psychedelic resurgence, both musically and ideologically. That statement may surprise some people as I’m often aligned with a kind of punk culture that’s quite removed from hippie ideals. However, I consider the sixties—one of Primal Scream’s major touchstones—to be one of the most creative eras in rock music. That was the birth of radical new ideas about how we could live as a society. It was when the word “freedom” became incredibly important. Of course, lots of artists nowadays blindly pray to the sixties, mimicking the musical language, but discarding what made the music so powerful: the political charge.
In contrast, More Light is a political record, and Primal Scream are probably the first band of that prominence after 2011—the year of hacker activism and Occupy—to properly channel that sense of rage into their album. When Bobby Gillespie sings about “soldier boys dying in war” on the opening track “2013”, it feels vital at a time when apathy reigns. You might see similarities between the lyrics of Primal Scream and Atari Teenage Riot, not surprising perhaps as my band has remained closely aligned with political activism. In fact I firmly maintain that it’s always the right time to address political topics through music. A cynic would ask, “Why aren’t the younger generations of musicians expressing these feelings? Why is it always the older bands?” Well, I can tell you: it’s because espousing political views would jeopardize their chance of landing a record deal.
Some people might be tempted to write off the unspooling grooves and psychedelic passages in tracks like “2013” and “Relativity” as hippie garbage, but I especially hear the influence of Alice Coltrane on More Light. To those who only believe in the three-minute pop song, the breakdown of “River of Pain”, with its symphonic swells and free jazz flourishes, might appear self-indulgent, pointless. That track is probably my personal highlight, because it captures a kind of epic atmosphere which is exactly what I’m into. Importantly, it’s also the sort of track you can’t make if you cater to the kind of person who decides whether or not to click away in a track’s first three seconds. Of course then you’re not dealing with a listener anymore; you’re dealing with someone who should be kept far away from music. More Light is an antidote to lazy listening, with Primal Scream having reimagined the trope that we’ve seen so often in films about drugs, where the character has swallowed the pill and melts into this euphoric, disassociated state, recreated through layers of sonics. It’s something My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain do really well too, and I never grow tired of it.
Is More Light a retro album? No. For me Primal Scream have never been about merely retreading old ground or old sounds. It sounds modern to me, maybe because people like Steve Jobs and other architects of twenty-first century technology had a great affinity for the sixties, too: LSD, meditation, spiritual experiments. I believe there’s a connection between technological progress, spiritualism and freedom. When I listen to More Light I feel like I want to start moving, not in the sense of dancing, but in the sense of riding a motorbike or being in the back of a tour bus after having played an intense show. Besides, sometimes it isn’t the new idea that’s important, but rather defending the right idea. The past decade of war and terror has not brought any positive change. More Light goes back to a time when people held peace up as the highest goal, even though Primal Scream most likely still hate hippies. ~
Primal Scream’s More Light is out now via Sony. Atari Teenage Riot tours Europe starting this month; dates below. Watch their tour trailer below.
24.10.2013 GB-London, Heaven
25.10.2013 FR-Paris, Glazart
26.10.2013 FR-Nantes, Le Ferrailleur
27.10.2013 FR-Montpelier, Secret Place
30.10.2013 FR-Bordeaux, I-Boat
31.10.2013 PT-Porto, Hard Club
01.11.2013 ES-Madrid, Heineken Arena
02.11.2013 ES-Barcelona, Apolo 2
This text first appeared first in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 34 (2, 2013). Read the full issue on issuu.com or in the embed below.