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Part 3: Berlin Atonal’s New Organizers On The Revamped Festival

[15.07.2021. Content warning: an article published by J.-H. Kabuiku on July 9th 2021 points out Dominick Fernow’s consistent links with metal and noise artists, bands, labels and productions using pedophilia and sexual violence imagery, listing a number of regular collaborators explicitly affiliated with National Socialism and white power ideology. More on this here]

The first (West) Berlin Atonal Festival in 1982 belongs to the category of events that have the power to change our perception of a city entirely. Founded by Dimitri Hegemann (who is also the founder of the Tresor Club, Tresor Records and the director of the Kraftwerk in Berlin), the festival coined (West) Berlin as a city that originated serious, existentialist music—as performed by Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds or the early Depeche Mode. After pausing for 23 years, the Atonal Festival returns to the now reunited city of Greater Berlin with a stellar cast of concerts (featuring Glenn Branca, Moritz von Oswald & Juan Atkins, Vatican Shadow, John Hassell, Actress and more), public lectures and other activities that deal with the unique space of the Kraftwerk. The festival runs from July 25th until July 31st. Check out their website for more details. Electronic Beats is proud to be Berlin Atonal’s 2013 official media partner.

Electronic Beats: Naturally all of the acts playing all make up an important part of the whole, but are you looking forward to any acts in particular?

Paulo Reachi: I think the fact that there are three of us booking the festival means almost everyone performing holds a place with at least one of us. Theres no filler and everyone who is performing almost had to be there. For me, seeing the collaboration between Murcof and Simon Geilfus is something I’m really excited about. It will no doubt work amazingly well in the space.

Harry Glass: I’m looking forward to hearing the debut performance of Paul Jebanasam. His recent record Rites on Subtext Recordings was brilliant and I think that this sound is going to bring out something nice about the space.

Laurens von Oswald: I’ve been a big listener of Kangding Ray for a while, so I was happy that we were able to bring him to Atonal to stage an exclusive performance in such a setting. I’m also looking forward to hearing Samuel Kerridge live—his recent releases have been great and I know he and many other performers on that Sunday as part of the Contort lineup have been working on some special live shows.

There’s currently a resurgence in electronic music toward industrialized techno, harder sounds that echo the early days of undefined genre boundaries. Atonal’s Sunday presentations seem to reflect that, with showcases from Contort and London’s Blackest Ever Black. How do you see the evolution between previous Atonal artists like Test Dept. and younger acts like Vatican Shadow?

LVO: To be honest, I feel this is relevant to a lot of different styles of music. Everything comes full circle in one way or another. I guess it’s also one of the major through-lines that we’ve tried to uphold from the original editions of Berlin Atonal. However, we think that trying to get extreme reactions just by showing extreme content which unnerves and shocks the audience is now almost worthless—or at least doesn’t feel like anything new. Its a much more obnoxious way of performing these days.

PR: Its more about the music than the acts that accompany it—for better or worse. Over the years between the previous Atonals and now, the musical landscape really has changed and seen a lot and we should try and emphasize the positive directions rather than just looking back at what has been lost, or what has changed.

For the opening night of the festival, you’ve teamed up with Electronic Beats and some legendary Berlin figures like Alec Empire and Phillip Sollmann. What are your expectations for the party?

PR: I think it will be a really special night. All of these artists should feel really at home at the festival and we really feel like they belong here too. It will be a great opportunity for them all to push the audience and show things that they feel represent them as artists and people. Mark Reeder will also be there—it’ll be amazing.

You mentioned before that spaces are integral to the things that happen in them. Tell us about some of the installations being created for the festival, and the spaces they’re changing.

HG: A really bright, loud and spectacular piece is coming from Belgium and the guys at ANTIVJ: a large cube made from hanging layers of silk is projected from all sides and can be used as a fully three dimensional medium for spatial construction through beamed light. We have also commissioned David Lettelier [Kangding Ray] to create a kinetic audio sculpture which uses the unpredictable movements of autonomous metal objects bumping, touching and fighting with each other to create interesting sound patterns. At the moment, we are working with our buddies Gio, Dani [Dadub] and Danielle [GRÜN] on something quite unusual. We explored in the basement of the power plant and found a long 80 meter long corridor that the lads worked out how to turn into a kind of pulsating tunnel of sound. At the far end they are setting up an entirely analog audio system using some old subs we had lying around—some as speakers, some as inputs—which creates an open feedback loop that interacts with the entire space and the bodies within it. Some nice stuff!

What is your connection with the independent avant-garde space N.K.?

HG: I only met Farah and the other guys behind N.K. quite recently, but they are really open and nice people. Because they are so enthusiastic about what they are doing, they are fantastic to collaborate with. We worked on creating an afternoon [Wednesday July 31st] of seminars and live presentations based around the interface between sound and graphics: how one can be represented in terms of the other, how they can translate into each other. They also program some great stuff at their own space—I saw a lecture on early Soviet sound movies there which included some of the best archive footage I’ve ever seen.

Give us a guide to the aftershows taking place at Tresor and Shift; what can people look forward to?

LVO: We’ve managed to organize some really nice collaborative events. We’ve already spoken about the opening night aftershow party hosted by EB and Max Dax. Then we team up with a new label from the UK, Liberation Technologies, for a great afterparty on Sunday: Powell, Will Bankhead, DJ Richard and Raime return after their live show to DJ. The Tresor parties are also going to be great: Juan Atkins, Thomas Fehlmann, Moritz von Oswald with some major new talents like Shifted, DJ Deep and Neel. For our closing night afterparty, we got together with the ever excellent MUTEK who put together a classic Canadian lineup: Deadbeat, Mike Shannon and Jeff Milligan. We really took it as an opportunity to offer something different than to what people will experience in the Kraftwerk over the week.~

You can read part one of this three-part interview here and part two here.

Published July 19, 2013. Words by Daniel Jones.