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Nin tendo Teen-age R0b0ts_ We Punk Einheit!

The Voodoo Sessions 98 - DeluxeEdition

NTR 2024 Voodoo Sessions.PNG

Electronic music boomed in the first half of the 90s,

and found its peak in the US around 1997.

Then came this short moment when it felt like the limits

couldn’t be pushed any further. People stopped imagining the future - they began to remember the 1980s instead. 


For me in the summer of 1998 the Gameboy signaled the decline of the electronica and dance music era of the 90s. 


We had been on a successful ride since 1997 with Atari Teenage Riot and the explosion of the Digital Hard-core sound - we were touring the world. From Brazil to South-East Asia and North America. In the summer of 1998 I had already mapped out what ATR’s follow up album to “Burn Berlin Burn” would look like. We had a perfect plan. 


The worldwide distribution deals were all in place. The money problems of the early days seemed past us. I remember being on the plane and looking out the window… the sky looked so peaceful. 

As if we stood still… 


I looked at my gameboy - it was sitting next to my Mille Plateaux book by Gilles Deleuze on the empty seat next to me… in those days I kept going through its pages thinking about how we could use the methods of deconstruction to come up with new ideas. Playing an old school video game could put me in creative mode fast. 


Suddenly I got this bad feeling in my stomach, like a warning… I looked around me… most passengers were asleep… somewhere in the back the stewardess was organizing something… for years we had been attacking the hierarchy of the old established music industry, not only verbally but by using much more efficient and much cheaper technology than everybody else. 


1997 showed an open confrontation, especially at big music festivals.There were the big rock acts, who came with trucks and had whole crews set everything up for the concert. And then there was us, often not more than 7 people in a small van with an Atari computer on stage. We were louder. 


This was the reason why we had gotten so far. If I had to put it into a simple formula, then it would be something like: 

Use an Atari computer and tell the truth about what you see coming. Don’t entertain people, make people think instead! 


Many artists and the industry backing them usually have one goal:

 Establish a cult and then recruit as many followers for that cult as possible who keep giving money to the false idol. That is why many singers copy Jesus. 

They try to blend over an image of Jesus that millions of people have internalized since childhood. So these artists try to redirect whatever religious energy people are generating towards them and rake in the profits. 


An outsider who doesn’t respond emotionally to the music usually comes to two conclusions: 


Either : That’s like a cult. These people are crazy. Look how they dress, look at their haircuts, their make up. That is a cult. 


Or: That is how the music industry works and has always worked… 


In the summer of 1998 the gameboy felt like the most basic punk anti-hero weapon against this big corporate machine. It had three sounds. 

If you ever played the original Space Invaders, you know the immediate aural fascination that blows your mind when you start playing the game. The attacks keep coming, and they are increasing. Be faster, be better or get shot into a pixelated rubble. 


When I landed I went to the next pay phone and called DHR office. I was greeted with the usual “Hi Alec Empire, have you finished the new ATR album yet? Is it done?” It was this joke because everyone knew the schedule behind the scenes and yes, we could be fast but it would still take time. 

With Digital Hardcore it wasn’t about blocking a timeframe for ‘production’ - instead it was all about acting fast when the time was right. 


It had more in common with hunting in the wilderness than building a hut. Or throwing a hand grenade in training and getting this rush from the explosion. 


I lowered my voice as if I was passing on this secret information like in a Cold War spy movie:”ATR is not done yet, but I have something very important that we must release next… Book the mastering session at Abbey Road Studios now… it’s for a double vinyl album programmed entirely on a gameboy. Yes, 8 bit. Maybe even 4 bit. And it will be called Nintendo Teenage Robots…” 


The friendly female voice on the other end answered:” Ok, will do. You do realize that there might be a copyright problem with Nintendo though, do you?”I smiled and said:”Yes - but we deal with it when we get to that bridge…First I still have to make it.” 


The double album was titled “We Punk Einheit!” and was released a few months after I programmed it. When I was back in the studio to get the sound out of the Gameboy onto DAT (Digital Audio Tape), we decided to split the signal, so we recorded the absolute dry sound right of the Gameboy and then we fed it through separate line into the analogue mixer. 

I decided to go with the dry signal… like you sat inside the gameboy and listened to the performance in a virtual world. 

The mastering engineer at Abbey Road Studios looked at us during the session and said:” So for this you had to come here??? And be in the same building where The Beatles wrote music history?” 

“Of course, Sir! The probability is high that we might be experiencing this kind of moment again! Which is rare in history!” 


The album ended up selling very well for what it was. Of course many saw it as a gimmick and because many people were curious about what we would do next, it received unusual attention also from the press. It was pointed out again and again that Nintendo Teenage Robots “We Punk Einheit!” on DHR was the first ever double album released that was entirely made on a Gameboy, a small hand pocket device. 


The word ‘Einheit’ is German for ‘unity’. 

That title was a hidden criticism of those types of punkrockers who were in fact not rebelling against authority but instead behaved like a small army of conformist programmed robots. Repeating and following orders without being able to think for themselves. 

We also threw a few clubs nights around this concept in the Berlin underground scene called “Out!” - where DJs were not called DJs anymore but ‘Bodysnatchers’ and were only allowed to play Gameboy Music. 


This album always stood out in my discography and over the years music fans wondered what music genre this could be categorized in? 

It certainly wasn’t ’chiptune’ or ‘video game music’. I kept asking myself this question and I never found an answer… 

Where did these tracks come from? 


One of my childhood memories is sitting in front of a tv screen at a friends house, playing Atari games - to then get bored and going out in the streets breakdancing to Electric Boogie and early Rap music… Robots were the future, but Funk was something human - something that machines had to imitate from us. We wouldn’t be serfs to them. They would dance for us… 


Over the last months I kept coming back to this for some reason… Speed reading plagiarists are being held up as semi-gods and not the tools that they actually are…  it seems as if self-elected leaders are trying to build a society in which humanity is not allowed… 

Who will get line? I know I won’t…


Long live the underground - Love to the hacker generation of the 1980s and 90s! 

Here are both versions of the double album! 


Alec Empire 

Berlin, 17th of February 2024

Software eats the world and when your world is bitten….it starts to disappear. Bit by bit. 

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