Filed under: Interview
Atomic Hooligan started catching most people’s attention back in 2004 when DJ Mag asked them to supply a cover mount CD and announced them as their hot pick for the year. Since then the Botchit & Scarper regulars have gone from strength to strength releasing a highly regarded album in 2005 and are already most of the way through producing their second.
While it is obviously hard to put a finger on the exact reasons of their success, some thanks must surely go to the fact that the duo of Terry Ryan and Matt Welch have divvied up the Atomic Hooligan duties to take advantage of their individual strengths. Terry is the DJ of the two and gets to ham it up on beaches in Ukraine and many other exotic locations while Matt is locked up in the studio occasionally allowed to exit for a spot of gardening.
We spoke to Terry during his recent visit to Japan and he explained how the pair manages to work together and how they’ve grown to fully respect each other’s input into the group.
Interview & Introducion by Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : We are from Higher Frequency, thanks for talking to us today.
Terry Ryan : Alright, cool.
HRFQ : Lets get started straight away. What are some of the best countries for breaks at the moment?
Terry : Russia’s massive for breaks at the moment. Russia is just big for big parties and we are just lucky enough to have promoters over there who are into breaks. Some of the countries main promoters are into breaks so that sound is being pushed quite a bit to the public and they seem to be quite receptive to it. Australia, not so much anymore. It was really big, with the Krafty Kuts explosion it was massive but I think there was, not through any fault of his own, just an over exposure of not just Krafty Kuts but breaks in general. But yeah, Canada’s really big for breaks. Yeah, all over the place. Germany is really big for breaks at the moment as well. There has been a great club scene there for a while and I think breaks is just coming in. There has been a version of breakbeat in Germany for years now called smash house, which is basically just breakbeat but slightly faster. But yeah, it’s really going off there at the moment. The UK is still really good for it, but I don’t think it is as big as some people think just because it is the home of nu-school breaks. But it is not as big as some people think, it never really has been. People outside of the UK have got a very romantic view of what the UK dance scene is like and it’s not always the truth. It’s getting big all over the world really, except for the States where everything is controlled by hip hop and rock.
HRFQ : We wanted to ask you about your album “You Are Here”. It was voted number one album of the year in the Breakspoll and it got ranked quite highly by DJ Mag, has this pushed you to make another album?
Terry : Well, it was always the plan to make another album, mostly because we’ve got a two album contract but we always wanted to follow it up anyway. I would say we are 70% through the creative process of it at the moment. We’ve started to mix down tracks and stuff. It’s going to be along the same lines but more simple and hopefully a bit more beautiful. The last one was a little bit crowded. When we did it we loved it, it was the best thing we’d ever heard, the best thing we’d ever done, but listening back to it now there are always things you can go, “I wish we hadn’t put that massive sound effect there”. This album is going have the same sort of energy to it, we aren’t going to veer off and say “now we like country music”. But we are going to make it more precise, simpler and maybe even more melodic, more song based.
HRFQ : Is it made up of ideas you had while working on the past album?
Terry : Yeah, definitely. There are a few things we left out of the last album because we just couldn’t get them right at the time. We’ve taken them up and started them again, trying to reinterpret them for this album.
HRFQ : Obviously you handle the DJing and Matt is in the studio. Because of this, is it hard to get a shared vision of what you want Atomic Hooligan to be like?
Terry : Not really. We’ve always been really lucky that myself and Matt are from two different ends of the spectrum really. Creative wise, I’m the guy that just brushes into the studio once every couple of days, taps away at the drum machine and then leaves for another week. Matt is the guy who sits there and does it all. I respect his vision and he respects mine. I go out there and listen to what’s going on and he is the guy that sits there meticulously working on making our album and our music sound as good as it can. We meet in the middle and it’s a good mixture. I think all the best mixtures are usually like that. Like I think Underworld were amazing when Emerson was part of them. He was the guy who was out there. He was DJing and funneling down their vision into ‘Cowgirl’, ‘Rez’ and classics like that. There are people like Stanton Warriors and Plump DJs who understand there is dancefloor and there is studio, and the two have to meet to make this amazing hybrid of sounds.
HRFQ : Do you think having the two of you gives you a bit of an advantage?
Terry : I think so, yeah. It stops it from being insular or really kind of contained. There are a lot of DJ/Producers whose stuff can sound a little bit too noodley because they get to in on themselves. When you’ve got two people working on it you’ve always got that second perspective. We’re at a point now where he’ll have been doing two weeks of work and I’ll have been off wherever and he’ll play me a load of stuff and I’ll just veto lots of stuff and he’ll just go, “OK, fair enough”. Whereas, maybe four years ago he might’ve got offended. But we trust each others point of view now.
HRFQ : Matt never gets jealous that you get to travel to all these places?
Terry : He’s a real homebody. If he hadn’t have been to Japan he would’ve been jealous because that is the one place he always wanted to go. But he has been to Japan now and he will come again when we do the live show. He does come out on a few of the gigs and he has started to come out and do the decks and effects stuff now as well. But he likes being at home with his girlfriend and he has just bought a house. He likes playing squash and tending to his vegetable garden. That’s his kind of thing really.
HRFQ : You mentioned your live show, you played with a nine piece band at Fabric Live and Glastonbury. What’s it like touring with so many people?
Terry : It’s like a military movement. I’ll be honest and say that it’s hard fucking work. Getting so many people in one place at one time, it’s almost like me and Matt are the parents and we’ve got to get all the kids into line and then get them all dressed for school. The end results of it are amazing. Getting up on stage, playing the music, seeing the crowd reaction. Every time we are on the way to these gigs we are like, “We are not doing this again. It sucks. I hate it. We could just go out and DJ, make five times as much money and hundred times less hassles”. Then at the end when it is all done we think “we can’t stop doing this”. It’s brilliant and we absolutely love it. There are mixed emotions but it always works out that we do enjoy it.
HRFQ : Is there a completely different vibe between your live shows and DJ sets?
Terry : Yeah, totally. I mean there are some similarities obviously. It all depends on the crowd and where you are doing it. At festivals people expect you to stop the tunes and speak in between and there is a slightly looser vibe to it. But at Fabric, again it’s different because it is a big club and people just want to dance. There are maybe 20% of the crowd that are there to specifically see Atomic Hooligan and the other 80% are there just to dance so you’ve got to take that into account. But when you are a DJing, those people are there to dance. They’re not there to see a vocalist or be entertained by great guitar solos, they are there to dance. So that is the real separation. When you DJ people are there to do what you do in a club, dance, drink and whatever. When you DJ you’ve just got this intensity. The music is blaring and you get into the zone. It’s like anything you focus on intensely for two hours. You are almost a different person while you are doing it. You don’t get that so much doing a live set. You are there to entertain the crowd and there is also that aspect of it where you are there to wave your hands around and interact with the crowd.
HRFQ : A lot of producers start up their own label to push their own sound but on Menu Music we haven’t seen an Atomic Hooligan release yet. So what were the reasons behind starting up Menu Music?
Terry : I’m intent on getting new music out there. I’m really into finding new music and playing new music. I thought the best way to be able to do that was to start a label so that I could have new music that other people didn’t have. It was a bit of a selfish thing really. There will be Atomic Hooligan material on there, but not just yet. For now we are focusing on the new album. We have done one remix on there and we are planning to do another for a Dopamine track that we’ve signed. It’s not about us really, the distributor wants it to be about us, but it’s about new music. The problem I have with a lot of labels is that people start them because they don’t want to accept that their music isn’t good enough to go on other labels. And that is what is diluting dance music on the whole, but especially diluting breakbeat music. Because people start labels with their own tracks and their mates’ and they are really just under-produced pieces of rubbish. It’s an exercise in vanity a lot of the time. We wanted to start a label that actually meant something. We wanted people to say, “the first time I heard such and such was on Menu Music”. There will be Atomic Hooligans stuff but we wanted to establish it as an independent label and not just off the back of us.
HRFQ : So are there too many labels at the moment?
Terry : Far too many labels. There are entire distributors that are set up on the back of really crappy little labels. It is diluting our sales, number one. It is next to impossible to sell any more than 3000 units of a piece of vinyl at the moment and that is because DJ Joe Bloggs is making stuff with his home studio setup that it took him two days to learn how to use Reason on. I’m being really harsh, but I’ve been doing this for ten years and we used to sell up to 10,000 units of a piece of vinyl and nowadays it is next to impossible to sell anymore than three thousand. Stanton Warriors and people like that may be selling 10,000 units when they should be selling 50,000. People are spoilt for choice now. They go into a record shop and there is More Fire Records and all thiscThere might be a label called More Fire Records and it might be really good, you better not print that just incase there is. But there are all these stupid little labels that put out music from them and their mates who can’t get deals with anybody else. It ends up weighing down the racks and there is too much music out there that just isn’t any good.
HRFQ : So you’ve got the new album you are working on but what else is planned for the future?
Terry : More tours. We’re heading back to Australia and probably coming back here at the end of the year. Going back to China again at some point. Once the mix CD is released in March in the UK we’ll be supporting that and we are reworking the live show because we are getting a new vocalist in and coming back with that. We’ve got a few festivals coming up this summer. I’m doing a two month, I’m not going to be there for two months, but it’s a two month long beach festival in Ukraine which I did last year and it’s right on the black sea and I’m really looking forward to that. A live show in the Czech Republic, back to Canada again for three weeks.
HRFQ : It’s all planned well in advance.
Terry : Yeah, DJ and live wise I’m looking at December and January now. So it’s all booked up well in advance.
HRFQ : Well that’s all we’ve got, so thank you.
Terry : Cool, my pleasure.
End of the interview
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