Talk Show Host: 003: Alter der Ruine

A bit of a chance one, this – after exchanging a few e-mails with Mike T. from ADR over an album review, and getting some interesting responses to my first question or two, this was turned into something of a fully-fledged e-mail interview. So here goes… How are things with ADR right now?

Mike T:Things are going very well at the moment. The reviews for the new album have been great and we’re been picking up quite a few new fans lately. We should be out on the road again this summer but in the meantime we’re working on new material. How has the reaction to the new album been so far – and what are your views on the album now that the recording/release process is over?

Mike T:The feedback for it has been great. All the reviews have been very positive and compliment the release kindly. The one thing that amuses me the most is the song Fat Pony is either the favorite song on the album or the most hated one. That’s the only spot where the reviews seem to disagree. For some reason it has the ability to make people dance or get really annoyed. Actually the annoying part makes sense with its intro, which to me is why that song is awesome. Other than that the general consensus seems to be that it is an unrelenting album with a good sense of humor that warrants multiple listens. Which works for us.

Giants From Far Away is to me a high point in the ADR discography. I’ve liked all the music prior to this album but GFFA is the album I enjoy listening to. The thing that sets it apart from the previous two albums is that our personalities are entwined firmly with the music this time around.

Looking back at the creative / recording processes I can say that we didn’t half ass this album in the slightest. Many hours were spent writing, recording and re-recording. When production on GFFA started we knew we wanted to make something a bit different. We’d been getting kind of bored with our scene at the time and had a desire to jam some other influences into the mix. We all pull from different areas and when someone wrote a song, the two other perspectives would converge on it and shape it into what it came to be. When it was over there was no doubt in our mind that this was our best album, and a very good album on top of that. Can you give us a quick history lesson in ADR?

Mike T:Yes, yes I can. This should be stated first and foremost, that this wasn’t my creation. Alter Der Ruine was started by Mike Jenney in 2005. It must be said because people confuse us and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. In addition to writing for ADR, he also does a ton of sound design, production and all the mixing which is where a lot of the “signature” ADR sound comes from. If you see us live, he is playing drums. He is also the shortest of the three. Give him a high five (even though he’ll have to jump for it) or a Rice Krispy Treat (with peanut butter chips) because he deserves it. But anyhow…

ADR was founded by Mike J. in 2005. He wrote The Ruine Process by himself and played a few shows. I was at the first show, was super drunk and made an ass out of myself. A few months later I was in the band. Together we wrote State of Ruin and played a lot more shows. Jacob came into the band around 2007 I believe and we played a lot more. We spent the better part of 2008 writing and touring.

We went across the country with W.A.S.T.E. one go around, then returned later in support of Nachtmahr. We also headlined the second stage at the 2008 Blacksun Festival in New Haven, CT which was really cool. In the end we were on the road about 2 and a half months, mostly out of pocket which is kind of really shitty but shows our dedication to depleting our bank accounts for something we enjoy (That was for those “payin’ dues” people that like to pop up every once in a while. WE’VE PAID. FUCK YOU.).

Also we finished Giants From far Away sometime in there. ADR’s music seems to have evolved somewhat over the three albums so far, taking in a lot of disparate influences along the way. What are your influences – musically and otherwise – as a group?

Mike T:Musically we all appreciate a wide variety of styles. Jacob is knee deep in a lot of different facets of European metal. You can hear a lot of that influence on the opening track off the new album. We wanted epic and he delivered. Mike J. is into everything from punk to electro to hip-hop while I am into all the above as well. Our roots are all over the place and run pretty deep in some unexpected areas. Was there a reason for not pursuing the idea of more tracks with vocals? Just that I thought that State of Ruin was a cracking track, and a couple of the remixes, in particular the A23 one, have become dancefloor fillers every time I play them.

Mike T:We actually wanted to do an album with half vocal tracks when we went into Giants. Fat Pony was one of them but it never managed to get off the ground. We sort of got into a sleazy noise groove and opted to use samples for vocals instead of actually recording anything.

State of Ruin (the song) was kind of a step in the right and wrong direction. Vocals were the good point, but the sound of them and the lyrical content weren’t what we really wanted to pursue. That song was a really serious and angry politically inspired tune, and while we felt that way we’d be pretty miserable if we lived and breathed that stuff day in and day out. Especially if all albums followed suit.

With the new one we set out to open as many doors as we could so that if we ever felt the desire to step other directions we could and it wouldn’t seem weird. The new material should have some more vocals but it’ll probably be more in the direction we’ve been going as opposed to the serious stuff.

Which brings me back to Chris Morris. I’m so jealous you have someone that awesome operating in the media over there. Here we have some cool personalities, the Daily Show and Colbert Report are pretty good but they don’t get into the gristle of things the way Morris does. If anything when I pulled those samples (and there are a lot of them on the new album) I just wanted to introduce people who had no idea about those programs. We have nothing like that over here, and those aren’t new shows either. Anyhow, up next is probably Snuff Box. Then after that the sample sights will be set somewhere other than the BBC. Do you see ADR as part of a “genre” at all, or do genres and the general pigeonholing of music matter at all to the band?

Mike T:We threw out scene limitations on the new album. People should like music for what it is, not how people file it. If someone won’t listen to it because it is defined by a word or two then they are limiting themselves. Scenes and sub-genreing is what is destroying music appreciation. Our new album could fit into a variety of different genres, but some people might not hear it because it’s been ground up like meat and splatter shot at a wall of random words and no one wants to sort through that. We label ourselves Electro because that’s a broad enough genre for us to fall under, but by no means does it limit us. We’re just here making music, of course we have to be something but others will be telling us what we are from here on out. I’ve come across a fair few ADR remixes of other bands, and also other bands remixing ADR – do you prefer remixing, or being remixed?

Mike T:We love it when people remix us! It doesn’t happen often it seems but we’re always happy for someone to take a crack at it. Most of the remixes people have done for us have come by our request based on an appreciation for them and what they could do with our music. We get contacted for that reason too. Remixing is a great creative outlet that makes you do things a bit different than you normally do. It’s a nice challenge and there is a satisfying feeling upon completing a great remix for someone. We like remixes, of us and other bands. For those of us not lucky enough to catch ADR live yet, what should we expect?

Mike T:The live show is where we are best. If you like the music to begin with then see us live because it is better than the CDs. There is a lot of time and effort put into the live set, we really strive to put on a show we’d like to see. And we don’t play lightly either, for a band with all electronic equipment we move around a lot and put energy into our performances that isn’t seen too often. We’ve been told the live set raises the bar for other bands, also headliners have informed us that they wished they’d gone on before us because they can’t compete with what we did. There’s a lot of action on stage and with the amount of stuff going on we’ve learned that not only is the show good, but that it’s fun and makes people happy they came out to see it. Also if there are 2 people or 200 people our energy levels never change, we’re there to do what we do and if we’re having fun so will whoever is there to see it. What other artists active at present do you really dig?

Mike T:I’ll keep this simple and just make a list: Memmaker, ESA, Alec Empire, The Faint, The Presets, Burikusu!!!, P.O.S., Ulver, Photophob, Modwheelmood, The Faceless. I’m pretty random. I’m one of those time and place listeners and go by what suits me at the moment. What is your view on the North American industrial scene at present – Is it in good shape, or bad?

Mike T:The scene is slowing down a little it seems. The problem is a lot of places are only 21+ which really limits the amount of younger people who can get into the scene first hand. When we were younger there were a bunch of 18+ things going on, even some all ages spots so it was pretty easy to fall into things. These days when we hear from a 16 year old fan we know they’ve been doing their homework to find us. Which is cool but kind of sad too considering how accessible things used to be.

What’s funny is playing in places that are supposed to be amazing only to find out there really isn’t a scene there, then turn around and play someplace you assume will be awful only to find there are a ton of people there who know who you are and came to see you. As a whole the scene still exists here though and there is life in it.

The music is kicking ass though. I used to look to Europe for industrial music but these days the US has some awesome contenders. Crunch Pod, Tympanik, Vendetta and Metropolis are housing some great stateside talent. What are your thoughts on digital downloads (illegal/legal) and music distribution as an artist on a smaller label? How do you ensure that you are getting your music to as many people as possible?

Mike T:If someone is going to download something I’d prefer that they pay for it. If they’re not going to pay they’re going to get it anyway and there’s not much to be done about it. It’s as simple as that. The plus side is people are listening either way, but we don’t have as many funds to get out and play in the live setting when people just take it. It’s really nothing new at this point.

As for reaching more people we try and put ourselves as many places as we can. Even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense, if you reach one person that one person can tell others. So outside of labels we rely on ourselves to talk to people and keep eyes and ears open for opportunities to jam our sound into. Also we’re very personable and easy to get ahold of and converse with which makes for a better fan experience. The US appears to an outsider to be entering a period politically of postivity and change following a period of negativity and decline – how do you think this will affect you as people and then, say, your music? Indeed, how do you see ADR’s future?

Mike T:The future is scary for sure. But it always has been and uncertainty will always loom. We’re politically minded and it does affect us, but we made the conscious decision not to let it into our music anymore. We live in the world and see the good and the bad everyday. When we’re angry we’d rather not live and breathe it in all we do. Sometimes people need an outlet, we found we can just talk about it and be content to leave it outside the tunes and rather shift focus on getting a toe to tap and a face to smile.

We’re moving forward with our progression. The new album is underway as we speak and continues our evolution of sound. Next up there’s more vocals and a smattering of beats and styles. At the moment it stands to knock the crap out of GFFA. It’ll be a fun time for sure.

Giants From Far Away is out now, and is reviewed here

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