The Kaje talks ten years with Atomic Hooligan

Watford duo Atomic Hooligan first came to attention in 2001 when “Servin’ It Up” was dished out by Botchit & Scarper. Since then, the innovative pairing of Matt Welch and Terry Ryan has seen dancefloors torn to shreds by their musical mastery. With an extended stint in Australia launching their 2011, The Kaje caught up with Terry Ryan to talk about ten years at the top…

We hear a celebration is in the pipeline, tell us a little more…

It will be ten years next year. Maybe, I am not sure. I am kind of thinking about putting out a bit of a greatest hits. Not like a greatest hits album, I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to think people would buy a Greatest Hits from Atomic Hooligan. But over the last couple of years I have been asked about quite a few of our older tracks that aren’t available any more. Some of them came out on vinyl and stuff. I have got to try track down the masters. I am going to try and put together a little Beatport exclusive or something like that, of the music we play that just isn’t available anymore.

So rather than a greatest hits, it will be a celebratory re-release?

Exactly. That is probably a better way to look at it for sure. I don’t like the concept of the greatest hits thing as none of them were really hits. It is all underground music. But people are still asking about our older tracks. Its 7 or 8 years ago. I would like to put together something like that.

The music industry is known to be fickle. How do you think you have lasted a decade?

It is just work ethic, that is all it is. It is just working hard. Sometimes the industry isn’t chasing after you, so you have to make them interested in you. That is the way it has always gone for us really. Being underground producers we have always made music that we like and that we have thought was strong, but we have had to tell people about it. We have had to actively push it in their faces, in a nice way of course, we are not self promotion machines. We have always been signed to good, credible labels. We have always helped ourselves by making our own labels. We have done two of them now. Always adapt to the scene is what we have done. As people who are into the music, we have had our eye on whats going on and been influenced by it, which is what keeps you relevant.

Do you think your sound now is very different from the outset?

Maybe five years ago, our sound is more different to what it is now than it was ten years ago. If you look at stuff from ten years ago, like “Club Shaker” and “Servin’ It Up”, our sound has come a bit more full circle. If you listen to “Smoke And Mirrors”, which we put out the middle of this year, it is very close to what our sound was way back, but obviously a lot sharper and better produced. It is funny really, we never tried to actively change our sound for the sake of it. With everything that goes on, we are influenced by that. If I had to put my finger on it, we have just been trying to make better music that what we did before. I don’t there is a turning point of where our sound changed, but with our albums, obviously we weren’t making dj dancefloor music, but DJs were still playing it on the dancefloor. It is hard to put finger on where it has changed as we have always just made music.

Do you prefer being out on the live circuit or in the studio?

It is only in recent years that I have become serious about being in the studio and making music. Whereas ten years before, Matt was in the studio and I was out playing it. I would just it in with him and help him making. it. If you’d ask me ten years ago, I’d have said playing it. But times have changed a little bit and I enjoy both. I do enjoy both. There are downsides to the both. I like the travel of being out playing music, but I hate airports and being on aeroplanes. If you look as that as a downside, then you’d say I love being in the studio and making music. But then when you are in the studio and making music, there is not a lot of adventure involved. There are plusses to each side.

With all the touring you do, do you get to see loads of interesting places?

Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it is literally in and out. But if I have two or three gigs in one country, then I’ll get a bit of time to see it. At the moment I am in Canada and I have some time to chill. I am literally just sat here looking out at the mountains, which is nice. But if I am playing in Europe, if I am going to Berlin it is straight in and out. People will be like, oh you’ve been to Berlin and I will be like ‘kinda, I’ve been to the airport and a couple of clubs.’

It is different really. When you are around Europe it is just in and out, when it is a different country, like say when I come to Australia, I probably won’t have much time to chill in Melbourne this time, but I have lived in Melbourne for two or three weeks at times so it has been awesome.

The internet has really opened up the music industry to a global audience. Do you notice an effect on your audiences?

There is a uniformity of music globally now, everyone is so well informed of music via the internet. It used to just be in the Uk things like DJ Mag and Mixmag, that is how people stayed informed. Or you would go and listen to a DJ. You would only really be informed of the music that had mass-saturation. The American house scene or the Ibiza sound or a bit of drum n bass. But now the music world is so open to everybody. If I am being invited to a town, it means there is demand for what I am playing and people are aware of what I am playing. It is a globalisation theory, where it homogenises all the music scenes, but under those scenes are cool little underground scenes as well. I don’t think the dance music would ever be properly globalised, but people are aware of what is going on in the underground and overground. I can go pretty much anywhere in the world, from China to Brazil and back to the UK and still be able to play my sound and not have to adapt it too much, because people are aware of that sound.

I think to another extent it has made it even more underground. Someone can open up their own site and sell their own tracks through that site, then promote that one site. Underground doesn’t mean anything other than the amount of people that music appeals to. You can have some really really cool music that doesn’t really appeal to everybody, but still it is really cool. They were just telling me about a guy called J-Pod here who has started his own site and has built up a following around that one site. That couldn’t have happened without the internet, you couldn’t have gone into a shop in his local and said sell these for me as no one would have been buying. There is that angle to the internet that almost promotes the underground punk ethic of things. It is the local to the global.

Do you use the internet to find out about music?

The blogscene obviously is massive now. Blogwise I will go and check things like Hype Machine every now and again, but through the slightly more niche blogs I have foun guys that I like. I have found DJ Chichi in France, who I have just signed to my label. Soundcloud as well, I will surf through what people have been listening to and it is a great a&r process. When you have got a label, Soundcloud is a great resource for finding new sounds. It is a night in listening to stuff on Soundcloud as there is a lot of stuff on there.

As a record company owner, do you ever find stuff on the internet that you think you could make work?

I would never sign anything I am not into. I will have stuff in front of me that I know will sell but I wouldn’t sign it to my record label. You have to maintain that enjoyment in what you do. Like we were talking about earlier, I have been doing this for ten years and you have to keep yourself relevant, but you also have to enjoy what you are doing. I am never going to take a track and go ah this will probably sell and make me a bit of money. I have released stuff that I thought wouldn’t sell very well but in the end has, just because I really like it. There is a separation between what I listen to on my i-pod and what I will play at a gig. You have to enjoy what you are putting out and what you are making otherwise there is no point.

If you discovered a raw talent, would you be prepared to nurture them?

I am not a like a micro manager when it comes to thing like this. Either the product is there or it is not. If I see potential in someone, then I will try give advice but that is more something I enjoy doing than making profit to me. If someone comes to me with a track and asks for my advice, then I would give it but I would find a raw talent and build them up. I want almost a pre-made package so I can just work on marketing for my record label.

So how should unknowns try to become known?

There is still a healthy amount of knocking on doors, but number one is making sure you enjoy your music and let people know about your music. My advice would be don’t give out CDS anymore and no one listens to then. Find interesting ways to present yourself. Make yourself interesting to someone who will listen to you. We went the old school way, we sent a cassette. But we are the old school generation.


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