A quick look at the crowd below offered a blurry vision of bodies moving to the beat of the melody. From time to time the crowds would break out while a familiar guitar riff pervaded the entire performance, teasing fans eager to hear the 1998 classic. After tormenting the audience for an hour, ATB finally released the worldwide hit rework of its nostalgic album, "9 PM (Till I Come)."
The time-honored track is a staple in dance music. However, it wasn't the roaring cheers from the crowd when this song was played that surprised us as we looked across the dance floor. Instead, emotions, pure joy and happiness flowed as the entire venue exclaimed the lyrics to "Ecstacy".
It's been over two decades since the iconic German DJ first hit the stage and, as he said, "It's not a normal thing" for artists like him to continue touring the world. But ATB is thousands of miles from home and is playing a record from 2004 that resonates with audiences, young and old.
It was this sense of nostalgia and emotional connection that touched ATB when he spoke to worldmusic.blog in a recent interview. By the time it reached halfway through its eight-city US tour, ATB was pondering its successful year 2021, which saw the release of "Your Love (9PM)" and the start of its DJ EP series.
worldmusic.blog: First and foremost, we wanted to congratulate you on becoming a new father. What was fatherhood like for you during the global pandemic?
ATB: The pandemic was a tragedy for the whole world, but at the same time. I'm a little grateful for that. I got so much time to spend with my young son and it was the right moment for me.
On the other hand, it was tough because as good as it was to have a lot of time in the studio, it was just as bad not to be on stage. I'm really grateful that things are getting better now and that it gives us the opportunity to get back on stage and do what we really love.
worldmusic.blog: What was wrong with not being on stage?
ATB: As a musician, there's nothing like standing in front of a crowd and getting a reaction and seeing their smiling faces without masks (laughs).
You know, when I'm in the studio producing a track, there are moments on that track when I can imagine people throwing their hands up. So when I see this happening in the crowd at the exact same moment, I am happy and I remember that is why I make music.
worldmusic.blog: Speaking of producing tracks that get people to put their hands up, you recently reworked your signature album "9 PM (Till I come)". What made you decide to reinvent a 20 year old album?
ATB: You know, I remember thinking to myself, "I never want to play this track again." But with so much time in the studio with the pandemic, I thought about the tune for "9 PM" and realized it wasn't going to die.
I'm pretty sure I'm the only person on this planet who listens to that guitar riff the most, but it never got boring. So I thought let's give this tune back to the new generation because they love it. I know they love it because when I play it the audience is always screaming.
worldmusic.blog: How did you manage to create a new song while keeping elements of the old one?
ATB: I didn't want to do a cover version. I wanted to write new lyrics and I didn't want to do it alone. When I met Topic, I talked to him about the tune and we ended up sitting in the studio together. We kept and worked on the melody and rewrote it with vocals.
worldmusic.blog: Why did you choose to partner with Topic?
ATB: Then he lives 20 kilometers from my studio and is German (laughs).
When I listen to music I can feel it in my head. Whenever someone asks me about a remix, I can rebuild the remix before I'm in the studio because I have it in my head. And so it was when I heard his song "Breaking Me". It was a sound that translates into the guitar melody.
The result was exactly what I had in mind before. I didn't mean to make it trance-like or house-y or whatever. That "Breaking Me" sound was exactly what I assumed for this track and in the end everything turned out the way I wanted it to be.
worldmusic.blog: You recently released your DJ EP (Vol. 01) which is the first in a series of upcoming EPs. Can you explain the collection in more detail and what we can expect from it?
ATB: The EPs are supposed to show that there are actually a few different versions of ATB. With the EP I want to show people that I don't forget my DJ life when I'm doing radio stuff.
I am shocked when people say to me, "Oh, you're doing radio stuff now" when I was on the radio with "Let U Go" 20 years ago. So I did radio stuff. I also do ambient, you know the really quiet things, really relaxing sounds. So I'm open to different things.
worldmusic.blog: Are you getting the criticism of your more commercial sound?
ATB: You know, I'm very open to criticism, but of course I'm sad sometimes when they write things like "He's losing his old sound" or whatever. When it comes to these things, I'm very emotional, but I'm also emotional on stage and in the studio. They just don't understand that I have different facets of what I do.
worldmusic.blog: It sounds like "passionate" is the word you're looking for.
ATB: Yes, passionate is better. I am passionate because I care about my work.
worldmusic.blog: There are people in their thirties and forties in the audience who grew up with ATB and are passionate about your music. What do you have to say to your adult fans who have followed you throughout your 20 year career?
ATB: First of all, I'm really grateful to still be on stage, because that's not normal. There are 10 people on this planet who started music in 1990-93 and are still here, and I'm glad to be one of them.
There are a lot of artists out there who are losing fans or losing touch with the audience and I'm so grateful that there are people waiting for me. That tells me I did something right. I hope to be there for you for another 20 years.
worldmusic.blog: You say it's not normal for artists to have careers as long as you do. What drives you to keep making music?
ATB: It's very simple: I like listening to music and I love making new music. I love to sit in the studio and play around with melodies that become tracks.
You know, when I was five and ten years old, I used to take instruments and create new melodies. It has always been a goal for me to make melodies that have survived over the years. Whenever someone comes up to me and tells me that a song of mine got them through really tough times, I say to myself, "Okay, that's why I make music."
That's what drives me to make more music. I can be in other people's lives through my music and it feels good.
ATB (via Facebook)
worldmusic.blog: What do you think is what people think about your music?
ATB: It's a signature sound. I can not explain. But if you ask an ATB fan, they'll tell you, "That's typical ATB." But they can't explain what it is, you know (laughs).
I don't care about the trends right now and that's a very important thing for ATB. Everyone does the trendy, but I don't care. I know a lot of other DJs don't play my sound, but that's an advantage for me.
worldmusic.blog: I ask because there are passionate adults out there who will sing their hearts to "ecstasy". Why do you think people are referring to this track?
ATB: I do not know. But I think it's good not to be able to explain it.
worldmusic.blog: Why is that?
ATB: Because that's what makes it special. If we could explain it, it wasn't that special.