Sunday 1 September 2013

Dr. Atmo interviewed

Q: Am I right in thinking that you were born in Iran but left in 1978? Was that as a result of political unrest? What do you remember about your early years?

A: Well, my dad brought me out of Iran three weeks before the revolution and went back, in the hope that I could go back after school and university. I was 12 and grew up with friends of his and later by a very nice but conservative family. I remember a country full of lovely people, landscape, culture and great food. It was before our country pushed to the wrong direction. I hope we can see laughing people again in this country.

Q: ...and the next stop was Frankfurt? Is that right? You ended up DJing at a club called XS. Can you describe the scene at the time and how you became a DJ and musician? It seems that there was a massive scene for techno in Germany back then?

A: I grew up in Frankfurt with very talented personalities and their styles, like Mr.Väth, Talla 2XLC, Bijan Blum, DJ Dag, Mark Spoon and many, many more. I met most of them at a young age (15-19), as I worked in a record shop. In the night, I brought them the newest records in the clubs and enjoyed their sets and started to make light (light jockey) for them. Frankfurt was full of creative people and makers and it influenced me a lot for sure, as I started to study architecture, got many jobs to design shops, offices, studios, flats AND clubs like Omen or XS. As I heard that XS want to make a chillout night and I loved downtempo music, I applied for the job and my first nights were totally packed. So they became my own “Atmo nights”.

Q: How and when did you first meet Pete Namlook? Was that at XS? Can you remember the first time you met him and how you decided to record music together?
A: I remember a guy from Boy Records came to XS with company (Pete) and he introduced us. Pete had just moved to Frankfurt and enjoyed my sets for weeks and so we got to know each other better. He told me about his music career and job as software programmer and I told him about my visions for architecture and music. He invited me to his studio and it was my second production (first with PCP). I brought lots of music and samples with me...and Silence was born.

Q: I’m really fascinated by this period when various musicians (yourself obviously included) went from playing techno to branching out and also playing and recording ambient music (this mixture is very much in evidence on the Escape double CD that you recorded with Pete). What do you think the catalysts for this were? Was there something you guys were listening to that influenced the move or was it simply a natural move to making some chilled out music?

A: I never DJ'd  as a techno dance DJ but I love that music for sure. For many artists it was very stylish to have a kind “chillout” version of their dance tracks. For me it was not a new kind of music - it had only a new name that the techno generation was totally in love with. Every rave must had a chillout room and I played in lots of these rooms for hours and hours. ;) I played older stuff like Tangerine Dream into The Orb, perhaps. Or David Sylvian or Can  into Mixmaster Morris or Aphex Twin albums. For me the point was that you can not got the future if you don't know about past. So until today my sets are always a trip from '50s...'60s to present.
Q: I once heard an interview (I think it was with The Chillage Idiots radio show) when Pete described Silence as his big breakthrough at Fax…the record that made people stop and take notice. What do you remember about recording this and the follow up, Silence II?  What was it like working in the studio with Pete? Can you remember how you worked together?
A: Well, Silence was his first real full ambient record on his own label. After a few A&R call offs, he decided to start with the own label called Fax. And even for me Silence was the first record with all my passion and with my new artist name on it. Working with Pete was great at first and for sure always with great results. We both were zodiac sign Sagittarius and that couldn't work for long time. So after Escape we decided to work separately. He came in touch with my friends Move D or Mixmaster Morris and was more interested to work with them, as he made ​​me feel very often then. So I started to work with others...

Q: Who provided the mysterious voice on those Silence records…the guy asking the questions with the really deep voice? (-:

A: To be honest, all those mysterious elements came from my music collection, especially that Silence voice.  I bought that tape in a new age meditation shop in Hamburg years before and chilled to that voice many, many times before Silence was born.
Q: On those first two Silence records and the Sad World series there are strong ethno music elements. Did you tend to get those from field recordings or did you ever bring musicians into the studio to provide the sounds?

A: Pete's place was not that big in that time and so we couldn't record live. But by the time of my collaboration with Ramin as Sad World we could record a few musicians and artists around at Ramin's dad's. It was always a great moment when you saw/heard all of those old instruments on new beats. Goosebumps were guaranteed! And it happens again and again, like last time recording for my new band, Atmo and the Lightz.

Q: Do you have any particular memories of working with Ramin on the Sad World records?

A: The biggest moment that I will never forget? His dad performed an old Persian poem on Sad World 2 and we all started to cry by the first play...

Q: You recorded three albums (The Whole Traffic, The Whole Traffic II and A Day in the Park) with Pino and Wildjamin (aka The Basalt Boys). How did you meet those guys and what do you remember about recording with them?
A: Pino is Iranian too and he enjoyed my sets in XS and asked me to listen to their stuff. Benjamin Wild (a famous producer now) and Pino had lots of stuff and I started to rearrange and edit it. At the end we decided to create all of those as new projects and Pete was very interested in all my stuff. So it all went out on Fax, for sure.

Q: Music to Films, the album you recorded with Oliver Lieb, must be one of the most interesting and sought after records in the whole Fax discography. I’d argue that as a soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi it is more powerful than Philip Glass’ music. It certainly lends a darker atmosphere to the film. How did the idea for that album come about? How did yourself and Oliver Lieb work on it? A great deal of time clearly went into making sure that all of the pieces of music sync up perfectly with the images in the film.
A: Working with Oliver Lieb was great for sure. I designed his studio in the same time that I did the studio design for Pascal Feos too. And my charge was to produce a album with them. ;)) Mixmaster Morris called the Music to Films idea a “one million dollar project” and this made Pete very jealous. I knew that a few licensing requests were not answered for this album. Sad but ...

Q: Do you have a favourite Fax album or favourite Fax albums?

 A: Dreamfish, Silence.
 Q: Which of your records are you most proud of?

A: On Fax: I.F. 1&2 – Intergalactic Federation (Moufang & Atmo). On my own label, Brillianttree, Atmo & the Lightz - Eclectic, where I recorded with 12 musicians, all from different genres. Three years of lovely works and lots of Berlin gigs are the result. Love also the double CD package that I designed too as a 10 inch cover ;)))
 Q: Did you keep in touch with Pete through the years?

A: Not much. The reasons are private and after years I can say partially my fault too for sure. He helped me a lot but he got lot from my side also. He should rest in peace and it was very sad to hear that bad news.

Q: You have a CD coming out in September on Psychonavigation Records with Miss Silencio called Hush! From what I’ve heard it sounds great! What can you tell us about this one?
A: Well, the project with Miss Silencio is more smooth, sensitive and melodic. Not so dark as the all other ambient records. Hush! is a very deep fluffy trip, also with nicely played instruments, like harp or zither and female voices that I love too.
 Q: …and finally how would you pay tribute to the great Pete Namlook in words?

A: I want to thank him for all of the music that we did together and excuse me if something went wrong in the past. Music should be forever and his will be for sure! Rest in peace, Peter... 

Chris W. and all citizens of the Intergalactic Federation would like to pass super-mega large thanks to Dr. Atmo for taking the time to answer these interview questions. Hush! is available to preorder now from Psychonavigation Records:

...and to keep up with Dr. Atmo's latest musical adventures look no further than the Brillianttree website: