Alter Der Ruine built their rep in the industrial scene with a mix of crunchy and immediate powernoise, quirky mutant electro, and a unique live show that stood out for its combination of sheer energy and musicianship. While those elements inform the 2014 incarnation of ADR – made up of Mike and Tamara Jenney and Michael Treveloni – those not expecting the shift in the band’s style and tone are likely to be taken aback by their upcoming sixth album I Will Remember It All Differently. While not leaving their punch-drunk past completely behind, the new record’s smoother synth sounds and distinctly melancholy cast seem fitting considering the circumstances of its genesis. After a quick chat with Michael T, we had ADR walk us through the creation of the album track by track, including a pairing with an appropriate film for each song.
“The sounds, camaraderie and shared enthusiasm is at a level we’ve never felt.”
ID:UD: When we interviewed Mike and Mike at Resistanz in 2013 you had only recently reformed and had begun the recording process for this record. At the time it seemed like you had sort of an idea where you might be going, did you foresee the sound for I Will Remember It All Differently or was it surprising for you as it came together?
ADR: At that point in time we’d only come back together to write a new song for the Resistanz compilation. Luckily that session was a really positive and fun one. We write independently which is normal, but for the longest time, writing for ADR was 85% in the studio together and 15% on our own. We used to get into the studio and jam ideas down each others throats and get drunk and frustrated and angry. It’s actually surprising we existed as long as we did when looking at our old work habits. This time around we allowed ourselves more time to develop ideas on our own before bringing them to the table to rip apart.
Now, couple that with a tidal wave of personal issues and life changes outside the band and maybe the style shift makes more sense. When we spoke to Alex at Resistanz, the sound we had in mind for the new album was going to be some rough electro-ish, synth-rock something or other. The end result is a mutation of that idea, though the roughness was polished out for the most part.
A lot of the songs on I Will Remember it all Differently weren’t intended to be used for Alter Der Ruine in the beginning. They were sketches for a possible new project. We worked on them with little idea of what they were to be used for. We just liked the direction things were going and how easily we were working together. As time went by we saw how it all related to ADR and how we’d hinted at songs like these in the past (“Ghosts”, “Bury It” and all the remixes we’ve done since about 2009 for example). We knew it would catch people by surprise but we also have a lot of confidence in how great our fans and supporters are. We just went with it. You can hear “Hunting in Hums”, the earliest of these recordings on the Beat Cancer V2 album (a great compilation for a great cause!).
This whole album has been a surprise to us. It continues to be too. The sounds, camaraderie and shared enthusiasm is at a level we’ve never felt. It’s actually surprising because we never half-ass anything. But with this it’s shown us we have WAY more to go and be excited about.
“The musical progression isn’t attributed to line-up changes so much, we’re just not the same people we are today that we were a few years ago.”
ID:UD: How has Tamara joining the band affected the creative dynamic when it comes to writing and recording? Is the shift in sound on the record partially attributable changes in the line-up?
ADR: Little known fact: Tamara has been involved in the band as long as Mike J has. She was a behind the scenes player up until 2013. She has uncredited appearances on the album Son of a Bitch and I Told You Not To Listen Tonight Didn’t I?. Our band owes much of its success to her. She was always the first ears to hear what we were doing and offer suggestions or critiques. She knows her stuff. Also she sings and plays keys so it only made sense to bring her into the full picture. Expect to hear a lot more of her from here forward. She’ll be taking on more vocal duties and writing full on with the band from here out.
Does the new line-up influence the sound difference? A little, probably. It mostly comes down to us having crazy years between 2011-2013. We somehow settled down though and the new material sprung from there. The musical progression isn’t attributed to line-up changes so much, we’re just not the same people we are today that we were a few years ago. We have new interests and influences. The main difference is that we talk and explore what we are writing as opposed to just saying something doesn’t work and scrapping all the time put in.
ID:UD: What can we expect from your upcoming tour in terms of stageshow? Was It a challenge to bring the tone and feel of the new material into a live context?
ADR: The tone of the live material is a lot different than the album. It’s recognizable but we change things around and offer up alternate versions of songs to keep things fresh. Live sets are where we really unload all our baggage. It’s probably why people like us live so much. Some of the shows sound like absolute shit, sorry, we know, but man are they fun! It’s our forty minutes to control the energy of the room. It’s a big, cathartic exorcism of whatever is inside us at the moment, amped up and projected through the bodies of those who showed up.
For the tour with Mr.Kitty we’re all traveling pretty stripped down. There will be some minor lighting/dressing but for the most part these live sets are going to be no nonsense, sweaty punk-rock shows. We’re thrilled to be bringing this kind of music and energy to audiences, who probably have a clue about what they’re in for, but not ready for how much more they are going to get. Every show is a perfect storm waiting to go off. It helps that we play the kind of set we’d want to see live. For two people or two thousand people, they’re getting the same amount of energy and enthusiasm on our end. We want you to walk away with something to talk about. It’s like being in the splash zone at SeaWorld, only we don’t want you to regret the memory of being there.
Our excursion into new territory. This song, the whole album. Everything. It starts here. We didn’t want this album to be just another collection of loosely related songs. Up to this point our albums (to us) felt like hastily contained journeys. Almost like watching old home movies. You know the context, what happens, the quality is usually dated and degraded and it serves as a bridge to another time and place. Here, we wanted something bigger. Something that felt like it existed outside the normal boundaries. Something that was always shifting and changing wether attention was paid to it or not.
From the beginning we were funnelling concepts and images through the music like we were scoring an imaginary film. It all had to start with cinematic atmospheres. To make it feel like a curtain was rising. To reveal something. The goal was to plant a few ideas: locations, feelings, certain words, like seeds to grow as the world expands. Exploiting a mood palette we try to tease the territory in our sights. The lyric “Over desert, over mountains and to the shore” provides the geography and intent. We’re moving. We’re off.
Movie Pairing: Solaris (both the 1972 and 2002 versions).
“Tiny Wars & Quiet Storms”
This and “Lights” are two of the oldest songs on this album. We wrote versions of them in 2011 / 2012 and kept revisiting the material as they possessed a certain charm. Putting these two back to back worked out great as it kept things simple and dramatic. “Tiny Wars” is a bit expository when nailed down. With sharp recounted details and lazy recollections, It’s tone was intended to be defeated and amused. Like a grandstanding drunk making a point to people they think agree with them. The truth is in there, just have to know what to look for. This is also the introduction to Tamara’s vocal work on the album.
Movie Pairing: Dogtooth (2009)
A new morning. A child again but with old skin. It is repetition that will wear you down. There’s a lot of awkward, skewed personal truth to “Horizon Slide”. Life has a lot of regrets and we’re always actively seeking out new ones. The line “It was my gin genius that tucked the moon away. Pulled the sun over the mountains.” continues the motivations expressed in “Lights”. It’s an urgent, somewhat regretful confession. The gravity of this song is continued later in “Tundra”. While both songs can come across as a bit depressive, there’s an intentional optimism infused within them. Nothing is too far. Nothing is too short. Everything just is. Move on accordingly.
Movie Pairing: Breaking the Waves (1996)
A new hope. Nope? Yup? It’s no secret that ADR really enjoy alcohol. This song came about one night when Mike T. was absolutely drunk. He recorded the vocals, improvised in one take on a shitty mic in his office. What it meant to him then is lost now. What remains is something bigger than we imagined. It’s a beacon etched into our catalog that is significant to where we came from and where we are going. It may not sound like it but this is one of our most important songs. We’ve heard from just about everyone that it is too short too. It’s intentional. Probably not the best move on our part, but we used that song to tell 2/3rds of a story and cut it off before it resolved. It was to jar the listener and leave them a bit unfulfilled. It’s a love song. Of sorts. Like any good love, there is never enough. It’s also a bit of a tangential companion piece to the album closer “Leviathan”.
Movie Pairing: Powaqqatsi (1988) or Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972)
The original version of this had all kinds of xylophone loops and bells in it. It was like something out of a late 70’s horror film. It was a bit weird, It had a nervous energy to it. “Gift Horse” was actually the first song recorded for the album. We wanted it to set the tone for the rest of the record. It was our jumping off point over the next few months. Vocals were recorded in Mike and Tamara’s living room one night while everyone drank tequila. By the time recording was over things were pretty hazy. A few weeks later Mike J completely remixed/wrote the song into what became the album version. He played it for everyone with the enthusiasm of someone fishing a dead grasshopper out of a pool filter. His version floored everyone.
Movie Pairing: Possession (1981) or Kill List (2011)
“Will We Tear You Apart?”
Listening to tons of Timber Timbre while writing electronic music can produce some interesting results. This song came about like a tornado hopped up on insecurities with a passive aggressive score to settle. It was conceived in pieces that eventually found themselves smashed through each other. It’s the catchiest downer of a song on the album too. While it may hint at horrors and hardships, we left the questions open ended on purpose. As a whole, the album isn’t so much about answers, but truths and the willingness to confront them however they may appear.
Movie Pairing: Night of the Hunter (1955)
This song takes place at night. It is a fever breaking. It is waves upon waves of vibrating tensions. We wrung it out of our system over the course of a few weeks. Now, we love this song. The album version is fine. The live version completely kills this one though. That said all the pieces are in place here. The inspiration started with Lights & Magic era Ladytron, moved on to Vangelis and then found its home in some electro-garbled mass of bluesy, retro-future something-or-other. Mike J came up with the lead in the chorus that sounded like a Blade Runner soundtrack parody and we ran with it. The song feels kind of dated, but it has the weird ability to sound very now too. “Quiet Crimes” has became a bit of an anthem for us. It’s also a killer band name if anyone needs one.
Movie Pairing: Body Double (1984)
Baby, it’s cold outside. Indeed. This is a lonely dream. When Mike J played us a rough version we thought it was too cold sounding. Like having blood drawn outside on a icy day. It didn’t seem comfortable. Rather than try to heat it up we doubled down on the chills. It’s a spacey retreat from alienation. An attempt to reacclimatize. Lyrical inspiration came from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Long As I can See the Light” and the band Milemarker (who have a song named “Tundra” on their album Frigid Forms Sell) as well as a reference to the song “Black Water” by Timber Timbre with a head nod to their lyric “All I need is some sunshine”. This one was the ugly duckling of the album for a long time. We thought it would be the least liked song of the record. Turns out we were wrong.
Movie Pairing: Ratcatcher (1999)
We needed one no-nonsense song. One that got in and out and let you know it meant business. The original version of “Poltergeist” was about six to seven minutes long. It directly addressed the audience, spelling out a bit of the themes behind the album. It was also pretty heavy handed in its delivery. Rather than eat our own tails trying to make it work, Mike and Tamara used dance-floor savvy and surgical edits to turn it into what it is on the album. We never really set out to make straight dance jams. For us it is better if the song works on its own first, and if you can dance to it then that is a bonus. This song was an exception. With the vocals sitting right, it was ripe to write for the floor.
Movie pairing: Post Tenebras Lux (2012)
We’re big fans of Trentemøller, The Notwist and powernoise. This song comes courtesy of those things. Some of them more obvious than others. Like “Stars”, we cut it off before it has full closure. And like “Lights”, it serves to ramp everything up a bit further. “Leviathan” began as a remix for another band. Every once in a while we’ll be remixing a song and have to stop and decide if it’s something we’d rather develop into an ADR track. This was one of those times. We wound up reworking it a bunch until one day Mike J. played what sounded like a funky new Haujobb song. It was a rough opening to this version of “Leviathan”.
The rest came together very quickly. The track length sat at around 3:30 initially. It kept ballooning as the night went on. We had so many ideas and parts we wanted to work in. This was also the last song we wrote for the album. All the nuances and details and things we were’t able to incorporate into other songs helped inflate its length to six minutes and some change. As the leviathan rises and the noise creeps in we wanted it to feel almost overwhelming. And it is to us, especially if you listen to it loud. But then it ends abruptly. In doing so we let it be known we’re not done here. If you let the album restart, the pads to Lights fade in and soothe the senses a bit. It’s calming. It puts the chaos in the rearview. But it’s the beginning again, and you know what’s waiting for you at the end of it all.
Movie pairing: The title was pulled from the 2012 commercial fishing documentary Leviathan. Mike T watched it while out of his mind one night and it’s stuck with him ever since. It’s an amazing, grueling, horrific and hypnotic experience. Something you won’t forget any time soon.
I Will Remember It All Differently will be released on Negative Gain Productions on July 8th. The band will be touring with Mr.Kitty through July starting with a set at Terminus Festival in Calgary this weekend.