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ATAXIA on Detroit's Influence, OK Cool, and How Producing Quality Music Is Always the Main Focus

"While many are racing to do this or be that, the more we continue focusing on writing the best music we can, the more all of the other things keep falling into place."
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Movement Electronic Music Festival is celebrating its 10th Anniversary and even the Mayor has recognized it's significance by declaring it Techno Week in Detroit. That being said, the festival isn't the only thing that's growing and progressing with time. This year there's also an increased amount of additional talent, in and outside of the festival. The afterparties have become a thing of legend and one that truly sticks out is OK Cool, featuring Seth Troxler, The Black Madonna, Craig Richards, Mood II Swing, and one of our absolute favorites from the underground, ATAXIA.


Once again we find ourselves discussing the talent of ATAXIA, an innovative duo comprised of Ted Krisko and Eric Ricker. Over the years they have become well respected figures in the community thanks to a shared vision of focusing on rhythm driven dance music. Now they're back with the help of Dax Presents and My Baby for another installment of OK Cool at TV Lounge on Sunday, May 29th for the official Movement afterparty.

To commemorate the occasion, Ataxia has graced us with a delicious guest mix and the chance to sit down with Krisko to chat about the party, their musical outlook and the impact Detroit has on dance music culture.

How do you feel when you're in Detroit up against all these veterans, working to keep ATAXIA at the forefront of the modern wave of dance music?

It can be very challenging and intimidating at times because this is a city with such a legacy and heritage with techno music in general. Some of the most prolific artists in music have come from here blazing a path with that sound. It’s something that has been a motivator for dance floors from Chicago, to Detroit to New York for going on 30 years now. For us to be part of just a continuation of that energy is humbling, and to be able to play music that’s at times aggressive and introspective and raw and carnal and primal. But it’s a part of our progression as music selectors and has to do with assuming the role of what a DJ is there to do, which is to provoke and instigate people with their selections.

It’s great to see The Acid EP do so well, reaching Beatport's Top 100, but what’s more exciting is the sale of physical copies, #23 on Juno Records Tops 100 Vinyl sales. That’s impressive!

It’s cool to know there are physical copies of music we made reaching the hands of people that paid for it. When you release music digitally, it’s difficult to tell how many people actually buy the music. It's very tough in the digital world to create noticeable sales. In the record business however, at least there is some kind of indication of value. There seems to be more validation of how well a release is doing if the record sells quickly or sells out. Just to know that the music that we make is getting in the hands of people that buy records is good enough for me. Knowing where it stands on a chart is totally irrelevant compared to the experience of knowing that people are getting the records in the mail or in a shop. They’re taking something home which consists of something we created, it's very flattering.

Your background is rooted in Detroit and Brooklyn. We are talking two very different kinds of meccas, how does that reflect in your music?

I think the music is direct and dance floor driven in both cities, which is the main factor for the demand on the dance floor. That being said, after hours is a totally different vibe. In our experience however, people really want techno from us and I feel that we have a minimal and simplistic approach which is akin to our Detroit upbringing.

If anything, I think New York just made our sound louder. After moving there it changed some of our intent in the studio. We weren’t as afraid to turn up the tempo and beef up the drums. A focus on vintage drum machines and more analog synths soon followed, rather than plug-ins or virtual programs that do drum sequencing. This transition really helped improve our intensity in the writing process. It helped strip things down, allowing us to focus on the basics. Right away our sessions would progress fairly quickly and we would be making music that appealed to us from a dancers perspective. It took years for our sound to evolve to a place where we had the confidence to sit down with our machines and take things to maximum level.

Lately, more of our sessions have gravitated to the 130 BPM range and personally, I love pushing it even further. Our approach definitely changed over the years, and New York was a major influence, but ultimately Detroit really gives us the foundation for our sound.

You guys chose this very grim name for yourselves, Ataxia, which comes with a serious meaning. Was there any kind of inspiration behind the moniker?

We were looking through a thesaurus, searching for words that were synonyms for chaos, and found that Ataxia is a Greek word for disorder. From there it was relabeled and repurposed to mean different things. We are conscious of some of the implications of our name. I think that if you look at the music that we make and the vibe we deliver, the name makes sense. At the end of the day, that’s the name we really found an affinity with. 

Tell me about your party, OK Cool?

OK Cool is an annual party that we cofounded with Dax from SanFrancisco, who runs DAX presents and Josh Guerin from My Babyand TV Lounge. It's just a really fun party...kind of the vacation awayfrom the vacation, while everything is going really mental.

Was their a specific vision for the party? 

I think it was ultimately about creating a space for a great time. People can come together without any pretentious attitudes, no VIP, no bottle service, nothing like that at all. Just have a party where the music is fun, the vibe is fun and everyone can have a great time. And it really was that simple. Our ethos is about creating that kind of timeless space where people can really come to our jam and know they will have a good experience. TV Lounge, one of the most unique place in the world, offers that vibe and energy. 

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There is nothing like dancing on the TV bar patio on Monday morning, watching the sunrise as Eddie C is making magic. We’ve had Seth Troxler as our headliner for three years in a row now and he plays really high energy, full-tilt party madness. When the overall attitude of everyone is high energy and lots of dancing, it really does capture the spirit and the youthful energy of what got us into dance music in the first place, which was all about going out and having fun. 

What made you want to call it OK Cool?

It's actually an inside joke making fun of me being a little short with people. I would just casually reply to people like "OK, cool." Soon enough Josh would start saying it back to me, “Ok,cool Ted.” We had laughs about that and when it came time to play the name game for the party, OK Cool came up and we recognized what a fun name it was. There's also a carelessness and looseness that it inspires, past the condescending, over-toned joke, towards me. At the end of the day OK Cool is such a common phrase, people say it all the time and don’t necessarily notice it. It really does promote a carefree tone in the air and I think that’s a great reason to have a party.

From throwing events and also focusing on ATAXIA, you seem to involved in many facets of the music industry. 

There are always many hats to wear when talking about the music industry, but Ataxia is my main project, my number one passion. OK Cool is really a great outlet for us to have fun and have our little circus. We’ve got our hands in promoting in Detroit and I have been promoting events there since the 90s. We’ve always had our hand in events, I think it’s part of the trade of being a host or an organizer. There’s definitely a calling to help present line-ups and work with venues both new and old. I would say that we are forever on the journey of hosting, promoting and performing.

Where do you see your sound progressing in the future?

We are continuing down the path of making techno. I think pigeonholing it would do injustice to the music and the writing process. Of course we have a direct and dance floor oriented sound. Techno is our main passion. While a lot of the music we make has an acid flavor and a house-vibe, at the end of the day the music we identify with at the core of what Ataxia is, is techno. Being a representative of Detroit, we keep it for the late night dance freaks.

I think that’s a great aspect about Movement weekend. The audience comes to support the wide variety that is currently offered. The amount of headliners in town and the after party events are so rammed with talent that whatever niche of the techno and house sphere floats your boat, there is really something there for everyone. It’s largely in part due to the growing attendance year after year who are supporting movement festival, the music and arts scene, along with late night culture. It feels really great to be a part of a wave of growth both locally and those who come from out of state.

It continues to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue as I travel throughout the spring. Anywhere we are, people are talking about Movement, about Detroit, asking questions. They're excited about the line-up and people are generally more intrigued as the years go by. People want to know what Detroit has to offer and the reputation of the festival continues to flourish as the true authentic, underground, large-scale festival experience. It’s definitely the only thing in the U.S. like this.

Are there any future releases you can announce?

We can't tell you too much just yet, but we have two EP’s coming up with Matt Tolfrey’s Leftroom camp, one of them is vinyl only, and another EP that has been signed by one of the oldest record labels in dance music. They are American based and we are thrilled to be included in such a legacy. So we will have another 12” release which will also be available digitally in the summer.

Sounds interesting, we will definitely keep our eyes peeled. Any tours coming up?

We are doing some dates in the Caribbean along with Central and South America in June and July. We are also booking U.S. tour dates this summer up until Burning Man and then looking at other adventures shortly thereafter, that are really exciting. Definitely a year of growth and change for us; looking forward to be playing in some new places.

I like to think that while everyone else is running a race, our approach is to continue to keep doing what we do best, and that’s being Ataxia. While many are racing to do this or be that, the more we continue focusing on writing the best music we can, the more all of the other things keep falling into place around it, but it really does come down to the music. The music is everything.

And that's how it should be. It shouldn’t be based on some formula.

It’s a lot more dignified to have your music be your calling card and not party antics or personality.

Personality can also be important, right?

Important, yes, but I think that music can speak for itself and if the music is bold and provocative enough, it can be the loudest voice with the simplest language that is more translatable than our own.

If you like what you hear, don't miss Ataxia at OK Cool on Sunday at TV Lounge in Detroit, RSVP here!

Follow ATAXIA: Facebook | Soundcloud

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