Features

The Hacker: The existentialist

Attention all users. An official warning has been released this month from the head quarters of the digital world. The warning was issued after a menacing phone call was made to HQ advising them of an intended aural attack on the musical mind in September. The caller refused to reveal his real name, but investigators have linked the call to an anonymous base in Grenoble, France. It is the suspected residence of the infamous and elusive man, Michel Amato, working under the alias – The Hacker. The document advised: “All users, in Australia, have been asked to download the appropriate security patches, and unlock their minds and ears. The Hacker is in town.”

It has been difficult for authorities to track the Hacker down. It seems Michel Amato is a man of many faces. Well known for his deviant forward-thinking around the world, and responsible for over a decade worth of electro-noir smeared, industrial bolstered, kitsch-like electronic soundscapes. Under the influence of Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, Amato formed XMF with fellow musician Laurent Ho, which attracted a vast following in the French hardcore scene. However, the early nineties was a period of change. Michel Amato transformed into The Hacker, following the solo path and returned to new wave and the roots of Detroit techno; paying homage to UR and Jeff Mills with every murmur of his name. “I got bored with the hardcore stuff,” says Amato. “I came back to my musical roots around ninety six and now I think that I am still in this kind of music.”

For Michel, there is a magnetic emphasis placed on the metamorphosis of electronics and emotions. An element, which he has appropriated, established and explored in his own productions and DJing. “I like new wave, electro and classic Detroit because they mix electronics with emotion. That’s what I am trying to do with my music,” he says. “I love tracks like ‘Computer Love’ by Kraftwerk or ‘Perfect Kiss’ from New Order because they are totally electronic, but at the same time it is so emotional. There is this melancholy that I love. It took me a long time to find my personal sound, and I don’t even know if I have found it yet, but I think after ten years of producing I am getting closer.”

Making music and having the ability to explore such dimensions is what draws Michel back into the studio, and the music world. “It’s a way of mixing different feelings and emotions. Cold and warm, happy and sad, I like the contrasted feelings. It provides a greater level for listening to the music,” says Michel. “I like to be free with my music and do what I want. Even if the result sounds typically ‘hacker sound’, I always try to experiment and find different directions.” Attributing to Amato’s experimentation is the equipment within his studio. With time, the infrastructure of The Hacker’s studio has transformed. Equipment has entered and left the building. “On a strict production level, I have a better sound because now my studio is a little more sophisticated then when I started,” says Michel, “but somehow the feelings and atmosphere remains the same. I can’t forget where I musically come from.”

Officials investigating the menacing threat discovered and noted Michel Amato’s intentions and motivations, and have also revealed an important assailant, assisting ‘The Hacker’ with his intended musical attack. The assailant, Caroline Herve, working under the alias of Miss Kittin, has been recognized as a long-time friend of Amato. Together, they have traveled the world as the Miss Kittin and the Hacker show, spreading their minimal synthetics and erotic cabaret to audiences all over. In nineteen ninety-seven they signed to DJ Hell’s International Gigolo and released their first EP in the form of ‘Champagne’. “Hell gave us more confidence in our music. He was the first one to believe in us and really give us the freedom to do what we want. It’s quite stimulating to work alongside artists like Vitalic, Carretta, Tiga and the rest. It is more motivation.”

Musically, Miss Kittin and The Hacker wanted to deviate and create something darkly provocative. “When we started we decided that we won’t do classic techno,” says Michel on the musical direction of the duo. “We wanted to bring back some human feelings to electronic music, and also, very important, some lyrics and with Miss Kittin’s words it was perfect. At last electronic music had something to say! Another thing was that I wanted to use classic song structure in an electronic style. All those elements (lyrics, song structure, attitude…) fitted very well together.” In their digital worlds, it is probably unlikely that you’d find Michel and Caroline eating caviar, drinking champagne, having sex in limousines, and listening to Frank Sinatra twelve inches with their famous friends. But to sum up their intertwined musical relationship, Michel says: “We do things seriously without taking ourselves too seriously!”

The show says it all. “For the show, the set up is quite simple. There is a minidisk for the backing tape, I play upon it with two keyboards and Kittin sings. We have made special versions of the tracks for the live show,” says Michel, nodding in the direction of Australia. “It’s really Kittin’s work to make it entertaining. She speaks to the audience and stuff like that, and now we have the chance to have tracks like ‘Sinatra’ and ‘1982’ that people know, so it is really easier. “When we started we had a lot more pressure. Everybody was looking at us like: ‘what’s that’ and ‘what is she talking about?’”

Occasionally the Hacker likes to step-back and enter the darkness of his studio alone. “It’s important to step back sometimes, if I’d only be working with Kittin I will have the pressure to make another hit like ‘Sinatra’ or ‘1982’, but I can totally escape this pressure with my solo works,” he says. “There I can do more weird stuff. At the same time, my solo works give me ideas for what I do with Kittin. We know each other quite well. When I make a track I know if it’s for Kittin or one for my solo stuff. Everything is linked finally!” As an individual artist The Hacker has some hectic, passing moments on the horizon, with a remix and a new solo album exiting from his own label – Goodlife – next year.

So far, this is the only inside information officials have managed to document on Michel Amato, otherwise known as The Hacker. The last word to reach us from the headquarters of the digital world was that Michel Amato is now headed for Australia, accompanied by his assailant, to prepare for the aural attack. Rumor has it that he “just can’t wait to be there.” Once again, officials have sent a final warning to users: unlock your mind and ears.

The Hacker will be unleashing his Assault on Australia on the following dates:

Friday 19th September – Canberra @ FANG (Babylon Nightclub) – Live with Miss Kittin & Microworld (Transmat)
Saturday 20th September – Melbourne @ War of the Worlds (Live with Miss Kittin and DJ set)
Thursday 25th September – Brisbane @ Family (Live with Miss Kittin)
Saturday 27th September – Sydney @ Good Vibrations (Live with Miss Kittin)
Sunday 28th September – Perth @ Ambar (Live with Miss Kittin)