In 2006, a friend of mine literally dropped everything he was doing and started a little band called Airborne Toxic Event. You may have heard of them. Sony Records certainly has. A mutual friend said of him, “Mikel is just one of those incredibly good-looking, hard-working people we all know who just can’t seem to fail in life. It’s like he’s a walking, talking lottery ticket.” Indeed, we all know one of those people. I know two.
Have you met Andre Tanneberger?
“I remember a couple of years ago, I played mainstage EDC, and it was in front of nearly 100,000 people. That was an amazing moment with perspective—probably one of the biggest in my career.”
Known as ATB to his barricade-tramplingly devoted fan base, he has flourished in the biz nearly as long as EDC itself—two decades-ish. With the advent of home editing decks, et cetera, the artist turnover rate is growing exponentially, and Andre is obviously doing something right to so persist. He’s undoubtedly a platinum card-carrying member in the “Permanent Contenders Club,” where stockings at the Christmas party have names like: Tiësto, Kaskade, van Dyk, Digweed (and Sasha), van Buuren, Lawler, and of course, ol’ Oakey himself. There has to be a reason. There’s always a “why” to this sort of epic success.
With ATB there are… several.
When speaking with Andre, one gets the impression of a thoughtful individual who honestly cares about what he is doing—a producer/DJ who really is NOT AT ALL starved for ideas, or needing anyone else in the studio to make something happen.
Hardware, software and distribution mediums have all undergone significant metamorphosis since his 1999 debut scorcher 9PM (Till I Come). Studios have moved to the bedroom; CDs have gone the way of the dinosaur. And actually playing an instrument? Increasingly rare. “I play guitar and piano,” he says. “I know a lot of people these days, the young guys, who program by mouse. I can’t do it that way. I need to play the melody.”
And there you go. This simple groundedness can be found in every corner of the blueprint that has mapped his success. His entire approach is shot through with a connectedness to his own music, a habitual optimism, and the practice of approaching challenges as opportunities.
“I remember when everyone was in a bad mood about the internet and MP3s,” Andre recalls. “I saw it as a chance, especially for producing. When finally we had the ability to send MP3s, it was an opportunity for me to work with people in other countries. That’s the advantage of these modern times, with the internet: It has its own way to spread. Music is going all over the world, and you don’t even know why it is or how it happened. One time I played in Guatemala [to] 3,000 people. Everyone was singing to my songs, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t even have a record contract in that country.”
Collaboration > piracy.
It’s bubble gum-easy to say, “It’s all about the fans.” Andre puts the rubber on the road every time he drops an album via his now “expected” practice of releasing double-disc sets—one chill, one stadium-exploder. Twice the composition time. Twice the studio time. And when he’s stealing that time from between tours to begin with, well, there’s nothing to argue about. The guy is a worker.
For your pleasure.
“It’s just showing my two worlds of music. When I’m on the road and going onstage every night, that’s one side of my life. But I really dig the mellow stuff, the normal stuff. When I’m at home, the grounded way, I love to listen to this kind of music; I love to produce it. I think the last seven or eight CDs have had this kind of two-CD thing. I would say that 30–40 percent of the real ATB fans really love the ‘everyday’ stuff—and they are demanding. They couldn’t stand if I just did one CD. Of course, this means I have to produce 25 tracks. But for me, it is easy, because I love this type of music.”
Andre loves the small room and the arena, having done EDC so many times that neither he nor I could put together an accurate number. “I remember a couple of years ago, I played mainstage EDC, and it was in front of nearly 100,000 people. The stage was so big that I nearly wasn’t able to hear the crowd, they were so far away. That was an amazing moment with perspective—probably one of the biggest in my career. It has been a great thing what has happened with all the festivals in America.”
Having been “there” from the beginning, at many clubs in those early days, he was the first DJ to set up a proper booth. “We did it right. I always soundcheck numerous times to see how it will be best for the crowd. Often, we came back to play the next year, and they’d left the booth where we put it because it worked so well.”
But with all that professional integrity and legit love of the process, how does a fellow relax? It’s point proven that when I ask him what he does to chill, his out-of-the-gate response concerns his practice of remixing tracks that he does not share with other DJs, but plays live exclusively—in concerts uniquely, like an improvised guitar solo.
That’s how he relaxes.
When pressed, he admits to a love for flight simulators. He exits the booth and jumps into the virtual cockpit, where the yoke (steering wheel of an airplane) and throttle replace laptop and decks. Being from an aviation family myself, and having grown up around planes the way most kids grow up with BMX bikes or skateboards, I was keen to inquire. His favorite plane to fly? The simple, functional, and utterly respected Cessna 172. One can outfit it with wheels (land), skis (snow), or floats (water). It’s been around for a minute and is seen as a mainstay of adaptability, precision, and straight-up excellence in recreational aviation.
Funny the parallels one could draw.
ATB’s 10th studio album, neXt, dropped in April on Kontor Records. You can catch him doing his thing at EDC Vegas 2017, which takes place Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 18, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For more information, visit the official website.