Atom™ (also known as Atom Heart and often confused with Señor Coconut, real name Uwe Schmidt) is a German composer, musician and record producer of electronic music. He is often regarded as the father of electrolatino, electrogospel and aciton (acid-reggaeton) music.
Atom™ began making music in the early 1980's, first playing drums, then switching to programming a drum computer after he had heard a Linn Drum on the radio. In 1986 he co-founded the cassette label "N.G. Medien", on which various tapes of international artists, including the Canadian Electronic Body Music act "Frontline Assembly" and his first musical work under the name "Lassigue Bendthaus", entitled "The Engineer's Love", were released. Soon after, he started to work on what would become his first official Lassigue Bendthaus record release, the album "Matter". The recordings and production for "Matter" began in 1986 and took almost 4 years, until the album finally came out in 1991 on the German "Parade Amoureuse" label. "Matter" as well as it's related singles and maxi-singles were recorded and mixed by Tobias Freund (Pink Elln). "Lassigue Bendthaus" until that point, was musically categorized as "Electronic Body Music" (EBM), even though part of the success of "Matter" may have been the fact that it didn't quite fit the category and already incorporated musical elements of the 1990's. Uwe Schmidt played his first live show as "Lassigue Bendthaus" as the opening act for the british group "Meat Beat Manifesto" at the Frankfurt "Batschkapp" in 1989.
Still living in Frankfurt, Uwe Schmidt was directly influenced by the emerging "pre-techno" movement of the late 1980's known as house and acid house. A sub-label of "Parade Amoureuse" released some of Schmidt's dance floor oriented productions under the alias "Atom Heart" which he adopted as his main artist name from then on. The early 1990's saw a series of 12-inch vinyl productions, mainly aimed at the dance floor, which were released under a variety of different project titles such as Atom Heart, Slot, etc.
In 1992 he was in charge of producing a series of tracks for the yet to be widely known DJs Pascal F.E.O.S. (Resistance D), Ata and Heiko M/S/O (Ongaku). Uwe Schmidt produced and co-wrote titles such as "Ongaku" and "Cosmic Love", which became successful prototypes for the appearing "Trance" movement. His activities as a music producer continued with the Austrian multimedia artists "Station Rose" whom had just moved from Vienna to Frankfurt in 1992. The 12-inch "Digit Eyes" was produced by Schmidt and Station Rose the same year. During the production of "Digit Eyes" he was introduced to Tetsu Inoue, a New York based japanese electronic music producer, with whom he founded the "Datacide" project in 1993.
Out of the "N.G. Medien" nucleus the record label "POD Communication" was founded in 1992. After the bankruptcy of "Parade Amoureuse" and its sub-labels in 1992, Schmidt moved his activities to the "POD Communication" label on which he released a series of 12-inches and albums under the guises of Atom Heart, Lisa Carbon and Atomu Shinzo. Also releasing on "POD Communication" was the German artist Pete Namlook whom Uwe Schmidt first met at the "POD" office in Frankfurt. Due to his releases on "Parade Amoureuse" and "POD Communication" and his successful production works, Schmidt had quickly obtained a reputation that let him play live concerts all around the world. Together with Tobias Freund, who by then still used the "Pink Elln" pseudonym, Schmidt played a live show at one of the first "rave" parties ever in Finland in 1992. The live concert was recorded and released on "Ongaku Music" in 1992 known as "Elektronikkaa - Atom Heart & Pink Elln live in Montreux and Helsinki" and became one of the first released live Techno live recordings.
A vast amount of productions were released worldwide due to the licensing activities of "POD Communication", "Ongaku Music" and a variety of other Frankfurt based record companies. After "Parade Amoureuse" closed down in 1992, his first album "Matter" was re-released by the Italian record label "Contempo Records" from Florence.
By 1993 Schmidt released the follow up album to "Matter" : Lassigue Bendthaus - "Cloned". "Cloned" was produced and licensed to "Contempo Records" together with a sample CD titled "Cloned:Binary" which contained the sounds used on the original "Cloned" release. "Contempo Records" went bankrupt in 1993.
Due to open payments by those labels, lack of a recording studio and unresolved recording contracts, Schmidt decided to take some months off and lived for half a year in Costa Rica (end of 1992 until early 1993). On the way back from Costa Rica, he stopped over in New York City, where he visited Tetsu Inoue to record the first "Datacide" album. Back home in Frankfurt, his interest in Latin Music started to grow and in fact the birth of the "Señor Coconut" moniker can be allocated somewhere around that time. Even though "Lassigue Bendthaus" had not brought him much luck until then, he decided to start recording his third album during 1993 entitled "Render". Because of the stagnation and inherent ignorance of the "Techno" movement that surrounded Schmidt's work, he soon began to distance from this musical format and scene. He also felt that the DJ and the dance floor where very limiting targets for his musical output and that many of his musical ideas would not be compatible with it. As a consequence he founded his own record label "Rather Interesting" in 1994.
Bt this time, Pete Namlook had founded his "FAX Records" label and a new scene of musical styles appeared, such as "Ambient", "Jungle", "IDM" and others. Uwe Schmidt, apart from his monthly release on "Rather Interesting", continued recording with Tetsu Inoue ("Datacide"), Pete Namlook ("Jet Chamber") and Victor Sol ("+N") during 1994. That same year, the "Lassigue Bendthaus" albums "Render", "Render - U.S. Remixes", "Matter (second re-release)", "Cloned" (first re-release) and the 12-inch "Overflow" were released by the Belgian "KK Records", a label that would officially declare bankruptcy in 2000. Right after the release and re-release of the "Lassigue Bendthaus" albums, Schmidt began to work on the last album to be released under that project name called "Pop Artificielle".
In 1995, Uwe Schmidt collaborated with Bill Laswell and Tetsu Inoue on the FAX release "Second Nature" which was recorded at Laswell's studio in Brooklyn. Towards the end of 1995 another collaboration was concretized in Tokyo where Schmidt, Inoue and "Yellow Magic Orchestra" founder Haruomi Hosono recorded the first "HAT" album. "HAT" was released on Schmidt's "Rather Interesting" label and Haruomi Hosono's "Daisy World Discs". In an effort to escape the German winter, Schmidt spent the ends of 1994 and 1995 in Australia. A man with the same idea was the German music producer Bernd Friedmann whom he met in Melbourne in 1995.
Two more "+N" and "Datacide" albums were produced between 1993 and 1996 as well a one album each month on "Rather Interesting", all of them under different names which Schmidt later refers to as "working titles", "headlines" or simply "words that label a musical idea" rather than being "aliases" or "projects" in the traditional sense. Logically all works of Uwe Schmidt would later be summarized under just one name: "Atom™". With a lot of traveling, playing live shows world wide such as Love Parade in 1994 and Sonar Barcelona in 1994, as well as the stagnation to be felt in his european surroundings, Schmidt prepared for his departure from the old continent. Together with Dandy Jack, with whom he formed the project "Gon", two live shows were played in Santiago de Chile in March and October of 1996. Schmidt and the Chilean Dandy Jack, whom lived all his life in Germany and Spain, on their way back from Chile, decided to "try to relocate" to Santiago in 1997.
1996 finally sees Uwe Schmidt's "Señor Coconut" idea come to realization. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts during 1993-1995, still living in Frankfurt, he recorded 8 tracks in the later declared "Electrolatino" style. In a fever vision the name "Señor Coconut", placed on top of a coconut texture, a design that would become the artwork of the first "Señor Coconut" album appeared to him. Even though Schmidt tried to complete the album in Frankfurt, the preparations for his move to Chile prevent this plan. In March 1997, Schmidt together with his colleague Dandy Jack, moved to Santiago de Chile where they shared a rented house and installed their studios. During March and April he finished the "El Gran Baile" album, which would be the first work bearing the name of "Señor Coconut".
Uwe Schmidt continued releasing one album per month on his Rather Interesting label, though due to the difficulties of adaptation in Chile, decided to reduce his output. "Akashic Records", a Tokyo based label owned by Towa Tei, licensed "El Gran Baile" for the territory of Japan. Towa Tei further requested a remix by Uwe Schmidt. By the end of 1997 Uwe Schmidt and Dandy Jack's ways split and Uwe moved out of the shared house (while Dandy Jack moved back to Germany one year later).
During 1998, Tetsu Inoue and Haruomi Hosono visited Uwe in Santiago. The second "HAT" album was recorded. Towards the end of 1998, on his way back from Australia to Germany, Bernd Friedmann stopped over in Santiago and together with Uwe Schmidt they recorded their first "Flanger" album called "Templates". "Templates" was recorded in a programming "tour de force" of one week at Uwe's "Mira, Musica!" studio and released in 1999 on the british "Ninja Tunes" label.
"Lassigue Bendthaus'" last album, "Pop Artificielle" was finally finished and released in 1999. Due to a record company decision the album was released under the name of "LB", an abbreviation that stands for "Lassigue Bendthaus". "Pop Artificielle" caused quite a media reaction worldwide, due to the fact that the album contained electronic cover versions of famous Pop and Rock songs. "Pop Artificielle" stylistically may be considered as being one of the first productions that merged "Song" structures with sounds coming from a 90's techno background. Many refer to it as an initial point for the development of the "glitch" genre.
During the production process of "Pop Artificielle", the idea was born to cover the German electronic pioneers "Kraftwerk" in a yet to be defined style and as a different production. Meant to be rough sketches, Uwe Schmidt started to program a couple of Kraftwerk cover versions in traditional "cha cha cha" arrangement and decided to make this the second "Señor Coconut" album. Entertained by the result of the first programmings, he produced a total of 4 songs which he sent to some record companies. One of those companies, Towa Tei's "Akashic Records", immediately licensed the album, entitled "El Baile Alemán", releasing it upon completion of the production in 2000. European and North American record companies remained uninterested until triggered by the hype "El Baile Alemán" had caused in Japan. Soon a European, North American, Mexican, Hong Kong and a Russian release followed and the title "Showroom Dummies" was featured in the Mexican movie "Y tu Mamá también". Uwe Schmidt obtained official permission by Kraftwerk themselves to release "El Baile Alemán", though had to remove his version of "Radioactivity".
"Señor Coconut"s first european tour started the 19th of August 2000 in Germany. A U.S. headlining tour was scheduled, but had to be canceled because of visa problems of one of the 7 chilean musicians that accompanied Schmidt. In parallel to "Señor Coconut" project, Schmidt continued working on rather obscure ideas, some for Rather Interesting, some that were released on other labels, such as the "Geeez 'n Gosh" (2000 and 2002) albums which musically merge abstract electronic programmings and gospel vocals. "Geeez 'n' Gosh was released on the german "Mille Plateaux" label, which went bankrupt in 2004, leaving Schmidt as well as many fellow musicians, unpaid. The "Flanger" project was also continued, Friedman and Schmidt recording the "Inner Space/Outer Space" album in Santiago de Chile, which was then released in 2001.
Apart from his own productions and various collaborations he was solicited to remix artists such as Depeche Mode, Martin L. Gore, Air, Cesaria Evora, Juan Garcia Esquivel, Sktech Show, Towa Tei, Moreno Veloso, Merzbow and many others. An exclusive track entitled "White Car" was produced for and released on the Japanese anime movie, "Appleseed". Still, Uwe Schmidt spent most of the time touring with his "Señor Coconut" moniker, which had grown to a full 9-man orchestra. The "Señor Coconut" album "Yellow Fever" was released in 2006. The album contained cover versions of "Yellow Magic Orchestra" songs and became a very successful release in Japan. Amongst the "YMO" members themselves (Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi) a vast amount of guest musicians appeared on this album such as "Mouse on Mars", "Akufen", Jorge Gonzalez and others. "Yellow Fever!" was performed live at "Sonar Sound Tokyo" the same year, with both Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi performing each one song with the full orchestra on stage. The Señor Coconut album "Around the World" was released. It contains guest participations of Stephan Remmler ("Trio: DaDaDa") and the austrian crooner Louie Austen.
Uwe Schmidt's "Rather Interesting" label remains his largest unified body of work. To date, R.I. alone has over 46 full-length releases under numerous aliases and styles, of which most of them are written, recorded, mixed and mastered by Schmidt himself. Additionally, Schmidt handles all the label management and most all of the album artwork and design.
Remixes for Les Baxter, Perez Prado, Jamie Lidell, Plaid and Japanese superstar Kumi Koda have been continuing to garner attention for Uwe Schmidt. The collaboration "Surtek Collective" with Vicente Sanfuentes, invented yet another musical style called "aciton", a blend of "acid" and "reggaeton". "Surtek Collective" mainly tours Latin America, playing shows in Mexico, Venezuela, Brasil, Argentina and Chile.
The "Flanger" album "Sprituals" was released in 2005 on Bernd Friedmann's label "Nonplace" and the "HEADZ" label for the Japanese territory. A couple of years later songs from "Spirituals" got licensed for the Hungarian movie "Bibliotheque Pascal".
From 2007 until 2010, collaborating with Japanese composer Masaki Sakamoto, he produces the album "Alien Symphony" and the modified (online) version of it, called "Meteor Shower" which was released in 2010. The same year sees Atom™ acting a mini-role in the Mexican movie "Orol". By the end of 2010 a short South American tour is played with the "Sr. Coconut" project.
Atom™, in collaboration with Japanese musician Toshiyuki Yasuda produces a cover version of the brazilian Bossa Nova classic "Aguas de Março", pre-released on the compilation "Red Hot 2" in June 2011. The vocals on this song are performed by Fernanda Takai and Moreno Veloso.
A photo exhibition called "Winterreise" was unveiled in Tokyo in May 2011, accompanied by a"Playbutton" release. "Atom™" performances at the Lincoln Center in New York City, "Communikey Festival" in Boulder, the "Raster-Noton"/"Mute" festival at the Roundhouse in London, Labyrinth Festival in Japan plus many others.
Exclusive contributions to Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Kizunaworld" project and Towa Tei's "Mach" online platform.
A second "Winterreise" exhibition was held in Frankfurt (Germany) in October 2011 as well as the "Winterreise" soundtrack was released in May 2012 through "Raster-Noton". "atom-tm.com" was launched in July 2012 and serves as Atom™'s official news platform and archive. As a result of the "Winterreise" release, Atom™ received an invitation from Richie Hawtin, to play an ambient set at his club in Ibiza. The invitation was accepted and the then entitled "Alpha txt" ambient set created, which was then again performed, opening the "labyrinth" festival in September the same year. An initially abandoned album, which in 2005 carried the working title "Hard Disc Rock" (as a self-reference to the 1997 Atom™ title with the same name), re-surfaced as "HD", after some of the unfinished tracks raise interest at the Raster-Noton label. The album was finished during the second half of 2012, and mixed down during January 2013. The release of "HD" was then scheduled for March 2013. In the middle of the "HD" production, the terrible news of Pete Namlook's sudden death reach Atom. Months later, as a practical consequence of Namlook's passing away, the "Rather Interesting" label, which both Pete and Atom ran together since 1994, was shut down forever. Early 2013 see Atom™ playing various live shows, such as the double opening feature at Berlin's "CTM.13", where he first performs "Bauteile" with colleague Marc Behrens, and later on, together with "Material + Object", plays a 3 hour "Alpha txt" set. Extensive promotional activities for "HD", which, amongst other results, bring Atom™ on the front page of Germany's "De:bug" magazine and the preparation for the "HD" and "Ground Loop" live sets keep Atom™ busy during the first couple of months of 2013.
(written with kind help of Jahnavi Stenflo and Nathan Jantz, movin' levers!)