Cart

Cart

A conversation with Ataxia’s Ted Krisko

Detroit-based electronic duo Ataxia live and breathe their city’s musical lineage. Consisting of Ted Krisko, who manages the legendary Detroit nightclub Marble Bar, and Rickers, Ataxia pushes the traditional boundaries of electronic music. Much like their predecessors inventing techno out of the Detroit suburbs in the 1980s, Ataxia’s sound reflects its two musicians’ environment, deconstructive ethos, and shared musical history.

Now, the duo release their debut album Out Of Step via Life and Death – a full-length homage to Detroit’s deified music legacy. Featuring Detroit legends such as DJ Minx and AndrĂ©s, Out Of Step is a propulsive, driving record that aligns with Ataxia‘s roots in the punk scene.

As their friendship co-exists in the spaces between techno and punk, Ataxia’s approach to this album project stripped away the conventions of how to create a dance album, and a very certain sound emerged throughout the album sessions. 

The album itself is full of tape hiss, and its intensities are all over the place. But the nature of the music is simple, fundamental. Space is given to the elements and gives a pocket for each sound, glued together with tape saturation and overdriven vibe.

The essence of this harkens back to the duo’s seminal days in hardcore bands, the old character of demo and scratch recording cassettes breathing new life into a style of music too often polished up past the point of recognition.


We sat down with Ataxia’s Ted Kriskos to talk about the new album, the duo’s relationship with DJ Tennis and LIfe And Death, and the beautiful history of Detroit electronic music. You can stream or buy Out Of Step vinyl here.

What makes Detroit such an incredible hub for electronic music, and why is the scene so special to you?

There is a hope that goes deeper than one person’s journey here. Detroit is a collection of genius, against all odds, a story of perseverance. 

Detroit’s history of advanced robotics merging with mechanicals spelled out a future of a human versus machinery with no end in sight. Many of the pioneers of our city’s electronic music culture worked in the automotive sector, and much of techno’s musical origins point to a very past, present and future reality of clinking and clanking industrial noises with big warehouse reverbs echoing off to the distance. 

Many of the original North American raves occurred in warehouses that once housed these types of industrial meets machine manufacturing, so the correlation to the factory energy was both inside the music, and what was echoing back from the PA speaker reflections in the cavernous warehouse spaces we danced in.

This is a very local association for a now worldwide music culture. It’s given hope for people in a very tight knit community here the opportunity to participate in a tale greater than what any one person, crew, label or otherwise can lay claim to. 

You both got your starts in hardcore and punk – what are the threads between those genres and dance music? 

There is a driving force behind all of those styles, in a sense. All of these styles of music share direction, with a very forward feeling, fast energy. These are many sides of the same coin on both the punk and dance spectrum. 

Sadly, much of what drew us into dance, and at the time of our musical pivot, seemingly away from punk, is now the essence of the culture…business. 

It felt more punk to be rave than it felt to be punk. Shopping malls had taken over the retail vending side of punk culture and the huge corporate sponsored punk tours absorbed a huge sphere of the touring industry before it collapsed inward on itself. 

It was a house of cards, the punk scene. The allure to shift gears to electronic music seemed more on the artists’ terms than what the live band industry had to offer. Now, as subcultures constantly receive the influence of commodification from previous iterations of against the grain niches gone “sell out”, dance music is evolving into a business culture. The sponsorship aspects are happening on a scale so massive, some of the touchstones of our truly underground culture are getting lost in the shuffle. 

Corporate sponsored punk. Corporate sponsored rave. What is the difference? 

It’s up to the musicians, dancers and promoters to keep punk and rave ethics alive. These music cultures are some of the only places where people feel empowered in the wake of a tremendously disenfranchised society. 

P.L.U.R. – peace, love, unity, respect in rave, is paramount to the value of watching out for each other’s well being at a punk and hardcore show.

In both spaces, people are going to go off the wall, maybe acting in a way you wouldn’t understand in the “real world”, but in this type of happening, the behaviors are full of freedom and expression in dance, in tandem with a music palette that is counter-intuitive to what the pop-culture leanings of the modern world say is good for the masses.

The essence of spontaneity assures the dancer that they’re experiencing something once in a lifetime…something you just can’t get anywhere else other than that place in time and space. For some it’s not so deep. For others, it’s EVERYTHING.

In both punk and rave, there is a need for community spirit that transcends traditional society values, which in a lot of respects, are for the benefit of one, not the many, and fall short. There is an idyllic ambivalence at the heart of both cultures, where egalitarian principles reign and the hierarchy is abolished. 

While it seems the apple has fallen far from the tree en masse, it’s possible to keep the spirit of these values in your heart and mind as you approach a dancefloor. 

Why the focus on vintage and analog gear when recording this album? What’s the aesthetic purpose of the tape machine hiss?

Noise. Simply put, we wanted more of it. Distortion in the stereo? Yes, please. The tape was eaten by the machine there? Oh well. Run it. 

Fuck it, you know? The anomalies, the grain, the grit, the flutter and wow, snap, crackle, pop…the downsampling effort was actually pretty extensive. All that extra noise and hiss and messiness is part of us. Our punk bands recorded on 4-track cassette machines constantly. So to be back on the medium with all of our shit from the board going through the tape machine now, it’s really like second nature. 

Once you put it to tape, it’s done. That’s the cut. There is freedom in that, it lets the music be done, and you can actually move on from it. When music lives in the digital DAW and computer realm forever, it can stay in your pipeline eternally. When you are taping, you are basically only going to take things all the way if the jam really has something magic. Because the tape does take its sweet ass time.

It’s not coming out of our studio sounding like an LA studio, or NYC, or anywhere else. It’s a Detroit sound. Run it into the red? Sure, but you gotta know what you’re doing with it. There’s a pseudo-science to it, but we can’t get all the secrets out there.

You collaborate with a few different Detroit legends on this album, including DJ Minx. What’s it like working with her, and what does she mean to Detroit music?

Minx is a hero to us and to Detroit. She is taking her vibe to places all around the world. For anyone who knows what she delivers, that is truly a beautiful thing. The energy she commits people to on the dance floor is relentlessly hypnotic, but never without a fiery stomp that just cuts through the rest of the pack. There is no height she can’t bring people to.

Working with her on any of our projects we’ve done together has been super smooth, always with a smile. “Maxia”, our collaboration on the album, aptly named by Minx herself, was well on the way before we asked her for a vocal. She came back with “Feel the rhythm” in her most convincing tone, and it was like “WHOOOWEEE we GOT IT now.” 

How does it feel to be releasing through Life and Death? Describe your relationship with DJ Tennis and how you got to this point.

Releasing this album on Life and Death is a meaningful and important project. DJ Tennis made that clear from the get go once he heard the music and decided we should do this together.

Many Ataxia demos had been sent over the years, and Tennis played a lot of our music in his sets, but we haven’t had the right time and place for a release together just yet, as he promised he didn’t want to rush anything and needed everything to be perfect when we did work on a record for LAD.

Tennis takes the A&R process and development of all creative aspects of the album cycle extremely seriously, and challenges us to grow as a band and as producers. It’s good to work with people that have vision, and aren’t afraid to influence others to think outside of their own box, and get rid of glass ceilings that can hold back the artist from being fully expressive. 

Our relationship is founded on punk ideals, ideas and an understanding of a time and place before all of the rampant commercialization of the underground music culture we are facing today. Because of this shared knowledge and love for the original punk and hardcore scene, we felt like family from the day we met. Our history of gigs together goes back over a decade now and through it all, many mezcals and late nights later, we ended up with a record here for the end of 2022. Good things come for those who wait…

What makes Detroit such an incredible hub for electronic music, and why is the scene so special to you?

There is a hope that goes deeper than one person’s journey here. Detroit is a collection of genius, against all odds, a story of perseverance. 

Detroit’s history of advanced robotics merging with mechanicals spelled out a future of a human versus machinery with no end in sight. Many of the pioneers of our city’s electronic music culture worked in the automotive sector, and much of techno’s musical origins point to a very past, present and future reality of clinking and clanking industrial noises with big warehouse reverbs echoing off to the distance. 

Many of the original North American raves occurred in warehouses that once housed these types of industrial meets machine manufacturing, so the correlation to the factory energy was both inside the music, and what was echoing back from the PA speaker reflections in the cavernous warehouse spaces we danced in.

This is a very local association for a now worldwide music culture. It’s given hope for people in a very tight knit community here the opportunity to participate in a tale greater than what any one person, crew, label or otherwise can lay claim to. 

You both got your starts in hardcore and punk – what are the threads between those genres and dance music? 

There is a driving force behind all of those styles, in a sense. All of these styles of music share direction, with a very forward feeling, fast energy. These are many sides of the same coin on both the punk and dance spectrum. 

Sadly, much of what drew us into dance, and at the time of our musical pivot, seemingly away from punk, is now the essence of the culture…business. 

It felt more punk to be rave than it felt to be punk. Shopping malls had taken over the retail vending side of punk culture and the huge corporate sponsored punk tours absorbed a huge sphere of the touring industry before it collapsed inward on itself. 

It was a house of cards, the punk scene. The allure to shift gears to electronic music seemed more on the artists’ terms than what the live band industry had to offer. Now, as subcultures constantly receive the influence of commodification from previous iterations of against the grain niches gone “sell out”, dance music is evolving into a business culture. The sponsorship aspects are happening on a scale so massive, some of the touchstones of our truly underground culture are getting lost in the shuffle. 

Corporate sponsored punk. Corporate sponsored rave. What is the difference? 

It’s up to the musicians, dancers and promoters to keep punk and rave ethics alive. These music cultures are some of the only places where people feel empowered in the wake of a tremendously disenfranchised society. 

P.L.U.R. – peace, love, unity, respect in rave, is paramount to the value of watching out for each other’s well being at a punk and hardcore show.

In both spaces, people are going to go off the wall, maybe acting in a way you wouldn’t understand in the “real world”, but in this type of happening, the behaviors are full of freedom and expression in dance, in tandem with a music palette that is counter-intuitive to what the pop-culture leanings of the modern world say is good for the masses.

The essence of spontaneity assures the dancer that they’re experiencing something once in a lifetime…something you just can’t get anywhere else other than that place in time and space. For some it’s not so deep. For others, it’s EVERYTHING.

In both punk and rave, there is a need for community spirit that transcends traditional society values, which in a lot of respects, are for the benefit of one, not the many, and fall short. There is an idyllic ambivalence at the heart of both cultures, where egalitarian principles reign and the hierarchy is abolished. 

While it seems the apple has fallen far from the tree en masse, it’s possible to keep the spirit of these values in your heart and mind as you approach a dancefloor. 

Why the focus on vintage and analog gear when recording this album? What’s the aesthetic purpose of the tape machine hiss?

Noise. Simply put, we wanted more of it. Distortion in the stereo? Yes, please. The tape was eaten by the machine there? Oh well. Run it. 

Fuck it, you know? The anomalies, the grain, the grit, the flutter and wow, snap, crackle, pop…the downsampling effort was actually pretty extensive. All that extra noise and hiss and messiness is part of us. Our punk bands recorded on 4-track cassette machines constantly. So to be back on the medium with all of our shit from the board going through the tape machine now, it’s really like second nature. 

Once you put it to tape, it’s done. That’s the cut. There is freedom in that, it lets the music be done, and you can actually move on from it. When music lives in the digital DAW and computer realm forever, it can stay in your pipeline eternally. When you are taping, you are basically only going to take things all the way if the jam really has something magic. Because the tape does take its sweet ass time.

It’s not coming out of our studio sounding like an LA studio, or NYC, or anywhere else. It’s a Detroit sound. Run it into the red? Sure, but you gotta know what you’re doing with it. There’s a pseudo-science to it, but we can’t get all the secrets out there.

You collaborate with a few different Detroit legends on this album, including DJ Minx. What’s it like working with her, and what does she mean to Detroit music?

Minx is a hero to us and to Detroit. She is taking her vibe to places all around the world. For anyone who knows what she delivers, that is truly a beautiful thing. The energy she commits people to on the dance floor is relentlessly hypnotic, but never without a fiery stomp that just cuts through the rest of the pack. There is no height she can’t bring people to.

Working with her on any of our projects we’ve done together has been super smooth, always with a smile. “Maxia”, our collaboration on the album, aptly named by Minx herself, was well on the way before we asked her for a vocal. She came back with “Feel the rhythm” in her most convincing tone, and it was like “WHOOOWEEE we GOT IT now.” 

How does it feel to be releasing through Life and Death? Describe your relationship with DJ Tennis and how you got to this point.

Releasing this album on Life and Death is a meaningful and important project. DJ Tennis made that clear from the get go once he heard the music and decided we should do this together.

Many Ataxia demos had been sent over the years, and Tennis played a lot of our music in his sets, but we haven’t had the right time and place for a release together just yet, as he promised he didn’t want to rush anything and needed everything to be perfect when we did work on a record for LAD.

Tennis takes the A&R process and development of all creative aspects of the album cycle extremely seriously, and challenges us to grow as a band and as producers. It’s good to work with people that have vision, and aren’t afraid to influence others to think outside of their own box, and get rid of glass ceilings that can hold back the artist from being fully expressive. 

Our relationship is founded on punk ideals, ideas and an understanding of a time and place before all of the rampant commercialization of the underground music culture we are facing today. Because of this shared knowledge and love for the original punk and hardcore scene, we felt like family from the day we met. Our history of gigs together goes back over a decade now and through it all, many mezcals and late nights later, we ended up with a record here for the end of 2022. Good things come for those who wait…