Atomic Hooligan broke the rules and the boundaries of breaks with their debut album You Are Here. Now they’re doing it all again with Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah

It would seem – and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say this – that Atomic Hooligan are on a mission to become one of the most exciting outfits in electronic music. Matt Welch and Terry Ryan got off to a flying start, of course, releasing some mighty breaks-fuelled floor-fillers for the likes of Trigger Recordings and Botchit & Scarper, before unveiling their debut album You Are Here in 2005 and ripping up the breaks rulebook. When they remixed the entire album in 2006, they proved you can gild lilies, and now they’re riding high on the success of a new album, Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah. This one sees the boys expand on the live show they set up to tour You Are Here – Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah features Justine Berry of Hey Gravity, Elmo Jones of the Furies, Afu Ra and Genesis Elijah, as well as string arranger Jote Osahn, known for her work with Gorillaz and Roots Manuva, and an entire brass section to round their sound out. And the accompanying live show – complete with a nine-piece band – has already won Atomic Hooligan the best live act gong at this year’s Breakspoll. With festival slots lined up for the summer, things can only get better for Matt and Terry, so EQ corned them for a natter…

This album moves things on quite a bit from the last one doesn’t it?
Yeah, it’s a lot more song based. The last album was really good music with lyrics over the top, but we’ve written this one more as proper songs. With You Are Here, you could take the vocals off and have really good instrumentals. With Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah you couldn’t do that. They’re fully fledged songs. And people seem to think it’s a better album than the last one because of it – which isn’t exactly what we wanted, but it’s very positive.

Matt: Yeah, the feedback’s been great for the album and the live shows. The most interesting thing for me is that we’re out on the road playing a set that’s 90% new music and the reaction is great. That for me is a real sign of the album’s merits. Sometimes when you go to a show and they play a load of new music, it can be hard to get into it. So it was a bold move to us to say: “Sod it. We’ll just play two tracks from the old album and all the new stuff.” But it’s gone down really well, and that for me is better than any great review.

The album’s set up for a good live show though.
Absolutely. Because we toured You Are Here a lot and started to write Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah on that tour alongside our band, it naturally took a more live route. It was where our headspace was at that time. We also knew we wanted to take this album live, and take the live show up a notch.

Terry: Like everything with this album, it all happened quite naturally. We had Justine Berry doing vocals on You Are Here, but she just came in, did her bit and left. With this album, we properly worked with her, working on the concept for tracks and getting the vocalists a lot more involved.

Matt: There were lessons learnt from You Are Here. When we wrote that first album, we were still coming from that 12” dancefloor background. So we were new to writing proper songs. That was quite a big step for us – to come from writing dancefloor tracks to writing songs – so I guess we held back a bit with You Are Here. This time, because we had that first album behind us, we felt we had the freedom to really go for it.

Was it difficult giving the vocalists more of a say in making the songs?
It wasn’t difficult, but we really felt the production had to step up for it all to work. If you’re going to make more song-based music, you need stuff to accompany that, like strings or horn sections. So it was more intense.

Did you make that album more songy to try to get out of the breaks pigeonhole?
People are always telling us that we’re stepping out of breaks, but our music is still really grounded in breaks. We’re not the first people to add vocals like this – Beber & Tamra were doing it years ago. And Matt isn’t really a breaks person anyway – he knows what I tell him about it really. He’s a music maker whose tastes verge towards the breakbeat sound. So we’ve never really seem ourselves as full-on breaks producers. We just make music and have fallen into that category. Hopefully we’ve found our niche making Atomic Hooligan music, rather than being stuck in a genre. All the best dance music is like that, like Prodigy and Underworld. I’m not being so grandiose as to compare Atomic Hooligan to them, but that’s what we’re aiming for. That’s how we want to be, so we don’t really feel we’re moving away from breaks. And we’re really comfortable with the breaks label – the breakbeat crowd have fully supported us over the years.

How have people reacted to the fact that Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah is more song based?
A few people have commented on it, and most seem to think it’s a change for the better. But where we’ve noticed it most is through getting more radio interest. The only trouble is that if you’re a dancefloor act, you’re up against a lot of DJs who just don’t play vocals. But it’s just about making that decision. That said, Terry does want to start making real dancefloor reworks of some of the tracks. We just want to try some different routes.

That seems like a natural progression from the remix album of You Are Here.
I find it quite hard to remix our own work, but because Terry comes at it from a more DJ perspective, it’ll be interesting to see where he takes our tracks. And it means that Terry can play our stuff a lot more in his DJ sets.

You’ve got the best of both worlds then, because you’ve still got the live shows for the original album.
Exactly, and that’s what the album suits. Hearing the tracks live makes them sound so different. They’re so full of life. I’m really excited about getting the live show out in the summer after people have had a chance to live with the album for a while. There are already a few tracks, like I Don’t Care, where people are singing back, so it’ll be really exciting for us in the summer.

Sex, Drugs And Blah Blah Blah is out now on Botchit & Scarper. Visit and

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“It was a big step for us to come from writing dancefloor tracks to songs. This time, because we had that first album behind us, we felt we could really go for it”