ATB — 9 pm (Till I Come). You don’t know what this track is really about

George Palladev 21.04.2022

ATB — 9 pm (Till I Come). You don’t know what this track is really about

How do you record the hit of your life? The answer is: accidentally. One day, either in 1997 or in 1998, 24-year-old Andre Tanneberger invited his girlfriend to come to his studio before going to the cinema to show off his set-up. While the lady of his heart was examining the incomprehensible equipment of her boyfriend, Andre extracted different sounds from numerous synthesisers. On a Roland JD-990, he showed her a preset of a meowing guitar, the distinctive sound of which is achieved with a thumbwheel, which smoothly changes the pitch. Running his fingers over the keyboards, Andre played part of a future track. The musician was excited. He quickly wrote a draft and saved it under the name 9 pm. It was 9 o’clock and time to go to the cinema.

“Maybe it’s a special story,” the musician recalled. “but it’s not the special moment—you’re sitting there and now this is the big hit—it’s just a coincidence. I felt the magic in the melody. But after I finished this song I was like I think nobody will ever buy this record with this strange guitar. It was an experiment. I didn’t felt that this is a worldwide hit.”

In one interview, Andre admitted that for a long time he didn’t understand what to do with 9 pm. He endlessly cut up test pressings, and sent them out to DJs, but didn’t think of releasing it. At that time, Andre was the founder, lead musician and one of the soloists of his project Sequential One. He wrote light and melodic dance music, European house where women sang and guys rapped. This genre was equally acceptable for clubs and for radio. Andre was the pride of the West German label House Nation, where tours were organised for his band and videos were shot for him; he made remixes, gave interviews, and was a resident at the club in his hometown.

Poster of Sequential One, 1997. Sitting: Woody van Eyden, Morpha, Ulrich Pöppelbaum. Behind their backs: Andre Tanneberger

And while this state of affairs was joyful in 1997, a year later Andre was standing on the ruins of the project. He remained without a vocalist, his bandmates were busy organising their own label, the budget was being cut, sales were falling, and the prospects for the band were far from the brightest. He felt that he deserved something better. And then suddenly he wrote 9 pm, which was so good that the musician was ready to release it under his own name.

“I wrote and produced Inspiration vibes simultaneous with 9pm and released it at the same time with another record company under my former project Sequential One. The main instrument is the same guitar like in 9pm. But compared to 9pm it was a flop and at the same time the end of Sequential One.” Andre was ready for a new life.

Woody van Eyden, who at that time was Andre’s friend, band manager and mentor, and knew everyone, told the musician about the new Kontor label in Hamburg. Why not try to release the debut there? Kontor Records was founded in 1996 by Jens Thele, the invisible fourth member of Scooter. It was he who persuaded the irrepressible H.P. Baxxter to go on stage with a megaphone and in the beginning, while the band was collecting material, brought them commissions for remixes. At the same time, Jens was responsible for musicians in the German branch of Universal, held Kontor club parties, and played around on the turntables. He then decided to gather the best musicians of the German electronic scene on a new independent label and upstage the majors.

In August 1998, Woody and Andre went to Hamburg, the northernmost part of Germany and its second biggest city, to offer 9pm to Jens Thele. Kontor’s office, which was going to compete with the major labels, was located on the second floor of a bakery. That’s where Scooter wrote their best albums of the nineties and the noughties, simultaneously making toilet jokes. Jens was delighted with Andre’s track and offered great conditions. 9 pm became a breakthrough for his label: all major German labels that understood current music bought a license to release it. In Germany, the single reached the Top 30. Then the rest of Europe, Asia and Australia joined in.

Woody van Eyden

“When we left the building, we fell each others arms in tears. We had managed to land a deal in Hamburg, the German music capital!” recalled Woody van Eyden.

Finally, the UK and the US gave in. In March 1999, Till I Come entered the UK charts. ATB’s single was discovered by Data Records, which belonged to the Ministry of Sound, but it left the charts after a week. There are rumours that the UK bought a license from Kontor for ludicrous money, but with good conditions: 3,000 $, but half of the revenue from sales around the world went to the musician. By the middle of the summer of 1999, the Ministry of Sound independently released 9 pm, with all the promotion that was inherent to it. At this time, the audience was getting ready and warmed up: two weeks in the first place and a total of four and a half months in the UK charts. The label reported that in the first week at the top, more than 250,000 copies of the single were sold. “I’m surprised by the success I’ve been having. In the beginning, I was just happy to have a record deal. I really wasn’t sure if people would understand my sound,” said Andre.

Yolanda Rivera

It’s clear what 9pm means, but what about Till I Come? In 1998, Spanish DJs Ricky Rich and Julio Posadas released the track The way you make me feel with the voice of model Yolanda Riviera. Yolanda had friends in musical circles and willingly agreed to collaborate. With three people, it turned out to be quite minimalistic: the simplest rhythm and melody, good bass and raunchy lyrics, so pure ghetto house. The same disc had an a cappella with the voice of the model. Andre cut out an extract from there because it hooked the listener well and filled in the rhythmic groove.

But the most interesting thing is that no one realised that the track, which played everywhere from dusk to dawn, talked about foreplay. Originally, Yolanda said not Till I Come, but Till I Cum.

Andre says that he wasn’t aware: in those years he didn’t know English so well and some of the subtleties could slip away. The a cappella from a foreign record was enough for the second single Don’t stop, which was released in the spring of 1999. And when the single reached the Spanish shores, the authors of the sex at the microphone became alarmed. Threatening the German label with lawsuits, they managed to become co-authors and get revenues from Andre’s two extremely successful singles.