February 08, 2003

Interview: Atom & His Package

Atom & His Package. You either love 'em or hate 'em, and I love 'em. The group is led by Atom Goren, formerly of punk rockers Fracture, as well as his own bad self. Along with his owner, The Package (a real bad-ass music sequencer that can go from G&R to Britney and NWA in a matter of seconds), these two have, for years, been makin' people smile and pissin' other people off for no reason other than the fact that it exists. I first heard him when me and my friend Kyle took a trip to Denver, and on the way back we listened and laughed our asses off. How could you not?

There's a story that I have of Atom, it involves a show that I booked for him, with Sean Na Na, Lucky Jeremy, my friend Kyle's then one-man band Tom Foolery and the Mistakes, and mundanesounds's own show reviewer, Sean Padilla's Cocker Spaniels. Here's Atom's tour diary entry from the show: "I met Sean Na Na at the apartment of the fellow Joseph, who was doing the show. We were supposed to follow Joseph to the show, but he took off without us, leaving us in his appartment building's parking lot. We eventually found the place, and the show was small but fun. I covered "Shopping Spree" about 6 times this evening. I also used nasal spray successfully for the first time in my life. Last time I turned the nasal spray bottle upside down, and tilted my head back and got nasal spray all over myself. I'm glad I'm still learning skills at this point"

The day after the show, I came down with Atom's flu. Ouch. The SOB had the last laugh! (J/Kidding!)

Any and all, his last two records, Redefining Music and his most recent release, an EP entitled Hamburgers have both won me over, and they find Atom growing and maturing as an artist. I got him to sit down for a little while and talk with me...and even though I was sure that the ensuing conversation had been a bit of a train wreck, it was actually a fun, interesting chat with a very intelligent, interesting young-ish man. Fun fact about the show: I got a letter in the mail about two weeks before the show by this band who wanted to be on that billing. Unfortunatly, I said no, due in large part to the fact that they'd not sent me a promo of their new record, because they didn't have them yet, but instead they had sent a dubbed tape copy of it--a twenty-year old Radio Shack tape that was so poorly dubbed that I couldn't really listen to it..though it did have some weird sound affects on it. The band? The Faint....I shut up now, and present you with Atom & His package...

PS. if you want to have fun, go visit Atom's website at atomandhispackage.com! (Thanks, Atom, for the pics and the interview!)

So, Atom, when did you first start playing/making music?

I've always been a big music fan/listener/buyer, but I started playing in bands in 7th grad... back in... let's see... 1987. Mostly punk, stinky bands with friends.

Was Fracture your first recorded band?

As far as recording in a studio and releasing... yes... a few older, horrible bands recorded on a four track, but thankfully, it was never released.

When did Atom meet the Package? What was it that drew you to it, and when did you discover the true potential of the Package?

When Fracture broke up, a friend of mine played me a song on a music sequencer. They're excellent because you can write/record/arrange entire songs by yourself. So, I started writing songs by myself, and recording them on my four track for friends and stuff. My friends' band Franklin was going on tour, and I was tagging along just for fun, and they suggested I bring the sequencer and play a few songs before they played, every night. So, I did and it was fun, and it went from there.

Why do some people dislike you? Is it jealousy, a lack of humor on their part?

I suppose different people dislike what I do for different reasons. I fully expect for some folks not to like it at all. It's certainly not for everyone. Some people think it's really stupid, or that the music sucks. Some people think it's annoying

Do you think that the punk rock/hardcore scene you came out of refuses to accept anything that reeks of humor?

The punk/hc scene is so big, that I'd hate to generalize about in terms of what it think and how it behaves, since there's no governing body of it... know what I mean? I've certainly received tons of support from a lot of people involved in the 'scene', and sure, a fair amount of hate mail and un-support...

Such as "funny=not serious?"

I guess there are some people who think that silly stuff is stupid, and meaningless who are involved in the punk scene... but there are many who can put it in perspective too.

Yeah, and plus, I'd assume that the longer you do your thing, the more accepting people become. Me, I totally felt that "Redefining Music" was a big step forward for you.

Hey thanks a lot.

Sure. Since you were on a bigger label, did you feel that you needed to spend a little more time on the recording process?

No. The stuff I had recorded before was all recorded at a friend's house on stuff in a day (each record, that is). In between records, I bought some recording equipment, and better sequencers... certainly not to impress the label, but because I had always wanted the stuff to sound good. The early stuff doesn't sound crappy on purpose... we just didn't know what we were doing. But since I was doing it myself, I had no time contraints, as it was just my time, so I had more time to get it to sound good, and just with experience, I knew how to get stuff to sound better.

And "Redefining Music," in a review I wrote for another zine, also seemed like it was the step away from novelty act, and your songs seemed a lot more universal than personal, if ya know what I mean. Because I'm sure you'll agree that a guy with a sequencer really is walkin' a very thin line that could easily fall under "one-trick pony".

Thanks... I think that the songs on that record stand on their own moreso than the earlier songs, as songs... rather than... background music for funny rhyming... know what I mean?

Yeah, and I noticed that they were more of a universal nature, rather than about and/or for your friends.

I take the music part very seriously and work hard on it... moreso than being a funny guy, or whatever...I like the newer songs as songs... They're still about stuff I think about, but I guess, as one gets older, one thinks about stuff in a different manner. I hope I continue to think about stuff differently, and feel like there's some sort of progression musically.

Speaking of your friends, you do sing alot about your friends. Has this ever caused any problems with your friendships, or are your friends aware of your tendency to write about them and are cautious around you? 8-)

No... there hasn't been a problem with any of the songs... I think the only one that isn't really flattering is the Happy Birthday Ralph song (even though you are fucking disgusting). And Ralph certainly knows how I feel about him and that I love him, and that at the same time, he can get on my nerves, and that I think he's gross a lot of the time. The only problem with that song, is that when people Ralph doesn't know come up to him and bug him about being disgusting, it's annoying... understandably so...but when I wrote and put the song on the record, no one was listening to my stuff at all... so I, probably mistakenly didn't even think about it.

Maybe your friends have secretly developed an attuitude of "Oh, Shit, better behave, or Atom'll write a song about us"?

I don't think so. The group of friends I have my utmost respect, and I know them all very well... and have pretty high standards... so other than the ralph song, I don't think anyone is scared of me... or cares too much about what I write about.

Maybe you should write a sequel, settin' the record straight, tellin' your listeners to hug ralph, not hate on him.

I don't think Ralph would appreciate people he didn't know hugging him either... know what I mean?

Unless they were female, perhaps?

Unless they were giraffes. He likes them.

Hah! Anyway, the point is a lot of stuff that you write is rather mundane, and last night I was watchin' Seinfeld, a self-described "show about nothing" and I got to thinking about your music, and it's really "music about nothing" in that it's about your daily life, ideas, etc. The more i kept thinking about it, though, the more i realized that this seems to be true with many jewish comics and writers. Do you have any thoughts about this, or is it merely coincidental?

I don't think that the stuff I write is 'mundane'... It's stuff I think about... What else would I write about? To me, my daily life, and ideas, and things that I have strong feelings about isn't 'nothing'. While, I'm not sure I can say why other people should like it, or why they do, I wouldn't say it's about nothing. As for a tie into being Jewish... I'm not sure what you're saying is the common thread of Jewish folks... that we do stuff about 'nothing'? That Jews tend to write about themselves, and personal stuff?

I know that there are many facets of art. Some artists make a vehement point about the fact that the personal/emotional stuff that they write is NOT about them, it's a song, and not their lives. Others write abstract things, but as I was thinking about Seinfeld's "show about nothing" concept was that the show weren't "nothing", they were something based on what someone wouldn't expect them to be based on, and I kept thinking about how a lot of Jewish writers and artists focus their art around their lives, instead of "art for art's sake"--that there's a definite link between the artist and the art, and that the two shouldn't be separated. Is that a little more clear?

I see what you mean. I don't know if there's a connection. I mean, there are certainly things that tend to be focused on by Jews... but I can't say that there's a correlation on arts focusing more personally on stuff because of their religion or culture...I don't know...sorry...bad, non-answer.

So have you always felt that your life and your art and your thoughts are one and the same, as opposed to saying, "oh, I'm going to sit down and write a song about (insert subject matter here)"? It's a question of the artist's attachment to their work.
I think so.... I think it feels most natural for me to write about personal experiences and stuff that I think about. I'm certainly not a good fiction writer.

And when you write, do you find yourself able to write better when you're not in familiar surroundings? Was your recent bout of touring a major inspiration for you?

I always write at home, but I'm sure, since touring was such an overwhelming part of my life for the past couple of years, that my experiences and life style certainly affect me, and how I think about thinks, and thus, affect my songwriting, topicwise, and otherwise. Ooh... just used the word thus. Nice.

Do you enjoy playing out?

Yes... some shows are way more fun than others, but I do enjoy playing...some times I'm not in the mood, but I imagine that comes with the territory of playing so much. It only makes sense.

Have you ever thought, "gee, maybe I'd like to get a real band going again"?

Yes. I like doing stuff myself. It's easier to be productive... (i.e. playing shows, practicing, writing stuff).... but I miss the collaborative nature of working with friends.

No hassles with drummers..


Are you getting a full band together as we speak?

Yep... I've started playing with a few people. It's definitely in the beginning stages, but we've written a few songs. We'll see how it goes.

So any hints as to what you've been fraudulent about?

Sorry... you'll have to ask me again in 14 months, if you want to know.

Oh, I will. So what's Atom planning next?

Well... I just finished recording and writing a new full length record, called Attention! Blah Blah Blah. It will be out in February on Hopeless Records. I'll be taking the fall relatively easy, and will be back to touring like a lunatic once the record comes out.

Another question about the time before "Redefining Music". I saw you live, and you made some comment about working on your new record and writing new songs. Though you didn't say it, it seemed to me like you were a bit frustrated. Were you suffering from writer's block?

Hmm... not sure... where was it?

Lubbock, Texas.

Wow... you must have been the one of four people there. That was the day after we saw the Dali Llamas.

Uh, dude.. i was the guy who booked it. surprise!

Ha ha ha.

(At this point the interview turns into a non-interesting discussion about that show and about Lubbock in general)

One last question: Soulpatches--yes or no?

No facial hair... ever

So no hot water music look for Atom?

NO way.

---Joseph Kyle

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