Friday, September 11, 2009

Life's A Lost Art, But It's All Coming Back To Me Now

My three favorite Ct. bands in the late Nineties were Atlas, Grand Passion, and The Spoilers; all three bands were doing something different (Grand Passion were Prisonshake/CLE-type rock and The Spoilers were hopped-up Devil Dogs-style punk) and all three were great, even if now they're at best a faded memory to a few people. Eventually by the end of the '90s both Grand Passion and Atlas released top-notch CDs, with the Atlas CD being part of a noteworthy trifecta that Brian Sinclair's Serendipity label pulled off in 1998-- releasing the Farmertan, Damien Pratt, and Atlas CDs, easily three of the best Ct. indie rock CDs ever, one right after the other-- but most folks weren't really paying attention.

I had a habit of insisting that, stylistically, Atlas were an heir to the Monsterland fuzz-rock throne, even though Atlas' sound was a lot crisper and a bit less pedal-oriented than Monsterland's; it was just something that I felt like saying, I guess, even if it didn't make a lot of sense. If you want to check for yourself, you'll find that Atlas' output over the years (a CD, a 7" EP, and a few compilation tracks) was just as good as any other Connecticut band from that time, and on some days, I'd even take Atlas' "Confusion Comforts Me" 7-inch over any of the Monsterland singles... which says a lot, I think.

For its time, the Atlas CD was a welcome eye-opener. While there were more than a few bands back then that were content to mine a single style in the hopes of maybe striking it rich (not naming names, just sayin'), Atlas were all over the place. From the instrumental opener to the blissed-out Sonic Youth-type closing track, this CD covers a lot of ground; some songs are fairly somber, others rock out, and Sean even uses a falsetto one track, which is actually pretty awesome. My favorite song on the album, "Queen of the Highway", uses a rolling/stuttering guitar riff and, of course, doesn't sound like any of the other songs on the CD.

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Atlas -

(these files are now listen-only)

"Orange Wedge"


"Dead Machines"

"Queen of the Highway"

"King Richard"


"No Jet"

As yet another added bonus, here's an interview I did with Atlas back in late '96 for my fanzine, Brushback, which as you can see was just an excuse for me to walk up to bands and ask them a bunch of annoying questions. This is actually one of my favorite interviews ever-- only a few bands ever caught on to my sense of humor while I was talking to them, and Atlas were one of those bands.

A little bit of background: Sean Sheridan produced a who's who of great Ct. bands back then, using the 8-track studio in his attic, and is still active in any number of outfits including (until a short while ago, at least) Dead City with Joe D. of Lost Generation and Puggsly from The Spoilers and The Ugly Truth. Angela is now the captain of a roller derby team, believe it or not (you can look it up), and Brian sent me a box of records a couple of months ago, so he's alright. Don't know about John, the drummer at the time this interview took place; in any case, Scott English (Creature Did) played drums for Atlas on the CD.

As usual, the images open up to a larger size when you click on them, so that you can read the original scans if you'd like.

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Dave: Alright, I need your names.
Sean (guitar, vocals): Sean.
Angela (bass): Angela.
Brian (guitar): Brian.
John (drums): (some kind of thick accent) Ozone.
Dave: What is that? Spell that.
John: Ozone. O-Z-O-N-E.
Dave: Is that true, is that actually your name?
John: I'm from Birmingham.
Dave: Oh, okay (England). Alright, that explains it.
John: No, Alabama.
Angela: I should've used my fake name.
Dave: "If I act this way, it's because I'm from the South." Is anybody in the band into stock car racing? Because you have that song, "King Richard"...
Sean: No, that's only peripherally about stock car racing.
Angela: My father's into stock car racing. He used to race, now he just watches.
Dave: On local tracks and stuff?
Angela: Everything-- NASCAR... this was like in the '60s. They took me to the races as a baby.
Dave: What was that like, a lot of noise and vibrations? Were you cranky?
Angela: No, I loved it.
Dave: So what's the song "King Richard" about?
Sean: It was inspired by this picture of-- well, this stock car racing magazine, Beckett's Racing Monthly, had this cover of Richard Petty from the Sixties, like, leaning out of the window of his car with this big smile on his face. I thought it was very cool. When I was growing up I used to watch that on TV. We used to go to Danbury, they had a racetrack there. Where the mall is now.
Dave: Yeah, where the fairgrounds were!
Sean: They tore down the fairgrounds where the cool stock car races were so they could build a mall. Yeah, really important to have that. "King Richard" is just about a guy who cruises around in his big old Mopar vehicle.
Dave: Some guy around here?
Sean: No, it's a song about nobody. I saw the picture, I called the song "King Richard", I'm into cars, so it's no deeper meaning than that. Sorry.
Dave: Darn it. I'm always looking for a sports angle.
Angela: Now, you know Kyle Petty, his son, races the wrestling car for, like, WCW. It's the NWO car (the sponsor).
Sean: He has a CD called "O, King Richard", which John found. It's this lousy country song by Kyle Petty.
John: When we're out on the road, we shoot a lot of hoops.
Dave: Basketball?
Sean: Sort of like Pearl Jam, you know.
John: You should see Angela dunk.
Angela: Yeah, this is me dunking (dunks a bar snack into her drink).
Dave: How long has the band been together?
Angela: Long enough!
Sean: Eighteen years. No, like two and a half years.
Dave: Are these all the original members?
Sean: Me and Angela are the original members.
Dave: See, so you other two are just temporary, you know that now.
John: They just hired me for tonight.
Dave: Yeah, he's really the drummer from The Cult and they just hired him to be on this record because he knows the McCartney cover already. [really obscure Matt Sorum reference]
Brian: I'm the Bruce Kulick of Atlas.
John: I'm the singer from 311, can't you tell?
Dave: Wait, I saw their video, I get that joke.
Sean: How long have you guys been in the band, three months?
Brian: We sound like it's only been a couple of days.
Dave: So Brian is why you guys are like heavy metal now, right?
Angela: It's all Brian's fault-- cheezy metal! Poison, Mötley Crüe...

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John: Blame the white guy.
Angela: He watched too much of "It Came From The Eighties II".
Sean: Do we sound metal?
Dave: Yeah, plus you've got that Flying V and all.
Sean: Well, Bob Mould played a Flying V. It's a Bob Mould style.
Dave: Stick with it being metal, it's much cooler that way.
John: I'm switching over to double bass drums now.
Sean: And the flaming gong is on order.
Dave: There's no stickers on your drumset.
John: I'm not punk rock, I guess.
Dave: Oh, I guess not. What other bands were you in?
Sean: He was in Soma 13, and then what was that other band? Aware-- he was in Aware, a straight edge band.
Dave: Wow! Where's the X?!?
Sean: Like all the straight edge kids, he's a drunk now.
Dave: So you played The Anthrax and jumped around and stuff? Did you punch any girls? Sean, has anyone ever mistaken you for Shaun Sheriden who used to run The Antrhax?
Sean: Yeah, all the time in the mail.
Angela: He's the "uncool" Sean Sheridan.
Dave: He's the anti-Shaun.
Sean: I'm friends with him, though.
John: We're the only old-school guys around here. These two are young people.
Dave: I'm old school! I've got my Dave Smalley straight edge tattoo. I've got the violin cover.
Angela: I've paid my dues at The Anthrax, thank you.
John: I used to be in the back room smoking pot with Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy's Law.
Dave: But that's true of just about everybody.
Angela: I saw Murphy's Law at The Anthrax!
John: Jeff R... Joe D, you know Joe D right?
Dave: Yeah, from Lost Generation.
Sean: He lives right down the road from me. I've recorded a bunch of stuff of his. He's got a band. (Sean has an 8-track studio in his house where over the past few years just about every decent Connecticut band has recorded --Dave).
Dave: So who have you been recording lately?
Sean: All kinds of stuff.
Angela: (shouting) Who cares! This is an Atlas interview!
John: Who has he recorded-- Have you heard of Evan Dando, maybe?
Dave: Not since when Courtney Love and Madonna introduced us.
Sean: No, I recorded Creature Did's CD.
Dave: Yeah, I knew that.
Sean: Have you heard of Penfold? They're a really cool band, they live in Danbury/Brookfield.
Dave: Penfold is the little rat from "Danger Mouse".
Sean: Exactly. Their sound is like Slint. They're doing an album, Craig from MUDD is putting it out. This guy Keith Romeo, who used to be the drummer in our band, he's got a band called Suzuki Bean who I've recorded...
Dave: I saw them, they sucked. (nervous laughter from everyone)

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Angela: That's on tape now!
Sean: The demo is awesome, it's really good. Well, maybe you wouldn't like it.
John: I want to give a shout out to my boys back in Brooklyn. 5th and 3rd Avenue, the posse over there.
Dave: Fuckin' Biohazard, that's your posse?
Sean: We've got a couple of records coming out-- one's on Metal Blade, and one's on Roadrunner.
John: We're touring with Krokus.
Brian: They're re-issuing our back catalog.
Dave: What does "Atlas" mean?
Brian: When I first joined the band, I thought it was about that map thing-- you know, Rand-McNally...
Angela: It's a totally innocuous, meaningless name.
Sean: It's a generic name for everything. All the companies named "Atlas"...
Dave: Oh, like Acme and Atlas, it's like a Road Runner thing.
Sean: Exactly. That's kind of where it's worked out to.
Brian: I joined the band because I thought their name was "Talas". I thought it was going to be a rock'n'roll explosion.
Dave: Tesla? We'll have to sit closer together for the tape to come out. Trust me, I'm a professional.
Angela: We're stupid-- who wants to hear what we have to say?
Dave: Okay, you've got the single out ("Confusion Comforts Me" b/w "Punch It Like Kojak" and "Most Favored Nation"), which sold millions I'm sure.
Brian: We've got the nine-inch coming out. (laughter) No, wait...
Sean: Flipside reviewed it, and they said...
Dave: "It sounded like the theme from MTV"!
Sean: Yeah, yeah! They said it sounded like the theme song to MTV played by Small 23. (noise as another band starts their soundcheck; the Muni, where the shows were being held, has two floors, so while one band played another one was setting up on the other stage --Dave)
Dave: This drummer sonds really good, you guys should maybe talk to him later...
Sean: Is he playing "Love Shack"?, but Flipside basically liked it, and if it's not by-the-numbers punk rock...
Dave: Why would you send them something anyway?
Sean: Why not?
Dave: And then not send me anything!
Sean: Well, we didn't know about you. Maximum Rock'N'Roll...
Dave: They probably wouldn't review it. Did they review it?
Sean: Yeah.
Angela: They hated it.
Dave: I didn't see it, what did it say?
Angela: It maybe wasn't bad-- it said, "I don't like it, but you might like it."
Dave: I feel the same way about them. Christ, and you could say that same thing about every record.
Sean: It was neutral, they didn't really kill us though.
John: We were talking to the guys from Geffen, when they were trying to pick us up...
Dave: Go ahead, this is good-- I print lies.
John: We said, "Listen, Sub Pop is giving us a better deal, but distribution is what we're talking here."
Sean: We came to an agreement with them-- Geffen gave us what we wanted, but the first thing we gotta do is a Christmas album with TLC.
Brian: I had to go through a couple months' of legal work to get out of my contract with CMC International before I could actually join Atlas.
John: Them, and the circus!
Dave: Who's the next one that's gonna quit the band? (everyone raises their hand) Okay, we can start a pool...
Sean: After every practice there's a race for the door, and we all wind up stuck trying to get out at the same time.
John: And Sean lives there, so that's the worst part!
Sean: Yeah, I can't get out of the band.
Angela: I think I'm gonna quit right now.
Dave: Have you guys played out of state or anything?
Sean: We played in New York a few weeks ago, at CBGB's.
Angela: We played with Drew Barrymore's mother's boyfriend's band.
Dave: Oh, you mean Creature Did?
Angela: She's got a very young boyfriend who's in a band.
Sean: They sucked! They were like a bar band, they should have been playing at some beachside bar in Rhode Island.
Dave: We only happen to be standing at a bar right now...
Sean: You know what I mean.
John: Hey, are you from Hartford?
Dave: No. Nothing good ever is.

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John: Well, the pizza sucks up here, man. It was dough! They didn't cook it!
Dave: Uh, well, I think it was only Domino's... it was gummy?
Angela: You could blow bubbles with it.
Dave: Hartford's soft, so maybe soft people like soft pizza. Who's got the hardest tattoos?
Brian: I've got tattoos...
Dave: Satanic tattoos? Ricky Kasso?
Brian: I've got "Rebel Alliance"...
Dave: What the hell is that?
Sean: Star Wars, man.
Brian: I've got "Rock and Roll" in Japanese letters...
Dave: Wow! Now, how did you find that out?
Brian: I trusted the people at the shop.
Dave: Maybe they thought you were a big Decry fan. What's this other one?
Brian: Uh, that's from when I played with Dangerous Toys...
Angela: I've got Dino tattooed on my inner thigh.
Dave: You've got a picture of Dean Martin on your leg?
Angela: No, Dino, the dinosaur from The Flintstones.
Dave: So, is this like the worst show you've ever played?
Angela: Yes!
Sean: Yes. (Note: This question is a laff riot if you shout it out at a band playing a basement show in their own house --Dave) I know we had disasterous problems (John's bass drum fell apart during the show), but did we sound alright?
Dave: The sound was good, it sounded okay.
Brian: I cut my finger open, that's how I know I rocked
Dave: That's awesome-- spurting blood onstage, that's like KISS.
Brian: It's not a rock show unless you bleed.
Sean: If you hadn't told us before our set that you were going to interview us, would you have left?
Dave: Okay, if I didn't already know who you guys were, and I walked in as you were playing, I would've thought "Wow, they've got a rude boy from a ska band, the drummer from the 4-Skins, they've got a girl, and the guy from Mercyful Fate on guitar", and I would've left.
Angela: Is that honest, or are you being a shithead?
Dave: No, I haven't had that much to drink.
Angela: We want sincerity.
Brian: We're all about sincerity.
Angela: Yeah, and you're full of doodie!
Sean: Well, we may put out a CD...
Dave: Okay, let's talk about what's going on with the band.
Sean: We want to do a CD, and we'll probably put it out ourselves. We might do a 7-inch in the meantime, it depends-- we've already done one, and they're kinda difficult to sell.
Dave: How many did you do of the first 7"?
Sean: Three hundred. We did get rid of a bunch of them.
Dave: Wow, just three hundred-- people should snap those up.
John: Any idea what an Aware 7" is selling for lately?
Dave: I kinda know. Hey, I put out a 7-inch with Youth of Today on it once.
Sean: Really? Wow.
John: Ray Cappo can bite me.
Dave: Okay, just not now though.
Angela: I went to high school with Bold. They weren't allowed to have yearbook pictures taken, because their "management" thought that people would bootleg the yearbook pictures.
Dave: People used to joke that Bold would play CB's, and then after they got paid head right for the K-Mart toy aisle. [Little-know fact: I'm thanked in two places on the Crippled Youth 7" --Dave]
Angela: Actually, since I went to high school with them, they used to drink in the parking lot.
John: That straight edge thing was a big sham. And to think I used to get in trouble for being a big coke addict.
Dave: But now that's the same reason you're in this band.
John: The heroin flies freely in this band!
Dave: You're in a band that wants you to be on drugs. Okay, are you shopping the CD around, trying to get someone to do it?
Sean: No, we'll probably do it ourselves. "D.I.Y., man, we're hardcore-- we're not selling out to nobody!" --unless the price is high.
Dave: Fuck the man!
Sean: We want to sell out, but nobody's buying. Actually, sometimes we do these all-ages teen show things and we sell a lot of stuff...
Dave: How do I buy a t-shirt?
Sean: We've got work jackets, too. They're like UPS jackets.
Dave: How much is the work jacket?
John: $35.95!
Dave: I'm not buying that! I gave you guys an Explodee record, man! Oh, that's my record label, Sidearm, by the way.
Brian: You want to put out our record?
Dave: What, and pay for it all myself?!?
Brian: Yeah!
Dave: Okay, when do we start?
John: We'll get you girls. They're in our fan club.
Bartender guy: (to Atlas) You guys might want to move your equipment, other bands are going to start playing.
Dave: Wait, this interview isn't long enough!
Brian: We'll move our shit, have another drink, and then we'll continue.
Dave: That trick never works.
(Tape stops. When it restarts, we're standing on the sidewalk in front of the club while Atlas is loading their truck, and it's about 40 degrees out)
Dave: Okay, Brian from Atlas, this is your brother, who called in to a radio station and won $10,000.
Brian's brother: 93.7, Sebastian in the Morning, they just gave me $10,000.
Dave: Do you have it on you? Do you get to be in a TV commercial, "I won $10,000!"? This is too freaky. When do you get the $10,000?
Brian's brother: They said I'd get a check in the mail sometime before Christmas.
Dave: What are you going to do with this money?
Brian's brother: I think sometime in February I'm going to the Bahamas.
Dave: You're not gonna help Atlas put out a new single or a CD?
Brian's brother: Well, it looked like they needed a new bass drum... (laughter)
Dave: Wow, that's so cool. Okay, that's your part, I can't mail you a copy or anything.
(Tape stops, restarts when we're downstairs at the Muni's second stage in the basement)
Dave: Tape's rolling. Is that a Buzzcocks song they're playing? If only Jack Rabid were here. Hey, if you know anyone who wants a new place to go to where they can over-pay for really really warm beer, tell them (hoists glass) "Municipal Cafeteria, Hartford CT".
Sean: That's just because the bar down here just hooked up their kegs a while ago.
Kevin from Creature Did: Hey! What's going on...
Dave: I've been interviewing Atlas, we've been saying shit about you all night.
Kevin: (to Sean) How'd the show go, man?
Dave: They sucked so bad, I shouldn't even still be here-- no, I'm just kidding.
Sean: We had to bribe him with a copy of this compilation CD that we're on [the "Frozen Monkey" compilation, with Atlas, Penfold, Ugly Truth, etc.]... actually, we got up there, and the first song, John broke his kick drum head. Then he taped it up, but it totally detonated. He played one song with no kick drum at all, and then he tilted over his floor tom and used his kick drum pedal on that, but then he promptly broke his snare drum head.

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Kevin: Wow, that's awesome! Is that why Angela is in such a bad mood? She pushed me away from her.
Sean: I think she's drunk.
Kevin: I'm like, "Hey Angela", and like, boom! She shoved me to the wall and kept going.
Sean: She was supposed to meet a friend who was here, but she missed her.
Dave: You changed your hair color again?
Kevin: Yeah, it's back to dark now. (sees my Atlas work jacket that I broke down and bought, though it wasn't $35.95) Oh! You've got those jackets!
Dave: I look like a janitor.
Kevin: Wow, those are cool! You didn't have them at the Tuxedo Junction show, did you?
Sean: Yeah, we did.
Dave: Do you guys have any Atlas stickers? Because there's a car parked outside with a super long bumper sticker on it that says "Hartford-- You Could Do Worse". You could make it say "Atlas-- You Could Do Worse".
Sean: I was rockin' in the Capitol City three weeks ago-- I saw Rush at the Hartford Coliseum.
Dave: You saw Rush? No way. That's awful!
Sean: It was rock! They were rockin'. (yet another band starts their soundcheck) We should move to the next room.
Dave: Yeah, this is noisy. (we move to the next room, which actually the men's bathroom)
Sean: Listen: the band upstairs is playing "Pleasant Valley Sunday".
Dave: The best Mokees song was the one that Minor Threat wrote. (listening some more) Wait, this band is almost good. Have you guys ever done any covers?
Sean: Most recently, we've played "Our Lips Are Sealed".
Dave: I have a Go-Go's single that came out on Stiff, when they were still punk or something. I can't even give it away.
Sean: We've done "Rock'N'Roll All Night" a couple of times, and that was even before Brian was in the band.
Dave: What's the one Creature Did plays?
Angela: "Shock Me".
Dave: Yeah, the Ace Frehley one.
Sean: We did a cover of A.O.D.'s "Joe From Lodi" on a compilation 7-inch. (The other bands on it were Stubb, Creature Did, and Her Tears; the Her Tears song, "Pill Cutter", is awesome --Dave)
Angela: "Another Girl, Another Planet" by the Only Ones.
Sean: We did a Superchunk song.
Dave: Which one?
Angela: "Slack Motherfucker".
Dave: Errr...
Angela: We speeded it up, though, ours was faster.
Sean: Did we ever do "Windy"?
Dave: The Association!
Angela: No, we never did that.
Sean: I was in a band that used to play "Windy"... oh, we were practicing "Dancing Queen", but it didn't work out.
Dave: Jeff Spazz is gonna hate you for that one.
Sean: And, "California Dreaming" by the Mommas and Poppas. "Alltheleavesarebrown, alltheleavesarebrown"...
Angela: We could rock that one out.
Dave: (pointing to Brian's goatee) Was growing that mandatory when you moved to Danbury?
Brian: Yeah, it was required.
Sean: This is my long hair, by the way.
Dave: You look like a beatnik.
Sean: I could be drinking coffee somehwere and making really pretentious statements.
Dave: Now, that is Danbury. You're not really a Danbury band, though.
Sean: Kinda New Milford?
Dave: I saw Creature Did and Stubb play a show in New Milford.
Sean: At the New Milford Teen Center!
Dave: Yeah. Stubb were really good, Stubb ruled.
Sean: I've recorded them, too.
Dave: Yeah, I hated that record.
Sean: Which one-- you mean "The End"?
Dave: That sucked!
Brian: That got some great reviews.
Dave: They've got another record?
Sean: I don't think they've put it out. They recorded a full-length.
Dave: The song they have on the TPOS compilation is great, "El Segundo".
Sean: Yeah, I recorded that, too. We played a show with them once at a high school in New York.
Angela: That was the worst show we've ever played.
Dave: Well, we can just about end this.
Angela: Is this gonna make it to print, really?
Dave: Well, either that or this is one very long and stupid practical joke.


Bruce said...

Thanks for the reminder...every few months I like to embarrass Nina Kyle by reminding her she was in STUBB.

Fun Fact! ATLAS drummer John...should be finishing a 7 or so year jail term soon.

Anonymous said...

Sean recorded one of MOnsterland's earliest demos on a 6 track recorder. some great stuff. whenever I have time -i'll get that stuff digitized for your pleasure.... and i agree they had some great singles

Anonymous said...

listen to any french bands lately?

Brushback said...

French bands.... whomever it is that does the "Youse a Sexy Bitch" song, but I don't know specifically if they're French.

Bruce Stinson said...

You are the only person other than Todd Knapp who will find this interesting...while in the twin cities (visiting family)...I attended a show and realized that I was in fact, standing next to 3 members of MAN SIZED ACTION.

Brushback said...

I'm guessing Brian Paulson wasn't there.

Brushback said...

The mp3 files on this post are now listen-only (non-downloadable) files. They've been moved to my Vox account (accessible through any of the above listen-only links), along with all of the other songs from the CD that weren't included in the original post. I probably should've just made a .zip file of the whole thing, but I don't always think of everything, I guess.