Memory Lane: Martin Atkins

Note: these interviews were conducted when I was 17-19 years old and running a music fanzine, so if they seem rather amateurish, it’s because they were. The italics are notes added 10-15 years after the event.

So I actually found the legendarily terrible interview with Martin Atkins from ’96. You know what? It wasn’t so bad. OK, so on an embarrassment scale of one to nine million, it’s up there, but it explains why he didn’t seem to recall it when we met again a year or two later.
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Skip to the 3:50 mark – Never Trust A John
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An electro-punk band with a taste in political incorrectness, and a colour-blind living legend with a clothes peg in his hair. Freaked out? We certainly were.

Evil Mothers are a great band in the same way that bands like In Aura and Soul Coughing are great bands. Interviews with great bands are simple: put them and a sizeable quantity of alcohol in a room, ask a load of ridiculous questions and roll the tape. With a bit of luck, you’ll manage to catch the tube the next morning.

Then there are legends.

Martin Atkins fits nicely in that category, having spent the best part of two decades making nearly every record in my collection. Remember PiL’s classic This Is Not A Love Song? Atkins co-wrote that when he was in the band. Ever seen Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like A Hole video? He’s the other drummer. Listened to Ruby’s Salt Peter in the past 48 hours? Martin co-wrote Carondolet, one of the best tracks on the album. Apart from that, he’s been working with Ministry, Killing Joke, Chris Connelly, Skinny Puppy, and the band we’re here to see – Evil Mothers. On top of that, Atkins started Invisible Records and Pigface.

So it is perhaps understandable that we were more than a little nervous. Therefore, in addition to the usual trip to the pub on the way to the gig, we went to the off-licence on the way to the pub. Which was rather an unfortunate choice of action under the circumstances.

(Offering Martin a six-pack): Would you like a beer?

MA: I haven’t had a drink in three years.

Bugger.

The last interview we saw with Martin Atkins was some time in mid 1992. Since then, several of his friends have died as a result of taking the rock’n’roll thing too literally, and Martin has resolved to live his life a little more constructively. However, instead of congratulating him for his common sense, we are left feeling like idiots as The Only Drunk People In The Building. Still, instead of obeying our natural instincts and throwing ourselves out of the nearest window, we resolve to make the best of the situation and get on with the task of extracting information.

For the record, Martin looks great, if you ignore the blatantly obvious clothes peg in his hair. I have roughly as much intention of asking him the reason for the peg as he has of asking me why the NIN logo on my hat is upside down.

The other people present are Curse Mackey, a rather alluring young pup with purple dreadlocks and fabulous clothes, and Patrick Sane, the jolly nice chap with the shaven head and groovy cowboy hat.

We begin by discussing his days in Public Image Ltd (he complains about the shortness of the live shows, saying that they should have played for longer. He loved the anarchy of the punk scene, though –

MA: People weren’t looking for deals any more. They were doing their own artwork and folding up 7″s inside of them

– and Killing Joke, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Martin brings together members from all these bands in his own project, Pigface.

MA: With Pigface I get to bring in bagpipes, cellos and all kinds of instruments, then I get together with Curse and Jim Thirlwell, Ogre (Skinny Puppy), En Esch (KMFDM) and Genesis P Orridge and it’s f***ing unbelievable. I’m very happy that I work hard, but it refuels me.

I decide to try to elicit some empathy.

Have you ever been starstruck?

MA: Yes.

CM: I saw Prince once.

MA: I was in London and I stood next to Telly Savalas. That was big. That was a big moment. But I was in a studio in New York, in a foyer, when Mick Jagger walked in. I didn’t say anything – I’m quite shy like that – so I guess that was being starstruck.

CM: I saw Iggy Pop. In Austin. That was cool.

MA: When I was working on the Skinny Puppy album, I was walking down Malibu Beach, where they film Baywatch – which is the most f***ing ridiculous place in the world to do a Skinny Puppy album – David Letterman jogged past.

This wasn’t the only celebrity encounter, as constant calls to Martin in the studio proved.

MA: I’m in the studio and it’s like (makes phone noises) “Hello studio? I am sitting across from Charlie Sheen. Wanna talk to him? You wanna talk to Juliette Lewis?” We were in the studio working on a vocal track, ya know, it was just f***ing … he called three times. That was the end of the vocals.

My co-editor Claire (who has been sitting nervously in total silence) offers everyone a cigarette.

They All Just Stare At Her.

What do you think the future holds for (for what of a better word) industrial music?

CM: It’s up to the people that make it. It can be really crappy and watered down or people will find new ways to make it fresh and exciting. It could go either way.

MA: I’d never listened to Psychic TV or Throbbing Gristle before I met Genesis, but pretty much everything I’ve listened to, I’ve really, really liked. But really, it’s all been done before. There are museums in Paris – and you think of those people who had to work so much harder, for want of a better word, to even have a strange haircut. There’s a lot of found, borrowed and out-and-out stealing by the new people in industrial music from the old people in industrial music and I think it’s incredibly s***.

What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?

CM: That’s never happened to me.

PS: Trying to impress someone by drinking so much I covered a car in vomit.

MA: A brand new car.

PS: Thanks for not putting a hit on my life.

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THE PSYCHOLOGY BIT

In this section, the assembled parties are each asked three questions with which we can gain a valuable insight into their psyche. Or at least have a bloody good laugh.

What’s your favourite colour and why?

MA: I’m colour blind.

Ouch.

PS: Grey. It’s neither black or white and there are lots of shades of it. It makes me feel good.

CM: Purple. It’s dark and mysterious. And the usual colour of my girlfriend’s hair.

According to Claire, this represents how others see you. With Martin, you’re never sure if he’s telling the truth or taking the piss. Curse seems as elusive and reserved as the colour suggests. And Patrick? He’s just plain weird.

What’s your favourite animal?

CM: The one I’m wearing.

MA: My wife’s horse was pretty cool. I was riding a bike down in Arizona, going really, really fast on this bicycle and the horse started to chase me. I look over my shoulder and I’m like, “Come on, show me something.” Then it tried to kill me. I was heading for a lamp post. I swerved to the left. It was very frightening. You have to respect that power.

PS: I like cats. They do whatever the f*** they wanna do. They’re fairly independent and they dole out affection according to their own standards.

Claire says the animal is how you see yourself. Martin respects power. Patrick values independence. Curse is just plain weird.

What’s your favourite source of water?

MA: Evian. That’s naive spelt backwards.

CM: The swamp where I was born.

PS: The water that gets turned into beer.

This one is your sex life. Naive. Swamp. Beer.

If your house was on fire, what would you rescue?

MA: I’d wait for the huge insurance cheque to come my way. I’d probably start throwing stuff into it. I’d be fanning the flames.

CM: I have nothing of material value that I’d care about saving.

What interests you about British music?

MA: There’s an embracing of all kinds of music. In America, things are just one thing, and if you step outside of what you are … I don’t like the press over here, though. They don’t report on scenes, they just create them so that they can knock them down again.

If you could visit any moment in time, when would you go?

CM: I’d go back to the moment before I was born and shout to my mom, “STOP!”

MA: I’d like to go back to the beginning of this interview and do it all again.

Not sure of how to take this comment, I take this opportunity to leave the room for a moment. When I return, the band are gone.

Claire, who until this point has been in what can only be described as a state of mild shock, says that they all just got up and walked out.

We stick around to watch The Evil Mothers. Going on just after the fabulous Leech Woman, their set includes You Had Enough, I Like Fur, and the brilliantly tribal Orisha. I would say that I could listen to them all day, until it occurs to me that I very often do listen to them all day.

When they finish, I suddenly think of a question I didn’t ask. I tell Claire that I have to find Martin to ask him this question, when she gives me one of those He’s Standing Right Behind You looks. Suddenly confronted with someone I still haven’t quite got over meeting, my mind goes completely blank. He shrugs and walks off.

Quite possibly wishing I was dead, I rack my brains and try to remember the question. Suddenly it comes to me. This is the most important question in the world. The answer to this would probably bring about world peace, resolve all conflicts, reverse the destruction of the environment and get better music into the charts. I absolutely must ask this question. About 20 minutes later, I see Martin about to leave, and seize my chance to ask the most vital of questions.

“Martin …” I begin. Then suddenly – Oh bugger.

I’ve done it again. I’ve forgotten the bloody question. And we’re going to be stuck with wars, the Greenhouse Effect and the Bluetones and it’s all my fault.

“Erm … thanks for doing the interview,” I mutter, convinced he hated every second of it.

He smiles.

MA: That’s OK. Sorry we walked out on you, but after that last question, I just couldn’t think of a better place to end it.

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3 comments on “Memory Lane: Martin Atkins

  1. Pingback: Memory Lane: Mary Mary « Reinspired

  2. Pingback: Memory Lane: KMFDM « Reinspired

  3. Pingback: Reinspired’s first birthday: What inspired you today? « Reinspired

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