This Man Is F***ing Outrageous: A Martin Atkins Interview

martin atkins image from kickstarter

Written for Collapse Board

Martin Atkins is a man on a mission. He’s looking to break a world record, and he’s pulling out all the stops to do it. In just six days, his Kickstarter campaign has received 36% of its funding target. He’s unstoppable – and his mission is most unusual.

He’s trying to break the record for the most appearances of the word “f***” in a book.

Martin’s previous publication, Tour:Smart, was hailed as “the ultimate touring manual” by Mojo and “the Holy Grail” by Kraze. As the former drummer for NIN, Ministry and PiL as well as the founder of the band Pigface and label Invisible Records, he had little difficulty pulling together people to contribute to his guides for musicians. Henry Rollins, Chris Connelly and numerous “industry” types chipped into the first, and for his sequel, he asked … me.

I was pretty shocked when I got an email from Caiti at Invisible asking if my contribution was nearly finished. “I think we’ve lost an email or two along the way,” I replied, bewildered, but agreed anyway to send over some text to be part of the 100 contributors to Band:Smart. Here’s a bit of it:

THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS

Musicians are strange beasts. Some are the kind of loyal, affectionate creatures who will bring endless joy and inspiration into your life, whereas others are outright venomous. In the animal kingdom, most of us know what type of animals will hurt us, but most musicians look alike: it’s only their behavior that determines friend from foe. Helpfully, most musicians, managers, promoters and other industry types will fall into the behaviors of certain animal types, which – once you learn how to spot them – makes it easier to know whom to trust. […]

The Sloth is a bit of a mess. They’re fantastically talented … so long as they can stay upright. If they could sober up and clean up, they could make a good go of it, but for every drug-addled pop star that gets to number one, there are thousands more that would be lucky to live to 40, and tens of thousands more with lifelong health problems and ruined careers caused by excessive alcohol and drug use. The saddest thing about the Sloth is the lack of respect the other animals have for them – they tend to be regarded as a bit of a joke. Sloths can – and often do – recover, taking their rightful places among the Dogs. It’s just those wasted years that have done all the damage, since it can take many years to shake off a Slothful reputation.

DO be cautious around the Sloth – they can be a real handful when they’re worse the wear, and certainly unreliable.
DO NOT hold a former Sloth’s bad behavior against them: often their eagerness to be taken seriously means they’ll be very hardworking and trustworthy, unlike the Parrot.

The Parrot delights in telling you how many stadium tours his band is going to play. The Parrot has a plan, and will reinvent music as we know it. The Parrot has connections, and will definitely get you that key gig. The Parrot’s band will be the biggest band on earth, though they’ve never played any gigs and don’t actually have any members except the Parrot himself. The Parrot can’t really play anything – he spends too much time talking to waste valuable moments on practicing his instruments. The Parrot has never achieved – and will never achieve – anything of note, but they’ll tell you all about it. The Parrot talks endlessly, but his words mean nothing.

DO take everything the Parrot says with a bucket of salt. Whatever the Parrot tells you, he’s unlikely to deliver.
DO NOT cut the Parrot off altogether. Every so often, one of the Parrot’s wild promises will actually come to fruition. The Parrot, unlike the Owl, usually knows in theory what he’s talking about.

I added a bio about my “industry” past and sent it over. Periodically, I’d tease him over Twitter, asking if the book was finished yet. Nearly, but he was just $18,000 short of the funds needed to illustrate, edit and print the first edition of the book. He’s also buying the rights back from his previous publisher to retain full control over the book – a freedom that has allowed him to give away another book, Welcome To The Music Business … You’re F***ed for free. To raise the money, Atkins is selling the addition of the word “f***” to the book for $1 apiece, along with your name in the credits at the back. Pledge a larger amount and get some rare treats – $50 buys you a piece of the cage on Ministry’s 1990 tour; $1,000 buys up to six hours of Martin’s time as a session musician, lecturer, or anything else (within reason).

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The decision to go for the ‘f***’ record is an odd one. Atkins explains in his blurb:

If more f***s-per-page than any other book out there gets someone to read, retain this information and use it to create their own success (or at least avoid some problems) then who the f*** is anyone to say I shouldn’t put a few more (and more) f***s in my book? I’m happy to use any means necessary to communicate – from f***s to free. Over the last few years I’ve been working on making Band:Smart as good as I can get it ( in its 71st revision) it addresses all aspects of being an artist, from starting out all the way through creating the entity (whatever it is);  through the first shows, the writing, the recording, the packaging, the merchandising, the problems, the labels – why / why not, the people, the ups, the downs, and the ins and the outs (that wasn’t a sex reference until I made this comment) kind of like a DIY bible, a d-i-why-ble?

All intriguing in themselves – so why would Atkins want to litter his book with expletives?

Well, there are 166 ‘f***s’ in Tour:Smart and, for some people, that was a problem … a few schools wouldn’t use it. That stuck with me – especially working with kids at MG21 in Madison – a liberal arts high school for ‘at risk’ kids – I saw them fight over Welcome To The Music Business … You’re F***ed, so I thought – f*** that! – if that’s what it takes, then I’m on the right track. So, I just thought it would be fun to break the world record – smash it to pieces. Then the idea of giving f***s with pledges came – kind of like Indywood films are letting you be in their movie by backing it – like Eric Idle allowed people to be on stage to sing the lumberjack song – all stuff we look at in class.

One of Martin’s many roles is as a lecturer, teaching students how to survive in the music industry. He continues:

Then the Cluster F*** – not my idea – but awesome! And the Park Bench Curated F***. Seems completely logical, really.

A “Cluster F***” is the $5 pledge reward – you get five expletives inserted in the book plus a “thank you” credit. A “Park Bench Curated F***” is the $100 pledge reward – you get your name on the page where your “f***” is inserted, plus a signed copy of the new book, Tour:Smart and a WTTMBYF T-shirt. Ten people have already signed up for that one.

The response to these outrageous offers has been overwhelming. Over one third of the funding target was achieved in under one week, which delighted the ex-Killing Joke percussionist as an affirmation of the DIY spirit.

Was I surprised? Yes, very, it’s frightening and cool as f*** to be exposed like this. Punk, really. REALLY! I tell people all the time that this is a time to remove the protective cup from your pants and open up your arms and stop cupping your hands to protect (whatever you have in your) crotch and to hand someone a hammer. Even though your rational brain is going to kick in and think you can outsmart this by giving people a tint hammer that will shatter as soon as it hits your crotch, what you need to give people is the biggest sledge hammer ever – then, relax and close your eyes.

I’m surprised by the amount of work this is – not work work, but responsibility that I didn’t expect – updating the backers privately / individually and blogging just for them … and tweaking different things too.

Who is editing in all the “f***s”?

The f***s will be edited at the end of this … now we added a 72pt font f*** too!

Are you f***ing exhausted?

Yes, a little – it’s Mothers Day here today, I DJ’d at Threadless last night at a benefit for Arcade Brewery’s Kickstarter – you have to give to get … I’m heading up to Eahle River Wi on Tuesday – my students have been involved in a big event up there, so I’m anxious about my email connection and helping to run all of that and DJing again too …

I’m blogging myself a little too – trying to document all of this for a Kickstarter class – I know a lot of artists are thinking right now, f*** all of this hard work s*** – I’ll start a Kickstarter – well, it’s as helpful as a random show at Madison Square Garden – if you don’t have the audience to fill it – or the machinery to drive it – then it’s going to be a catastrophe.

With such a hectic schedule, you would think that Atkins would kick back and relax after his Kickstarter shenanigans, but no.

After Band:Smart is published, then a bunch of speaking – USA, Australia and South America along with a trip to the UK – then I can finish up my PiL book and my event management book! I have to start drumming again, too. My brain and my body needs it.

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Band:Smart considerably exceeded its funding goal and is currently in the final stages of editing.

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