This interview was done at the Verge in May 2003 when Atom was touring with his record ‘Blah, blah…’. It was in Rancid News #2.
RN: So do you enjoy touring or do you get lonely being on your own?
ATOM: Well no … well on this tour I’m touring for four out of the six weeks with some friends’ band, they’re from Canada called Sixty Stories (and they’re amazing – edd note!). There’s a friend who’s along with us driving and uhh it’s really fun to travel with them, and there’s certainly some stuff that I miss about being home. I mean alot of the shows that, when I tour in the states I normally just have to drive myself, so they’re definetly more tiring, and having to do everything and if I get sick then it totally sucks instead of just really sucks! But I mean for the most part I really enjoy it, if I didn’t enjoy it then I wouldn’t do it!!!
RN: So are you happy with the reaction to the new record?
ATOM: Sure! I mean some people like it some people think it’s boring and more of the same but I like it, so I guess that’s… I like it, and I like the songs on it, and I feel like it’s a progression from the previous ones, so that’s it!
RN: So the question that I’m sure alot of people have asked you considering the song [The Palestinians are not the same as the Rebel Alliance, Jackass] but what do you think of the Israeli, Palestine question?
ATOM: I mean it’s a very, very complicated situation so I don’t know whether I can do it justice in a paragraph, but I mean certainly I have … I don’t know I think that it’s a complicated issue and I think that it’s one that deserves thought behind it and not just a knee jerk reaction just depending on one piece of paper that you read or whether you’re family is in one or the other side or so! So I have very mixed feelings about different parts of the situation and I mean I think that blowing up people at a resturant is certainly not right, but I think that the Israeli expanding settlements into the West Bank is certainly not right, but it’s really complicated you know! So I don’t know… I mean I could talk about a really long time about it!
RN: So it’s the knee jerk reaction that you take issue with?
ATOM: Yeah and certainly on either side there are people who take knee jerk reactions and there’s plenty of people who don’t know what they’re talking about who adopt one side of the issue and cheer on their side as though it’s a sports game which is really disgusting since it’s real humans who are involved and real humans who are having horrible things done to them! And I think that it kinda makes it a joke when you do just pretend that it’s a sports game and that’s … there are certainly people on both sides who do that, and that’s very upsetting!
RN: Talking of sports games are you a follower of any sports teams?
ATOM: Oh yeah I’m a big sports fan! I’m not a fan of athletes for the most part but a fan of sports. I love Hockey, I love American Football, I love Baseball, Basketball’s OK to watch during the playoffs but I’m not a big Basketball fan!
RN: Going back to the touring, is it weird to tour when in lots of your songs you really sound like a ‘home’ person!?!?
ATOM: Yeah I mean .. I miss all my family is from there, and I have alot of old good friends from there, so yeah certainly I do miss it yeah!
RN: So what’s the scene like out there in Philadelphia?
ATOM: Well it’s kind of a diverse scene, it’s a pretty big city so there are alot of different people playing a lot of types of music, and involved in different scenes or whatever. But granted when I’m at home because I play so much the first thing that I want to do is not neccessarily go see a band play so when I’m, at home I don’t tend to go to as many shows as I probably would do if I was away, but I do like a lot of different bands from Philadelphia.
RN: What did you think of the whole Clear Channel “alledgedly” tried to close down R5 productions?
ATOM: Yeah, well I mean, I don’t know exactly what happened but there’s certainly some stuff that seems shady that seems like there’s some people out to get a particular uhh DIY punk promotor and it seems like the tactics used to get these guys have been pretty heavy handed and awful. But of course I have no prove of who it is, and like I don’t know, and I can’t say that it’s definetively Clear Channel but I mean like the Clear Channel… I think that the consolidation of media in the United States is really, really scary, and there are an increasingly small number of companies that own you know whole different types of media, whether it’s radio, tv, newspapers, or billboards! And Clear Channel is one that has amassed a huge amount of … of media, that’s been deregulated, and I think that that’s really scary, and I think that it’s a disservice to the American people to have a small number of companies owning a huge percentage, or all, of the media market, it’s really scary, and I think that it is a disservice!
RN: Do you think that there’s any way to get around it?
ATOM: Unfortunatley… well no I guess if people stay educated, and voting helps…
RN: So you’re not one of the people that spoils their ballot paper, because to vote would be to encourage them?
ATOM: No I don’t agree with that! I mean I don’t think that by voting, I don’t think that voting should be mutually exclusive from action outside the voting ballot, but I think that.. I think that’s kind of a backwards way of thinking by saying it just encourages them because the peope who are in power don’t give a fuck about people who don’t support them not voting – really! And the people who disagree with lots of what is happening in mainstream politics, I can’t see how it would hurt to vote against it! And like I said I don’t think it would neccessarily mean you can’t do other things, or that you can’t be active. Just because you voted doesn’t mean that you can’t be active in other senses, just because you’ve voted doesn’t mean you should go, ‘Oh I’ve done my bit’! You know voting probably isn’t enough!
RN: Do you worry that the punk scene has stopped becoming political to some extent, and worse it’s turned to knee jerk reactions?
ATOM: Well no, cause I think that with any large group of anything you’re always going to have idiots who think of things in black and white, and make knee jerk reactions, and think of things without even thinking, you know whatever anyone tells them to do, ‘well cool!’ But I don’t worry about them because I think that these people are particularly wide spread, granted I think that it is pretty disturbing that it’s in the punk scene where perhaps I am naive enough to that that should be slightly less concentrated with dummies than other mainstream groups of people! But I don’t know, I don’t think that I’m dissilussioned about the punk scene, I don’t think I really think about the punk scene much, and I certainly don’t think that just because someone is punk that that makes them a good person, there are plenty of shitty people who are involved in punk, and there are plenty of fantastic people who have no clue of what punk rock is!
RN: So what other things do you do outside of Atom and his Package, and watching sports?
ATOM: I like to ride my bike. I like to hang out with my firends and family, and watch movies and eat food with them. Simple pleasures! (laughs)
RN: So what movies do you like?
ATOM: I don’t know, I like all different types of movies. I guess that my all time favourite movie would be … I thought that Goodfellas was a great movie, I thought that the Royal Tenebums was fantastic.. there’s the movie called Dead Alive by Peter Jackson, and yeah I also think that the Lord of the Rings movies are really really great, so I don’t know!
RN: So do you ride… or do you have Critical Mass [http://cmlondon.enrager.net/] over in the States?
RN: So do you ever ride your bike in that kind of context?
ATOM: I’m very rarely home for long enough to do stuff like that (laughs) But I do ride my bike in Philadelphia alot and I do think that it’s important to have a presence for people to ride their bike, but it’s definetly not as respected as it is in Europe I don’t think, it’s a little dangerous at times!
RN: Cause it’s kind of connected and everyone seems to have an opinion what do you think of SUVs then?
ATOM: I mean they’re.. I mean they’re vehicles that, I mean obviously it doesn’t make sense to have gas inefficient vehicles. But I mean my parents have one which I’ve used on tour, but I guess I feel I have alot of shit to carry if I’m going on tour for two months, and I don’t feel as bad, but I don’t know… and I don’t know whether they’re any less gas effecient than vans and people do what they gotta do! But obviously it makes more sense to make the United States less oil dependent not that I have any belief that the current administration has any desire in doing that but I do believe that it’s important for the environment and it just makes sense!
RN: So what’s the worst gig experience you’ve had?
ATOM: I think it’s the ones where the PA sucks, which is usually really, really not fun at all, so I guess it’s tied for about 5,000 different shows I’ve played where the PA systems have totally sucked which makes it really bad and really boring!