Interview: Atom Driver

There’s also something really nice about going into the studio, blasting through 5 or 6 songs over a weekend and having a product ready to go in a few weeks’ time.

Atom Driver (who feature members of several New Brunswick, NJ bands including Good Clean Fun and Deadguy) specialise in a fiery brand of of intense but accessible noise rock that is as energetic as is intense. Their latest EP Is Anything Alright is the first release with new vocalist Chris “Crispy” Corvino and its an inspiring listen, packed full of passion and great songs that should be played loud. Gavin Brown had a chat with Atom Driver guitarist Mark Segal to hear all about Is Anything Alright, their new lineup and new music and the music scene in New Jersey. Gavin also had the opportunity to talk to Crispy about his other band Deadguy about their recent reformation and the legacy the band have established since they spilt.

E&D: You released your latest EP Is Anything Alright at the end of last year. What has been the reaction to the EP so far?

Mike: The reaction has been very positive and exceeded our expectations to say the least. It is always very rewarding to receive compliments from both reviewers and new supporters alike.

E&D: You’ve just done a video for the EP track ‘Porchlight’, can you tell us about the video and its themes?

Mark: The theme was provided by Chris. I took the suggestion and just ran with it. There’s no direct correlation between the images in the video and the meaning of the song. I am not that clever. The feel of the video supports the feel of the music. I think that is about it.

E&D: You also released a video for the song ‘I’ve Turned Into A Monster’. can you tell us a bit about that one?

Chris: The video is sort of a tongue-in-cheek take on the song title. Certainly, the video has no deep meaning in relation to the lyrics. The song references a strandbeest (Google it). I thought it would be funny to do a loose take on Black Flag’s ‘Drinking and Driving’ video.

E&D: The band have released a series of EPs but have you got any plans for a full length album at any point in the future?

Mark: I don’t know if we will ever do a full length release. We are huge fans of the EP format. It matches our short attention spans. There’s also something really nice about going into the studio, blasting through 5 or 6 songs over a weekend (recording and mixing), and having a product ready to go in a few weeks’ time.

E&D: Have you had thoughts for any new music that you can tell us about?

Mark: We already have between 4 and 7 new songs either in the can or in development that we are very excited about. As Chris has become more integral to the songwriting process, a deeper well of influences and ideas have been incorporated. It’s the joy of having multiple personalities.

E&D: You have had a lineup change with this release, how is it working out and can you tell us about that and how it came about?

Mark: The lineup is not so much a change as it is an addition. Chris took over the role of lead vox from me. While I have done lead vox in prior outfits, I never felt that my vocal style really supported the direction of the music. Around the time I was voicing my concerns to the guys, we were asked to do a show where we could only play covers. We asked Chris to take the lead on a cover of a Motörhead tune (it’s on our YouTube channel) and a Stooges tune. Everything just clicked. We asked if he would be willing to do lead going forward and he accepted. It’s been full steam ahead ever since.

 

E&D: Would you say that Atom Drivers has evolved musically since you first started?

Mark: Absolutely! While you can never escape your roots and default influences, the band’s development will certainly exert influence over its evolution. Over the three EPs prior to Chris, we were slowly dispensing with melody and seeking noisier alternatives. When Chris came on board, the first revolution of that cycle was complete.

E&D: Can you tell us a bit about the cover artwork for Is Anything Alright and why you chose the image for the cover?

Mark: Mike (drums) has always had a passion for finding and using the best artwork he can. When it was time to find the artwork for this EP, he did a lot of research and hooked up with Maurice Patterson. Maurice was very generous, and we sincerely appreciate it! I think, with everything we do, the artwork felt right and looked great. There’s no deeper meaning to it than that.

E&D: How did Atom Driver start as a band in the first place?

Mark: All of us are from similar orbits in the New Brunswick, NJ music scene. We all came up around the same time in different bands and had either shared bills with our prior bands or had seen each other around. As our prior projects disbanded or went on hiatus, our mutual admiration of each other’s talents led us to working together.

E&D: Who are the bands biggest influences?

Mark: That is a very long list! We are all from separate backgrounds, so the range of influences varies by each member. That being said, it’s safe to say that bands like Hot Snakes, Mclusky, and Drive Like Jehu are pretty prominent. However, its just as likely to say that everything from Motörhead to Miles Davis could get thrown in there as well.

E&D: Atom Drivers members have also been in Good Clean Fun , Boss Jim Getty’s, Deadguy and Buzzkill. Would you say that the music of Atom Driver contains elements of all those bands?

Mark: You can’t escape your roots! There are definitely elements from those bands in this one. Justin’s bass has the solid punk elements found in Good Clean Fun. Mike’s hard-driving drums echoes Buzzkill’s ferocity. Chris’ vocal style is similar to what he provided in Deadguy. My guitar playing and approach to structure hasn’t really deviated from what I used in Boss Jim Gettys (for the most part).

E&D: Did you all know each other in those bands?

Mike: More or less. Mike is the hub of the musical wheel. He really has known everyone individually before he brought us all together.

E&D: What was the New Jersey scene in which you came up like in the beginning when you were first starting out in bands?

Mark: It was amazing! Great clubs providing an outlet to great bands. It was almost a guarantee that if you were to stumble into a bar in New Brunswick during that time (late 90’s), you would hear something original and memorable. The quantity of talent bouncing around the town at that time was something to behold.

E&D: Who are some of your favourite ever NJ bands?

Mark: That’s a tough question to answer. I think one of my favourite New Brunswick bands is Prosolar Mechanics. Their songs are really amazing and were just fantastic to see live.  A more well-known group would be Dillinger Escape Plan. Television is an all-time fave, if you allow me to include them (Tom Verlaine is from NJ).

E&D: What are Atom Drivers live plans for the rest of this year?

Mark: Write, write, write! As the pandemic becomes endemic, we hope to restart our gigging schedule. With a little luck, maybe we will see the inside of a studio by the year’s end.

E&D: What live shows that the band have played have been standouts for you and what made them so memorable?

Mark: We played a show in Brooklyn, NY at a club called Our Wicked Lady, opening up for one of the most awe-inspiring bands I have seen in a long time: The Royal They. The place was packed, the crowd was ready for chaos and we were thrilled to provide.

E&D: What have been some of the highlights in your music career so far?

Mark: There’s been quite a few. I am the least “successful” of the group, so my war stories are less impressive than the other guys. That being said, getting to open up for Firehose at a sold-out show at the Trocadero in Philly was a standout to be sure. Having Mike Watt come up to me after playing slapping me on the back and raving about the show still brings a smile to my face.

 

E&D: Deadguy recently returned with the Fixation on a Co-worker lineup for a live show at Decibel’s Metal & Beer Festival. How did it come about and how did the show go for you?

Chris: It came out of our drummer Dave and William Saunders of Fourth Media meeting and starting a conversation about a documentary- the shows came as a result of us all being together for that.

E&D: How did it feel to be back onstage with the rest of Deadguy playing those songs at that show and the others you played after?

Chris: In some ways surreal and in others as if not a minute had passed. That’s a standard old person answer but true.

E&D: You’ve got a few shows coming up, can you tell us about them and are you looking forward to them?

Chris: Our last shows for a while will be in NJ – that’s fitting as it is home and also because we are not that popular in Jersey- so, just like it was 25+ years ago. I am looking forward to them but nostalgia rock has a short shelf life for me. It’s my goal that if we keep going it will be for some other interesting reason.

E&D:Have Deadguy got any plans for further shows in the future after that?

Chris: We will disappear for a while so as to not wear out our welcome. How many times can you watch the same 13 songs and the same antics? I am happy to connect with my family in that band – very happy – same for the 9 fans we have… but everyone’s attention is better repaid if we have something new to offer.

E&D: Has there been talk of any new music at all that you can tell us about?

Chris: Yes there has been – after these shows we will see what comes of that.

E&D: How does it feel for Deadguy to be talked of as such a revered band, especially after originally splitting up so long ago and what were the highlights of your time in the band?

Chris: It is flattering and dubious…. For better or worse that band has been in an almost 30 year running  joke with the people that paid attention to it- sometimes that includes the band members themselves. Some people get the joke – others don’t. I am appreciative of all the nice things that have been said about the band in recent months. The highlight for me is now – we are better, the fans are better and the shirts are easier to make. My family in that band with me are the only dirtbags in the country who never saw Deadguy. As much as I try to shy away from the conversation around the band I’ve never hidden that I have unfinished business with it. If new music sounds good, vital, advanced then I will be happy to put it out. If it sounds like old people making a parody of their youthful ego disorders then it will probably still come out and we will laugh at the bad reviews. We rely on the counsel of Brian Bonilla as to whether it is truly good or bad.

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