Martin Atkins is one of the most central figures in the evolution of post-punk and industrial music: drummer for PIL, Ministry, Killing Joke, Damage Manual; founder and leader of evolving collective Pigface; founder and owner of Invisible Records and Underground Inc.; producer, remixer.
Pigface will be touring the US in March and April in support of their new release on Invisible Records, Easy Listening. Check out the Underground Inc site for more info and updates on the tour.
We spoke to Atkins about his 25 years in the center of the storm:
EO: What was the original impulse behind Pigface?
MA: The idea that the 12 people who made up the Ministry ’89 tour could be really interesting doing something else…..we went straight into the studio the day after the tour ended with Steve Albini.
Do you have a favorite unit? [heh – he said unit]
The newest one is always my favourite ALSO, just the bare bones idea of it semsto keep growing…….i love the idea
What is the Pigface legacy?
Errrrrrrr, the idea that you can change and re-create your immediate creative surroundings and cross-pollinate, that labels will allow you to do that if you ask and that it is all GLORIOUS if you want it to be + it’s a fucking great live band!
What did you gain from the PIL experience?
The ability to say “I was in PiL – fuck you!” an understanding and total respect for what is real charisma (John had a bucketload of it) conviction in my own beleifs and (after I left piL because i had had enough – at a time when we had a #3 world wide HIT) the ability to rely on my internal barometer and gauge my own path.
You are musician, producer, remixer, label owner: what do you derive from each role?
Well, not getting bored with one, not losing too much in the translation and filter groupings of each individual + each individual’s agendas, etc.
Do you ever regret spreading your energies over such a broad range of activities?
Always and never!
What led to the conglomeration of indies under the Underground Inc. rubric?
Any one of the russian propaganda posters will work here: solidarity is strength, unite and crush the system, etc., etc. I wanted to gain leverage at the distribution level, help my friends, not watch my friends go throught the same horrible shit I have had to go through, etc., etc., create a shared learned history of knowledge which doesn’t exist within independant music at all, I dont think. I might be wrong.
You are so accomplished in the studio – do you still enjoy touring or is it a necessity to sell records?
I REALLY ENJOY BEATING THE HOLY CRAP OUT OF MY DRUMS, KICKING THEM OFF THE STAGE, SPITTING IN THE AIR AND LOSING MYSELF IN THE BLOODY MADNESS OF IT. AND MEETING LOTS OF COOL PEOPLE AND TALKING TO THEM IN AND AROUND THE VENUE DURING THE DAY.
Does “industrial” music have a future?
Well, industrial used to be very experimental, then it became rock bands with samplers (and maybe an oil drum). To me now – industrial is just one sub-genre of all music = I use sitars, DUB, analog, digital etc to create the things I want to hear and vibrate me – why limit your palette of colours to like three crayons?? ALSO most of industrial just got swallowed into all music POP etc. didn’t it?
Butch Vig called me to talk for ours about how we triggered stuff on the Ministry tour before Garbage started
Where is it going?
Who will lead it?
What are the differences and similarities between “real” drumming vs. digital drums, samples, etc?
I use some triggers to generate ultra lows from the kick simply because its required to not sound LAME. NOW I’m also using samples and triggers to recreate the feelings/vibes of some of the songs that have the tremendously over-limited sound that I get in my studio. SLAMMING!
ALSO, I think that there is a consistancy with triggered sounds that means that an o.k. drummer can maintain consistant sound levels (and then a better overall mix outfront?) because the sound guy doesn’t have to keep all the levels way down waiting for the insane over enthusiastic POP every 20 seconds or so. BUT, there really is no substitute for an energetic, on it drummer – after all of the flap about drum machines – it just really enhanced the value of good drumming.
You’ve been part of wild “scenes” in Chicago, London, etc. What and when is your favorite scene? Why?
London ’77 – thats when all of the seeds of true independant music were sown. The ‘system’ back then was well established, rarely questioned and formidable. There have been many many revolutions since then – but that was the one. Chicago definitely felt like an after shock of that.
What is the best band you’ve ever been in? Why?
Public Image Ltd – just because its so long ago that i dont remember all of the shit! But really – in 79/80/81 we were the most dangerous band on the planet weren’t we? it felt REALLY great. I seem to have hit a few good bands at really great times – the NiN head like a hole video shoot was fun, Killing Joke opening up for the Pixies in Europe was amazing and I loved to create new songs with them AND play the tribal drumming songs from the earlier albums……Ministry 89 tour AMAZING or what! and captured on film and tape……..
Pigface is auctioning off an on-stage wedding on their up-coming US tour. Interested parties will be able to put in a bid for the on-stage wedding on E-Bay from Friday, February 7 through Valentine’s Day, Friday February 14. Bids can be submitted via
Pigface will be touring the US from early March until late April in support of their brand new CD, “Easy Listening…”.
- “Wedding on-stage with Pigface. Get married or renew your vows in front of the screens before the show! This worked out so well for Scott and Kimmy from Pittsburgh during the last Pigface tour in 2001 that we decided to make this chance-of-a-lifetime available to another lucky couple! Kiss as the screens are torn down, and spend the first five minutes of married bliss on-stage with the legendary Pigface.
You’re welcome to bring a video camera on-and-backstage for taping the wedding. The band will also be available for stills, etc. This deluxe wedding package includes All Access laminates for twenty guests (which of course includes free admission to the show), a case of champagne and two cases of beer in a backstage dressing room. You can either hang-out for the show with your bridal party, or consummate your bond in a glorious hour by yourselves in the rear lounge of the Pigface tour bus!”
What cannot change:
*Routing of the tour
*Dates of the shows already booked
*Timing of the show itself
What can change (subject to additional fees):
*The quantity and contents of the backstage rider
*Number of guests
*We’re open to ideas and suggestions, for example, if you want to be married during the encore or a specific song