INTERVIEW: Atomo rages with the machines!

The newest addition to the growing auralgamiSOUNDS roster, Atomo makes the sort of electronica that would make Vangelis weep. There is a frentic retro-futurism here that privileges electro beats and warbling synths of the sort that you can easily imagine in a car chase scene instigated by a rogue, loose-cannon cop facing off against a nefarious drug cartel. I mean, as if there were any other kind of drug cartel. Atomo is set to release his newest album “The Evaporated Life” tomorrow at The New Vintage, joined here by Decapitron and Tony Robot of Ultra Pulverize also on the bill. We talked with Atomo about learning to love electronic music, sex and composition, and the having the powers of Jesus!

Never Nervous: Tell us how you got started. Have you always made electronic music, or did you start out playing anything different? What is your musical resume?

ATOMO: I’ve played the piano and the drums for a while now. Most of my music-conscious life I have actually disliked ‘electronic’ music, but around two years ago my perspective of music was flipped on its head, so that sentiment along with other predilections I had flew out the window.

“Most of my music-conscious life I have actually disliked ‘electronic’ music, but around two years ago my perspective of music was flipped on its head, so that sentiment along with other predilections I had flew out the window.”

NN: How long have you performed as ATOMO? When did that start and how has it evolved over time?

A: I started around January of this year, the whole thing. Honestly it hasn’t had a chance to evolve because I’ve only performed once; but as far as the creation of the actual music, it has changed a shit ton since I started less than a year ago. It’s just grown more chaotic in a cool way.

NN: Do you play out live very often? What is your live setup? Is it entirely solo, or do you every employ anyone else to help out?

A: No, but I wish I did (this is where being anti-social in high school really hurts you). Live, I use a couple of those novation launchpads and a fat-ass keyboard to play my little micron. A cymbal, a cowbell, and a laptop to boot. It’s a solo act, although one day I’d like to have a live drum accompaniment to a couple of my songs, maybe like a dual drumset thing, because those sound dope when it’s done right. Dan Deacon did this at the 2012 SXSW I think.

NN: What constitutes a good or bad show – both as performer and audience member – and why?

A: A show isn’t so different from a conversation. It becomes really engaging when both parties have something to add and when both also have a reason to care about what the other is saying. I see too many shows that are missing one or the other. At the same time, mediocre shows are consistently some of the most inspiring to me.

“A show isn’t so different from a conversation. It becomes really engaging when both parties have something to add and when both also have a reason to care about what the other is saying. I see too many shows that are missing one or the other.”

NN: Electronic music offers a virtually limitless array of sounds to choose from. How do you limit your sonic pallet? How important is it to build those sounds up before composition? Do you sample often, is your music heavily synthesized, or both?

A: Well, I don’t like every sound my little gigathizer can make, so I typically start with the ones I do like. From there it’s just picking the ones that play nice. For me, composing and sound-farming go hand-in-hand – one creates the space for the other to fill, and it goes back and forth until I’m smiling. No formulas. I do sample often, but by mass my music is mostly synthesized.

NN: Relative to all that, in terms of the final product, how do you compose? When is a song done and why? How do your songs evolve over time or in a live environment?

A: I touched upon the first two questions above. Structurally, my songs tend to follow the same arc that you see in most novels, in having (good) sex, in stage dramas, etc., i.e. ideas are introduced, they play, they build, they climax near the end, they resolve. It works very well for brain-y dance music.

“Structurally, my songs tend to follow the same arc that you see in most novels, in having (good) sex, in stage dramas, etc., i.e. ideas are introduced, they play, they build, they climax near the end, they resolve. It works very well for brain-y dance music.”

NN: What inspired the title “The Evaporated Life?”

A: It came from a passage in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, where he talks about how consciousness, in realizing that it is its own moral arbiter (english=you actually decide what is morally right/wrong), retreats into itself, away from the world in which it previously engaged, because it is so wrapped up in its newfound power. But then it realizes that being reclusive is not any more satisfying, since making moral judgments is useless without others to impose them upon, and so must settle with going back into the world to talk ethics with the rest of the apes. This momentary retreat is ‘the evaporated life’. I have a great interest in the ephemeral…as one might say, ‘all good things come to an end.’

NN: As someone who came from the indie/punk scene that uses keyboards/drum machines, I’ve noticed a stigma towards electronic music at times, as somehow less ‘authentic’ than acoustic instrumentation. How would you respond to that to any detractors out there?

A: When you spend that extra calorie to think for a few more seconds about what exactly is behind the music you’re listening to, you’ll realize that the paramount instrument is the brain. Oh fuck, we’ve all been using the same thing, all along! Then again, it is hard to blame beings of the bush for being steeped in our own physicality.

“When you spend that extra calorie to think for a few more seconds about what exactly is behind the music you’re listening to, you’ll realize that the paramount instrument is the brain.”

NN: How did you hook up with the auralgamiSOUNDS folks? What benefits do you see to a physical release when it’s so much easier to release something digitally?

A: I found auralgamiSOUNDS through a Google search of “Louisville record labels” haha. I sent them COSMIFEELS and Matt and JC replied about a month later saying they liked it and wanted to put something new out, and throw it on a cassette tape. I’ve never really owned a cassette, so after getting my tape in person and realizing it’s almost the same size as an iPhone, I knew that putting my music out on a medium that has the same form factor as that rectangular finger-magnet was a no-brainer. But in the end, the physical and digital are all forgotten and dissolve into detritus (remember geocities?). But it’s a little harder for physical things… You can’t accidentally sit on and smash my bandcamp into sharp, butt-piercing pieces of plastic.

NN: What’s with all the weird Spider-man imagery? It seems surreal in a David Lynch way and a little creepy.

A: I was born this way..

NN: If you could re-score the soundtrack to Steel Magnolias, how would you do it and why?

A: Wow I watched a little of this on Youtube and I just wouldn’t.

NN: How would you describe procreation to a three year old using only pictorial representation? Storks aren’t allowed.

A: I would create a series of illustrations showing a decrepit old man walking down a city street, who would then step and fall into an open manhole. Immediately after, a team of dudes in hazmat suits would cover the hole and cordon it off as pillars of steam violently shot out from the manhole cover. Then they would pull the cover off, and hoist up a swaddling infant from the manhole and proceed to parade him/her down the street as everyone nearby cheered and celebrated. This way I can knock out birth, death, and manholes with one stone.

NN: Suppose you have Jesus’ powers. What would you do with those and why?

A: I would round up all the finest corporate lobbyists and turn every drop of water they drink into wine so they die of alcohol poisoning, and resurrect Freddie Mercury, so Queen can play one last stadium show to celebrate. This would all be televised.

“I would round up all the finest corporate lobbyists and turn every drop of water they drink into wine so they die of alcohol poisoning, and resurrect Freddie Mercury, so Queen can play one last stadium show to celebrate. This would all be televised.”

NN: What non-musical things get you riled up and why? Have you eaten, drank, watched, or read anything that has you excited for life lately?

A: These posters fucking kill me:

NN: What are your top five desert island album picks and why?

A: Because they’re fuckin A+++