'Drumming up success ... double time!'
Back in the eighties, when Progressive Technical Death Metal was barely a thought, there was Atheist. The band has released three albums to date, with a fourth, Jupiter, to be added in November 2010.
Drummer Steve Flynn moonlights in another band in addition to Atheist, Gnostic. He recently sat down with Exclusive Magazine to chat about Atheists, Gnostics, and acronyms.
Tell us about the beginning days of Atheist; how did you guys meet? "We actually went to junior high together, We’ve known each other since we were teenagers, and we just got together and started playing. We were sort of united by our love of, what was at the time, extreme music--we loved bands like Metallica and Slayer, and bands that, at the time you couldn’t get on the radio, and could hardly buy them anywhere."
"So that’s what brought us together as musicians, we’d known each other in school, but never really hung out. Then we realized that we had this commonality between us, and we started jamming. It was really that simple. R.A.V.A.G.E was really our first band name, and we went as that for a couple of years, and we were featured on a compilation album called “Raging Death” with bands like Obituary and Sadist and others who went on to do quite well."
R.A.V.A.G.E is an acronym. What does it stand for? "Well, it was kind of cheesy, looking back on it. It was like 1986, and it was like…I can’t even remember all of them! I know that the first A is for Atheist…something about, “Raging Atheists Something-Or-Other…” I can’t remember all the letters, but it was inconsequential because it didn’t stick. We thought we could get by making the name an acronym so it wouldn’t conflict with the other band called Ravage. But we realized that it wouldn’t work, and we just stuck with Atheist."
Tell us a little bit about Jupiter, your newest record. Is it at all different than your previous records? "It’s gonna be coming out on November 9th. We just continued to do what we’ve always done. We’ve always kind of had a formula for writing, but we never set out to sound a certain way. We simply set out to make music we enjoyed."
Your band has been put into categories like thrash metal, death metal, and something called jazz fusion. What would you classify it as, officially? "There are so many labels, and I don’t know them all, but if somebody asked me, I’d say Progressive Techincal Metal…Technical Death Metal…Progressive Technical Death Metal, I guess, is the best way to describe it. Record companies release things saying Extreme Technical Metal, but Progressive Technical Death Metal is probably the most apt description."
Speaking of labels, how did you guys end up on the Seasons of Mist label? "It’s interesting. So many of the young people that were into Atheist in the late eighties and early nineties--we didn’t appeal to many people, but we appealed to journalists and other people who were really into the music scene--and a lot of them grew up to take positions at record labels and magazines."
"Michael who owns Seasons of Mist Records, was one of those kids back in the day that really loved Atheist, and he grew up to start his own label, which has gone quite well. And he’d been after us for years, and we’d continually refused. We just didn’t want to do a record. And then, after a long time and a lot of pressure, we said, “let’s do it.” And Michael was very persistent--he came to the table with an offer for Atheist and for my other band, Gnostic."
"I hadn’t played drums for fourteen years, and when I finally started playing again, I formed another band called Gnostic. And two of those guys are in Atheist, as well. And he had a great deal, and he was persistent, and he was a big fan of the band. He’d always wanted Atheist on his record label, and we decided last year that we would do a new record, and here we are."
You’d mentioned that you were involved with another band. What can you tell us about Gnostic? "Gnostic was a band I started when I was ready to get back into playing drums again--I hadn’t played in about fourteen years, after our last tour with Atheist. I remember it was January, and I sat up in bed and thought, “Time to start playing again!” I met the guys in Gnostic locally here in Atlanta, and they also happened to be fans of Atheist, and I had been disconnected from the scene for about, like I said, fourteen years. We just started playing; I had no plan."
"The Atheist reunion and the new record wasn’t even thought of at the time, I just wanted to play drums again. We had no material, and we just sat down and started writing songs. And it’s extreme, much more on the death metal side, relative to the Atheist music. Our album came out on Seasons of Mist last year, and we toured last year, Atheist and Gnostic together. So I was playing two shows a night in the US and then in Europe, and it was a lot of fun. Gnostic might make another record, we’re not sure yet, but we’ve got to devote a lot of time to making sure Atheist gets the time and attention it deserves. So we’ll see what happens with Gnostic."
Any plans for a tour? "Oh yeah! We’ve already confirmed a couple of the big European festivals for the spring and summer, we’ve got a tour already planned out in Europe, and we’re working on a tour of the States, as well. Typically, what we’re gonna do throughout the year in support of the record is do short runs; ten days here, five days there, that kind of thing."
"Because of our jobs and families, we can’t really devote two months to being on the road like we could when we were nineteen or twenty. So we’re hitting the best cities, the best clubs, the biggest festivals, and that’s the best marriage between going out and supporting, and being at home. And touring is really difficult work! You get burned out really quickly, but this way, it also keeps the fun in it for us."
You said that you hadn’t been playing for about fourteen years. What prompted the hiatus? "When I left Atheist in 1992, it was under horrible circumstances. Not with the band, but people people weren’t into this kind of music in 1992. We had lots of glowing reviews and support from people in the industry, but the general public didn’t like our music. We’d spent almost 10 years together, being in a band from the time we were teenagers into our early twenties. That’s a long time. I liken it to kids who start playing tennis at around age six, and by the time they’re eighteen, they’re burned out. They’ve had enough. It was really difficult at that time."
"Our bass player was killed in a car wreck, and we had just gotten off tour with a band called Cannibal Corpse, and on three or four of those dates we were booed off the stage. We had dog food thrown at us in Cleveland, Ohio! I was burned out. I wanted to go to college and do something else, I wanted my life to go in a different direction that wasn’t music. Like I said, we’d spent so many concentrated years playing, and it was time to do something new."
"I entered the corporate world, and still kind of remain there--I’m the senior VP of a global fortune-500 marketing and communications consultancy. I knew the time would come when I was ready to play again, but there was no Atheist, there was no Gnostic, I just decided to play drums, and here I am talking to you now."
Finally, is there anything you want the readers to know about Atheist? "Yeah! Thank you for your support over the years. And if you’ve been a fan of Gnostic at any point in your life, Jupiter certainly will do nothing to disappoint you. It’s quintessential Atheist music, and if you‘re a fan of the band, I think this will further solidify and validate your being into the band. So thank you very much!"
Interviewed by: Ashley Trombley
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