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Interview with Children Of Atom
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
MF: Probably the biggest influence that got me interested in playing an instrument was going to band practice with my pops as a kid. He played bass in a couple death metal bands and most of the time I'd tag along to rehearsal. His bandmates were always cool and they’d let me play around on their instruments between songs. I was always putting on rock concerts in the backyard with my friends as a kid. Aside from music I've always been a fairly artistic person. When I was younger it was drawing and painting, and as I got older, graphic design and video editing. If I wasn't in a band I'd probably be doing tattoos, that was sort of my trajectory in school, but when I really started putting hours into music I practically stopped drawing entirely for a long time. I still like to doodle and draw for fun, but my skills have definitely diminished quite a bit. Maybe in the next life.
JM: I grew up making noise as a kid. My stepdad taped my sister’s baby formula cans together so I could play along with him and his friends drunk jamming in the basement. He tried to teach me to play guitar but told me I played it like a percussion instrument. One summer before high school I bought Rockband expecting that he would play the drums and I’d play guitar but he never was able to nail the timing right so we switched. The drumming just kind of came naturally to me so we got a shitty drum set off of Craigslist and I taught myself to play by playing along with YouTube videos. If I wasn’t playing music I’d probably be doing something boring.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
MF: When I'm not playing music my life is pretty mellow. I like to ride Harleys, spend a lot of time outdoors, and in the winter I play a lot of video games and hide from the cold- nothing too exciting. I spend a lot of time with the family, as well, but most of my time is spent playing music, writing music, or doing band-related stuff like booking, recording, art, etc. I kind of like to collect hobbies and a lot of them lend themselves well to being in a band. Since I’ve been able to do a lot of the art and design stuff for us, we really get to have a lot of control over our brand or image or whatever you want to call it, both musically and with our artwork and design. I think that definitely helps us kind of define our own image in a way a lot of people don’t have the freedom to do, and I think that feeds back into the music and subject matter in the lyrics and themes as well.
JM: When I’m not playing music I’m usually watching videos about stupid conspiracy theories or horrible political figures. Unfortunately, this is probably a detriment to my creativity.
How long has your band been around?
MF: We’ve been around a while now, but we’ve definitely gone through a few different phases. I first met our original drummer, Gabe, in late 2013 and we started jamming around, but it wasn’t really until about 2016 or so that we started taking things more seriously. We released an album and started playing a lot more often on much higher-profile shows. Up until that point, it was just kind of an excuse to hang out and get stoned with my friends. It still is that, but now we also play shows and occasionally record music. Since then we’ve gone through some lineup changes, gone on a few short tours, released an EP, and are currently recording another full-length album which will, hopefully, be ready early next year.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
MF: We’re based out of Spokane in eastern Washington State. It’s quite a bit different over here than Seattle. Our winters are colder and the people are more middle-class and conservative. We’re just a few miles from the Idaho border. A lot of people move here to escape places like California or Seattle, and it's rarely what people expect when you tell them you live in Washington. Lots of guns, snow, and trees. And weed. A lot of weed. I always feel we’re kind of underdogs in our own scene, which, comparatively, isn’t huge like on the west side, and definitely feels a bit less genre-diverse for that reason. So, there are a lot of killer, talented, musicians here across many genres, but when we started out there were very few other bands that sounded like us in town, with Hardcore and Metalcore being the most popular styles. We’d end up on weird Tuesday night shows with, like, a shoegaze band, a touring doom sludge band from Seattle, and a crust punk opener. The bookers and venue owners had no idea what to do with us for a while. Things have thankfully improved a lot since then but I think not having a place to call home in our scene early on really forced us to find our niche and to try to reach outside Spokane. I’m super thankful for the support we have had at home from fans and from countless folks across our scene that have taken the time to help us and who I’ve had the opportunity to learn from- that’s probably the local aspect that’s affected me, personally, the most.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
MF: Children of Atom is obviously a play on words. It's inspired by 90s X-Men comics, I was pretty into comics for a while in my early teens and X-Men was my shit. I had this comic book concept I never used for anything and I still had the name lying around when we started the band. A lot of people think it's a reference to the Fallout video games, which are also pretty rad, but nope. It's X-Men.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
MF: Around the time we released our first album we got the chance to open up for Anthrax here in town. Being raised on thrash metal it was obviously a huge deal, but on top of that, it was also the first time my folks got to see me play a show. They both flew out and I got to put them up in VIP. They had a killer time.
JM: At the time I was actively in two bands and they both got to share the stage with one of my favorite bands Red Fang. It was a pretty awesome show.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
MF: The Big Dipper in Spokane is probably my favorite place. It's owned by Dan from Sunny Day Real Estate and his wife Dawson, and it's just kind of the home stage here in town. They’re awesome. A lot of venues closed in Spokane in the last few years. Really glad they didn’t.
I really just kind of just want to play everywhere. There’s the obvious historical places like the Whisky and the Fillmore, but honestly, I like exploring and finding cool spots like Westside Bowl in Ohio. I want to play there. More venues need to be in bowling alleys.
JM: The Big Dipper is easily my favorite venue to play at and hopefully we will get to play at The Crocodile in Seattle sometime soon.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
MF: I’m assuming this is living or dead, probably:
Queens of the Stone Age with their Songs for the Deaf lineup including Mark Lanegan
OG lineup Sabbath circa 1975
Zeppelin circa 1975
Hendrix circa 1968
I think it’s pretty clear that we would open this show.
And Green Lung would be pretty cool
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
JM: Always be available and on time! Persistence is key and a better musician will always be passed over if they have a bad attitude and bad attendance. And I’d tell my younger self DON’T SELL YOUR GEAR!
MF: To both of those people: Work on your side hustle. Nobody in a band can really afford to be one thing. Also play music with as many people as you can, especially if they’re better than you.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
MF: Riffs usually come first. If I end up with a couple things that fit I’ll start writing a vocal melody and try to figure out a basic repeating structure. At any point during that, I’ll bring it to the other guys and we’ll sort of pick it apart until we’re satisfied and just sculpt it over time. It’s never really the same process twice. Sometimes someone will take the lead because they have an established idea, but mostly, after the initial riff-writing stage the idea either takes on a life of its own or it just doesn’t make the cut.
JM: Michael nailed it pretty much everybody has their own little pieces and we all cram them together until they all fit.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
MF: I definitely don’t try to say anything too specific, if anything I avoid it. I definitely want to convey a vibe with a song, a feeling, imagery, etc, but I don’t take shit too seriously. If it means something for whoever’s listening then that’s more important than anything I have to say. It doesn’t have to say something, but if it makes you feel something that’s what I’m aiming for.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
MF: We’re pretty stoked to be premiering the video for our latest single Bloodlust Boogie over on The Obelisk Thursday, December 15th. Definitely check that out! You can download all of our music and merch over on our Bandcamp page, and you can stream Bloodlust Boogie wherever you get your tunes. We’ve been spending all of our time bunkered down in the studio for the winter finishing the next album. Follow us on socials for updates on that.
MF: MICHAEL FENRIS VOCALS/GUITAR