ATHEIST – It’s alive

ATHEIST – It’s alive

I forbindelse med et tidligere intervju med ATHEIST vokalist Kelly Shaefer, ble også dette ATHEIST intervjuet med mannen tatt. Her blir det snakket om Cynic, Death og mye mer. Sannheten rundt "Elements" kommer også fram i tillegg til mulige ATHEIST konserter i 2008.

Ok Kelly, how are you these days?

Pretty good in most respects, I am loving being a dad, and making new music etc, it’s good to be alive!


Any plans for more shows with Atheist?

Well, we have been flooded with e-mails and letters in support of more shows, and the thing we worried most about was not wearing out our welcome, and it seems that people really want to see Atheist live for a little while longer, so we are going to entertain offers for 2008. No promises cause budgets are a key thing, it costs a bit of money to get the band over to Europe and we cannot tour for months on end. We have to do it in 2 week spurts, cause we all have kids and lives etc outside of music, some of us more than others.

I saw you live last year, and even though I had high expectations, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Were you confident before the tour, that you would be able to deliver the goods live?

Sure! You never really know how well it will turn out and the very thing that makes you fear the situation is what makes it amazing. I am glad you were pleased, we had a great time and we never wanted to just stop playing. We are just so very concerned not to fuck with the great vibe the band has encountered, but it seems that most of the surge in the young metal heads just discovering our music for the first time, it’s very rewarding.

Did you get a good reaction everywhere you played?

Everywhere, not one crowd sucked, and that was not the case in days past. The worst show we had attendance wise was in our hometown of Tampa, WTF??


If I’m not mistaken, you never got a big following while you were still a recording band. But now you are like the godfathers of technical metal to many people. Do you think that you were too far ahead of your time?

Who knows why this has all happened the way it has…we are just SO grateful to finally have our music see the appreciation we felt it always deserved. I think it was a bit much for people in the beginning, we were literally by ourselves in the start with all of the jazz influence, and right behind us was Cynic who were/are great friends of ours and the both of us were 2 of the most misunderstood bands of our time, but it’s safe to say those times have past, and now is a time to celebrate that music and watch the new guys take it further and further.

Atheist was a unique band for its time and quite different from the majority of death metal band in the 80’s/ 90’s. What was it that influenced you to go in a different direction musically speaking?

We wanted to challenge ourselves as well as the listener, we were fans of well played music and so it was natural for us to gravitate to the prog side of things. But we blended influence from opposite ends of the spectrum, and out came this madness we call Atheist.

Although you are a technical metal band, the songs on your first two albums are really catchy, was this something you did intentionally?

Well I think everyone wants to be catchy to some extent, but we were not able to intentionally do that, you either are catchy or you are not, and we were more focused on insane riffing. And my forte was to along with Steve Flynn, arrange it to its most potent content, and a lot of content it was. It was no easy feat, but we were fortunate enough to have some memorable moments on those records.

There must have been a lot of creativity and enthusiasm in the band, when you recorded your albums, or so one might think, since all the albums are great and have a certain timelessness to them. What was it like to be a member of Atheist back then?

Much like being in any other band I would imagine, we practiced 6 days a week for 4-6 hours a day, and we did little else. We had a great rehearsal place that all of our friends would come and hang out at and we would write songs right in front of all of them. We had a blast smoked a ton of weed and made the craziest music we could, but to be honest it was not a lot of fun trying to be in a scene full of people who were confused by our metal, and so that part was not fun, but the rest was very interesting to say the least.

As I understand it, Elements was released to finish the deal you had with your record company at the time. Is this true?

That has been made to seem like it was a throw away record and clearly that is not the case. What it did was challenge me to put together a new line-up of monsters and write and record a record in 40 days. It was in itself a technical accomplishment, so I went for it. If I thought we would fail, I would not have delivered an album that sucked, but I really love that record and it has some ridiculous moments of technicality on it. Some love it more than others, kids in Prague (CZ Rep) like that record more than kids in Germany, who love Piece of time.

Atheist_elements.jpg"Elements" is without a doubt the most experimental album you did. Could you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process of Elements?

I had a line up for the first 2 weeks and fired the bass player and drummer and brought in Tony Choy and Josh Greenbaum with 2 weeks till we rolled tape. At that point we had about 4-5 ideas flowing as songs and the rest we did in the following 2 weeks, songs like Mineral were written in one afternoon, and recorded for all of time the next day, that’s insane! We worked with Mark Pinske who had worked with Zappa on 6 records and so we thought it would be a good idea to do the record with him and try to break away from the Morrisound typecast sound we had leading up to that. I wish we had recorded it somewhere else truthfully, but it all worked out in the end.

I remember that when Elements was released it got a mixed reaction, from really good reviews to really bad ones. Nowadays, I read nothing but praise for this album. Do you think people today are more open-minded towards experimental music?

No question about it, this is why we are able to play for 30- 40 thousand instead of 30- 40, hahaha

Which album do you see as Atheist’s magnum opus, and why?

Unquestionable Presence, without a doubt. It’s in my opinion, a shit free record. There are moments on both of the other records I could do without, but UP is stellar top to bottom and it’s the swan song for good friend Roger Patterson R.I.P.

What kind of reactions did you get when you were playing live in the early nineties?

Confusion, distain, and sometimes praise, but rarely, we had certain people at all of the shows that "got it" but they were few and far between. Atheist is 20 times bigger now than then.

Do you have fond memories of the late eighties/ early nineties Florida death metal scene?

Very much so, it was a great time for metal. Also for our home town area, it was Obituary, Malevolant, Morbid, Cynic, Atheist, Monstrosity, Death, Massacre etc, it was so fucking amazing! We miss those days a lot, it’s just not the same any more. It has lost its luster in Florida, now there are other areas of the world that are enjoying the same thing we did years ago.

Musically speaking, Cynic was probably the metal band you had most in common with. Were you influenced by them, or visa versa?

C’mon my man??? Our record was out in 1988 while the Cynic came in the 90’s. They were a demo band when Piece of Time came out. I actually helped them with their first demo which to me is the best Cynic ever, it was very aggressive, and Tony Choy was on bass. I told them you must get in the studio right away and so we got them in and did the demo. I did a guest vocal on Cruel Gentility, and then I sent it to Monte at RR and he hated it. I thought he had the wrong tape or something, but he said I cannot remember anything I just heard. I was floored; I thought he was going to flip out like I did. It was not until Paul and Sean played with Chuck on the Human record that he saw their brilliance and so then he signed them. Me and Paul were and still are very good friend as well as the rest of the guys; they are brilliant and probably easily the best musicians playing metal today in my opinion.


Personally I think it’s interesting that Death eventually evolved into a technical metal band, much like Atheist, although much later. Do you think that you somehow influenced Chuck Schuldiner to write more technical music?

I think Chuck was always a fan of good musicians but he did not start getting tech till he played with Paul and Sean. That’s just a fact. In fact he hated us for some reason, he felt like jazz and metal were not supposed to be together. He was a purist, but he eventually succumbed to that style because he realised the future, if there was to be one, was with better musicians and more technical song writing and instrumentation. He was and always will be the Godfather of Death Metal in my eyes even though we had our differences; he is an icon in this field of music.

What were the reasons you broke up? Was there nothing that could have changed your mind and kept you going as a band?

It was just time, no one was interested in hearing what we had to say, we had nobody to tour with like us, and we were at each others throats. We had lost Roger Patterson as well as Steve Flynn, I was just deflated, I did what felt right and moved on to Neurotica and enjoyed a cool ride with that.

Would you please tell us about your other projects Neurotica and Unheard? Are you still working on these bands? Or is there something else you’re working on at the moment?

I have an Unheard record recorded and I am trying to get a Neurotica record deal in Europe to release the records that never got released over on that side of the pond. So yes, both are still active. I did a project with Brian from AC/DC Called Big Machine It’s a departure in the biggest sense of the word, Brian wrote all of the tunes and I just sang what he asked me to, it’s very vintage. In the next 2 years I hope to have a very inventive solo record out as well.