Interviu ATHEIST

29 August 2006 Morrison

Interviu ATHEIST
1. Hey Kelly! For starters let's whirl back in time in the middle of the eighties when, as a teenager, you've started playing in the garage band Oblivion, a short period after, changing your name to R.A.V.A.G.E. That was the time when tape trading was popular and bands everywhere began experimenting new techniques trying to be as original as they could. Which were your main influences and what did young Kelly Shaefer had in mind at that time? How do you report Atheist's achievement to the initial thoughts and plans you had back then?

Well I would say we had no idea that our music would have had the impact that it has had all these years later, but we really wanted to make music that was interesting to listen to and payed tribute to our favorite bands such as Rush and Slayer so we just sort of combined the 2 and embellished even further after we realized a specific style emerging.

Interviu ATHEIST
Atheist 1990 Metal Maniacs Zine

2. Despite the fact that you've challenged your artistic talent from a young age, you've always seemed to share some wise and original ideas through music. You used to "dream of things / that just aren't quite right"... What does Kelly dream about right now? Do you still feel the same about life like you used to? Do your present life visions concur with the ones Atheist's front man had?

Yes in fact my thoughts and dreams are much clearer now than ever before, I have a better grip on how I feel and my thoughts and views both politically and emotionally, I always wanted to have my lyrics respected and for them to be as interesting as the music itself, which is something that death metal still does not have a lot of, I hate stupid lyrics, and please if someone writes one more song about gore or f*****g satan, I think I will puke, people need to challenge themselves lyrically.

3. Back in its days Florida's burgeoning death metal scene ruled the metal world and after the explosion of bands at the end of the eighties, underground rose at another level. Your music managed to confuse a lot of people through its fusion of styles and its complexity, capturing the essence of life, and remaining exuberant throughout the years. How come when everybody wanted something faster and sung about guts and blood, raping and killing, you elaborated something as original and philosophical as Atheist? What about "On They Slay" which was totally different lyrically speaking, but still conserved the Atheist sound?

I wrote On They Slay when I was only a boy, so it was probably the most immature lyrics I have ever written, it was an easy choice to not write about blood and guts cause it was so played out even back then, but to think that bands are still writing about that s**t is..mundane and redundant. There are a ton of great topics to write about, but I think Well I guess whatever makes people happy, I just don't choose that route for myself lyrically. Its much more of a challenge to write about the s**t I wrote on the elements album, try writing a song from the earth's perspective, its very hard hahaha!

4. Atheist developed as a metal phenomenon right in the middle of this metalquake, which had its epicenter comprising all of Florida. You lived some very important times then, both as a musician and as a metalhead. Regarding the worldwide metal scene at this moment, bands are definitely less original, but there are more people interested, strong metal movements developing in Europe, as well. What do you think this is due to? All the ideas fading away would be a childish, yet a good enough reason for bands to start blindly copying each other? What are in your opinion the main differences between these two periods?

Not sure really, perhaps it's the honesty of the music that allowed it to prevail after all of this time and become more popular, back then I think the world was a safer place and so it was more extreme to see lyrics and music that were so abrasive and in your face, I mean you would never have the bands of our era seeing the kind of outlets such as Headbangers Ball available to us as a marketing tool, plus the internet cannot be ignored as a main reason why fans of this music can now at the touch of the keyboard find new music every day and of course bands themselves have a greater audience to hit up with new music so it's a bit like raining on the garden its just growing and growing.

5. Back in the day, you had the chance to play with bands such as Death. I guess those were some combat shows, weren't they?

No we played only one show with Death, we played with Obituary, Morbid Angel, Nasty Savage etc, it was very fun back them in Florida, the metal scene was electric!

Interviu ATHEIST
Trevor Peres, Kelly Shaefer & Frank Watkins

6. Along with Roger Patterson (R.I.P.), you've lost one of your best friends and such a talented bass player. He brought a lot of value to the band and most of his genius work can be easily distinguished in Atheist's music. He will always be appreciated for his outstanding work and for simply being an amazing person, as his contribution to the band wasn't exclusively a musical one. I'd like you to tell us all about his contribution to the band.

He was just one of those dudes who had this amazing gift, his approach to writing riffs was the same philosophy we all shared, lets make it really f****d up, but controlled. But as a person he was very simple, he was not as intellectual as his riffs by no means, he liked to smoke cigs and dope, and play metal, and listen to metal, I admired his simplicity. He had more attack on a bass than any one I have EVER seen. He was also an amazing performer who would regularly have red marks on his neck after a show from just break necking his a*s off! Snot, Spit, Sweat is what u got if you were in front of him at a show, it was very metal we loved him!

Interviu ATHEIST
Roger Patterson

7. The "Elements" album marked the end of Atheist in the last millennium. This record is different from the others mainly because the theme changes from the human condition to a hymn dedicated to all the natural elements around us. The expression of emotion regarding nature and the fresh music were well balanced creating a maze of ideas that put the basis in the concept of the album. Tell us more about the interesting "making of.."; the connotation of the instrumental songs and which is your favorite song on that album and why?

Well I had come to realize that the most important thing in life was the balance of nature and really without it, we would not exist, so it carries this mystique that was rarely ever covered in a metal tune, it seemed perfect for us and the lyrics just rolled off my pen with total ease, so much so that when I read them now, its as if some one else wrote them. I had only 10 total days to complete all of the lyrics and of course no time to review them in a pre- production sort of standard, as most people have maybe already read in the liner notes, we had only 40 total days to write, record, and mix this record, it was an amazing feat that I don't think we could EVER duplicate. That's a special record, in many ways it's the most technical even though to the ear it sounds more controlled, but actually there are 3 guitar parts weaving in and out of one another, and the bass lines and drums are in this completely other place, but fused together in an amazing Latin, Jazz world, with a boat load of metal dropped on top of it, and then lyrically its probably the best s**t I have ever written, "The crosswinds of forever become me, and place me on the porch of the breeze, without it my sounds would be silent, no gullible gusts through the trees.." That's some crazy s**t right? My favorite tune on that album is probably "Mineral".

8. Eminent Scott Burns, the man behind most of the worthwhile death metal records had huge expectations regarding what was ought to be the remarkable scene of old school death metal. In 1993 you said that the band had a great relationship with
Scottie, though you chose Mark Pinske as a producer to conclude your trilogy. Was that because the critics said that all the albums that Burns had produced sounded the same?

No not really, we just were huge fans of Frank Zappa and Mark Pinske engineered a lot of Zappa records and he had all of these interesting mic set ups and a room with no straight walls they were all angles at 2 degrees and 3 degrees, I had worked with him on some early Neurotica demos and the studio guys there were very cool, its there I met River Phoenix, and a s a result river's drummer Josh. The studio was different and new and we wanted to have a different sound of course. Plus at that point Scott was not really doing that many record any longer, he was on his way out of it sort of, he had worked so hard for so long that I think he burnt out on it a bit, but that's not really the reason for us it was just a change that's all.

9. During the Death Metal Revolution, there were brilliant band such as Carnage,
Cynic, Solstice, Nocturnus and Massacre which were local legends and Atheist was included in that category. You encountered difficulties with the group line-up, having several members changed and meanwhile you had time to reflect on what happened. Could you tell us what were your feelings, when, as a founder band member you were seeing your own band disappear along with the wave of other bands? What would you have changed in Atheist's history?

Well for the record Atheist came before all of those bands with the exception of Massacre who started a year before we did. We were proud to be a part of a growing scene , but it was a scene that we felt left out of, and really it did not matter, we just wanted to make weird music that we liked to listen to, we truly never sought out to do all of the things we did, Atheist came from the most honest of places. I was really devastated by the loss of Roger and then Steve Flynn soon after, I felt bitter that it was happening to us, we worked so hard for things like that to happen to us, but in hindsight, I understand that it was meant to be that way, and so I am at peace with everyone and there decisions to leave when they did, it was hard to lose a brother like Roger right in front of your eyes, and even harder to continue as we were cause it was never really the same ever again.

Interviu ATHEIST
Kelly Shaefer

10. Atheist is lively music, bringing life and energy in a dull general world. What is your belief? Which is, in your opinion, the biggest wonder of the living world, the thing that keeps you going? Has this influenced your music in any possible way?

Well as we spoke of earlier, nature and the natural progressions of things, and behaviors of people, that is what fascinates me these days, I love to people watch, its really very interesting to watch people make there way through life like mice in a maze, I marvel at the smart mice and frown upon the slow mice. Its interesting to me that people are so worried about being likeable, and are afraid to say what they REALLY think, and of course society has fallen towards the ways of the bullshitter, honesty is a very hard commodity to come by. These are just grains of sand on the beach of what intrigues me these days. I love being alive right now!

11. Since forever you've been an open-minded artist and you've tried to overachieve yourself in every single way. When Atheist was no longer, things took shape with Neurotica and during your career you've initiated projects such as Big Machine, Unheard and composed for Sepultura ("Stronger Than Hate") and Drowning Pool. How was it to work with these bands and why didn't you continue in the death/extreme metal area? How did it feel to play for a totally different crowd?

It felt very technical, I mean why not try to diversify, and paint with different colors, that is if you HAVE the colors and that's what I set out to see if I had them, and I feel like I have displayed some vibrant music over the years, Neurotica is a great hard rock band with super strong songs and a high energy live show, very much a peoples rock band, Unheard is a mysterious sounding 70's stoner rock vibe with great vocals by my good friend Mike Callahan, that album just fell together like hookers and drugs, I stepped back from the mic and just played guitar and offered a few backing vocals. Watch for that album in 2007. That's what I am talking about, its not about trying to be the center of attention, I just want to make great music I don't care what role I play, songwriter, singer, guitar player, s**t I would play bass if needed, if that's what the project needed. In the case of Big Machine that was a challenge cause the tunes were all written and demoed by and with, the legendary Brian Johnson from AC/DC on vocals. He and Doug Kaye had written these bad a*s old school Highway to Hell type tunes together and they asked me to sing on it, I jumped at the chance and the demos are now done and let me tell you that s**t rocks like a big a*s bong hit they are seeking a label that has the balls to put that record out, the tunes are very catchy and it let me open up yet another voice that I did not know I had, I mean its often very reminiscent of the late great Bon Scott, that is what I shot for and I am really happy with how it turned out. I enjoy being busy as you can see.

12. A lot of mysteries were absorbed by the unique sound and concept of Atheist and many bands took their influences from your hallucinating visions. Tell us what do you know about these bands? Do you look at them as a parent looks at his child?

Well imitation is the greatest form of flattery so let me leave it at that. We hope that people take it further and further w/o losing the heaviness of it all. We are proud!

13. Every end is a new beginning and I guess you hoped that someday your band will re-unite. Now, you have given fans worldwide this once in a lifetime opportunity to see Atheist play again and make the young metalheads familiar with your psychological ideology, stimulate their minds and recreate the "sphere of wisdom".
Personally, genius songs like "Piece of Time", "Air" "An Incarnation's Dream" and "I
Deny" give me the shivers and make me think that nobody could ever succeed in outstripping your work. Tell us exactly how you came up with the idea to give rebirth to Atheist and why do it now? How did the band end up with its current line-up?

Well after the success of the re-issued records in Sept, it seemed like the right time to see if the guys would be into doing some shows, the premise was almost the closest to the original lineup as possible, and there was no other reason to do it unless it was Choy, Flynn, myself and Rand Burkey, but of course rand had some serious troubles with the law that at the last minute left us with a choice, cancel all of the gigs and all of the excitement of the pending return of Atheist, or continue on and find a worthy suitor to replace him till he can get his s**t together, so we chose to get it on, and it has been very hard, the sounds of Atheist are hard to re-create even for us original guys , but the guitarists worked very hard to duplicate what me and rand had layed down. It has all been a very positive experience, much different than we had anticipated, meeting all of the people again and seeing an appreciation for our music that we never saw before, its really great! And thanks by the way for such kind words, music that gives the shivers is the s**t! That's EXACTLY what we hope for when writing. That's how you know a riff is badass, if you get Goosebumps.

Interviu ATHEIST
Atheist Piece Of Time Record

14. The news about your reunion had an echo that spread faster than the speed of light and it had a huge impact on fans all over the world. Give us a full expos on how did things go at the rehearsals in Atlanta and how did Chris and Sonny manage to catch up so fast? "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger"? Is that available in the case of the infallible Atheist?

Well we always seem to accomplish what we set out to do, and in this case Sonny and Chris has a full plate of riffs and styles to try to do justice to, we have not yet worked out all of the kink because of the unorthodox way we are touring, we are doing Fest so there is no sound check, no warm up shows and no consistent run of shows to work s**t out, so the challenge has been IMMENSE! I am not sure if those guys will like me much during these trying days, but at the end of this they will be better for it, I know what we need to sound like and I ask the best from them, I mean they are carrying the torch for Rand, Roger and the quality of this band, I don't want to stand on stage next to someone who does not respect our music, and these guys have shown incredible respect and dedication to learning the stuff in a very short time, w had only 4 total rehearsals, so there was not time for f*****g around.

15. As part of your awaited comeback, you have some of the most important European Festivals on your schedule. You've already experienced the feeling of playing in front of such big crowds after many years, in UK and Italy. Leaving aside all the problems and besides the explosive shows you've managed to put up, what were your feelings in those moments? How did the audience react having Atheist, "the benchmark of technical metal" on stage, among so many other young bands?

It feels great, we feel like metal has somehow caught up and our music seems more relevant than ever really! We still feel quite different than the other bands we have played with, but these days the other bands are not so territorial, they are open to our differences and so are the fans, they seem to beg for technicality and we just happen to have a feast for them!

Interviu ATHEIST
Evolution Fest, Italia, 2006

16. What about considering some live audio or video materials?

Cameras are rolling at almost every show so we will most surely release a DVD in 2007 that will be a complete retrospective as well as documenting the 2006 tour dates, who knows where it will end up, but we feel that our place in metal history is secure and we have all of you to thank for it, we are humbled!

17. Atheist's music sounds today as fast, as urgent and as innovative as it did in the early nineties, and Piece of Time will always remain the reference point of an exclusive, ambitious and sustained start for the entire metal movement. How do you comment on this?

Well as we spoke of earlier, its an amazing feat to make music that remains relevant and even refreshing 15 years after recording it, we certainly did not mean to do that, but that's what we call a happy accident, and we are thrilled about it naturally.

18. Fifteen years ago you probably wouldn't have thought that by this time you would be a lucky daddy and have such a joyful life. How do you see yourself in, let's say, five years?

In 5 years I should have mastered the art of being a daddy I hope! And no I would have never guessed that I would be this blessed, in 5 years I believe that I will be making the best music of my life and enjoying being a daddy, she really is the best record I have ever made, so I look forward to listening to her cranked to 11 as often as possible. She is an amazing little creature!

19. You have a very special relationship with your fans, you've always known what to say to the crowd and involve as many feelings as they do. What makes it incredible is the way you guys speak with every single fan at the meet and greet, signing stuff and taking pictures. What do fans say to you after all this time? Did they surprise you in any way?

Well yes of course, we are NOTHING without those folks, I have tremendous respect for people who love music so much that they collect everything you make and stick with you for years and show support for your art, it so amazing, and for us it's the best part of the show, the meet and greet, its really the only time we get to see the effect of our music on people with a magnifying glass so to speak, when people say, you're an inspiration, or that the have all your records, or they recite lyrics back to me, that's incredible for someone from another country to sing your lyrics back to you like poetry, that's f*****g mind blowing to us, also that someone on the other side of the planet, that was barely born when you made this art, has that kind of a feeling about you and your music, what more can you ask for, right? We will ALWAYS be that kind of band, and I will always be that kind of person, I am a fan who plays in a band really, that's the truth.

20. How does it feel to be a Metal God? :-D

Well you'll have to ask Rob Halford hahahaha but thank you! J

21. Ok Kelly, thank you very much for your time, it was really an honor for us and at the same time, it was a huge chance of discovering more of what lays beyond a legend.
In the end, is there anything that you guys would like to say to all of your fans here that have been supporting Atheist throughout the years?

We cherish every single one of you, and we have made ourselves VERY available to chat and stay connected through our website forum so if you want to shoot the s**t as we say in America, swing over to and hop on the forum, myself and Steve and Tony are on there daily so if you have a question or you just want to say hello, please do, we would love to know you all. And tell a friend about Atheist, some of my favorite bands were layed on me by friends recommending them. See you all in Europe this summer! And thank you ladies for a very rewarding interview, it was great meeting you in Italy as well, I think you both have a great future! Cheers Kelly

I love being alive right now! (Kelly Shaefer)


Andreea B. & Xandra B. versus ATHEIST

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