Saturday, March 25, 2017

An Interview With An Atomic Whirl

An Atomic FUCKING Whirl. Jesus Christ… There isn’t a writer alive who can properly describe this band. Hell, their own recordings can’t even convey the pure sense of RAW FUCKING POWER that this band brings to venues and diy spaces all over Asia and North America. That’s not to discredit their recordings, they are both stellar noise/grind/math/whateverthefuck albums, but nothing compares to their live shows. Pictures come close, videos come closer, but you’ve just gotta be there to witness what some might call a lesson in pure self-expression. 

In an attempt to convey what exactly I mean, let me tell you a story. Me and the mates in SFC live in a podunk little town far removed from anything even closely resembling the words “exotic” or “cultured”, so when we heard that this Japanese noise band was coming to Lost Cross, we decided to forgo band practice that night and make the hour drive south to witness something I’ve retrospectively deemed a religious experience. We were all pretty fried from a recent acid trip, so we got loaded on Busch and Ham’s to numb our aching minds as we waited for AAW to start. When we made out way down stairs, we were met with a sight that most trained professionals would label insane. A bass guitar was plugged into heaps of pedals running into multiple amps, while Kenjii wrapped a literal towel around his head and stuck duct tape around his nose and eyes. The giant known as Brian was seated behind a drum kit full of cymbals and weird percussion…things? It was absolutely surreal. It had been raining pretty heavily, so water had leaked into the basement, leaving the floor muddy and slick. Everyone stood in silence, not knowing what to expect.

And then AAW started playing. Two chords and a bell hit into their set and I was flat on my back, smiling from ear to ear. The room simply exploded in a mass of flailing bodies as drops of cheap beer washed over us. Everyone was moving, smiling, falling down, and incoherently screaming along with Kenjii as he gyrated, screeched, and laid waste to anyone who came within striking distance of his now weaponized bass.

After their set, we collectively stumbled out of the basement to get some fresh air and dry off, only to hear that AAW were playing in St Louis the next day. Needless to say, we unanimously agreed to tell our jobs to fuck off so that we could experience this again. The next night we found ourselves standing in the basement of Zambo’s, witnessing the awesome force that is AAW. It was arguably an even better set, with Kenji seemingly more energetic than the night before and using an AM radio as an impromptu sample machine. He even passed his bass guitar to some audience members as he proceeded to climb into Brian’s bass drum… while Brian continued to play.

Afterwards, we ended up on Zambo’s back deck talking to them about everything under the sun while we tossed back a few brews and listened to Brian and Kenjii tell us their stories..  Brian and Kenjii are two of most polite and interesting human beings I have ever had the good fortune of meeting, so I was beyond overjoyed that Brian allowed me to email him some questions about An Atomic Whirl. 

1. How did An Atomic Whirl come up with it’s name? how did you and Kenji form the band, and what is the history of the band?

I met Kenji in 2010 when our previous bands played together in Taipei. After years of partying and touring together in Asia, we decided to start our own thing, largely as an excuse for me to fly to Tokyo every month. The first time I flew there to practice with Kenji and a couple other friends, I read the phrase “an atomic whirl” in some Nietzsche book I was reading. It stuck with me, and we’ve used it ever since. I love the name because no one can ever get it right. (The Atomic Whirls, Atomic Whirl, Anatomical Whirl, etc.)  
2. Being from Taiwan and Japan, how is the music scene and the underground culture over there? Do you think that living there has influenced you as an artist/musician? How do you each like living there?
The music scene in Tokyo is very diverse and creative. Playing shows there has definitely influenced us both as individuals and as musicians. Our friends’ bands there are world-class. Taiwan is much more limited, but there’s a small pocket of creative musicians doing interesting things. That said, we’re both definitely ready to get out, because the US has so much more to offer and such a vibrant DIY music scene.
3. AAW is chaotic, loud, and just plain weird. What the fuck are your influences/inspirations for playing your instruments?
Our primary influence at first was Fantomas, just because we both loved their chaotic weirdness and insistence on doing something totally new. I’d say in the last couple years our main influences have been bands that we’ve seen on tour, like The Central from Madison, New China and Resent from Austin, Heavy Baby Sea Slugs from Denton, Turd/Cutter from Charlotte, Dent from Boston (shit, this could go on and on…).
4. You just came off a pretty extensive tour of the United States. What where some of your favorite venues, and some of your favorite bands you played with?
We played at several great houses, a few cabins in the woods, and some solid bars. Rozz Tox in Rock Island was nuts, as were Far House in Ann Arbor and Disastr House in Rockford. But I don’t know, we loved every day so it’s hard to rank anything over anything else. As for good bands that we saw:

(I tried to link these the best I could - SFC)
The Hymens (Denton)
Seres (Denton)
Povertybomb (Erwin, TN)
Turd/Cutter (Charlotte, NC)
Nermal (Asheville, NC)
Basura (Chapel Hill, NC)
Dent (Boston)
Batlord (Buffalo)
Hate Face (Cincinnati)
Death Sex Advocates (Cincinatti)
Sojii (Grand Rapids)
Ape Not Kill Ape (Grand Rapids)
Blisshead (Grand Rapids)
Immanuel Can’t (Lansing)
Red Robe (Ann Arbor)
Super Thing (Ann Arbor)
Kenshiro’s (St. Louis)
Hinge (St. Louis)
Buzzzard (Carbondale)
Closet Witch (Iowa)
Sin Lengua (Wichita)
And The Central from Madison, WI is fucking incredible. Like, incredible. We toured with them for four days, and their songwriting/drums/guitar/vocals/performance is so good. I’m out of adjectives for them.
5. Did any crazy or memorable experiences happen while you where stateside?
It’s all such a blur, it’s hard to hone in on particular memories. Partying with our friends in Denton, Charlotte, and Madison were definite highlights. We tried to hit mostly new cities on this tour, so it was all really memorable, especially because everyone was awesome everywhere we went. Going up to Boston and Maine was really cool, and the mini-tours we did with Turd/Cutter, Sojii, and The Central were really special to us.
6. How did you enjoy your time in America?
Mainly by drinking the cheapest beer we could find and smoking a lot of weed. Ha. It was 100% fantastic. Even the bad times were good. Everything was awesome. It’s a dream.
7. What’s some thoughts and opinions on American culture?
We pull into a town and meet the coolest, most creative 1% of the culture there, so our view is definitely skewed. There’s a lot of weirdness and backwards shitfestery that we’re not really exposed to. So we love it, especially the DIY touring culture and how supportive and passionate everyone is.

8. How does AAW go about writing a song? Do you play it the same way everytime or do you switch it up quite a bit?
Our songwriting has changed over the past couple years. We just bounce ideas around until we get something that sounds right. It usually only takes an hour or two to write a song. If it doesn’t come together pretty quick, we’ll scrap it and start something else. Over the course of touring-playing every single day for weeks-the songs tend to change quite a bit. It’s unbearable to play the same set the same way day in and day out, so we just naturally change things up, listen and respond to each other, during the course of performing.

9. What are Kenji’s lyrics typically about?
Who knows. Most of them are about whatever we’ve recently experienced or where we are. They’re probably much simpler than people would expect. Here’s the lyrics for the song “TCRC”:
…because our friend Jay runs The Checkered Record Club in Tainan, where we often perform and drink. Nothing profound here.
10. Kenji’s set up is pretty creative, can he tell me what all his gear is and what he likes about his set up? I’m especially interested in why he chose a fretless bass.
Kenji brought a fretless bass to one of our first practices because he found it super cheap in Tokyo. It worked well and produces a unique sound, so we stuck with it. His pedal setup evolves quite a bit, as he prefers using whatever custom pedals our friends make. In general, we like whatever we can find cheap, since it’s just going to get destroyed in the process of touring anyways. Each new toy gives us new directions for writing songs.
11.Your live show is very original and gets the crowd going wild. Everything from moshing, handing out free beer, and letting people play your instruments might happen. Did you guys play to do all these crazy antics or did they just happen?
Nothing is planned. It’s important for us to change up the live show every night and keep things spontaneous, so all the weirdness is just a way for us to keep it fun for ourselves. Especially for Kenji—he’s always scoping out something to hang on or crawl through or whatever.
12. What are AAW’s goals as a band, where do you see yourselves in the future?
We’re applying for Kenji’s artist visa, which will allow us to tour in the US full-time for the next few years. Our goal is to have a sustainable life as a touring band, which involves not only building a fanbase and making a certain amount of money, but also learning to treat it less like a constant party. Drinking every day and chainsmoking cigarettes and eating shitty food starts to wear you down and definitely affects the performance after awhile.
13. How do you feel about Mexican food?
We accept cash, Paypal, and burritos as payment.

An Atomic Whirl is approved to return stateside!! They are currently planning an extensive North American tour so be on the look out for a date near you!! Click on the link below to check out their Bandcamp, and be sure to head over to their Facebook to keep up to date on these two crazy dudes!



*All photos used here were pulled off their Facebook from various photographers. 

Special thanks to  Mark Boulanger from Massa Nera for helping out with structuring this and editing my errors.

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