Posts Tagged ‘DIY

03
May
19

The Martin Atkins Interview

Martin Atkins Extravagant Behavior Interview and photo shoot. Photos © Billy Bennight all Rights Reserved.

On a Tuesday afternoon, I join longtime friend Austin’s cultural arts and SXSW insider Peggy Ellithorpe with her friends for drinks at the Hampton Inn and Suites’ balcony for happy hour. I had been in Austin since Saturday for SXSW and it seemed to be the perfect time to get together and catch up. The balcony overlooked the Austin Convention Center from the east along with clubs, bar and venues interlaced and resting around the nexus of SXSW activities. It was a lazy and friendly affair as introductions were offered and conversations developed between us. Soon a stately gentleman with a definitive Rock and Roll persona and a young lady joined us for drinks. This was when the energy in our circle ramped up. The gentleman was Martin Atkins and his manager, Molly. Martin Atkins has legendary status as the drummer for Public Image Limited besides being a producer, a creative and driving force in Brian Brain, Public Image LtdMinistryNine Inch NailsPigface, and Killing Joke over the passing decades. We enjoyed an introduction and brief chat then I struck up an enjoyable conversation with Molly and arranged an interview with Martin the following day. 

Monday through Thursday the Hampton Inn has a happy hour starting around 4 and going till 7. The second floor of the hotel is a comfortable space with a welcoming interior and the “NOLA styled balcony” outside with big picture windows offers a satisfying view of the city. It was there I met up with Martin again and slid to a quieter corner of the hotel’s common area for our meet-up. Over the years I’ve met many people who were associated with the Sex Pistols or PIL. Among them were Steve Jones, Jah Wobble, Glen Matlock, Dennis Morris, and producer Nick Launay. The former three I’ve had extensive conversations with about those early heady days about the Pistols and PIL. So it is understandable I was excited to get yet another authoritative point of view from a key member of this musical watershed that spun out in so many directions changing music and the relationship of music to its audience forever. Martin is a smart and detailed individual keenly focused on his work with his own artistic and business contributions offering me a compelling insightful view of the workings of the Post Punk phenomenon of Public Image LTD. He further honed in my understanding of those tumultuous years with Johnny Rotten (aka John Lydon) at the helm of these musical juggernauts with portraiture and analysis of who Johnny is as a person and as an artist. Martin’s many gifts outside of being a talented drummer is an entrepreneur, an engineer/producer, head of his own record label, a writer, a college instructor among other things. To say the least he is busy and has his fingers in many different pies. 

We sat down for the better part of an hour and chewed the metaphoric fat and got down to a very matter of fact discussion of PIL, the music business and the creative forces that drive a creative genius like himself. Dig in folks because this is one hellacious wild ride and one interview I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. It’s that cool!

Extravagant Behavior: The first thing that came to mind when I was reading the article… I spoke to Nick (Nick Launay) when he was there (in the studio for Flowers of Romance years ago) when him and John locked out the producer. It brought back that memory. I thought, were you there when that happened?

Martin Atkins: I’m not sure. I remember some of these stories and I have my own stories I remember.

Extravagant Behavior:…and you can tell those stories.

Martin Atkins: Right… I do remember we recorded, I think Nick could be talking about something called “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. I think Nick has talked about doing a couple of dub versions. One extremely insane dub version, which was his first credit. When you listen back, you’re like “oh my god”, it’s like anything you overuse some tools when you first discover them. Then he re-did “Home Is Where The Heart Is” that was kind of chilled out. Around that period I also remember an assistant engineer that we put in the vocal booth and say okay we are going to have you test the mic. But he wasn’t testing the mic, he wasn’t testing it with the track. (the engineer called out) “Hahaha!, I had the oven repaired. Home, home is where the heart is…” and John just took whatever he was saying and turned it into a song. Which then they miscredited to Jim Walker the original drummer. Then Quintin Hailen (sic), who I will see in Tulsa Oklahoma, he wrote a book called “Rise and Fall” about PIL (Public Image Limited). He then dissected my drumming and juxtaposed it with Jim Walker’s drumming showing evidence that my drumming – Jim Walker was so much better than I was because of my drumming on “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. Which I drummed on and co-wrote was miscredited. I’m just like… yeah! But I know that was a really special time for Nick. It was his first 10 weeks in the business and part of my first 10 months in the business. The relationship I had then with Nick was kind of gleeful… would be the word I’d use. Gleeful children, because we were. I think I was 19, maybe twenty. I don’t know how old he was, probably the same age. Gleefully in the studio where Phil Collins recorded “In The Air Tonight” – just me and him! I’ve heard, and I talk about this in my book a bit. It’s about memories and how we remember things. John now thinks he was the mastermind behind the stuff as does Keith. The truth is, Nick and I laid down the basic tracks, if not, 90% of the musical part of “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. “Banging The Door”, “Four Closes Walls”, (it was in) 1981 and this was released as part of the “This Is What You Want” sessions. But this was released as part of the Flowers Of Romance recording sessions. For one reason or another Keith, John didn’t choose all of those tracks to be on Flowers that might have been more cohesive than it ended up being. I might put a Spotify playlist together of… 

Extravagant Behavior:…of what it might have sounded like?

Martin Atkins: Yeah! I do remember we, I just did a bunch of tracks and left on tour with my punk band Brian Brain in the US. I know there is a song called “Vampire” which was released on the 40th year box set. And I just thought, “Oh shit!” I’ve been holding onto this track for 40 years, maybe 35 years. So I went to Spotify to listen to it with just my drums. I don’t know what they’re doing by releasing that because I have the version with bass. keyboards and fully formed vocals. “Why wouldn’t they say hey Martin?” Because they know I’m gonna say, “what are you going to give me?”

Extravagant Behavior: Because it’s still works, and it’s still your artistry.

Martin Atkins: Yeah, and I’ve held on to it and they didn’t, so fuck off!

Continue reading ‘The Martin Atkins Interview’



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