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Atom & His Package
one man show

by tim mcmahan






Lazy-i: April 7, 2001

Just the Facts? For those who already know who Atom is, click here to check out the interview transcripts! 



We caught up with Atom & His Package just moments before he was about to drive out of Tampa, Fla., on his way to Tallahassee, with tourmate Sean Tillmann of Sean Na Na / Har Mar Superstar fame at the wheel of Atom's mother's Ford Explorer.

"Thank God we're leaving here," Atom said over his cell phone. "Florida is pretty ugly. We just got gas and we're about to get on the interstate. Sean is driving, and he's gonna have road rage."

Moments later, much yelling and screaming echoed in the background. "Sean is now road raging." Someone apparently had just pulled out in front of the mini-van. And then, moments later: "Oh my god. The person in front of us has hydraulics and his car is hopping up and down," Atom yelled. "I've never seen that before. He's alone, too. He's flossing his teeth. We're lost in America's crapland of strip malls, Wendy's, gas stations and fuck-me pants. And I want our car to bounce up and down, too."




Atom is a funny guy, which of course, is a bit part of what his music is about. Although he'll argue that his new CD, Redefining Music (just released on Hopeless Records), isn't as funny as some of his older ones, just how serious can you take songs with titles like "Anarchy Means I Litter," "Mission 1: Avoid Job Working with Assholes" and "If You Own the Washington Redskins, You're a Cock"?

Atom is Pennsylvania native Adam Goren (according to the press clips, that is. There isn't any evidence of this in his promotional materials or his new CD's liner notes). His "package," on the other hand, is most definitely his trusty sequencer -- his entire traveling back-up band. Atom writes, performs and records all of the music himself, using only his guitar and his trusty package. The result is an in-your-face mix of wry social commentary, clever innuendoes, witty observations and pointless wisecracks all sung/rapped in Atom's nasal croon over a rocking beat and some awesome power chords -- sort of an intelligent Weird Al meets Nerf Herder crossed with the Dead Milkmen. You get the drift.

For example, on "If You Own the Washington Redskins…" Atom attacks with abandon what he deems "The f***headness of sports teams that name themselves after Native Americans and think it's somehow flattering to stereotype because it's 'in a positive way.'" Among the lyrics:

Would it be offensive if we cheered
'Rah Rah Rah' for the Carolina Negroes
With our beatbox cheer and our fake foam afros
If the Minnesota Vikes became the New York Kikes
With dollar bills on their helmets
'Cause that's what they're like, you know?

"I will take on anyone in that debate," Atom says when asked if anyone's been offended by his music. "This CD comes out on Tuesday, so there hasn't been too much response to it."

He doesn't have to look far, however, to find a song that's touched a nerve. On "Hat's Off to Halford," his ode to Judas Priest's Rob Halford upon his "coming out of the closet" Atom sings, "So I think it's safe to say that many more metal guys are homosexual/That may frustrate the gay community/Why would they want the ugly metalheads available?"

"A lot of people misunderstood that song and I got ridiculously dumb e-mails," he said. "The song is in support of this guy. Metal is a homophobic subculture. It's awesome and brave for this dude to come out in an area that's traditionally homophobic. The e-mails say 'You're a faggot, you're a dummy.' Fine, whatever. And then there's the kind that say 'Hey, asshole, I like metal. Why call everyone in metal gay?' Idiot. Just read it. People's reading comprehension is pretty awful."

But not all of Atom's songs are controversial. In fact, he and the Package cover three songs on the new CD by lo-fi folk pioneers The Mountain Goats, none of which are very funny, but all of which are still very good.

Atom stopped in mid-sentence to note that the Explorer's red engine light -- which has been on since the tour began at the end of March and recently was thought fixed -- was back on again. The mini-van really is his mom's car. "It has about 80,000 miles on it," he says. "My parents are very protective of me and my brother and sister. Even when we borrowed the car, they always made sure we borrowed the safest."

He says that though his parents are very supportive of his music and are proud that it's been moderately successful, "they're not fans of the music. I mean, how could they be? They tell me that they love it."

He grew up listening to the Beatles and Duran Duran before shifting to speed metal and punk. "My mom was worried when I was in high school and started listening to different music. I thought the vocalists sounded like the Cookie Monster. She thought that they sounded like demons. My dad loves music, but I don't think he's a Napalm Death fan.

"They say they like my stuff but I don't think it's humanly possible for them to like it. They know it's funny now, but when I first played it and asked them if they thought it was funny, they sort of gave me a look, and then said 'Oh yeah, it's funny.' They really really mean well."

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Printed in The Omaha Weekly, April 4, 2001.

Copyright © 2001 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.