Editor’s Note: This man needs little to no introduction. The legendary Martin Atkins talked to us about the upcoming tour with the industrial rock supergroup PIGFACE. He’s having the who’s who of today’s rock musicians come up there and he gives us some insight on what goes into a PIGFACE concert. You might have heard his name in many drumming circles, as he drummed for Nine Inch Nails for their legendary hit “Head Like A Hole”, along with Ministry and Killing Joke in the 1990’s. Martin is also a guest lecturer and wrote books on touring life. In this interview with Madness To Creation, Martin Atkins clues us in on the legend that is PIGFACE, along with mental health awareness, and the art of touring and networking. Fans can find PIGFACE at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: How are you doing Martin?
Martin: Pretty good, pretty good.
Madness To Creation: How’s the band been going lately, you have some pretty cool things coming up?
Martin: You know the band is 27 years old? So, what we’re working on is the tour, I don’t know if it’s the coolest thing, it’s the thing we do, which brings us together with this insane family that supports each other and experiment together and takes risks onstage together.
Madness To Creation: What can fans expect from a PIGFACE show coming up?
Martin: If you know about PIGFACE, the lineup changes from night to night, so there are 11 to 12 or 13 people who are in the lineup, for instance, Randy from Lamb Of God is doing the first five or six shows and Justin Pearson of Swing Kids and The Locust is doing some shows at the end, once you establish this crazy, anything can happen environment when people like Danny Carey of Tool or Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, we’ll jump on stage with them. What fans can expect is the unexpected. I don’t even know exactly what is going to happen, that’s why I’m still doing it because it’s kind of exciting and interesting.
Madness To Creation: I see that PIGFACE has partnered up with Hope For The Day, what does that partnership mean to you?
Martin: There are some great organizations now that are really mobilizing and help anyone who is dealing with these issues, there’s Hope For The Day, there’s Dark Before Dawn in Chicago, there’s Under The Bridge in Toronto, having done PIGFACE for 27 years, and having been a professional musician since 1979, there are many people I’ve been on stage with or made albums with who just aren’t around anymore, so it’s really important to recognize that we’re not just a band going on tour to sell some t-shirts and to drink beer because many of them don’t drink anymore, but we’re mobilizing, joining people together to shine a light on important issues and hopefully give people that vibe that a great concert can give you, and I don’t mean a great concert in terms of a spectacle, I mean it in terms of feeling like a family and connecting the community, so that whoever you connect with at one of these PIGFACE shows will still be your connection a year from now, will be our connection three years from now, and these are the things that keep us going when things get shitty.
Madness To Creation: How did the collaboration with Randy Blythe, Fallon Bowman(Kittie) and Ali Jafri come about?
Martin: This might be a long answer, so just bear with me. Let me talk about Fallon Bowman first, I have no idea how I came into contact with Fallon, but that happened I would say 15 or 16 years ago, she ended up flying down to Chicago to work on some songs with me at my studio in Chicago, but as far as pretty much anybody else is concerned, this PIGFACE partnership that came about is like standing at the end of the stage and turning your back to the audience and falling backwards, it’s literally a leap of faith to see who is around, I never met Randy before, it turned out that we needed a singer for a few days and he’s a PIGFACE fan, and played PIGFACE on his radio show, so I said, “hey buddy, do you want to come out for a week”, and he’s coming out for a week, and PIGFACE is as much of a social experiment as it is a musical experiment and what keeps it exciting are these new connections, the new fans that we’ll meet because somebody will come to a show never hearing of PIGFACE but they love Randy and maybe they’ll end up freaking out because PIGFACE is insane because we’ll have four drummers, three bass players, bagpipes or sitars, it just keeps it interesting and exciting for everybody, it keeps the sound man on his toes, it keeps the crew on their toes, it’s just really good.
Madness To Creation: Do you see other bands following suit in terms of having all these guest spots at a show?
Martin: Don’t forget that PIGFACE has been around since 1991. I feel that it’s been an inspiration for a lot of bands and a yardstick for some people. I read in a magazine that it included in Marilyn Manson’s contract is the word “PIGFACE”, that he’s allowed to do a PIGFACE collaboration, we kind of set the tone for artists to be able to work with each other across genres and across labels, but I think that there are a lot of artists now who electronically share recordings with each other, when somebody else sings on somebody else’s project, or somebody is playing bass on it, that stuff is happening all of the time, to me it’s more important when people are in the same room checking in on each other asking, “how are you doing, okay, you jumped into the crowd last night and broke a rib on the crash barrier, let me help you with that”, and talking in the back room of the bus different ways of doing things, and unique things and that’s a PIGFACE thing, it’s craziness on the road.
Madness To Creation: What has the role of social media played in this for you?
Martin: I think that social media is amazing, I cannot with Public Image Ltd. and Killing Joke, back in my day, my messages of communicating were with rolls of quarters in my pocket and using a payphone, so the Internet is amazing, but it’s not THE avenue, it’s one interesting avenue to let people know about other crazy and amazing stuff, but the Internet is not the answer, but people are the answer and if you can really connect with people and I believe perhaps in an old fashioned way that means looking into their face and seeing their expression and really connecting with them, I think that’s the deal, a lot of artists vehemently think that the Internet, Soundcloud, whatever, is the solution, but I mean it’s available everywhere, just because your music is available everywhere in the world doesn’t mean that the one person hasn’t listened to it, by going out on the road, you’re making yourself a priority to promote it, to journal it, to podcast or blog it, when it’s people coming to your town, you’ll go, “hey, I’ll go see them, I’ll go support them”, you create these connections. It’s messy, it’s frightening, it’s risky but those are all of the things that anything worthwhile is, pressing a button on the Internet, uploading your music to Soundcloud isn’t really risky.
Madness To Creation: You’ve worked with the who’s who of musicians from many genres. Is there someone that you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to collaborate with?
Martin: That’s kind of an open ended question, I work with sitar players, bagpipe players, Flea from the Chili Peppers, Danny from Tool, Franky Perez of Nine Inch Nails, I think there’s somebody out there that I don’t know that I need to work with them yet, does that make sense? So when I worked with Trent, it’s not like, “oh my God, I’m working with Trent”, he’s my friend from Cleveland and he sold 5,000 albums at that time, it’s not that I want to work with somebody that’s huge, I just want to connect with somebody and whether they become huge or not, I want to welcome them to PIGFACE, and help support their work for them, so they can make it their way. I think one of the things that’s really f****** exciting for me right now is working with Gaelynn Lea and pushing the envelope of accessibility for people who aren’t able to get through narrow doorways, so Gaelynn is coming out fo a few shows in the beginning and five or six shows at the end, and we’re going to be working with her and promoting it to where venues are accessible and they understand how important that is, and to me apart from that fact that she’s an amazing fiddle player and an amazing vocalist, whose voice just touches my heart, I feel really proud that PIGFACE is continuing to be pushing this amazing f****** music.
Madness To Creation: Is Gaelynn starting out, if she is, what advice do you have for her, I’m afraid to say I’m not familar with her.
Martin: Well she isn’t really starting out, she is touring in Europe right now and she won a huge competition with NPR Radio, but what I love about Gaelynn and I gave her some advice, which is to be cautious, even though she won this competition, to be very careful and to be cautious about going on the road and she called me back a few days later and she said, “I heard your advice Martin, but I sold the house, I bought a vehicle and we’re going to go live on the road”, and I’m like, “oh f****** hell!”, that’s what it takes to get somewhere, and for seven years you can become an overnight sensation, there are no shortcuts for this life.
Madness To Creation: What else would you like to add in regards to PIGFACE and about those VIP Packages?
Martin: What we’re going to be doing, well we had one show in 2016, we had the venue in Chicago provide Thanksgiving dinner for everybody at a very low cost as a surprise for everybody coming, the VIP ticket package includes $66.06 in coupons for the merch booth, exclusive copies of 7″ red vinyls that you can’t get anywhere else, two t-shirts and all kinds of surprises that we haven’t let everybody know about yet. We’re just trying to continue to do things differently, and it’s all about the fans and the fan experience because that’s the thing that energizes us, if you’re all about that, delighting people and setting their heads on fire with awesomeness, then you get to keep doing this stuff.
And there you have it! Check out PIGFACE on tour:
11/15 Friday Beachland Ballroom Cleveland, OH
11/16 Saturday Crofoot Ballroom Pontiac, MI
11/17 Sunday Lee’s Palace Toronto, ON
11/18 Monday TLA Philadelphia, PA
11/19 Tuesday Le Poisson Rouge New York, NY
11/20 Wednesday Soundstage Baltimore, MD
11/21 Thursday Skully’s Music Diner Columbus, OH
11/22 Friday The Masquerade Atlanta, GA
11/23 Saturday Southport Hall New Orleans, LA
11/24 Sunday Granada Theater Dallas, TX
11/25 Monday The Elysium Austin, TX
11/26 Tuesday Tower Theater Oklahoma City, OK
11/27 Wednesday Marquis Theater Denver, CO
11/28 Thursday Record Bar Kansas City, MO
11/29 Friday The Cabooze Minneapolis, MN
11/30 Saturday Thalia Hall Chicago, IL
For tickets and further information on any of the gigs listed above, click here.