Watch him wallow

Pigface's Martin Atkins -- sober but no less sick

Wednesday March 26, 2003 12:04 am EST

Whatever your preconceived notions regarding industrial-metal performers, Martin Atkins isn't likely to meet them. Sure, the longtime drummer, producer and label guru may look the part of a musician who's logged time with Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Public Image Ltd. And the music of Pigface, the amorphous collective for which he serves as ringmaster, throttles and snarls with all the dark-inflected aggression you'd expect from an outfit known for album titles such as Eat Shit, You Fucking Redneck and Welcome to Mexico, Asshole.

But Atkins isn't your average arrested adolescent. Soft-spoken and intelligent, he chats easily about war in Iraq and his eight years of sobriety with none of the self-important grandstanding celebrities usually bring to such topics. In fact, he sounds downright friendly, which is in keeping with his band's all-inclusive vibe.

"Pigface has always been very open, not just to other performers but to everyone," Atkins says. "From allowing people to call my studio and leave messages on my answering machine, and incorporating them onto remix tapes, to allowing kids to add to our 'Fuck List' an evolving musical string of 'fuck yous'."

All the way, apparently, to allowing couples to get married on stage during a Pigface show. "It seemed to me to be a logical extension" of the band's openness, Atkins says of the first such union, which took place last year in Pittsburgh.

Atkins liked the vibe so much, in fact, that he decided to try it again. But instead of waiting for a couple to approach him, he opted to hold an auction on eBay. The winner was Atlanta resident Sean Randall, a Pigface fan who bid on the wedding not for himself, but as a present to fellow Atlantans Chuck Eddins and Lori Brantley.

Randall, who will serve as Eddins' best man, says there is one catch so far. "Getting a minister to the show — to come see Pigface and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. That's been my difficulty," he says. "We definitely won't be wearing tuxes."

Pigface's chaotic United Tour is a multi-band outing that serves as a logical extension of Underground Inc., a loose conglomerate of like-minded artist-driven labels, including Atkins' own Mattress Factory Recording Studios. "It's mayhem," he says. "It's a great evening, with a great variety of different vibes going on. And if that means that we have to share equipment and crew, and work twice as hard, and promoters have to provide food for a few extra people, that's easy; those are just mundane, everyday tasks. And it's worth it, because I think we're getting really close to some really great magic on stage. We've been doing Pigface so long, it's not frightening to us to have so many people on stage."

What is frightening is the prospect of mounting such a large undertaking with the country on the brink of war. But Atkins, a native Brit who's lived in America since 1981, has a surprisingly evenhanded take on things.

"It's frightening for many reasons, of course," he says. "But it's mainly disappointing, more than anything else. As I go on my journey, I feel like I've left some petty, insignificant, insecure bullshit behind me, and it certainly would be nice if a few of our world leaders could do that as well. Within the bands that I work with, we're always aspiring to grow, and I don't see much of that going on with these leaders."

When it's remarked that Atkins sounds far more well adjusted than his music would lead people to believe, he laughs. "Which would be what, a lunatic? I think, since I discarded drinking, I find myself to be a much more dangerous individual and a more serious performer. Drunk, I was a danger to myself. Sober, I'm a danger to the audience."


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