Krista Fechner: Why don't you tell me a little bit about your band and who is in it?
Athan: Okay, there is Matt Green who does all the programming and the keyboards. Our former member Rob Morton who left the band at the end of the recording of The Coiled One. He was a keyboard player and programmer as well. Now we have a couple of new members. Kent Bancroft on guitar. We have a stand up electronic drummer named Harry Lewis.
Krista: I know before that Rob was in New York and you had to mail music back and forth. Is that still the situation?
Athan: Everyone lives in the Los Angeles area now which makes it much more convenient.
[ A mild segue is made while they discuss old tour dates in the California area which have long since passed. ]
Krista: Have you toured a lot before on your other releases?
Athan: We've done two complete tours of the U.S. One for "Collateral Damage" and one for "Blackmail Starter's Kit." We did a bunch of dates in southern Mexico in the Mexico City area. Those were great and we just jogged back east and did CMJ and a few other dates on the east coast. So two complete tours and a couple of spotty shows. We're looking to do a tour with The Electric Hellfire Club in November.
Krista: The shows you are playing are to support your new album called "The Coiled One." You mentioned your other releases, "Blackmail Starter's Kit" which was an EP of remixes that came out last year from "Collateral Damage." Your new album differs quite a bit from the previous releases; can you give any indication as to why?
Athan: It was just time to try something new. We had played with the distortion effects on the vocals on a number of releases and to us it wasn't simply just one full album and one EP with it. There was also a slew of compilations and then both albums were reissued in Europe, so to us it almost seemed that we had done fifteen some odd releases with my voice in distortion and the music being really hard and heavy. As much as I love those albums, I think it was just time to open things up a little bit and that's what we did. We kind of let the songs breathe and write songs this time as opposed to write a mood.
Krista: After we talk for a few more minutes I'm going to play a track off the new album called "Compression Test." Can you tell me what that is about?
Athan: I've said this a bunch of times so it seems sort of cliche' to me, but recording this album took a lot of blood out of all of us. I'm in a band with two of my best friends from almost ten years ago in New York and I'm watching their friendship start to really dissipate. So there was a lot of pressure during this release. A compression test is something you do on an automobile to check its horse power. We were kind of ready to explode. That is what that song is about. Just being down, real down about watching a real rough time in all of our lives financially and occupation wise, our love lives, etc. When it all comes together and you're watching your band it's depressing. "Depression Test" maybe it should be called.
Krista: Do you want to tell me about the other band that you're in called Tubalcain?
Athan: I was in that band.
Krista: You're not anymore?
Athan: We put out a few releases and kind of after the last EP we parted ways. That band is in Philadelphia. I lived in Philadelphia for five years and when I moved to Los Angeles I was doing the back & forth thing for a very long time, for almost three years of my being in California. I couldn't do it anymore. I just had to commit to one thing. It was like having two women that you want to marry, and it just doesn't work.
Krista: Before Spahn Ranch and Tubalcain you were in some other bands, some of which were pretty well known, some gothic bands?
Athan: I was in Executive Slacks. Before that I was in a Goth group called Fahrenheit 451. So I've been doing this awhile.
Krista: Right now you also work for Cleopatra Records and they put out quite a bit of Goth stuff. In fact they seem to get a lot of flak for that from all the industrial types. I know that sometimes your band has been called Gothic. What do you think about that?
Athan: I've heard about the flak. One thing I don't understand is that both scenes are so small and in many areas they just seem to embrace each other I almost wish it would be a little more often. The industrial and gothic genres are the two most outcast genres by all other forms of alternative music. I think that they should just face the facts and stick together because the whole joke punk scene, the garage punk, all that junk is just really bad. They turn and laugh at us. So we should try and stick together and laugh at them.
Krista: I know some clubs in San Francisco where it is combined gothic and industrial and I think it works out pretty well. Especially if it's separate rooms so you can split the music.
Athan: I like that idea a lot. They are the only two forms of dark music that exist. I like to think that we've managed to combine to the two. Most of the people I know were goths as teenagers and then became a little tired of it and found industrial. Rarely do you ever see it the other way around. I think industrial is maybe the adult version of goth, because it is futuristic. The goth thing gets a little tedious after awhile but I still appreciate it and it is still a big influence of mine.
Krista: I would say your previous albums were dark in the sound and the lyrics. Would you say that that's changed a bit on the new album?
Athan: I don't think so. I actually just sent you a copy of the full length with all the lyrics printed. My lyrical output really hasn't changed. It's all very vague the way that I write. I write in sort of a diary type form. I don't actually keep a diary, so songs are a way for me to do anything close to it. So in a song I may even talk about five to six different topics that have very little to do with each other but that's the way that I write. It is generally dark. The lyrics that I had written ten years ago and the lyrics that I've written now - I've matured a bit as a writer but overall they still have the same feel. Rarely do they ever get a positive, like high-five, let's go to a toga party-type of feel from my lyrics.
[ The interview cuts into playing a few tracks from Spahn Ranch's previous work as well as the new album. ]
Krista: A lot of the songs on the new album sound like they have a European influence. Are there any particular bands that you've been listening to in the last couple years that influenced you more than others?
Athan: Are you speaking vocally or musically? They are two distinctly different entities.
Krista: Musically. In fact, the first three tracks - I've talked with other DJs and we keep wondering "where have we heard that?" It's got that catchy, really familiar sound, like we've heard it before, yet it's different, which is good since it sticks in your mind.
Athan: To speak for Matt - Matt has been listening to a lot more techno dub oriented, maybe European music for the most part. He's been going to a lot more of those type of clubs. And so in the music that he is bringing across, there are still a lot of metallic-type sounds but there is even what I find a soundtrackish element to the album. Speaking for Matt that is what his songs are about these days. In terms of what you were saying about hearing it before, maybe we've brought out some of our older influences from the 80s: Wire, Sisters of Mercy, Bowieisms and stuff like that. We weren't listening to much stuff from our own genre when we recorded this album. It is generally not a good thing to do. Oddly enough when we were recording "Collateral Damage," it was all that I was listening to was Klute and stuff like that, and although I love that kind of music I would walk into the studio maybe even humming something that Claus had written. I tried to stay away from most of that this time.
Krista: I think that definitely shows in the influences. There is definitely a very techno feel to some of the songs. Even running throughout the remainder of the album even on the songs that aren't very techno. I just was to ask you about the name of your band. I didn't actually know what it meant until my radio listeners called me and let me know.
Athan: The band was named before I joined the band. They had released an EP before I joined and the name was already set in stone. Matt's explanation at the time was that they needed a name and he grabbed that and it stuck. It was a sufficient name to use. The Manson connotation that it has - I don't necessarily adhere to the ideology of it.
Krista: Do you get any fans of your band that are obsessed with it or focus on it at all because it is associated with Manson?
Athan: There is a lot of that out there. There definitely is a decent amount of people seriously interested in it. I would be a liar if I didn't say that at one point in my life I was fascinated by it too. I think I was fascinated more with how far someone could actually go, not that I wanted to become that. I am fascinated with a lot of odd freaks from history, literature, and from film. All of them as strange as a Manson type but more creative, and you can respect them more. There are a lot of people out there that are fascinated by serial killers, but I wonder what the fascination is - do they want to become one, or that they are fascinated with how far someone could possibly go?
Krista: There was something that happened when you were playing a gig with The Electric Hellfire Club at the Asylum in Philadelphia. Do you want to tell us about that?
Athan: Yeah, you just never really expect anything to come so close to home like what I am about to say. Some twenty-one year old guy named Caleb out in the suburbs, twenty minutes outside of Philadelphia apparently killed this mother and this toddler and got rid of their bodies and an hour later he was at the club in Philadelphia at 7:30 exactly when we started. So apparently he was in the front moshing according to the newspaper. They nailed him on it the next day. Apparently he had really done a number on these two people and all of that crazy satanic stuff.
Krista: Wow! I didn't know about the satanic stuff. I heard that part of his excuse was that he had all these finger nail scratches all over him and his parents asked him where it was from and he said he was moshing at your show. As if people who mosh end up with cuts like that.
Athan: Well, he tried to use that as an excuse. Apparently there was all this blood at his place of work and what not.
Krista: It sounds really horrible. I wonder if he was there to see you or The Electric Hellfire Club. It sounds like it might have been Electric Hellfire Club, if he was into all the Satan stuff.
Athan: I really don't know. Granted, in Philadelphia, it is a very limited music scene. The people who are into this style of music make up a very small portion of the population so there is only one club devoted to it. He simply went to the one club that he heard of that had to do with his world and I don't know if he was into the music or what.
Krista: I think it was the look. From what I heard, he was dressed as a vampire, all gothed out, with fangs.
Athan: That's what I heard too, but according to the picture he looked like Chris Farley from Saturday Night Live. He didn't look much like a goth.
Krista: Goths come in all shapes and sizes.
Athan: Oh they definitely do...and usually larger shapes...
Krista: Okay, we'll end this part of the discussion right now. Any parting words?
Athan: Just give our album a chance, that's about it. It
took a lot out of us to make, so it is the least you can do.