There are times when music… captivates you by the deep, emotional gloomy, esoteric & atmospheric feeling it exhales… and grabs your attention from the very first moment, helping you dive into its unique spacy sea of stars… Those are some things I have in mind every time I listen to “Slyklight”. With every new listen it’s like I’m discovering a new dark part of space… AtomA have truly done it. They created a diverse, inspired, post-apocalyptic soundtrack that will haunt your ordinary reality. We had to contact the mastermind of the band Ehsan (vocals/keys) so as to learn more things… about AtomA and they big journey to another solar systems… Read below and get ready…
Hi Ehsan… You really did it dude! I find “Skylight” an amazing piece of work!! We’ve named it the Best Album of April on Grande Rock…
E: Thanks man. Glad you enjoy it. (i.n.: not only me but everyone that has listened to it...)
First things first. I’d like to ask you what on earth (or out of earth) inspired you so much to write this exceptional music?
E: We were bored to death with life in general. Everything felt so predictable, square, fixed, planned, rigged and scheduled. We wanted to create something where we could feel free and human. To release many of the emotions we carry concerning life, this world and everything in it, and so... we became astronauts of AtomA.
So, what happened after the Slumber release in 2004 up to 2011 when you formed AtomA? Why wasn’t there a second Slumber album? I remember the debut had a great response back then.
E: Life took us apart after the “Fallout” album. Also, we really had no interest in creating a follow-up to that album since we were not interested in belonging to one genre. Slumber was very much locked in its growl/doom/goth/death-metal style. It felt more like a prison than the musical freedom we were longing for. We were searching for something else.
Who thought of the name… were you inspired by the ancient philosopher Democritus who discovered atoma and the atomic theory?
E: I found the name, but you know… I’m not sure if we found the name, or the name found us. I chose to believe the latter. But yes, the Greek meaning of Atoma was an inspiration, and also Atomic bomb was a huge factor in the name building. An explosion of colors and feelings and the tension between beauty and horror. (i.n.: well that’s true… sometimes some things find us… before we even know they exist…)
Did you have in mind which musical direction you would follow as soon as you formed AtomA?
E: Yes. The direction was that emotional dreamy storytelling would be the only king in our kingdom. Not trying to fit in a genre or style or to please an audience or whatever. We wanted to have the creative freedom to take us and the listeners wherever we wanted. To explore this universe of sound together. (i.n.: I do like that perspective)
Maybe the older fans would have waited for something heavier and more metal… but instead, you decided to move on more atmospheric, ambient, electronic, rock paths. How would you describe your sound, to someone who hasn’t heard the band before?
E: I guess many were expecting a follow-up to Slumber. We had no interest in that as I explained earlier. I always have a difficult time explaining AtomA’s music to others. When someone asks me what I do and I reply “Music” then they always ask “What kind of music?”... that’s when things get difficult. The album is a feeling, a progression of emotions, it’s not trying to be a certain style, so to this day, I still have no clue what to answer. I usually give up and just say “go listen and find out”... (i.n.: I’ll agree with the better listen to it part…)
Tell us… why did you choose to name the album “Skylight”?
E: When I was a small kid, my father was a political prisoner in Iran for being highly active in the revolution both against the regime and later against the islamic government. Me and my mom used to visit him while in prison... but I was too small to really understand what was going on. I hated that place. I used to just fixate my eyes on a window in the roof, and stare at the clouds to forget what was going on below. That’s where the name Skylight was born. (i.n.: that’s a very sad story but it eventually gave birth to something good… no one must have such memories from their childhood… it is unfair)
Who is responsible for this exceptional cover artwork… and how is it related with the lyrics, the title and the music?
E: The astronauts you see is us, searching for a new beginning, a new home. Mainly because of being too alienated from the world today. We found AtomA and will spend the rest of our lives trying to understand and explore this strange and fascinating phenomenon in our lives. The artworks is made by Jan Meininghaus, a deeply talented artist.
Could those two cosmonauts re-discover earth in a post-apocalyptic future time… or they have just reached unknown places… looking for the proper conditions to start their lives over again? Is planet Earth coming to an end eventually?
E: Planet Earth has maybe already ended, at least in my point of view. We’ve created these huge corporate machineries driven by profit and no responsibility to human life, or even planet life. For example… banks fuck people and nations over, yet instead of rising against these institutions people turn to idiot shit like racism, or even becoming more neo-liberals, right wing extremism, fundamentalism and so on… sometimes I feel this whole thing is just a bad acid trip, a horrible unreal nightmare I can’t grasp. We’re all becoming alienated to our own planet. Either we need a huge global revolution to bring everything down in flames and begin anew, or we will march like silent greedy victims till there is no more life on this planet left. Those two astronauts on the album cover already left earth, searching for hope elsewhere. (i.n.: wish we could leave so easily… but they do not even leave us any choices… neither live… nor leave…nothing… maybe a global revolution as you said or a huge destruction could start things over)
Tell us a few things about the guest appearance of the singer Ida Sundqvist.
E: She was quite special to work with. Very gifted, proud and melancholic singer that was perfect for this album. I could see the pain in her and how she tried to bring it out on the album. Like us, she was also trying to find a way out of this pain.
Can give us a hint about the songs…?
E: I have no idea how to answer this. I could write a full essay on each of the songs, I don’t know how to keep it short. In general, we wanted to create a very dynamic album that starts off dark and raw, and then slowly as the album progresses it becomes something else. Something more calm and bright.
Where did you record the album and who is responsible for the mixing, the production and the mastering?
E: We recorded the album at Panic Room Studios with our sound engineer Thomas ‘Plec’ Johansson. We already had a close relation to him since we made “Fallout” together many years ago. Recording AtomA was a difficult 8 week long process of experimenting and finding new ways of achieving sounds. It was the most difficult and challenging times of my life, but also one of the most interesting. Plec is a master at keeping calm and knowing how to reach his aim. Salute to Plec! (i.n.: the result is awesome indeed!)
Now that you can look at the album from a distance, is there anything that you would like to change?
E: I have a million new ideas for next albums, so my mind is set on that. I try not look back. “Burn all bridges behind” as my grandfather used to say heheh…
You also shot a video for “Bermuda Riviera”. Why did you choose that song from the album? Are you gonna release any other videos in the future? Maybe a video for “Rainmen” or “Cloud Nine” would have been just great.
E: We chose that song due to its visual and dynamic nature. We wanted to show our world view in that video and “Bermuda” was simply the most captivating in that sense. I’m not sure if we’ll release another video for this album, since this is debut album and usually with debuts it’s very limited funding and not much room to create a lot of things like videos. There is however a deep visual longing to create otherworldly videos for AtomA and during the coming years we will make this happen.
What strikes at once when listening to the album is the remarkable orchestration. Who is responsible for it? Is there musical freedom when it comes to songwriting? Does every member contribute or it’s only your call on that?
E: We have an open source kind of attitude towards everything. Anyone having a strong idea or melody we will make the most out of it and fight for it. I’m the captain of our ship but we sail together as one unit, creating everything together.
I’m responsible for a lot of the orchestrations through the synthesizer, and we also used a lot of real violin and cello to have a natural vibe to it, but all in all it’s with the blending of synth and guitars that truly creates that orchestrated feeling. When the harmonies co-exist and work well together, the sound rises to become huge.
I’m really curious to find out about your musical influences. Your personal or the band’s in general…
E: I’d have to write a thousand page essays to answer this question. We get influenced by everything and anything, no matter style, genre or format. Music, film, life, pain, happiness, joy, lost, longing for love, death and so on. We put it all in the music without limitations. This is what we will do during the coming years, to sharpen the tools to make these emotions and influences more powerful and colorful.
Do you believe that this record can make a breakthrough for you to larger audiences beyond the rock/metal scene?
E: I don’t really know. I’d go crazy if I were thinking about these kind of things. I’m no businessman, I create albums. That’s what we focus on. We’re already experimenting and trying out new things for the next album so that’s where my concentration is. To try to understand the market, or have predictions is not my place and beyond my abilities.
What shall we wait from Atoma in future? What do you wanna achieve with this band?
E: An open and genuine sound that is influenced by everything and anything and can take us far far from earth. It can go whatever direction it wants. You know… in the beginning I thought since we created AtomA, that somehow we were its masters... but now I know I’m just a vessel of this force we call AtomA. It has a life of its own. So let’s see where AtomA takes us. I’m equally curious. (i.n.: so, only time can tell…)
Have you arranged to give any live shows… or is it difficult to reproduce this kind of music live? What do you think?
E: It requires a lot of rehearsal and preparations to make this music powerful live. That’s what we’re doing now. We’re rehearsing a lot and coming up with new ideas on how to make it happen. In fall 2012 we will begin going out in the world to perform a lot and to tour.
Thus, after an exceptional debut… I bet that the next step will be more difficult for you… have you thought of the next album yet?
E: I think about it almost every second I’m awake. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment, to create these albums for AtomA. My whole life has been a preparation for this, so it’s not “difficult” in that sense, it just requires enormous amounts of dedication and time, and that... I’m shock full of. till death do us apart.
I’ve written that you have created “a post-apocalyptic soundtrack for after the day of reckoning or possibly for a new beginning in another place”… in my review. Do you agree with that?
E: Not to sound melodramatic, but Yes that’s what we’re doing. This world has nothing to offer us anymore, it shows constantly how corrupt it has become and twisting humanity into repetitive greed and idiocy. When we’re in the studio, we take off to another place, to a kingdom in space where everything is possible… to begin a new civilization in our own minds. (i.n.: thank God there’s still music that can make you travel to another places…)
What’s your opinion of people downloading free music from the Internet? What shall an artist do in order to avoid losing money and time?
E: I have no idea. The difficulties of being an artist in this right-wing world where everything is sponsored by some shit, are huge. I have no idea how real artists will survive. The really bad thing about it is that the less income the musicians get from their actual music, the more they need investors and sponsors, and unfortunately that’s when the art seize to be art. It becomes a product, entertainment like anything else. It can’t afford to take big risks.
Is Internet a good promotion tool for every band out there after all or it has both helped and harmed bands and the music industry in general?
E: It’s good for exposure for all bands, but I think it has completely devastated the main source of income for bands that are not globally huge. Now bands HAS to get out and gig like crazy to make things go around... That is a fatal thing I believe. Maybe all artists are not supremely interested in exposing themselves all the time through image and on stage and instead want to focus deeply on writing music. This kind of musicians stands no chance in today’s climate. That is truly sad. We will kill a lot of good music due to this.
How good is the fact that a whole generation learned to hear music via MP3’s (that have such a bad quality) and they actually believe that music is only in mp3 format… and nothing more? Maybe some of the younger guys won’t even own a single CD! That’s gonna be a boomerang in the end… what do you think?
E: I think the lack of personality that comes with an mp3 will resonate in a lack of respect to the art in the end. At least that’s how I perceive mp3s. I don’t value it very highly and it becomes just one file amongst thousand others. I listen and then throw it away. I can never devote myself or have a true journey to an mp3 album. Maybe I’m too “old school” for it, I dunno. (i.n.: music should be heard properly… mp3s have destroyed music…)
And some weird Questions now!! Is fiction part of reality… or reality is fiction’s flaw?
E: I have really no idea what reality is anymore. I feel more human and real when creating music and losing myself in that abstract world. When I indulge in more “real” ordinary stuff with usual earthly things I feel like an alien doing things in command. That somehow I’m not in control of myself. Working like an automated robot ant, doing meaningless survival stuff. But in music... I’m human, vulnerable, powerful, huge and small. I feel alive.
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music evolution, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
E: Probably the Pink Floyd collection of albums. If just one album then “The Wall” or “Dark Side of the Moon”. I grew up with these albums and consider them to be truly the peak of musical evolution, at least in their time. Maybe Vangelis “Blade Runner” soundtrack also.
How can computers affect and help music? Will there be humans playing musical instruments in the next decades?
E: Computers is an essential tool to try difficult ideas easier and faster. I sometimes fear that in the future there will be no more instrumentalists left, only computers and alone musicians sitting there programming stuff. I don’t know how to feel about that… it just makes me sad. I hope it never happens.
Shall we wait for extraterrestrials to save us… or we must first make a stand and save our lives ourselves… instead of waiting for miracles? Are the stars our destiny eventually?
E: I think aliens have already been here and got the fuck out already. They got one glance at humanity and thought… ”fuuuck these little psychopaths, let’s go home”… (i.n.: this is more likely to have happened… humanity is rotten to the core…)
Who is your favorite philosopher and why?
E: For many years now, I’ve been reading a lot of Nietzche. Even though, I rarely agree or disagree with his words, he is the one that makes my mind fly to other places and challenge me to the very core of my existence. He and my father are the only two persons that can turn boring reality into fascinating galaxy for me.
Who is your favorite fantasy author and why?
E: I’m not that into fantasy, more into sci fi and the vast open space phenomenon, where anything is possible and undiscovered. My favourite Sci Fi author is Philip K Dick. Many of his works has turned into movies also, like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and so on. This guy has an imagination of a dystopian future I’ve never seen before. Truly inspirational. (i.n.: PKD was indeed ahead of his age…)
Which is the biggest unfulfilled aim or wish for your further life?
E: To be happy. Content. I’m tired of being constantly under pressure and filled with uncontrolled fire of the direction our world is going to. I want to be harmonic… and calm. I hope age will serve me these traits.
If you could be born as any famous person in history who would it be and why?
E: Sigmund Freud maybe. He seemed pretty goddamn awesome due to his chaotic life style and exploration of the mind.
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
E: I would sell her jewelry and hire a hitman to take her out. Don’t mess with my music… (i.n.: hehe the album collection is sacred for some guys… swell!)
Finally we come to an end… Thank you very much, Ehsan, for this interesting interview... The last words belong to you… Take care!
E: Put your headphones on, close your eyes and press play from the beginning of the album and listen to the end. Have a good journey… Thank you very much for the interview Thanos. Bye.