This interview is one of several which was originally done for a printed publication. Due to production problems it never saw the light of day so is being published here along with several others over the coming week or so.
The tides of change are ever turning for Chicago’s The Atlas Moth; in the four years between the atmospheric sludge five piece’s last release ‘The Old Believer’ and newest opus ‘Coma Noir’ the band have welcomed a new drummer into their fold, changed record labels from Profound Lore to Prosthetic Records and, for the first time ever, guitarist Andrew Ragin didn’t produce their album. As the title suggests, ‘Coma Noir’ is heavily influenced by film noir – while the record doesn’t fall directly into the category of a concept album, there are narratives throughout, which guitarist and vocalist, Stavros Giannopoulos, is keen to elaborate on. “When our last record, ‘The Old Believer’ came out four years ago, I started writing a story, and I didn’t know really where it was going to go or whether it was going to be a graphic novel or a script or whatever for a film, or maybe just a book, I don’t even know, but I really had the idea that no one’s ever done a film noir movie that was a horror movie as well”, he tells us, “Initially, I started writing this little story out in my mind and outlining it and beginning to put it into dialogue and writing out the story, but truthfully, I just got to the point where I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’m writing this story but there’s this record I’m also trying to do. Why not do it all at once?’”
Production quality has been the biggest gripe for both fans and critics alike when it comes to The Atlas Moth’s back catalogue. With this in mind, the band were more determined than ever to get it right for ‘Coma Noir’ – with Andrew having to split his attention between both guitar and production it meant that neither aspect were getting the attention they deserved, so the band made the decision for him to step away from the mixing boards to focus full on his instrumental duties within the band. Long-time friend, Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Corrections House, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Two from the Eye) was the obvious choice to take the reins, having produced records for the likes of Cough, Eyehategod and Pelican. “We had all sorts of ideas about who we could use to record the record, and truthfully, they always came back to Sanford. We all got in the studio and we all had a really, really fun time, which particularly for me, I hate recording records. If I could go from load-in to the finished product, I would do it in a heartbeat. It’s not my favourite thing to do as a band. I really love playing live and I really love writing songs. Hell, I even like writing in a van more so than I like recording records. It’s so tedious to me. This was actually the most fun I ever had in the studio”, Stavros reveals, “Sanford brought in a whole new element. Obviously he’s been a friend of ours for so long too, he knows our band really well. I think he focused on what our strengths are individually and as a band, and really made us focus on capturing that on a record, which is definitely something we haven’t been able to do yet, until now. I think that that’s definitely been captured.”
Following the departure of drummer Dan Lasek, Broken Hope’s Mike Miczek stepped in to fill the void. While Stavros and the rest of his band mates enjoy Dan’s company outside of a musical environment, playing together changed the dynamic to one which no one enjoyed and they quickly realised that after a year of playing together than no one was happy and requested that Dan leave. Mike was the first drummer to audition and they clicked straight away. “He came on, he stepped up, and he joined the band, but truthfully, although he did great in his role at the time that we needed him, the four of us are pretty much lifers at this point. I think that we’ve gone so far as a band that we really can’t stop now. It’d be almost silly, and Dan was looking at our band as, ‘Okay, well, I haven’t gotten anywhere playing music, so this is going to be my last shot of making it. That’s an antiquated ideal”, he reveals, “Mike seemed to slip right in. He was playing in a band with Andrew called Eat Their Own, which was kind of falling apart too. Andrew had a real good relationship with him. He brought him in and it was a seamless transition. He just came in and he was just hanging out with us. We’ve been friends forever. His skill and ability is beyond any drummer I’ve ever played with, period, whether it’s this band or any other band I’ve ever been in. He definitely brought in these more traditional metal elements that I feel like maybe I particularly was the biggest supporter of that we’ve never gotten. I would write a lot of these super metal riffs for old records, and they wouldn’t make it because they didn’t really fit us with the drummers we had, or they would get changed by just playing them with a drummer that wasn’t particularly hip to playing straight up metal. He definitely has pushed us to go into new ground, which is also really exciting just because that’s what we’ve always tried to do. We’ve always tried to break new ground as a band every time we put out a record. He definitely had a big part in pushing the metal envelope and the metal vibe that’s on the record, the traditional one, not like this post-metal or weird oddball take on metal. This is like, ‘Hey, look, I can play a metal riff and he metals the fuck out of those drums.’” With an ever expanding and evolving sound and a litany of “firsts” under their belt, ‘Coma Noir’ is an exciting new direction for The Atlas Moth, paving the way for a future that looks brighter than ever for the band.