[Originally posted on UK Arts Directory 21/3/15]
ATOM STRANGE are a rock band from New York City who are producing some brilliant music. A lot of their inspiration comes from the most influential rock and metal bands of the past few decades and they have a sci-fi theme running through much of their work, not least in their latest album titled ‘The Lost Cosmonauts’. If you’re a rock/metal fan, you should definitely check them out.
I recently caught up with Alex Rude, the guitarist/songwriter for the band.
INTERVIEW WITH ALEX RUDE of ATOM STRANGE
Tell us a bit about the members of Atom Strange, what are your musical backgrounds and how did you all meet?
Well I started the band back in 2005 or so under a different name. We lost our singer and I put an ad on Craigslist (that’s a classifieds ad website in the US) looking for a singer. Rick Dunn answered the ad and that’s where ATOM STRANGE really started. Rick and I are the only ones that have been a part of ATOM STRANGE since the start. Just about every person that has been in the band came from answering ads on that website though we have entertained auditions with people who we have met through friends and acquaintances as well. We have had a few people in and out of the band over the years but I think we have a very solid lineup at the moment with Vinnie LaRocca on drums and Santiago Helman on bass. Each of us has a pretty lengthy background in music. I first started playing when I was about 14 years old, though I bought my first guitar a few years earlier. My biggest influences have been KISS, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal and thrash was a big deal for me too in the ’80s and then Grunge in the ’90s. Love all those bands. Rick grew up listening to a lot of Alice Cooper, Van Halen and even hip hop and rap. Vinnie listens to everything from jazz to metal but I would say that Iron Maiden and KISS were his big influences. Santiago grew up in Argentina and is heavily influenced by IRON MAIDEN and thrash metal.
Is there a story behind why the band was called ‘Atom Strange’?
Well I am a huge fan of science fiction and comic books and wanted to have a band that utilized those influences somehow. When Rick first joined we decided to rename the band and I was working for a friend in a comic book shop and came across a copy of Showcase Comics #17 which is the first appearance of Adam Strange. I have a tattoo of an atom on my arm and thought it would be cool to call the band ATOM STRANGE. Everyone liked it, there was no other band with the name and that was that.
Your latest album is The Lost Cosmonauts. Looking at your album covers for previous releases there does seem to be a bit of a sci-fi theme there. Was this something you set out to do or was it something that developed while you were writing your music?
Definitely very intentional. I LOVE science fiction and comic books, fantasy and horror and really wanted a band that reflected that side of me. I was looking to create what I could conceivably think would be my favorite band. From the very start, at least the art work would reflect that. The Lost Cosmonauts is actually a concept album based on a sci-fi story/graphic novel I wrote a while back. It’s about a Soviet Cosmonaut that tries to beat the US to the moon in 1969 and gets lost in space only to return to earth 50 years later unaged and with abilities he didn’t have before. The titles and lyrics of the songs on the album help tell that story but are also a little ambiguous so that they don’t have to be telling the story literally and can have different meanings to whomever reads them. I originally planned on releasing a finished graphic novel in tandem with the album but we finished the record much faster than the novel so the album came out first. I still have hope that one day the graphic novel will get finished and be released and have the album as a soundtrack to it. That was my original intention. The album covers and the artwork for our show posters are always pretty heavily influenced by sci-fi and great graphic design. I look to the classic album covers for inspiration like all the great stuff from Hipgnosis and try to keep our imagery on the same level. We are not really into the whole fire, skulls and naked girls for our art. We try to separate ourselves from whatever is trendy and do something original.
That’s interesting. I’d love to read the novel when/if it gets published 🙂
Tell us a bit about the songs on The Lost Cosmonauts. How long did it take to put the album together?
Well we do everything ourselves from the writing, to pre-production to the recording. I produced the album myself over the course of about a little over a year. All in all it took about 18 months from start to finish I would say. Since we don’t have anyone at a label telling us what to do, we do things at our own pace. We would have finished it sooner I think but there were issues we had to deal with regarding personnel and of course money! While it no longer takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a well produced record it still wasn’t cheap and we paid for all of it out of our own pockets. We didn’t even use crowd funding or a Kickstarter campaign or anything like that. Maybe we will for the next one.
Yes, those crowdfunding sites can be very helpful, especially for musicians. I’ve seen a few bands successfully fund their albums through those sites recently. Pledge Music and Indiegogo seem popular.
Who writes Atom Strange’s songs and what inspires the music?
I would say that I write 95% of the music and Rick writes 95% of the lyrics. There are a few ways that we write songs. The 2 methods we most often use are just jamming at our rehearsals (we record everything we do that’s new) or I bring in a few riffs in some skeletal form of an arrangement and start playing the songs like that. We take home the recordings and work on them on our own before the next rehearsal and see what we have come up with. Home work is key for me. I love to jam but working on ideas alone helps me flesh out things faster and with more diverse results. As for inspiration, musically I tend to be inspired by all that I read (tons of sci-fi books) and what I see on the big and little screen. I like to write moody music that could be used as a soundtrack for a creepy sci-fi film or something along those lines. Rick tends to write his lyrics from personal experience.
What have been some of your highlights so far as a band?
There have been a few things that we would consider highlights for ATOM STRANGE. Personally for me playing with KING’s X was huge! They are one of my favorite bands ever and are really an incredibly nice bunch of guys. And probably some of the most talented songwriters and players/singers around. They deserve so much more than they have gotten so far. We have also played with LA Guns, Boba Flex, Eye Empire, OWL, The (London) Quireboys and even PitBull. That was a little weird really but lots of fun. The show with PitBull was in front of something like 7,000 people at a college outdoors. Kind of felt like what it must have been like when the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for the Monkees! LOL!
PitBull, ha, ha! Seems like an odd combination 🙂 I have to admit I’ve found a couple of his songs catchy in the past 😀
I remember seeing King’s X back in the day, when they were supporting Anthrax.
We actually have another great show coming up in NYC at the Gramercy Theater on April 15th as special guests of Michael Schenker who is also one of my favorite guitar players ever! The Beethoven of rock guitar!
That sounds awesome.
Who were your musical heroes when you were growing up?
Growing up I had access to my parents record collection that ran the gamut from early Beatles, Stones, the Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan all the way to South American folk and tango music. When I got to the age where I could buy my own music it was KISS and Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd… All of that material has influenced me greatly. ’70’s classic rock is definitely a favorite of mine personally. Grunge in the ’90s was also a big deal for me. All of those guys have the same influences as myself and write the kind of dark and minor key music I love. Everything we hear will influence us on some level. I know Vinnie and Santiago love IRON MAIDEN and pay close attention to the mainstream metal market and Rick loves all kinds of stuff from Weird Al to Van Halen. He used to be a DJ and had access to loads of new music and still does today. He has a very eclectic taste in music. I think that’s where he gets his melodic sense when it comes to writing over my weird odd-time guitar riffs.
Are you working on any new music?
We are always writing or working on new material. We currently have an new song called “Fly” that has a serious disco beat to it but is still quite heavy and a little weird. We look for new music all the time and share it all with each other. You never know what will creep into what you write but it’s never an intentional ripping off of someone else’s work. At least not for us. If you are doing that then you have already missed the boat, band-wagon or trend and you are way too late. We write what we feel and try to be aware of ourselves so we don’t start sounding like anyone else. That’s the hardest part actually. I am sure we could write a new album in a week if we wanted to but it would probably not be as good as when we take our time and really work the material and make sure it’s got our sound. We also all have day jobs so we don’t all have 40+ hours a week to spend on playing and writing new material. We have to be very selective about what to focus on at any given moment.
What are the band’s plans for 2015?
Play as many shows as possible and hopefully release an EP or two of new music. We would love to make it over to Europe this year and hopefully after all the great reviews and the exposure from people like yourself it will happen. Come on England! We want to play for you!
We would love ATOM STRANGE to play in England! 🙂
Any other news for your fans?
Yes! Sometime in March 2015 we will be releasing the official video for our song “I’m Alive” from the Lost Cosmonauts album. It’s our first video ever and has lots of cool little sci-fi things happening in it from super sexy female androids to space travel and spaceships. There is even a bit of CGI in the video. It should be available all over the world soon but once it’s released you will be able to check it out through our website www.ATOMSTRANGE.com
Thanks, Alex! I will be looking out for that video! Sounds great 🙂
Purchase links for ‘Lost Cosmonauts’:
It’s an amazing album. Rock fans will love it!
Keep up with all ATOM STRANGE’S news: