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The Ataris Interview

After the band's Chicago Warped Tour date, I was able to sit down with Mike for a chat about his precious bass and the band.

The Ataris Interview

Question: Is having a new album out on a major label different from how you have done it in the past?

Not really. The fact that is really different is that they gave us money to not tour, where we wouldn't have to tour to pay our bills, but to stay home for a year and write this record. That is why I think we've written the best record we ever have. At the same time we get our record in stores and on TV where Kung Fu couldn’t do that. It takes more money to do that.

It seems that you got a better deal than most bands.

We did, because we didn't care about going to the majors. Kris and I looked at 10 labels - 5 majors and 5 indie. We said who is going to let us keep operating our band just like we always have and at the same get our records into these stores. We felt that we had taken Jung Fu as far as it could go. Drive Thru, Interscope, everybody came out, but Columbia told us to keep doing what we were doing and we will help you out. I think that anyone that knows our band knows that we really have not changed at all.

Question: What kind of equipment do you use?

Right now I am using an Ampeg bass head and an Ampeg 810's. For instrument's, right now I am using a Fender 1968 Jazz Bass. It's my baby.

Question: Do you actively search for vintage equipment?

Yeah, I do. '62-'68.

Question: So do you check out places like the Guitar Center Hollywood then?

Absolutely. I was dreaming about it earlier today. I was actually thinking about it today to answer your question.

Question: How did you decide on Fender?

I started playing Music Man's. I was born and raised in a place called Santa Marino outside of Santa Barbara. Outside of that is San Luis Obispo where Music Man is based. Ernie Ball just infiltrates that area. I love them, but the minute that I discovered classic basses, old Fender basses, I had to make the jump.

Question: How much has the set list changed due to the new album?

I didn't change at all that much until we hit Japan before the Warped Tour. We've been to Japan twice before, but the new album has really taken off there. We noticed that a lot of the kids didn't know any of the old songs, so we piled it heavily with "Astoria" songs. So I think we came into this tour playing a lot of new songs. It's like half new songs half old songs. When you have five old records, that is pretty much one song per album. We have had so much time to play this record that we really know it well.

Question: What are the positives and negatives of the Warped Tour?

Negatives are just being away from home. It's the greatest tour. People look at it from all over the world with envy. They don't have anything anywhere else in the world like they have with this tour. When the tour goes to Australia and Europe it's different, it's scaled down. It is such an American standard. It is such a great part of America and punk rock. There is nowhere else where there is that kind of record labels and stores and vendors. It's like unity.

Question: What was your job before you became an "Atari"?

I mowed lawns, painted houses. We knew this eccentric millionaire who bought us our first van in Santa Barbara. He loved us and loved our band. So he would put us to work at all of these houses at the beach. He's into real estate. He is a big reason the band is here. If it wasn't for him buying the van in the first place I don't know where we would be. He really supported us.

Question: Are there any bands on the tour that you are checking out for the first time that you've gotten really into?

Not really. Vendetta Red. They really impress me.

Question: What was the last book you read?

It was Porno, by Irving Welsh. He did Trainspotting and Acid House.

Question: Why did Marco leave?

We still rent a space in our record store to him. We have to listen to him in our apartment. It's horrible. When we were at the Ventura Theater he came up and we did "San Dimas." He left simply because he and Kris had a hard time getting along and always have. They have the same ideals though, so that's why he was in the band for three years. Ultimately, it was too volatile.

Question: What's next for the band?

We are doing all of the big European festivals, Leeds, Reading, then Australia, Japan, Hawaii. Then back to the U.S. for club dates. We are also going to play part of the Plea for Peace Tour and we might play the Fireside Bowl under another name.

Question: Are there any plans for any new material?

Right now with the way the record is doing it looks like the label is going to pump out some singles. But all of us are writing. All of us do. We'll see what happens. We've got a couple of songs. I caught Kris writing last night in the middle of the night. He really likes to hide when he writes.