Atomic 7 Take 2: The Case Of Brian Connelly's Underpants

By Eric Schulz

There once was an issue of MAD magazine named "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." The gist of the issue was that a stupid question was asked and then followed up by a barrage of witty comebacks. The following email interview with former Shadowy Men From a Shadowy Planet and current Atomic 7 guitarist Brian Connelly made me think I was trapped in MAD magazine. Atomic 7 may be an instrumental band, but as Connelly shows in this interview he isn't at a loss for words. The band recently released a follow-up to 2003's …Gowns By Edith Head titled …en Hillbilly Caliente. Atomic 7 nukes the Starlight in Waterloo on Thursday, July 8th.

ECHO: How did you come to a partnership with Mint Records?

Brian Connelly: When I first talked to the folks at Mint I think they thought I was Brian Connelly from the Sweet. They could smell another "Ballroom Blitz" or "Fox on the Run" so they let me do whatever I wanted. When they found out they were getting me and an instrumental go go dance band, they tried to be all cool like they knew it all along. They were too embarrassed to back out of the deal.

My relationship with Mint has been great. Although, we did break up for about a week when I caught them slutting around and putting out other peoples' records. We made up under the bleachers and can now proudly hold hands walking down the halls. Oh yeah, and I worked with Neko Case (signed to Mint) for a couple of years.

ECHO: On …en Hillbilly Caliente the other instruments (bass and drums) really shine. The guitar is still the centre of attention, but the bass and drums seem to have more life vs. …Gowns By Edith Head. The last time I interviewed you, you said your ideal was for everyone in the band to write together. Was …en Hillbilly Caliente more of a collaborative effort this time around?

BC: …Gowns By Edith Head was recorded with an unamplified stand up bass, so the drum sound had a softer, more roomy sound. With …en Hillbilly Caliente we used electric bass for most of it so the bass and drums had more sonic space to really holler. The big difference between the two records is our new bass player. Mandi has a completely different style of playing. She likes the more subtle el kabong, knee capping low end wallop kind of bass playing. She knows what to play to make asses shake. As far as the writing goes, we've been kind of busy, so we're still working through my sock drawer of songs.

ECHO: Once again the song titles are exceptional. How do you come up with them? What is "The Happy Fingers Method?" What are you referring to by "Stab it and Steer it?" It sounds dirty. Where do the titles "Kicking at the Ghost of Ass" and the "Wreck of the Dick Family Wiener Boat" come from?

BC: I use the Ouija board, tequila and pant suit method like everybody else. "The Happy Fingers Method" is the method of piano lessons Dr. Terwilliker used in the Dr. Seuss film The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. "Stab It & Steer It" was the theme for Nicholas Cage's driver training film that was scrapped when they found out Nicholas Cage couldn't drive. "Kicking at the Ghost of Ass" was written about a guy in my neighbourhood who's been kicking ass so long he can't remember what ass he's been kicking. And the "Wreck of the Dick Family Wiener Boat" was about a failed attempt at a recipe from the Carolyn Mark cook book.

ECHO: For readers have haven't heard …en Hillbilly Caliente yet, there is a song entitled "What I Liked About Lord of the Rings." It's 5 seconds of silence. So you're a big fan?

BC: I've never written a more direct song in my life. I poured my heart into that song and I think it speaks for itself.

ECHO: There seems to be a lot of riffs that get reused in instrumental music, rockabilly, country and surf. This isn't to say that artists are ripping each other off - it's more of a tribute. Do you borrow riffs? What are your thoughts on riff borrowing?

BC: Borrowing is how you learn an instrument. You figure out bits and parts of songs that are attractive to you and you add it to your bag of tricks. But I really hate the word 'riffs,' so lets just call them underpants. Borrowing underpants is one way of paying tribute to someone that inspired you or to test who's listening. Planting underpants in the middle of a song and seeing who picks up on it is great fun. Sometimes I learn underpants in hopes of those underpants working their way into the way I play. I'll steal underpants from anyone.

ECHO: Why don't you ever play Shadowy Men songs live? Ever tempted to pander to the audience and play "Having an Average Weekend?"

BC: Is the idea of covering yourself just weird or is it weird and creepy?

ECHO: It's known that you dislike it when people call Atomic 7 an instrumental surf band. I think the title for the new cd is a great way to describe your sound. Would you describe Atomic 7's sound as Hillbilly Caliente - Hot Hillbilly?

BC: But… but… but we are a surf band! Maybe we're just not a very good surf band. But maybe our hillbilly is so hot it sounds surf.

ECHO: Shadowy Men began during the great Can Rock revival. What are your impressions at the current state of Canadian indie rock?

BC: The bands have never been better and the industry has never been worse. Those idol tv shows are a pretty accurate picture of the commercial music world. Some soulless clone does some karaoke and is judged by a panel of 'seasoned' retards and then it's packaged up, dipped in gold and pushed down your throat. How stylish. On the other hand, you have bands like the Fiftymen from Ottawa or the Brothers Cosmoline or Ronnie Hayward, Carolyn Mark… Labels like Mint or Ian Pearson's Zedtone Records make you kind of proud to be in this mess and make you work a little harder. Or at least write better underpants.

w/ The Band From Planet X
Thursday, July 8
Saturday, July 10
Jimmy Jazz