Welcome to another episode of Rad/ATL’s Hidden Hand podcast.
The music you’re listening to is “The Coldest Nights,” taken from Orbit Service’s sixth and most recent album titled The Door to the Sky.
Currently based in Bailey, Colorado — a small town in the mountains near Denver — Orbit Service is the name under which Randall Frazier has created music since the early aughts.
Over the years, Frazier has crafted a spacious and drifting sound that’s bound by a singular and textured quietude. His voice blends with atmospheric drones, improvisation, elegant post-rock songwriting, and musique concrete to a psychedelic effect.
I spoke with Frazier on October 16, 2019, shortly before Orbit Service shared the stage with the Legendary Pink Dots at the Masquerade in Atlanta — his fourth tour with the group. For this conversation we talked about creating space with music, life in Colorado, and our shared affinity for the Legendary Pink Dots.
Savage Republic was born amid the Los Angeles punk scene of the early 1980s, when former UCLA students guitarist Bruce Licher and drummer Mark Erskine formed the band Afrika Corps. Before releasing their 1982 debut LP Tragic Figures, the group’s name changed and a menacing post-industrial clatter took shape around Middle Eastern imagery and surf rock ambiance. Savage Republic’s sound was contemptuous, noisy and politically-charged, settling in with song titles such as “Kill the Fascists!,” “Mobilization,” and “Attempted Coup: Madagascar.” They shared the stage with groups such as Sonic Youth, Public Image Ltd., Swans, Fugazi, and more.
Amid lineup changes, songwriter and guitarist Thom Fuhrmann joined Savage Republic in 1983, and first appeared playing keyboards on the song “Trek” from the group’s 1985 EP, titled Trudge (Play It Again Sam Records).
Over the decades, Fuhrmann has assumed a leadership role in Savage Republic. In 2019, he fronts the group, standing alongside drummer Alan Waddington, bass player Kerry Dowling, and long-standing guitarist and percussionist Ethan Port.
In 2014, the group released a full-length LP, titled Aegean, with songs such as “Arab Spring,” “Victory,” “27 Days,” and “Peloponesia” placing Savage Republic’s original aesthetic into a modern context. A 2018 7-inch single featuring the songs “God & Guns” and “Tranquilo” further sharpen the group’s stance against right-wing influences gaining a stranglehold on modern America.
After wrapping up a late summer Midwestern tour en route to record new material with Steve Albini at Chicago’s Electrical Audio, Fuhrmann made his way to Atlanta where we caught up over breakfast.
For this second part of my breakfast conversation with Savage Republic’s guitarist and frontman Thom Fuhrmann, we talk about the origins, evolutions, and tragic circumstances surrounding the work he’s recorded under the name Autumnfair, and more about what the future holds in store for Savage Republic.
Speaking over the phone, Magnapop’s Linda Hopper and Ruthie Morris sound remarkably crisp for our 9 a.m. interview. Oh yeah—they’re in South Holland, a full six hours ahead of Georgia time, waiting to soundcheck before the evening’s show at Bergen op Zoom’s famed music venue Popmonument.
Magnapop is in Europe playing shows and preparing for the arrival of the group’s sixth album, The Circle Is Round, out Sept. 27 via Athens’ HHBTM Records. Belgium, Holland and the rest of the Benelux region have been Magnapop’s home away from home since the early 1990s, when Hopper passed the group’s Michael Stipe-produced demo tape along to a pair of Dutch journalists at a New Music Seminar.
“None of us are good networkers,” Hopper says. “I had two tapes with me. I gave one to someone’s dad and the other to these two guys. After that, we started selling out shows over here, which is really kind of miraculous.”Read the full story at Flagpole.
Mike Vallely was just 14 years old the first time he saw Black Flag play live. It was October 1984, at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ. The group was in the midst of a particularly creative year that yielded three bedrock West Coast hardcore punk albums—Slip It In, My War, Family Man—and a blistering live tape, Live ’84.
“Henry Rollins was fronting the band then, and seeing them play that show was a life-affirming moment for me,” Vallely says. “It changed my life, but more so, I say it was life-affirming, because it made me feel like, ‘OK, I can continue on my own path. I can do what I want to do in this life… Rollins, as the frontman of the band, really embodied that spirit.” Read the full story at Flagpole.
Tuesdays have always been hip-hop nights for Athens—at least where Montu Miller is concerned.
Miller is the COO leading the charge for local promotions company AthFactor Entertainment. Alongside DJ Chief Rocka, he hosts the First Tuesday hip-hop series at The World Famous. First Tuesday was built on a foundation Miller started circa 2005, when he launched Tasty Tuesdays at Tasty World. Over the years, the event has bounced around downtown venues such as Caledonia Lounge and Live Wire, until settling into its current digs at The World Famous. In September, organizers will celebrate the monthly gathering’s third anniversary there.
The aim for First Tuesday has always been to facilitate Athens’ hip-hop scene with an event that fosters creativity by strengthening the community through networking and friendly competition.
“For years, we’ve invited out artists from the Eastside, the Westside, the Stonehenge community—bringing everybody together, so we have a more cohesive scene,” Miller says. “There really is just one community with a few little satellites and branches, but it’s all moving together as one at this point.” Read the full story at Flagpole.
In the summer of 2012, Atlanta was a breeding ground for a raging heavy metal scene. For years, malevolent black metal masters Hellgoat, and death metal slashers Lectures on the Apocalypse, Withered, Death of Kings, and Spewtilator had kept the fires of Atlanta metal burning brightly in the underground. But that year, according to the Mayan calendar, the end of the world was at hand. A new breed of young metal bands and promoters rose to supremacy like thieves in the night and raised the bar high for whiplash fury, blast beats, and searing riffs. The apocalypse never happened, but the psychic tension it created was a boon for headbangers.
“It was a time when there were a lot of touring bands coming through town, and we had this one-two-three punch of Mangled, Sadistic Ritual, and Disfigurement opening pretty much every show, and everyone else got blown off of the stage,” says Charlie Southern, Sadistic Ritual’s guitar player, singer, and founding member. “I’m sorry, but it’s true. Basically, anybody who came through town back then didn’t stand a chance. And they definitely couldn’t hang as hard.”
Seven years later, the world is still here, reckoning with the very real threats of climate change, human overconsumption, poor governance, and species decimation paving the way for the sixth wave of mass extinction in the planet’s history. From that unholy trinity of Atlanta metal peers who, for a time, challenged any and all wayward metal bands, Sadistic Ritual is the only group still standing. Southern is the sole original member who’s stuck with the group since Sadistic Ritual’s first demo recording was released in 2010. “I’ve gone through a hellacious amount of band members since that time,” he says. “It’s purely by my will alone that this group still exists.” Read the full story at Creative Loafing, Atlanta.
To the best of his recollection, it was sometime in the early 1980s when Tav Falco last tried to play a show in Athens. His band Panther Burns was a young, Memphis, TN-based rockabilly outfit, born in a cotton loft on the Mississippi River in 1979. In the beginning, Falco boasted little musical skill or experience, aside from chainsawing a guitar into pieces during an act of performance art. Yet he paired up with guitarist Alex Chilton of Big Star to create an “art-damaged” balance of their respective abilities.
Over the ensuing four decades, the Arkansas-born auteur’s career has flourished. On songs such as “Brazil” from 1981’s Behind the Magnolia Curtain LP, or his cover of “Strange Fruit” on 2018’s Cabaret of Daggers, Falco has mastered a singularly primitive motif. Blues rhythms carry his less-than-pitch-perfect singing, creating an off-center momentum in which songs feel as though they could fall apart at any moment. But he always keeps them together, creating a marvelous tension—at least when the group is allowed to play.
That fateful trip to Athens began when Falco and Chilton, along with original drummer Ross Johnson and bass player Rene Coman, piled into a ’64 Thunderbird and set out for a three-night run of shows in Nashville, Athens and Atlanta. The group hadn’t made it an hour outside of Memphis when Johnson “got scared” and turned the car around. When the rest of the band made it to Nashville, they recruited a “drunken hillbilly” named Alvin to play drums. Read the full story at Flagpole.
Faith, spirituality and finding room for intellectual growth while parsing out a non-secular push-and-pull have long served as rich fodder for many an introspective songwriter. From country music’s enduring man in black, Johnny Cash, to indie rock stalwart David Bazan, the struggle has always been real—fertile ground for harvesting lyrical poetry that hangs in a balance of tension and resolve.
For Athens songwriter and producer Andrew Blooms, born Andrew Huang, this internal struggle remains steeped in quiet imagery and personal metaphors, ever present but never spelled out completely in songs such as “Humility,” “My Time Will Come” and the title track from Blooms’ debut full-length LP, Never a Waste, whose release he will celebrate with a show at the Georgia Theatre Dec. 3. Still, sweetness and innocence guide the billowing atmosphere and non-linear narratives that lie at the core of Blooms’ songs. Read the full story at Flagpole.
The cover art for Vimur’s second album, Triumphant Master of Fates features a painting by Portland, Oregon-based artist Adam Burke (of Nightjar Illustration), depicting a mountainous landscape divided by a river of blood. Standing atop a mountain, a lone traveler gazes into a massive black hole that has formed in the sky, radiating beams of light back at the viewer. It’s an arresting image that, like the cover of a 1950s pulp sci-fi novel, captures a climactic moment plucked from an epic journey.
For Vimur, Burke’s painting illustrates a moment of reckoning on a quest to find deep knowledge, a reverence for the expanding cosmos, and a vision of arcane knowledge, imperceptible when viewed through the lens of humankind’s earthbound senses. It’s also an enticing entry point that sets the tone for the Atlanta black metal outfit’s dive into a much older, colder, and infinitely larger universe than the Norse mythology hinted at with 2014’s Traversing the Ethereal Current and 2016’s Exegesis EP.
“The themes on the new album are all about seeking truth regarding the micro, the macro, the inner, the outer, darkness, and light; they’re about totality and all of its many dimensions,” offers the group’s singer, guitar player, and founding member, Vaedis Eosphorus. “In the past, I feel like I was just knocking on the door of concepts rather than fully opening the door and letting them come into me — come through me. I was exploring rather than exuding,” he says. Read the full story at CL ATL.
Daniel Ash has a story he likes to tell about how the inspiration behind his current group Poptone came like a thief in the night. Ash, the former Bauhaus and Love and Rockets singer and guitarist, had fallen asleep at his desk with a pair of headphones on. He’d been clicking around Youtube, and recalls with hazy detail one of the last things he heard before drifting off to sleep: Brian Eno’s 1975 album, Another Green World.
“Eno is one of my favorites of all time,’ Ash says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. The album’s flowing atmosphere and minimal pop rhythms are more than enough to send anyone’s subconscious mind drifting through dreamland on a cloud of pastel impressionism.
But sometime around 4 a.m., the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll Lemmy Kilmister of Moțrhead emerged to commandeer the streaming algorithm of Youtube on continuous play.
The buzzsaw guitars of Moțorhead’s “Ace of Spades” came ripping through the headphones at maximum volume. When Ash heard the song and Lemmy’s rasp growling out from beyond the grave, “You win some, lose some, it’s all the same to me/The pleasure is to play, makes no difference what you say,’ it was as though Ash was given a new lease on life. “I knew what I had to do,’ he says.And it had to happen immediately.
“Until that moment, I had given up on the idea of ever playing live again I wanted to make film and TV music,’ he says. “I had lost my confidence, and thought that playing live would never happen for me again.”
Charged by this late night shakeup, Ash let the idea simmer. “I slept on it for a few days,’ he says. “I just wanted to make sure it really was a good idea.” Sure enough, the powerful late-night jolt had awakened in Ash a desire to break his long hiatus from performing live.
His longtime cohort and drummer Kevin Haskins was ready as well. Back in the ’80s, Ash and Haskins had played only a handful of shows with Tones On Tail, the short-lived band they shared with bass player Glenn Campling.
Revisiting Tones On Tail’s songs and giving them the attention they deserved became priority one. But Ash and Haskins had other songs on their minds as well. There was Bauhaus’ austere “Slice Of Life,’ from 1983’s Burning From the Inside a song that Ash identifies as the birth of Love and Rockets. There was also Love and Rockets’ early cover of the Temptations’ 1970 hit “Ball of Confusion,’ which consummated the group’s vitality, along with its shift from Bauhaus’ visceral goth and post-punk charge into the realms of shimmering psychedelic pop.
Love and Rockets also scored a legitimate Top 10 hit with the seductive 1989 single “So Alive.” Poptone was born as a career retrospective, but Ash wanted the group to be a nostalgia trip with a life of its own. It was a new band rather than a reunion with Campling, or Bauhaus and Love and Rockets bass player and Haskins brother David J. The latter has carried on with an extensive a solo career, and has recently been supporting his latest album Vagabond Songs
Ash’s first question: “Who’s going to play bass?” They decided on Haskins’ daughter Diva Domp̩. Domp̩ has carved a niche for herself in Los Angeles’ music scene, releasing solo albums via Critical Heights, and performing in bands such as Pocahaunted, Blackblack, and most recently as Yialmelic Frequencies, as well as hosting a monthly guided-meditation show for DubLab.com.
While much of Diva’s musical aesthetic is steeped in layers of mystical, electronic, and largely instrumental drones, adapting to the role of bass player for Poptone came naturally. After all, she shares the Haskins DNA with her father and David J, and has been exposed to the songs her entire life. The influence even manifests itself in subtle ways, such as her 2015 single “Satori,” which gives a nod to Bauhaus’ 1981 single “Kick In the Eye.”
“I have always been inspired by my dad’s music,’ Domp̩ says. “It was challenging at first, but I wanted to honor this musical legacy, stay close to the original songs, and do my part to hold the space energetically, and make this group happen.” In April, Poptone premiered with a two-night stand at Swing House Rehearsal Studios in Los Angeles. Since then, the trio has been touring across the country in short two-week bursts of shows that keep the group’s energy levels high amid a flurry of blazing lights and the haunted pop ambiance of songs such as Love and Rockets’ “Mirror People’ and Tones On Tail’s “Movement of Fear,’ “Lions,’ and “Go!” Through it all, “Slice Of Life’ is the one song that Poptone has chosen to represent Bauhaus, and it’s still one of Haskins’ favorite songs to play. “I kind of feel proud when we come to that song,’ Haskins says. “I don’t know any other way to explain it, but I start feeling a little emotional when we play it.”
Haskins says the Tones On Tail songs are at the heart of Poptone’s drive. And now, because of technology, they more closely resemble how they sound on the records; each one maintains the haunting presence of its original version, packed with a renewed energy. From Tones On Tail’s ghostly cover of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel’ to the distorted rush of Love and Rockets “No Big Deal,’ inhabiting these songs in a modern context has been enriching for both Ash and Haskins. But it’s the audience’s responses that have affirmed their instinct to return to the stage.
With confidence rekindled, what happens next remains to be seen. Writing new material has been discussed, but nothing has been determined.For Ash, the power of Poptone lies in the freedom of living in the moment. “I get tunnel vision when I’m involved with a project, and I’ll follow it to the end,” he says. “I put everything into one thing, and when it’s done, I move on. So I’m not really thinking about what happens next. It’s like something John Lennon said: ‘One thing I can tell you is you got to be free,’ and I’m a huge believer in that. I don’t know how long this will last, but it’s an absolute pleasure.”