Surely Martin Atkins has had one of the most fascinating careers in alternative music. Since joining John Lydon's profoundly influential post-Sex Pistols band Public Image Ltd. in 1979, the drummer has played with just about every metallic industrial band that matters — Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry — and released many more (Einsturzende Neubauten, Sheep on Drugs) on his 20-year-old Invisible Records imprint.
Atkins remains musically active as the anchor of revolving-member collective Pigface (alumni include Steve Albini, Jello Biafra and David Yow), but these days he's also a full-time lecturer at Chicago's Columbia College and the author of 2007's Tour:Smart (Smart Books), a universally acclaimed soup-to-nuts guide to life on the road now in its second printing. Atkins pools his own experiences with those of more than 100 contributors to dispense advice on everything from using software to create a guest list to having safer sex with groupies.
"It's such a crazily underdeveloped area," Atkins says from his office in the Windy City. "It's easy to put these theories down and take them to the next level, and appear to be much smarter than I actually am. If this were eye surgery, any of my suggestions would have been taken down in the late 1800s already."
Martin Atkins gives a free "Tour:Smart" lecture 6 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Meridian, 1503 Chartres, 713-225-1717 or www.meridianhouston.com. The Queers, Los Skarnales, the Hickoids, Chant, Trian Woodburns and more play afterward for $12. See much more of this interview at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks.
Houston Press: What are some common things people ask you at these lectures?
Martin Atkins: Definitely some basic stuff about routing and strategy. America's a big country. But as blindingly obvious as that is, bands don't take that into account — they just decide to go round and round the country. And once you've been round once, that's 15,000 miles, and you can't do that.
You have to tour regionally, and take it bit by bit. There's so many bands who don't even come to that until a few years after they start, when they're bankrupt and they don't want to do it anymore and their van's broken down and the bass player quits.
HP: What's the most romantic myth aboutgoing on tour?
MA [chuckles]: Well...that it's romantic. It's warfare. It's absolute hand-to-hand combat — not just with the world and the economy, [but] with yourself, your own body, your mental state, your credit rating, your relationships. For me it's my knees — my knees aren't very good at the moment. It's warfare, and anybody who goes into it lightheartedly is in for a really horrifying surprise.
Former (and, who knows, maybe future) Pixies front man Frank Black will collaborate with Houston's Catastrophic Theatre — the latest project of Infernal Bridegroom Productions alumni Jason Nodler, Tamarie Cooper and Anthony Barrilla — on Bluefinger, a "musical play" based on Black's 2007 album of the same name. Both album and play are about the life of hedonistic Dutch artist/musician Herman Brood, who committed suicide in 2001.
The Houston International Festival is now offering half-price tickets (that's $7.50 per day) for the April 18-19 and 25-26 downtown event through March 31, online only at www.ifest.org. Beginning April 1, "Early Bird" tickets will be available for $10 at area HEB stores through April 13. And don't worry about kids 12 and under — they get in free.
1846 Richmond, 713-666-5555
1. Richard Ramirez, Solo (cass)
2. Concrete Violin, Basement (cass)
3. Various Artists, Dark Was the Night (LP)
4. Teenage Kicks, untitled (cass)
5. Pocahaunted, Passage (LP)
6. Mark Sultan, "Hold On" (7")
7. The Hunches, Exit Dreams (LP)
8. Absu, Absu (CD)
9. Loop, Fade Out (CD)
10. Circle, Triumph (LP)
Top Songs, March 13
KMJQ, 102.1 FM (Majic 102)
Data from www.yes.com
1. Anthony Hamilton, "I'm Cool"
2. Charlie Wilson, "There Goes My Baby"
3. Marvin Sapp, "Never Would Have Made It"
4. Musiq Soulchild, "SoBeautiful"
5. India Arie w/Musiq Soulchild, "Chocolate High"
6. Musiq Soulchild w/Mary J. Blige, "Ifyouleave"
7. Keyshia Cole, "Heaven Sent"
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8. Usher, "Here I Stand"
9. Jennifer Hudson, "Spotlight"
10. Mary J. Blige, "Just Fine"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)