Interview with Tim Kelly of Atrophy 2006
By Bradley Smith
Displeased is going to be re-releasing both of your albums, namely Violent By Nature and Socialized Hate. What was the moving force here that made you two entities think that the time was right for this to occur? I see both of your albums going for large sums on ebay so the demand is certainly there.
TK: Actually I'm just as surprised as anyone, I heard about it through the grapevine( someone e-mailed me). I contacted Displeased Records to see if it was true. I guess they got the rights from RoadRacer. I'm sending them some photo's and other goodies to include in the release. They're going to remaster it, I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully it will have a little more bass and kick to it! I've heard some Atrophy cd's are selling for $50.00 to $80.00 dollars on Ebay. That seems crazy to me. You gotta love those Metal Heads. Metal will never die, there is just too much talent involved.
A lot of bands have been releasing their demos onto CD format. Will we see Chemical Dependency get this treatment with perhaps some unreleased tracks or live material? I know there are plenty of people who are eager to hear it.
TK: Yes, I'm sending them a copy of Chemical Dependency along with some live footage. We'll have to see what they can do with it.
So with it being footage does that mean you might possibly be talking about a DVD as well?
TK: I don't know if the quality is good enough for a sale on its own. But it would be cool as a bonus with the cd. It was a show from 1989 in Tucson AZ.
To me there was a pronounced improvement/progression between Socialized Hate and Violent by Nature. I thought the songwriting was more mature and for lack of a better word catchier. What are your thoughts on the differences between the two albums?
TK: I kind of agree with you. I thought the second album had a lot more to it. First of all the production quality was much better( more money and more time in the studio). We worked extremely hard on it and I thought it had more groove to it while still keeping it fast and heavy. As for myself, I didn't just play double bass through the whole thing ( not that there's anything wrong with that, I love the sound and feel of rolling bass drums) I tried to develop a little more as a drummer.
Most people I talk to like Socialized better. I think it's because it's just balls to the walls thrash. Don't get me wrong , I love that cd. We got signed so fast that we only had 10 songs and put them all on the cd. When we were writing those songs we had no idea we would be signed so we just wrote what we wanted to hear and what we thought was cool. And just about any rhythm Chris played was awesome. His riffs were so fast, heavy and had a nice catch all at the same time.
I can remember when I was much younger and saw a bunch of pin-ups of you guys back in those thrash and metal mags. For awhile you guys were the darlings of metal. Heh heh. Did you ever achieve the level of success you wanted to or felt you were capable of?
TK: At first I thought it was amazing, coming from Tucson, Az. We were in all the mags on the radio touring the world, everything was great. I remember seeing KISS in concert when I was 11 years old, and now it was my turn to tour. People were saying we were the next Metallica ( I don't think so, but it was nice to hear) and that we would be huge someday. I remember the tour bus coming to our jam room to get us. Our family and friends were there it was a day I'll never forget. But it's a long road to the top or even to the point where you can make a living doing what you love to do, and some of us just didn't have the time to make it all the way. I think we could have gone much further than we did but I'm happy with the two cd's.
While we are on subject of your success, what happened to cause Atrophy’s ultimate demise? It seemed like you guys were poised to move up to the next level and then sadly you disappeared.
TK: Chris was studying to become a doctor from the day I met him and that ultimately was his goal. He would have loved to keep playing and touring but there was not much money involved and he knew what he had to do to secure a nice life for he and his family. I can't blame him one bit, but he was a huge driving force behind the band and without him it was never the same. Since Chris was the bands spokesperson to the record company, when he left they pretty much quit on us. We tried some other guitarists and other vocalists but it was never the same.
You guys came out of Arizona. The only other band I can think of that came from there was Sacred Reich. Did this virtual isolation help you guys develop your own identity?
TK: I didn't really feel isolated at the time because there were so many cool bands in Tucson and Phoenix. Unfortunatley a lot of them never made it. Tucson was like a mini Seattle but with thrash not grunge( God I hate that word).
I know you did some Reunion shows in 1999. How many were there and how was the response to those shows? Any thoughts of reforming again but maybe putting out a new album this time? A lot of your contemporaries are certainly following that path such as Laaz Rockit, Assassin, and Nuclear Assault.
TK: Rick, James, and I get together every once in a while and play a show. The last one was a few years ago with Flotsam and Jetsam here in Tucson. It's always fun playing those songs again. I remember Chris came to one show and thought we were awesome. I wanted him to play but he stopped playing guitar a while back. He plays bass now for fun. What I would give for some more of those riffs. I haven't stopped playing since. I would play any day any time. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary, who knows!!
Since we are on the topic of concerts, do you miss touring with Atrophy? How was it in the “old” days? What were some of the best bands you toured with? What were some of your favourite experiences from that period?
TK: I loved touring. There was something special about the thrash scene in those days. The mosh pits, the fans, I loved it all. I can remember all the stage diving that went on, the bouncers would let people on stage and they would get up there and do their thing and dive and we wouldn't miss a beat. After the shows hanging out with the fans talking music, doing beer bongs, totally awesome. Touring through Europe was incredible, it's one thing to visit but to actually have a reason for being there and having the people welcome us like they did, was fantastic. Some bands we played with were D.R.I, SACRED REICH, FLOTSAM AND JETSAM, VENOM( three shows in Germany, pretty cool), SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, EXODUS, CORONER, FORCED ENTRY .....
Speaking of Touring Europe, do you think the atmosphere would be different these days or do you think as a band you sort of get a “free pass” and don’t have to put up with the normal issues that Americans have to deal with due to the current political climate in the world towards the US?
TK: I think it would be the same as before. We were treated great. People were so happy to see us and even thanked us for coming. We were thrilled to be there! I've heard some Americans tell me of bad experiences they've had when visiting, but I think that happens here, there, everywhere. We were treated like old friends and the music is what we all had in common. Even though in some instances we couldn't speak the same language the music certainly did. It was one of the best time of my life, something I'll never forget. I think Europe has some of the most diehard fans I've ever seen.
Atrophy seemed to have a lot of lyrics dealing with politically charged issues such as animal rights, a person’s right to die, violent socialization of our Youth, etc. Did you view Atrophy as a band on a crusade against social ills?
TK: I don't think we were on a crusade, I think we just felt like saying something worthwhile. I don't think I wrote one word, it’s all about the music with me, but Chris, Brian and James would pick something that interested them, research it and write. Why make up stuff when real life is slapping you in the face everyday.
As an insider from the scene from back in the period of thrash’s peak, what do you think caused the death of Thrash or do you feel it died at all? It is certainly making a comeback these days.
TK: Don't get me started. Well okay. In my mind it was the grunge scene, the whole I don't give a shit attitude. It's one thing to rebel against something but to not care about anything? All the cool stage shows went out the window, all the cool riffs were tossed for one out of tune poorly played riff. To me Heavy metal just keeps progressing, we keep taking it a step further with more and more talent, where grunge music tried to step backwards. I hate to challenge anyone's musical freedom so I'd rather not blame a band or even a scene, I choose to blame the people who fell for it. I hope that makes sense, I love talented musicians so of course I want music to progress, not step back.
Are you still drumming? What projects are you involved with these days? Does metal/music occupy a large amount of your life or have you moved on to other jobs and hobbies?
TK: Yes I play everyday until the last.( And I still suck). It's amazing no matter how much you practice you're never good enough. I just bought a TD12 kit so I can practice in the house without the wife threatening my life. I keep my Tama Superstar( the only set I've ever had since 1985, and it still sounds killer, Hey maybe I can sell that on ebay!!) down at the practice room. I've got a band called Head Circus. It's not quite as fast as Atrophy but it's fast and heavy with lots of double bass. I own a bakery and a promotional products business here in Tucson. My hobbies are my wife these days, it took me forever to find her, so I'm enjoying that part of my life these days!
We are all a Product of the Past, any words to leave us fans for inspiration?
TK: I still love that song, we play it in Head Circus. I just celebrated my 41st Birthday on the 29th of July, and I still feel like I'm 25. I really believe it's the music. So stay true to your beliefs and what truly makes you happy and keep listening to Exodus, Testament, Slayer, Sacred Reich, Rush, Iron Maiden and a little Atrophy. Thanks for the interest and keep thrashin!!!!!