ATLANTA | Interview
‘Nugrybauti’ is an amazing album by this incredible instrumental jam trio. It’s completely improvised and full of surprises. Highly recommended.
ATLANTA is an instrumental jam band from the Netherlands consisting of drummer Bob Hogenelst (Birth Of Joy/Molasses), bass guitarist Sebas van Olst (Typhoon/Cool Genius) and guitarist Pieter Holkenborg (Automatic Sam/Ten East). In January 2020 the band signed to Lay Bare Recordings and the result was ‘Nugrybauti’. Limited edition 250 coloured vinyl.
“An idea to form an improvisational trio”
What’s the story behind the formation of ATLANTA?
Pieter Holkenborg: ATLANTA didn’t start as a serious band or project. I was invited at Galloway Recording Studio in Nijmegen by owner/producer/engineer Sebastiaan van Bijlevelt. I have recorded many times over there and we became very close friends over the years. I helped him out with some stuff and as a ‘thank you’ he offered me some studio time in return. I am always busy writing music or thinking about new musical plans. Actually I am one of those people that makes lots of lists. And on one of those lists there was an idea to form an improvisational trio with Bob Hogenelst and Sebas van Olst. I’d know them both for a very long time (Bob and I are related and we played in a band called Automatic Sam together. Sebas and I played music together on a few different occasions). In my head the three of us fit really well musically, but we have never played together before. Long story short: the studio time Sebastiaan offered was a reason to try some stuff out together. It all went so naturally and we were so satisfied (socially and musically) with the session that we decided to release it in limited edition of 50 tapes. We did our first show a few months later on a festival called Mañana Mañana in a small tipi tent, so we called the show a ‘Tipi Tape Release Party’. This was the start of ATLANTA playing live and since then we’ve played through the Netherlands in clubs, bars and some other weird places. We only improvise (not only in the studio, but on stage as well), so we never play stuff off our records or any other rehearsed music. I guess that’s why ATLANTA isn’t for everyone’s ears, so we’re very happy with every opportunity where there are people with an open mind that just let us play whatever we want.
‘Nugrybauti’ is an incredible debut release. Where did you record it?
Thank you so much. It isn’t our debut really (the tape called ‘Flamingo’ that I’ve mentioned before comes first), but it was the first time we went to the studio with an actual goal to make an album out of it. ‘Flamingo’ was just completely off the cuff with no plan or even any ambition at all. This time we wanted to take things a step further in dynamics, atmosphere and experimentation. We’ve recorded ’Nugrybauti’ at Galloway Recording Studio as well. With Sebastiaan of course. This time we booked two days. We ended up with hours of material. In one night we made a selection of jams that would fit together as an album (at least for our ears) and that became ‘Nugrybauti’.
“Get in the moment”
How do you usually approach music making? What’s your creative process?
Well, I try to translate the mood I am in to my instrument and my fellow musicians. When I succeed (especially with improvised music) playing music can be a beautiful experience. When I fail it can really, really bother me. Sometimes even for days or until the next gig. So what I try to do with ATLANTA is not to think about it, listen to what Bob and Sebas are playing, get in the moment, just let stuff happen, don’t worry about little mistakes and go with it. The thing is: because we strictly improvise there’s no safety net. That’s why instead of a musical experience it’s more like a psychological game, or fight, between the brain and heart and the brain’s and heart’s of the other two guys. When all three of us get on the same wavelength it can get really intense. It’s a weird combination of melancholy and sheer joy that strikes me on those moments. Maybe this all sounds like a bunch of clichés, but this is the best answer I can give you in my sloppy English.
Please share your recollections of the sessions. What were the influences and inspirations for the songs recorded?
I had a pretty rough day the first day. I was thinking too much, I was too focused on my guitar playing, didn’t want to disappoint Bob and Sebas, was tweaking with my amp and pedals too much, etc. What I remember of the session is that the first thing Sebastiaan did the next morning was setting up a huge Leslie cabinet for me. I had never played with such a kind of guitar sound before. All these new sounds got me out of my head and from that moment on things started flowing the way they should.
I can’t remember specific influences or inspirations for the songs. It’s all very, very intuitive with the three of us. We’re just constantly playing music and never discuss the stuff we’ve just played. Somebody starts with making a sound and off we go…
“I don’t like the overstructured world we are living in right now”
How important is improvisation for you? Your music is packed with various influences. Would you like to comment on your technique?
To me it’s very important. Not only in music, but in life in general. I don’t like the overstructured world we are living in right now, so I try to be as free as I can in my life and therefore in my music as well. I don’t have a TV and I’ve deleted all of my social media accounts years ago, that helps me big time. Besides playing music I am a big music fan, so I listen to a lot of music. And I like reading and nature a lot. My personal opinion on improvising is that you have to put meaningful things in to get something meaningful out. But don’t get me wrong: if somebody can make a great record after a 48 hours Netflix marathon while smoking crack I am not complaining. Whatever makes you tick. I guess everybody has got his/her own ways to keep their minds sharp and I found out this works the best for me.
How are you coping with the current world situation?
I am trying to make to best out of it. Just like everybody else. I can’t pay all the bills with music (unfortunately), so I’ve got to go to work (fortunately) and with no shows and tours life has become pretty boring. I really miss playing live! Meeting people, traveling to gigs, the chaos, the noise on stage, the playing, all the funny, weird and beautiful moments you can have on the road, etc. But, what are you gonna do? I’ve got three kids and me and my girlfriend are doing our best to keep them happy and to keep our family life relaxed, safe and joyful. I don’t know when this all will end, nobody does, but there are so many extreme things happening right now over the world. It’s too big to comprehend. At least for me. I just try to be there for my small group of family and friends.
If if have to say something positive about the whole COVID situation it’s the release of ‘Nugrybauti’. Lay Bare Recordings label boss Désirée Hanssen decided to release the record this summer anyway, despite the fact we had to cancel all our shows, etc. I wasn’t really convinced about this whole idea, but she was totally right. People are ordering LP’s from all over the world and the music gets much appreciation. That really warms my heart, because these times are not the best for bands and musicians. Maybe people have the time now to really get into a record like this? I don’t know. But it’s a really nice way to keep in touch with the outside world and all the underground music lovers all over the globe in particular.
I hope you’ll be able to tour again in the near future.
Well, thank you. Yeah, me too! Would love to come to your country. I’ve never played there before.
Are any of you involved in any other bands or do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?
Yes, I am. I play in an experimental guitar duo called Tatabánya, I play guitar in a six piece group called Hilltop Howlers (Rolling Stones Mick Taylor-era style rock ’n roll). I hope that I can join the almighty Yawning Man in the studio after this COVID madness (I played guitar in Gary Arce’s last incarnation of Ten East and he has invited me to join Yawning Man in the studio as their second guitar player). I am working on my new solo record right now (almost done recording). I have written and recorded music for a spoken word album of my good friend Dan Wilson (singer of a fantastic band called The Cubical) from Liverpool and last weekend ATLANTA drummer Bob and I decided to form an Orange Sunshine cover band with a good friends or ours. Orange Sunshine is a legendary Dutch band, that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. It’s our way of doing a little homage to one of our favorite bands.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
If it’s new to my ears, I call it new music. Lately I am really into The Fall (everything), Chrome (album: ‘Alien Soundtracks’) and a Dutch band called De Niemanders. Really good stuff (in Dutch) for people who likes Beefheart, Bowie, King Crimson and The Cramps. I highly recommend their new album.
My favorite albums of all time are (I guess, maybe, if you ask me right now, impossible to answers this)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Electric Ladyland’
Majestic Scene – ‘Soul Corruption’
Santa Cruz – ‘Down On My Knees’
Urban Dance Squad – ‘Planet Ultra’
Mike Watt – ‘Ball-Hog or Tugboat?’
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’
Yawning Man – ‘Vista Point’
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Weld’
Sparklehorse – ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’
Oasis – ‘Definitely Maybe’
The Stooges – ‘Fun House’
Black Flag – ‘Slip It In’
Can – ‘Ege Bamyasi’
Miles Davis – ‘Bitches Brew’
Rolling Stones – ‘Sticky Fingers’
Slint – ‘Spiderland’
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay sane, stay yourself. Just stay. Where are you gonna go anyway these times? All the best to you and your readers. Thank you very much for the interest in our music. Take care! Pieter Holkenborg