By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It needs to be said: People who have heard Atom & His Package albums or seen him live and still think he is a no-talent geek, an absolute moron making dumb songs for dweebs, are probably mean to their parents and hate babies. On the other hand, fans of Atom & His Package appreciate a man who can find the humorous side of punk rock by making lighthearted, enjoyable songs using, of all things, a sequencer--not a very punk-rock instrument.
Atom (the guy) & His Package (a QY700 sequencer, also known as his backing band) writes all sorts of weird songs that are usually pretty funny but almost always more than a bit demented. (And, at times, educational: Atom is certified to teach science to high school kids.) Part of the reason that serious punks across the land don't like what he does is because the songs are often throwaway tunes like "Pumping Iron For Enya" ("If you don't like the way I look I can change for you Enya") and "Me and My Black Metal Bands" ("In the mountains of Norway/Where the weather is cold/There's nothing to do except kill each other and play guitars in the snow").
Because hardcore punks are actually quite a reactionary and conservative set, that they want things to stay in 1977 forever and not ever evolve, Atom has incurred their wrath by making silly covers of old-school standards. For example: He received an absolute shitstorm for attempting a sequencer cover of "Where Eagles Dare" by The Misfits. Now, Glenn Danzig has a real masculine voice, and heavy distortion and overall darkness define the song; Atom has a high-pitched, nasal voice. Imagine the line "I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch/You better think about that one baby" as sung by an elf on whippets backed by a jaunty keyboard riff, a polka beat and farting trumpets. FOE fanzine called it "retarded Sesame Street music."
The draw to seeing Atom & His Package is exactly why the stodgy punk rockers hate it. He took hardcore, a pretty derivative genre (don't get me wrong though, I l-o-v-e hardcore), and turned it around by programming a sequencer to make very silly quasi-hardcore songs that poke fun at the serious posturing inherent in the genre. He's often compared to "Weird" Al Yankovic, but it doesn't really work: One man makes specific satires of songs, and the other just makes absurd and amusing songs. It's not rocket science, people.
Atom does recognize who listens to his music and the PC tendencies of the punk-rock community when he released "Hat Off To Halford" on a seven-inch called Behold, I Shall Do A New Thing. The song is a sincere salute to Rob Halford for coming out of the closet in a genre (heavy metal) well-known for homophobic sentiments. Lines include "studies say 1 in 10 men are gay/So there's a 40 percent chance one of the guys in Pantera is gay/I'm looking forward to the day when metal dudes sing 'I wanna be a homosexual'/At least it'll make the Nazi fucking pricks in Slayer a little uncomfortable." Many cheered him for the song, but much of the hate mail on his Web site is from metalheads and especially fans of Slayer dedicated to attacking him viciously for making fun of heavy metal and slandering their heroes. Typical of his sometimes-sarcastic-sometimes-sincere style of writing, he disregarded the moronic letters and pasted a photo of Slayer guitarist Kerry King with a swastika sticker on his guitar. So, even while making goofy songs (especially his cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long"), Atom still busts out a bit of political commentary. That's hardcore, right?