The Atlas Moth Genesis: Metallica, Talent Shows and Peter Gunn

The Atlas Moth will be in town tonight, opening for death metal proggers Gojira at the Granada. Frontman Stavros Giannopoulos took some time out to talk about the first shows he saw as a kid, The Blues Brothers, and Peter Gunn.

Growing up, was there anybody that inspired you to play music?

I'd say obviously, James Hetfield. Jim Morrison was a very large one initially. Kinda like one of those first people that you saw and thought, "Oh God!" You know? He was still bigger than life. James Hetfield would probably be my number one, for sure.

Was it his voice or his guitar playing?

I think it was his incredible presence more than anything. Metallica was the first band I was thoroughly obsessed with growing up. The music definitely hit me, but James Hetfield had a commanding presence.

Which Metallica record did you come in with?

. . . And Justice for All. My sister bought [it] for me when I was in kindergarten on a cassette. I listened to that cassette probably 8,000 times by the time I got rid of it.

Did you ever see the "One" video on MTV?

Oh yeah! I totally remember seeing that growing up. I have an older sister. She very much shaped my musical love of things. She would show me things like the "One" video or Metal Edge magazine. Like I said, it was the commanding presence of James Hetfield in that "One" video is oppressive. He was so bigger than the world. I still get chills watching old videos of him from Justice and Master of Puppets.

He had such a presence in that "Live in Seattle" video.

Yeah, yeah! Absolutely! He's just frightening and tough. Just a huge spirit of life.

Yeah, and his Explorer [guitar] said "Eet Fuk" on it.

Absolutely! You know that guitar is a guitar I always sit there and think about getting and I know I could never rock that because I know Hetfield pretty much owns that. [laughs] I try to fool myself I should get one of those, but it's such a dumb idea. I can't play it without thinking I'm a poseur. Was a Metallica song the first song that you learned how to play?

Uh, no. The first song I learned to play was "Peter Gunn."

Really? [Hums the famous opening riff of "Peter Gunn."] That?

[laughs] Exactly! The Blues Brothers was a pretty big influence on me as well.

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Was that something you saw early as a kid?

Yeah! My older brother, he's actually older than my sister, and The Blues Brothers is his favorite movie, so it was constantly playing in our house.

I could imagine the chaos of that movie could be big as a kid.

Yeah! You know, the fact that I'm from Chicago, seeing things I saw every day in that movie. I grew up down the street from some of the stuff that's in the film.

Can you remember the first time you played in front of people?

Wow, I'm trying to think back. I know there were some talent shows in high school which [I] played with a couple of friends. Even at those things, there were 1,500 people. I went to a pretty big high school. That was probably the first time I ever played in front of anybody. I don't necessarily remember very much of it. Kind of a long time ago at this point.

I seem to remember when I was in high school, which was between 1993 and 1997, if you got to play a talent show, you were recognized by people that didn't recognize you any other time of the year.

Oh yeah! Absolutely! I recall it being a big deal. They had tryouts and all that stuff. I remember it being a huge deal that we were playing it.

What can you remember about the first show you played with The Atlas Moth?

The first show that we did was at a bar in Chicago that's called the Flat Iron now, but it was called the Note at the time. It was pretty awesome. A bunch of our friends came out. You know, it was very much like a family affair.

Can you remember the first show that you paid your own money to see?

My own money or someone took me to it?

I've found that there's a pretty stark difference.

I first show I ever saw was Metallica and The Cult on the . . . And Justice for All tour. I was five and my sister took me to it. I don't really recall it; I was five years old. I recall certain little flashes of it. I remember seeing [stage prop/mascot] Doris fall on the stage. That was a huge thing for me. As far as the first I actually paid for, I don't really know. My older sister took to a lot of things. I saw Pantera on the Vulgar Display of Power tour, Alice in Chains opening up for "Clash of the Titans" with Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. I remember seeing White Zombie and Pantera. I've been going to shows for so long; a majority of my life.

Do you still have some of your hearing?

I guess, maybe. [laughs]

Let's put it this way: in this past year, I've gone to more shows than I have in recent years and I have small bit of tinnitus in my right ear even though I always wear earplugs.

As it goes on, you never really get away from that. I don't really know if I have any ear problems. I might. You never know. [laughs]

The Atlas Moth play with Gojira and The Devin Townsend Project on Thursday, January 31st.

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