System Damage with Martin Atkins of
The Damage Manual
Over six years ago, I got a musical itch. Any music junkie possesses the ability to describe it down to the last “boring” detail. Everything starts to feel a bit stagnant, and your collection isn’t stimulating you like it once did. It’s not that the music is bad, you just want to hear something new that’s going to hold the test of time. Well, six years ago, I met Martin Atkins, and I think that was the last time that I really felt stagnant in regards to music.
Martin’s history is one that legends are made from in my eyes, and I’m going to spare both you the reader, and myself, the headache. Chances are, if you are reading this, Martin Atkins is a familiar name. A couple months ago, I was blessed with a copy of the >1 EP. Then, several weeks ago, the full album arrived. To explain why these CDs seem to be wandering all over the place with me, I need to list “the band.” The Damage Manual is Martin Atkins, Chris Connelly, Jah Wobble, and Geordie Walker. It’s like taking a picture of all your favorite moments of the “collective” and putting them into the world’s greatest photo album. I don’t quite think there is a way to use words to describe the sound, thus why musicians are musicians. They communicate through their instruments. However, the Damage Manual is the one kicking in your teeth from the inside.
So I had to find out what was going on. Did Martin put this together like an N’SYNC thing? If you’ve spent even a few moments at a show with Martin, you already know the answer. Hopefully he didn’t clobber you to death on the way out. As it turns out, it was standard operating procedure for Martin. It started a year and a half ago.
“It was my birthday and I wanted to play some drums. So I called up Wobble. The next day Geordie called.” The connection was pretty flaked out to England when I rang, but I know I heard that correctly. Thus, I can only imagine the wall of sound that was being pushed at that evening. Now, music without vocals can be a very groovy thing, but that’s not the Damage Manual CD I have. So how did the vocals meander into this mix? “Twenty-two instrumentals, so four or five months later I called Chris to come in and do some vocals.” If I had to pick someone, Connelly would be the man to get the job done.
Most people over time begin to realize that the initial recording is only half the battle of putting together a solid album. This is what I was personally most interested in talking to Martin about this time around. More and more, his name is popping up on the production end of tracks and albums. “I hate being called a drummer,” said Martin. By now, it’s a good point. Martin is not “just a drummer” – he’s the “human beat box” enabling “the band” to keep time. So I asked Martin if he was beginning to feel more comfortable behind the mixing desk. His enthusiasm carried across that horrible connection very distinctly: “I don’t feel like there is any direction in my drums, but I do think there is in my production.”
That’s why I love Martin. He’s not going to sugarcoat it, and he will not lie to you. It’s going to be the cold, harsh truth. I agree with him completely. For the past three or four years, I’ve seen this growth. I’ve heard the production “fingerprint” that he leaves behind. It’s kind of like listening to the full album from the Damage Manual and hearing the “Laswell fingerprint.” And that’s what makes it so unique. The fingerprints that each person involved with the release are so noticeable that they actually blend into a single fingerprint. Without one, there would be none. I’m almost afraid that when the tour begins this fall, that I might miss it. So frightened that I have already caught myself waking up in a cold sweat thinking I missed my chance. There aren’t many chances during your life that you get to see and hear something unique. Reunion tours come and go, and are almost always for the love of cold hard cash. The Damage Manual is not this sort of thing. Look at the roster. LOOK AT THE ROSTER MATE!
I wonder if there was anyone that Martin wanted to meet, just to chat. “Alex Harvey. I was twelve and it was the first gig I’d been to. Two hundred people and he put on a show. Even for 200 people he put on a show. I always wanted to meet him. I spent fifteen years following his career, and the weekend before I was going to get my chance to meet him, he died of a heart attack. So Alex Harvey.”
I think it’s painfully apparent why Martin always puts on a show, and for that I will forever be indebted to him. Thank you Martin. ◼