An interview with ATFN
Pretoria-based, progressive punk rock band ATFN returns with an eclectic new album entitled Reverence.
Formed in 1998 in Pretoria, All This For Nothing, gigged intensely from its inception through to 2005. The group quickly gained loyal local support for their unique hybrid of punk, metal and progressive influences, delivered through intense live performances.
Due to various circumstances, ATFN disbanded in 2005. However, they did get together briefly in 2007 to perform several reunion shows. But it was only in 2018 that they reunited. They’ve released a brand new album in December 2019.
I caught up with guitarist, Paul Gioia, to find out more about the new offering and their plans going forward:
Congrats on the new album release. How long have you been working on it and how does it feel to finally have the finished project released?
We’ve worked on it for about a year and a half. Everything from the writing, recording, mixing and mastering was done by us, so it took a little longer than it might have if we had used another studio, but we are glad we took the time. It was the first time working like that, so it took us a bit of time to get used to the process.
It’s only been a few weeks since the release, but how has it been received so far?
The response has been good and people seem to like it. It has been added to a few playlists on Deezer and whatnot, but I think we will have to look at the streaming stats over the next few months to really gauge how “well” it did. A few radio stations around the country seemed to have liked and picked up “Aurora Eyes”, which is good. But it’s hard to tell, with rock music in SA not being in the best state it’s ever been.
Yeah. So, tell me about the journey of putting this album together; who worked with you on it, is there a central theme and what do you hope people will take from this album?
The album, as well as the reformation of the band, came after I lost my girlfriend to suicide in March of 2018. I was devastated and those of us who were affected by it decided to write music as a means of togetherness and catharsis. We didn’t know that we would end up gigging or even releasing music, we just needed a space where we could express what we were all going through. Initially, it was Chris, Francois, Chani and I, with Henk contributing ideas from Australia where he now resides. When the possibilities of playing some nice festival shows presented themselves, we got old friends Werner Olckers and Wim Van Vuuren on board to fill up the vocal and guitar duties.
Themes vary on this record, but an overarching theme would be, I guess, our reflection on what it is to be human in 2019. The song’s darker themes vary from depression, the plight of homelessness in SA and suicide but it also reflects on immense gratitude and “reverence” for being alive. There are a few songs on there that touch on the importance of friends and family, of the nurturing of gratitude and positive mental habits, as well as the freedom that comes in non-attachment from physical possessions. It is quite a reflective and thematically eclectic album.
And how significant is the name of this new album?
It sums up perfectly what we feel every day about being alive. Reverence at the sheer magnitude of life itself. The enormity, as well as the mystery – all brought forward with gratitude for the music and each other. Nothing is trivial.
You have been around since 1998. What has changed over the years and where do you see the band go over the next couple of years?
Well, the scene has changed considerably over the years. I mean, we started pre-internet and caught the last wave of DIY posters, flyers, zines, promo compilations and such. There were also way more radio stations and venues to play. There seemed to be more tangible opportunities that one could generate with a bit of hard work. These days, it seems that so much of one’s success as a band is down to their social media savvy and those that don’t constantly create hours of good content, are destined to end up at the bottom of the pile. Now, I’m not one of those that constantly reminisce on the old days, I do think that social media is a fantastic tool for marketing. The problem is just that, we all have full-time jobs (albeit within music for some of us) and it is really hard to manage the band’s music creation, work, family and relationships, all while constantly creating and editing quality video content for people to consume every day. It is very tiring and not really what I think any of us are cut out for. The funny thing is, you see the artists who relish this task, absolutely flying in their careers. Or at least it seems that way on social media.
Yes, I get that. So, you also took a break over a couple of years. Why did you decide to take the break and why did you reform?
We played constantly from 1998 to 2006 and decided to split, mainly due to the fact that I had sustained a hand injury that was due to keep me off guitar playing for about 2 years – and did. Once it was over, we are not really the type of people to revisit old thing and for us, ATFN was over. It took a tragedy of insane proportions for us to get back together, because, and not to sound trite, our souls needed it.
Absolutely. And where can we see you perform live next?
Well, unfortunately, our one guitarist and singer, Werner, is relocating to Holland very soon, so we are going to be out of the gigging scene for a while, till we can find a replacement.
Finally, what do you have planned for 2020?
We plan to continue writing and releasing material and hopefully play shows that will be worth our while. We are a large, 6 piece band with complicated songs, so rehearsing and preparation takes a lot of energy and focus. Also, because Werner is moving to Holland and both our old guitarist Mark Hinch and Henk Lustig are there ( and soon to end up there, respectively), we have decided to focus more on music creation and the possibilities of us touring Europe and further abroad, now that we will have more people based that side. Henk contributed so massively from Australia and that process really showed us that bands really can be international ventures that are not necessarily bound to the confines of one city or country.
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