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Folks Behind The Music: Geoff Leppard Of Atom Heart Mutha
Let's start with your name and your site.
Let's have it.
Ok, well I’m John, aka Geoff Leppard or Atom
Start at the beginning; how did you get
started with this crazy idea of spreading the music?
Mutha started out about 4 years back as BigJaf.net.I really tried over the years to play
instruments and it just didn’t take, and then there’s life and family and work
and all that stuff that takes over most of the time.I’d been messing about with a DJ app and
managed to record an hour long mix of tracks I like, of no specific genre;
coincidentally at that time I’d been listening to DJ sets on Mixlr and it
allowed you to broadcast for free, for an hour and so I did.30 people listened in to that one Sunday
afternoon and a couple of people asked for another date, so I did and that got
listeners too and it really caught me. I did a rock Show for the 3rd
one and that got 80 sets of ears and I found I was really enjoying the whole
thing.I set up Mixlr for a 3hr show
monthly and a couple of friends wanted in too and for a good 18 months
BigJaf.net did a 3 hr show with 1hr sets from me as Atom Heart Mutha, Dylan The Wolf and Zachsta.I’d also do a split show from time to
timewith Thee Psychedelicatessen, ‘Transmissions
From The Psychedelic Basement’ and those were really good fun to do.
were all different in content and people seemed to like them. Then as the
months went by, I’d get bands asking us to play music and a couple of labels
reached out too and I realised that I could play all sorts of music that lots
of people I knew weren’t listening to and that actually folks were liking what
we do.In the background of all that
going on, I’d spoken with Vania at Grip Of Delusion Radio and she was kind
enough to broadcast my monthly mix every Sunday on the station.At that point it made sense to open a blog
and house some of the broadcasts, whilst reviewing some newer music, which in
turn drew attention to what I was doing.At that point, all sorts of cool labels were helping out, Tonzonen
Records, Sulatron Records, Fuzz Club, El Paraiso, Space Rock Productions and Ripple too were there,
in the early stages,allowing me review
Zed and Devil To Pay.It was at this
waspoint where I had to figure out
where to move on and I can only really credit Magnus from Into The Void for
being really cool at the time and helping me branch out by offering advice on
using PR and other ways to source new music. Steve from ‘The Shrieks From
Below’ and Andy at ‘Dayz Of Purple And Orange’ have been a massive source of
support and influence too, these guys weren’t precious about sharing or talking
about what works.A lot of all of this
comes from that sense of community and support and I’m grateful that guys like
that are around.
exists but has slowed down a little of late; we still get submissions, in
December last year Alan Forbes did a mix for us, fckin Alan Forbes!!!! and we
got a great mix from the guys at Psychic Lemon, a hard working band from
Cambridge that really deserve to be heard widely.
The big hit
came in February2017 when TBFM Radio
took a big leap and joined the guys that run the festival Hard Rock Hell to
start Hard Rock Hell Radio.I wanted to
see if Atom Heart Mutha could grow so I spoke with Station Manager Jay McGuire
at length on the phone and he was really interested in what the monthly mixes
were; I guess there was a gap between what the brilliant Barry Mart was/is
doing on ‘Earth Calling’ and Mark Roberts ‘Doom Vs Stoner’ Show.Atom
Heart Mutha got itself a regular 2hr weekly show, live on Hard Rock Hell Radio;
they're a brilliant team to work with, really supportive of me and the
show.The opportunities and experiences
that I’ve had since are insane!
I want to
mention Viva El Swain too.When the blog
was really gaining momentum, David got involved with review writing and he’s
done some mixes for BigJaf.net too.It’s
brilliant when you discover there are people out there that like what you do,
and given his knowledge, it made perfect sense to ask him to get involved.He’s an important part of Atom Heart Mutha
and a good guy too, we talk often about releases and he’ll recommend stuff I
wouldn’t always think of.
We're all the product of our musical past.
What's your musical history? First album you ever bought? First musical
epiphany moment? First album that terrified the hell out of you?
The answer is
pretty much all my life all that ever really interested me has been hearing
music, seeing bands and sharing the experience with friends.My earliest memory is holding the 7 inch of
Killer Queen when I was 2 years old, in a market in Birmingham after my dad bought it!As early as I can remember, music was always
there.The radio was always on and dad
loved his vinyl and Pink Floyd and I grew up loving anything on the mainstream
radio in late 70s until the mid eighties, balanced out by anything my dad
played; he loved AC/DC,Zeppelin, Taste
and all that stuff seeped in at the same time.In fact, he was in the audience when Pink Floyd recorded ‘Ummagumma’ at
Mothers in Birmingham
back in 1969.
single I ever bought was Baggy Trousers by Madness, and the first album I ever
owned was Absolutely by Madness on cassette.I guess it makes sense looking back now, making mixtapes mostly for me
at first, and later on for friends, that I’d find a way of getting music out to
a bigger audience in the future.
When I was
10, my friend at school Brett had the War of the Worlds vinyl narrated by
Richard Burton and that alien sound “Oooolaarrrr” scared the shit out of me!Even then I was lending, borrowing and
sharing music with friends, in fact Brett still hasn’t given me back my 7inch
of Deadringer for Love by Meatloaf after 36 years!
to still be friends with guys I knew when we moved house back in 1986 to a new
area, in particular,Andy and Matt.These are the guys I still go record shopping
with, go to gigs with and get the piss taken out of me for liking music about
warlocks and weed (their words) with crushing riffs! These guys have always
been major influences on me, even when they get it wrong (which they will tell
you they never do).
I can’t thank
them enough for introducing me to so much great music over the years and
actually it’s with them that the epiphany moments happen, first time I heard
Zappa, Grateful Dead, The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, DJ Shadow was with
one or both of them and our wider circle of friends and it’s a massive list
that could take up pages of your blog.
What's the last album to grab you by the
throat and insist you listen?
plenty of examples over the years.I
knew the singles from Number of the Beast but the first time I heard that in
its entirety was just incredible!I saw
Metallica in 87’ at Donnington Monsters of Rock and knew a couple of tracks;
then I heard Ride The Lightning and it was insane, intense and heavy as fuck, I
loved it, it totally drew me in!
But the best
answer has to be Ritual De Lo Habitual by Janes Addiction, I played that thing
5 times a day for months after the first listen; it was heavy and weird and
psychedelic and funky and just perfect in every way!Side B was like being stoned (er, so I am
told ) without taking a single hit!To
this day, I still think it’s a perfect record; beautiful and warm, honest and
dirty and just fucking out of this world!
What do you see happening in the music
scene today; good and bad?
I’m in a good
position right now.I work at as many
Hard Rock Hell festivals as possible and HRH are brilliant at giving big
opportunities to up and coming bands.Watching new bands grow creatively, and then commercially is a fantastic
thing.Hanging around rock royalty like
Lita Ford and Geoff Tate is a big kick too; talking to people whose music has
soundtracked your life for decades is unbelievable sometimes.I love it and as I said, I’ll forever be
grateful to Jay at Radio HRH for trusting me to be able to do these things;
Broadcast; Interview and work behind the scenes, as well DJ to crowds of 2-300 people; it’s a real buzz and an
I try to pay
attention to what other people are talking about on some of the forums on
facebook that share some of the same interests as Atom Heart Mutha.What’s good is that I’m seeing new talent
being encouraged and nurtured, and that forward thinking labels like Ripple,
DHU Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Heavy Psych Sounds, Riding Easy and Cursed
Tongue Records are engaging on social media with fans, and bands and making
that community spirit; that feeling that you all belong to the same gang feels
real.Some of the podcasters and DJs
that do similar shows are very present too; it’s a good time right now to be
involved in a scene like this.
In terms of
what’s bad, I guess it’s an eye opener when you realise that bands that deserve
better investment to develop.Bands
often just about cover the cost of petrol to play a show and rely on merch
sales.Everybody says they have to pay
their dues, but it’s a shitty thing to watch, especially when you can tell that
with a little more of a budget they could move things on forward a get a wider
audience that they absolutely deserve.
What's been your all time greatest
"Find"? That band you "discovered" before anyone else and
started the word spreading?
Well, I can’t
really claim to be the guy that discovered Ecstatic Vision, but I heard them
very early on and told anyone with a passing interest to listen how brilliant
they are; they’re a band that will never just be one thing musically, they’ll
just keep on evolving.Ecstatic Vision
hit the UK
this year.If I cant book ‘em, I’ll
certainly be travelling to catch a live show.I will continue to spread word about that band like a virus!
I was pretty
knocked out when I heard The Judge and Slow Season too, but it turned out
plenty of people already knew them and I was kinda late to the party! Keep
asking this question to future subjects, I bet you no one can answer it like
What's the hardest thing you encounter in
spreading the music?
I do ok on
social media, but I think it can be frustratingly slow to gain an audience
that’s going to spread the word; that’s not to say I don’t have one, I
absolutely do! but sometimes it feels like saturation or that putting yourself
out there too much will be detrimental and when you’re not the only person
doing what I do, everyone has choice.Then the irony is that choice is a great thing!People have plenty to select from now with
social media; once upon a time you got your fix through a few magazines and
niche radio shows on the BBC;it’d just
be cooler if more people shared out and invited more people that might like the
show.It’ll be so much easier to help
push bands and spread the word with a bigger following.Ultimately, that’s what I want, especially
with those that trust in me, to put their music out there.
If you could write a 1,000 word essay on
one song, which one would it be, and why? What makes that song so important?
I can’t say
for sure, there are so many songs of importance to me with very different
meanings.I think, if I was pressed to
answer, it would be The Weight by The Band.The version from the
movie, The Last Waltz, with The Staples Singers, is an example of a song that’s
near perfect, that achieves the impossible of being even made better by
introducing someone else to share it.I
really struggle with questions like this, the worst ones are “name your Top
10…”!If you’re lucky, I can normally
narrow something down to a top 250!
Give us three bands that we need to keep
our eyes out for.
3 UK based bands,
for sure.Flex Bison from Birmingham showcase very
heavy, dirty, intoxicating riffs and are an absolutely solid, powerful live
force too.They’re about to release an
EP or mini album soon, and there’s dates to come before they work on recording
a full LP.The Red Widows from London are
brilliant!I’m really looking forward to
hearing what they do next, and there’s a band from Bradford called Psychlona;
they pretty much came out of nowhere for me, and I was hooked on the first
listen. They are something special and I cant wait to see them live.
Tell us about your personal music
collection. Vinyl? CD? What's your prized possession?
I don’t keep
CDs anymore, unless they’re promos that bands were kind enough to send me.I still have my first issue ‘Ladies And
Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ by Spiritualized that came in a card
medication box; the CD is printed to look like a pill/tablet and the insert is
a medical direction information sheet with how to take the music, like its on
prescription! (Which it should be because it’s an outstanding album!)
On Vinyl, I have
some early pressings by Pink Floyd (Animals and Meddle); an Electric Ladyland
by Hendrix, with the naked ladies on the cover; an early original mix of Hot
Rats by Zappa (before he arsed about with it and reissued it on CD!).More recently (two years ago apparently, now
I think about it) I scored a first/early pressing of Randy California’s ‘Kapt.
Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds’ and on the same day a first pressing of
‘Lifeforms’ by Future Sound Of London.I
have the 4 vinyl version half Speed Masters release of The Orb ‘Adventures in
the Ultraworld’ which is really special to me.I try really hard these days to buy records I’ll get plenty of play out
of.They’re not cheap, especially trying
to import them from outside of the UK.
What makes it all worthwhile for you?
The fact that
its fun and unpredictable; that I started a hobby I love that kept on growing
and expanding.I love that people seem
to like what I do; that people engage with me positively, and it’s a real
thrill when you read someone saying good things about the show, or recommending
me to people.I can’t believe sometimes
that bands feel that they can approach me because they like what I do, and they
want they music to be heard on my show.
I really love
doing this, otherwise what’s the point?
How would your life be different if you
weren't spreading the word about music?
answer that other than say I guess I’d find meaning in something else, just not
sports though, I’m with Sepultura on that one, Sports Bloody Sports!
Ever been threatened by a band or a
No, I met
someone in a band I really respected last year and it was a negative
experience.I thought the guy was a
complete dick and was unnecessarily rude.Looking back, I think he was trying to intimidate me for reasons i never
understood, but it influenced how I felt about him and I guess, his band.Maybe this is a strong reaction or over
reaction, who knows? but these are the things that stay with you sometimes.I’m told that some other folks have had
similar experiences with him and others not, in the grand scheme of things it
doesn’t matter but it really did disappoint me.
No need to
publicly name and shame though is there? these things happen, and I have far
more interactions and experiences where people were incredible, humble, funny
In the end, what would you like to have
accomplished, or be remembered for?
can tell me they discovered music they fell in love with because I played it or
recommended it then I’ve done my job, pretty high praise I think. I like that Lester Bangs quote “The only true currency in this
bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool”. I won’t
debate what’s cool and what’s not, that’s subjective.I like the idea of being part of a strangers
memory, based on a song or an album he or she heard through you though.
Many people may not realize the hours you
devote to what you do for little or no pay. Is there a day job? If so, how do
you find the balance?
Yeah, I have
a day job and I keep that separate from everything I do under the name Atom
Heart Mutha.I always find time,
hopefully not the detriment of those close to me, but I have found something I
love doing and they get that and support me, especially my better half, Katie;
someone else with a great taste in music that never stopped buying music, going
to gigs and supporting the bands she loves.
if someone wants to subsidise me for the amount of music I buy on Bandcamp,
please let me know!!
What's next? Any new projects?
Yes, I’m in
the early stages of managing a band and there’s loads of opportunities to
promote live nights with a really great guy called Toby Winch, a DJ that I met
through Hard Rock Hell Radio, we’ve already put on Space Witch, Red Spektor,
Flex Bison, 1968 and Cower, Hounds! together and there’s a few more
announcements to come soon.There are
some other things going on too but it’s too early to mention them yet.All I can say it that the futures looking
great, thats for sure.
Finally, other than the music, what's your
other burning passion?