the atomic penguins

With Johnny Rotten advertising butter and playing gigs in Israel, and Billy Idol feasting on quail's arse with rocket salad in Santa Monica restaurants...which 21st Century bands ever  inherited the punk spirit of 1977, I sometimes ask myself.


There's plenty of grunge, grime, garage and gangstas around, but what about that do-it-yourself-and-record-it-on-a-Sanyo-cassette-deck idea that was just as much a part of punk as a sweary interview with Bill Grundy?


For my money, the now-defunct Atomic Penguins were genuine punks. They were a "lo-fi" duo from Whitstable in Kent, who were so keen not to "sell out" that they wrote a song about how to avoid it.


They described many of their songs as 'rants set to music', including 'I Hate All Bands', featured here.




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Before they disbanded to pursue higher education and, in Nathan's case a career as a stand-up comedian I caught up with Nathan Willcock and Ed Goodson: The Atomic Penguins.


Nick says: Hi there

Nathan says: hi, Ed is here now, so we can start if you like

Nick says: sure OK. Does the band consist of just you and Ed?

Nathan says: yes, and a casio keyboard which provides pre set drum beats and general sound

Nick says: I think you have said the band will cease to exist when you go to Uni this year, is that true?

Nathan says: yes, if we get the results we want on Thursday then yes, but we go for months without pratice and then play a gig now, so I suppose if the gigs were offerd and we could do them, we wouldn't say no. Reunions are big now anyway aren't they?

Nick says: Indeed they are. Did you deliberately set out to produce lo-fi music?

Nathan says: not at first, we had no idea about recording and producing music, but this album we did because a lot of music we like is lo-fi, so we didn't have a problem with it, plus it was easier and we have no money, and no way of making any money back, so recording it ourselves on the worst quality equipment seemed the natual option.

Nick says: In your song you say “I hate all bands, except for the ones that I like”...which ones do you like?

[great song btw]

Nathan says: Thanks, the main artists who we really love would probably be Art Brut, Harvey Danger, The Mountain Goats, Jeffrey Lewis and Half Man Half Biscuit.

Nick says: Would you agree that some of your songs sound a bit like some punk stuff from the 1977 to early 80s period? I know you have mentioned Half Man Half Biscuit.

Nathan says: Ed reallly likes the punk stuff a lot, and I supposed the punk ethos was strong, as in we're not great, trained musicans, but we kind do our stuff and don't care about what people think, plus we were listening to a lot of Crass in the build up to making this, which got us all angry.

Nick says: Some of your songs seem to be inspired by you local towns in different ways...Herne Bay / Whitstable / that true?

Nathan says: yes, it's kind of all we know, with the song Virginity and the (Cathedral) City, especially we wanted to write a song about Canterbury and it's pubs, because that's where we spent most of the last couple of years in. Plus it's never really been talked about in a song before,we just write about what we know, because it's easiest.

Nick says: I know you call some of your songs “rants” or "ramblings", would you describe them all that way?

Nathan says: yes, maybe not all of them, especially if I write songs about girls, they tend to ramble on a bit, and if we sing about stuff that annoys us then it is a rant, I hate all bands is a rant, no doubt about it.

Nick says: ...and one of my favourites, "Bullshit of a Preacher Man", i guess.

Nathan says: yes, I suppose they are just rants, we're really suprised you like that song, as it was one that we never practiced before recording, so it's good to know we don't have to practice or take time over our songs

Nick says: Have you done many live gigs? Have there been any outstanding high or low points?

Nathan says: We've done about 20 or so gigs. Our first gig we actually won a 'winky' award at the local comedy festival, which was great...and...also Ramsgate small boat owners club and at the Lounge On The Farm festival was really good, but the low points have been many, audiences who don't 'get' us and also once we had a gig, which we organised, we couldn't get another band to support us, we hired a P.A system, but no one attended, apart from three people, who left and only came back when we got kicked out after the barman said we were losing him money, so we ended up playing to those three people on a main road in a gurrila-ish style gig that was a low point, which we turned into a high point by selling a £1 album out of sympathy from a drunk guy.

Nick says: I see real potential for a Spinal Tap style film here, have you ever thought about that?

Nathan says: yes many a time, there was this one idea when we got offered to play in front of terminally ill children at Christmas, we thought filming that and the bulid up, and the awkwardness of the whole thing may be entertaining, but we couldn't do that because some of the children had sound epilepsy, so our noise could have been disastrous...also we thought about doing spoof ones set in the future...

Nick says: Can I ask Ed...I think you play keyboards and guitar...any other instuments? Have you had any musical training, or would you see that as a disadvantage, in lo-fi terms?

Nathan says: I learnt a bit on guitar from lessons, but they mainly consisted of watching my teacher show off which caused bitter resentment, so now I consider anyone with musical talent a sell out. and the keyboard plays itself, I just press some buttons

Nick says: Your song "Nazi Girl" it true that you refuse to play that now?

Nathan says: no, there was a song called Girl Of My Dreams which we always used to play, but it was very boring and took 4 mins to get to the punch line, so we made a video and put it to rest, but Nazi Girl is our big 'hit' that everyone remembers and it goes down too well live to stop doing it, that and I hate all bands.

Nick says: So far I think you have made 3 albums. Is that your total recorded output to date?

Nathan says: yes we had a live album and a demo sort of thing, both recorded by our friend, and doctor of music, Doctor Doyle who also recorded our second album, the Social Networking Shites

Nick says: Is there a local "scene" with other similar bands in your area?

Nathan says: there is a local scene, and a lot of our friends are in bands, the live music scene isn't as big as in some areas, but it's OK. There very few bands that are simaler to us, I think we can say we're unique without sounding arrogant, certianly in Kent, we're number 1 in the reverbnation comedy band charts for Canterbury.

Nick says: OK well thanks a lot guys been good talking to you good luck with your exam results, but don't let education get in the way of good music

Nathan says: yes, thank you.

Nick says: Cheers, Bye

Nathan says: bye

ed_and_toby_017 the_atomic_penguins_lounge

recordings / interview

Above - 'I Hate All Bands' / 'Girl Of My Dreams' Official Music Video / 'Hyperbole In Love Songs'.


Below - Listen to / buy The Atomic Penguins' masterpiece albums - 'Touch My Chin Anthony Eden' and 'The Social Networking Shites'.