Atreyu is just one-third of a massive touring package coming to Australia this November, alongside Cane Hill and Bullet For My Valentine. But that’s still ages away so to help roll the time over and to get you even more excited for that tour, we had a chat with Alex Varkatzas of Atreyu about what he’s been up to lately.
I’ve seen a bunch of footage from Atreyu’s recent set at Download Festival and you, in particular, are rarely standing still. It’s all very high-octane. Which is great to see, as certain styles of music call for lots of movement and not just static playing.
You know, I don’t really think about it, I just go with the flow up there. Lately, I just feel really pumped up and that’s what all comes out live; I just wanna run around, pump the people and scream.
Well, do you ever watch back a lot of live footage from your sets and think, “Man, that one punk jump I did looked sick!” or “Damn, I look so goofy when I do that”?
When I was a little kid, I used to hate seeing myself on camera and hearing my recorded voice played back. Which is funny, as my scream and how I sound on the record isn’t how I sound right now obviously, so that doesn’t bother me too much. Seeing myself recorded on camera, I don’t like it. I don’t usually seek out live footage because I don’t want to be self-conscious. I don’t give a fuck when I’m up there as it’s my time to rock, and I think people like it.
Right on. A photo taken by Rock Sound from the set showed you standing in between the split D-barriers and there’s this security guard just looking so awkward next to you – it’s great. So my question is it ever weird getting into the show, getting in the crowd and having the security just being right there with you?
It’s actually pretty funny. Download Festival was a rare one with a split barricade and security on either side. Usually, I just go out into the crowd. At Download, I didn’t think that’d go down too well, as I didn’t think I could get back. Most festivals, I can get back fine. The security thing is cool, but sometimes they protect me a little too much. Like, sometimes I don’t need it. If I fall down on my ass, that’s on me. If you see me floating and I’m going to get dropped, then please, come catch me. Some security will get a little intense as they think they’re trying to protect me, but no, this is all just part of the game!
I can get that. I mean, that is their job after all. But with Warped Tour, during one of In Hearts Wake’s sets a security guard choked out a fan down in front. Like, he was going full UFC on this guy. Of course, the band stopped playing and called the guy out for what he was doing.
That wouldn’t happen at one of our shows. I mean, yeah, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with security guards, I’ll tell you [laughs]. But respect for that dude for going down there to stop that bullshit, good on him. But it is a rock show, shit happens sometimes.
That it does man! Now, while you’re an artist on the side, I’ve seen that you’ve also gotten into tattooing lately. I’m not a tattoo artist myself but I’m wondering if it was a hard change for you to move from paper to skin?
Yeah, some of it is. But I find that a lot of it relates to color pencils more than anything, which sounds fucking weird. A lot of old school tattoo flashes are done with color pencils because that’s a more realistic look. In traditional tattooing, to get something look exactly like a watercolor, it’s quite hard. If I do a tattoo flash with watercolor, it looks different on the skin unless I use colored pencil, then it’ll look very close to what it’ll end up being on the skin. That’s what I’ve figured out and just in what I’ve researched. So there are some similarities and some stark fucking differences. Like with painting, there’s no restart, there’s no reset. Once you do the black outline on a piece of paper with an ink pen, there’s no going back over it. Same thing with tattoos, once you go, you go. I like that about it. It really changes how I look at life, and tattoos are one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Aw, good to hear, man! That OC Weekly video of you and Rich Pineda speaking about tattooing so passionately was a great watch too. With you going to tattoo people on Warped Tour, does that make you nervous at all or do you worry that you may fuck up while tattooing a fan or another band member?
No, not really. I don’t go into situations thinking about how I’ll fuck up. I may sound like a dumbass, but that’s really not the warrior mindset. I go into a situation thinking about how I’m gonna dominate it. I take it so seriously that I won’t ever let that happen. With any of my clients – family, friends, strangers – everyone gets the same respect from me. I actually only do one tattoo a day. If I can tattoo twice a day, the second one will be a small tattoo done for a friend. Most of the work I do takes between three and six hours to complete. I’m still so new in the game that I don’t wanna push myself.
No, good idea man. And that attitude of seeing how you’re going to dominate a situation is quite PMA I find. One record of yours that I think wasn’t very positive in terms of the themes was ‘A Death-grip Of Yesterday’, what with your issues with alcoholism, too. So does it affect you at all to look back at that album and that time in your life now in 2016
Well, it does depend on how much I’ve had to drink before I play [laughs]. To be totally honest, I connect with all of the songs no matter what. Some nights, something will be irritating me or I’ll remember something about a certain song and it’ll light a fire under my ass. So one or three beers will depend on how I’ll react to it. I’m kinda like a character actor. Before we go on stage, I start to ramp up and afterward, it can be hard for me ramp back down.
It’s interesting you mention that, actually. Anthony Raneri of Bayside was on the Lead Singer Syndrome podcast a couple weeks ago and he talks about how singers need to “ooze confidence” and that it’s hard for some to be able to turn off that on-stage high as soon as their set ends. Have you ever dealt with that before?
…yes and no. My type of confidence is different to his. I feed off the energy of the people that we play for each night. When that energy is good, it just powers me up. When I step off stage, I don’t need that anymore. Sure, I might still be aggressive or pumped up, but I’m not full of shit still [laughs]. There’s a way that you act in front of thousands of people that normal people just don’t act like in front of two or three people. I’m still a little pissed off afterward, so I do usually take five or ten minutes to clear my head and reset. Then it’s back to normal. I’m never walking around catering like “Uh, excuse me! I’m here for my eggs!”
[Laughs] well said, man. It’s an interesting test in people’s personality types I find. Just on ‘A Death-Grip On Yesterday’, what song stands out to you the most now? For me, it’s always been ‘My Fork In The Road (Your Knife In My Back)’.
Death-grip is probably my favorite old Atreyu record, hands down. But I think that Creature, lyrically, really means a lot to me. The song We Stand Up, in retrospect, when we played that song on the tour that’s what got me the most pumped up. It’s a song that is about the boys and I playing music, but it feels so relevant to play that song now.
Well, I’m glad that it can still be relevant ten years on. So finally, what’s the end goal for Atreyu currently, are you guys still vying for new music down the line?
Oh, totally. Atreyu is our baby. As far as our future recordings, we’re planning to work on new material at the start of next year and then release it late next year in the Fall.
Oh, awesome. ‘Long Live’ was a very solid comeback album, and not many bands can do that after a few years away.
Oh, that’s very nice of you say that. We just always try to swing as hard as we can. Every time we step up the plate; 100%.
I’d expect nothing less. We’ll have to leave it there, dude. Cheers for the chat today, Alex, hope all goes well.
No worries my man, you have a great day.
Atreyu is touring alongside Cane Hill and Bullet For My Valentines this October. Tickets here and deets below!
20 October – Metro City, Perth (18+)21 October – HQ, Adelaide (18+)
21 October – HQ, Adelaide (18+)
24 October – 170 Russel, Melbourne (18+)
25 October – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+) SOLD OUT
27 October – Big Top, Sydney (Lic/AA)28 October – Eatons Hill, Brisbane (Lic/AA)
28 October – Eatons Hill, Brisbane (Lic/AA)