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A Conversation With Mike Davenport
by
Samuel Barker
July 28, 2001

After sweating through the Ataris set, I made my way up to the press room to see when I was scheduled to interview people. The first person on my list was Mike Davenport of the Ataris, so we both weren't too far removed from the set when we conducted the interview. It was nice to get out of the 100 degree heat and into the air conditioned press room to have a conversation. This is what we spoke about....

Mike Davenport

Samuel Barker: We'll start off with the mandatory question, what is you name and what do you do?

Mike Davenport: My name is Mike, I'm in the Ataris, and I play bass.

Samuel: Are you guys going to take a break after the Warped Tour, or are you going to keep going?

Mike: We don't take breaks, we're flying straight from Detroit to London to start the European part of the tour, which is 5 other bands who are breaking off. It's called Extremefest, it's like this side stage that hits all these festivals throughout Europe, so that'll be pretty cool.

Samuel: I noticed the absence of Marco today...

Mike: Marco is gone...Yes, Marco left to...he's always done his own band on the side at home and he's always played. He's the only one who ever was...He wasn't the original guitar player either...I understand where Marco came from, he was never a "real" member of the band, so it always effected him adversely. It came to a point where we were heading into a new transition, we have a new record label and a lot of new stuff. It was a perfect time for him to do his own thing.

Samuel: Yeah, I remember Kris telling me Marco was always in and out of the band.

Mike: That's Marco. Our thing is we always want the band to be our friends and it was like with Marco, we loved him so much it was hard to kick him out. Because he wasn't ever fully committed to the Ataris and we wanted someone to do that. Our new guitar player, John, was our guitar tech for a year and he used to be in the band Beefcake on Fearless Records. We used to tour with Beefcake relentlessly for two years, so it's another great friend who jumped in at the right time, and everyone tells us get some hot shot from another band, we have enough status now, we can do that, but that's just not our thing. We want a friend. We don't want someone we don't know.

Samuel: Well, with touring as much as you do, it must be important to have someone you get along with more than playing well.

Mike: Exactly, and Johnny plays well. He's amazing, he's better for the job than Marco was. That was part of my reasoning for hiring him as a guitar tech a year ago.

Samuel: I heard you say you guys are getting a new record label, anything you can tell us about that?

Mike: True, we're done with our deal with Kung Fu. We're going to record a new record around winter. After we get back from Europe, we're going to take a couple weeks off, then we go to South Africa, Australia, and then we come back here again. Then we're going to remix Anywhere But Here and release it on Kung Fu, we're going to be doing a home video. That's all been in the works for years. Plus we're doing a movie. Then we'll get a new record out next summer, just in enough time to be on Warped again, with Tara(Warped Tour publicist). That's the plan, I can't talk about the record label right now, it's different...

Samuel: It's new....

Mike: Yeah, it's new.

Samuel: So you guys are heading out to South Africa?

Mike: It's the weirdest thing ever. Even NOFX hasn't been to South Africa and they've played everywhere. Someone likes us down there, so they offered to pay for the expenses, we're playing for free, and they're paying our expenses. We're the kind of band that we've toured much that it's interesting to try and conquer these places we've never been before. When someone gave us the offer, it's on the way to Australia, so it worked out well. We're a little scared, but we don't know what to expect, so that's the only reason we're a little scared. They're supposed to be big festivals with Dave Matthews and big radio bands. People will be there, but they'll think of us, I don't know.

Samuel: So you're just playing a lot of festival?

Mike: Yeah, that's mostly what the European part of the tour is as well.

Samuel: That'd be odd, billing Dave Matthews with the Ataris.

Mike: In Europe, Eminem and Marilyn Manson are on most of the shows. Actually, Eminem is coming on this tour near the end with D12.

Samuel: Over in Europe you are playing with so many mixed bands, is everyone into all the music, or are people still segregated when certain bands perform?

Mike: It's segregated, mainland Europe. UK is amazing right now, and that includes Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The punk scene there is bubbling at the point like when Nirvana and Green Day hit in America, so it's about 10 years behind, but it's just amazing. Less Than Jake have gold records over there, almost platinum I think. We're doing really well there. Europe is way scattered, it all depends on the country. You can play in Holland, which is great, Germany, which is great, then you get down south a little to Spain and France and it's back to the Elks Lodge days of playing to 200 kids, who are feverish and fanatic, but not mainstream, very scattered, it's a strange thing.

Samuel: Is it ever crazy going from playing club shows here with around 400-500 kids and then going overseas to these huge stadium crowds?

Mike: Well, I think Australia is where we're big, our first gold record was from Australia. That led us playing festivals down there with Ben Harper, Fatboy Slim, and all that crap. You just get to this point where you get thrown into it. Warped is the same thing as those festivals really. Warped in L.A. is 35,000 people. I think that's bigger than any of those European festivals, so you just kinda get used to it. I think the first time we were ever completely shocked by a huge crowd was Warped last year, Kevin gave us the mainstage, here in Houston, it was out second Warped show. It was out first real like "oh my god". Since then it's been a year, so we've gotten used to it.

Samuel: The first time you played a show like that was it overwhelming to see all those people?

Mike: The first time is...going on after MxPx and you're just like "here we are, ready to rock."

Mike Davenport

Samuel: Have you been surprised at all with your record sales or overwhelmed?

Mike: Maybe overwhelmed only in the fact that it just rolls to a point where it can't be stopped. We haven't really had a break at home for 4 years. We started this thing where we'd just get in a van and just drive around and play anywhere we could at anytime. I look at it now and think we were crazy, but we did it and it got us to this point. There was always a point where we could stop it, but no we can't stop it, so it's just going to roll until it burns away. I've been really surprised.

Samuel: I know Blue Skies... sold a lot of copies.

Mike: It did and End Is Forever is twice as many in a third of the time. It's a whole new fan base as well. It's not the same people who bought Blue Skies... that are buying End Is Forever. A lot of those bands are just straight up like "You guys have gotten softer." That's the way kids are, they focus on an album, that's there record. It surprises me that End Is Forever has done so well when a lot of the Blue Skies... fans aren't sure about it.

Samuel: Is that a problem you are seeing now that you're getting a more viable band for a lot more kids, that old fans are being all "I don't know..."

Mike: That's like 50/50. I think with any band it happens. Things change in life, you may fall in love, get married, go to college, or something might change your whole musical taste. I just think music is an evolution and people aren't meant to be into a band forever. So the fact that you can keep it rolling...like NOFX is the most amazing at that forever, they keep it rolling forever. You see the 20 year punk scenester, like 40 year old punks who are the 1/50th of the original fans from the early records. They still carry those guys and attract a new audience with every record.

Samuel: So you guys are in it for the long haul?

Mike: We want to, but if we ever start to look stupid or totally fizzle out, like, I don't want to say names, but The Queers and Screeching Weasel. They just kept it going when it shouldn't have. Jawbreaker is the perfect example that if things get shitty, it might be better to break up and be legendary than stay together and look stupid.

Samuel: Well, I know with the Queers and other bands that there are like 1 member left in the band and they just kinda add in bodies so they can tour.

Mike: Well, I don't know if that's even so bad, as it is how repetitive their records have gotten, not repetitive, but uncaring. The moment we stop caring, we're breaking up. That's the bottom line, you have to care. If you stop caring and go on, then you're going to degrade your name for the rest of eternity. We want people to look at our band name as something special, like I look at Jawbreaker or the Descendants. I want it to be special always instead of something that people are like "that's so old and cliche." I'd rather come here and work on the Warped tour than be in a band no one cared about anymore.

Samuel: Kris does a lot of production and stuff, do any of you do anything else besides the Ataris?

Mike: Kris has done two albums. We have a record store, that's pretty much my thing, the whole band owns it, but that's pretty much my little hobby thing. Also, Kris and I are doing a record label together too, in conjunction with the store, doing a recording studio there, we have tons of shit going on, it's through the roof. It's all cool. We're a band that is constantly thinking of ways to conquer all the dreams we've had, and these are all things we really want to do.

Rayanna: Is it an actual record store, or is it an online record store?

Mike: It's an actual record store. It's really cool. It's a punk rock/emo record store. It's our store, we get to pick what we want, there are no rules but our rules. It really caters to the Ataris fan.

Samuel: So you guys are branching out to become the punk rock Master P? (laughs)

Mike: Well, honestly, the way we got that was from Fat Mike and his empire. We don't want an empire, but it's like spreading what we believe in. Fat Mike has done the same thing, and the Descendents have there compound in Fort Collins, they have all sorts of things going on. Knowing those people and how they've spread punk rock, we wanted to do our thing, and Santa Barbara is the most beautiful town. It's our home and we wanted something there.

Samuel: Anything you'd like to add?

Mike: You can always write us and e-mail us. Our addresses are in our CDs, we write everyone back, it takes a while sometimes, but please do it.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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