Atman Way (Triangle (2011) and One Plus One (2010)) is half of the experimental recording duo The Two; he provides guitar chord accompaniment to melodic improvisations, and occasionally sings. He met the other half of The Two, Mark M (see Voice interview here), in a coffee shop in Racine, Wisconsin in 1993.
Long before The Two, Atman experienced a childhood so idyllic It’s hard to believe he’s now an experimental musician. Perhaps not coincidentally, the same could be said for Mark M.
As a child, Atman had a fascinating grandmother who lived in the basement of his house. Says Atman: ?She was divorced (rare at the time), beautifully crazy, and from the school of old vaudeville. She sparked many an interest in me.?
For example, Grandma had a huge record collection, and on weeknights Atman would show up to co-host imaginary radio broadcasts in which Grandma would play DJ on her own record player. ?I truly believed we were ?ON THE AIR,? as she’d say,? Atman recalls. ?I heard hundreds of 45s by obscure bands. I still have all those records.?
Childhood wasn’t all a pleasure cruise, though. A penchant for fancy clothes meant he was bullied at school. Family got him through: ?I confided in my sister a lot,? he says. ?We were born one year, one month, and one day apart. She was and is still amazing as ever.?
Nowadays for inspiration Atman turns to ever more eclectic sources. He listens to unlabelled cassettes from garage sales, comedy albums, and theremin music, and watches old black and white movies, documentaries, and ballroom dance competitions (?nobody knows how hard those dancers train? It’s incredible what they do,? he says). He also reads biographies, owner’s manuals from thrift stores, historical books and documents, theology, and maps old and new.
But inspiration only gets an artist part of the way there. What does Atman need to go on being creative? His answer is surprising: ?Motion.? He explains, ?When I’m still I feel that whatever creative thing may want to come out is stifled or stagnating. If I get walking or driving I can usually get it out or at least see what it is or what it wants.? He’s found that talking has a similar effect.
It may be unusual, but Atman’s not questioning how it works. ?I’m not sure why and I’ve never asked,? he says.