What do you do if you're a bored kid in your early 20s who was raised in a small town in Pennsylvania on ice hockey, Metallica, Anthrax and Duran Duran? You borrow your mom's Ford Explorer and go on tour. That's what Atom Goren and "His Package" have been doing for the past few years. In that time "they've" released a bevy of full-lengths, EPs and 7-inch singles, appeared on countless compilations and toured all over the U.S., even taking the one-man show to Japan. You see, "The Package" is actually Atom's sequencer that he programs songs into and then plays along with when performing live.
Atom's unorthodox approach has been an unexpected hit with the rebellious punk-ska-hardcore set. The geeky oddball is obviously not punk -- except in spirit. Forget three-chord-crashing threesomes; he's just one guy, playing electronically, breaking down established standards. It's Atom's uncompromised nonconformism and uncontrived DIY ethic that forces the common bond with his anti-authority fans.
As for the music itself, it's a highly original twist of keyboard-vocal stylings, something that no one would expect from a hockey-loving, rich-kid metalhead who has chosen a sequencer as his weapon of choice. Atom himself describes it as "'80s pop music with punk-as-fuck lyrics that some `people` think are funny."
On his highly entertaining website, Atom offers a sampling of synopses of the songs with the so-called "funny" lyrics. There's one about getting rid of people who annoy him with a gigantic crane. A song about a boy in love with a girl who is just a head. A tune about trick or treating with gangsta rappers The Geto Boys. A song about how the metric system kicks ass, and one praising former Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford for coming out of the closet. There are songs about black metal, a punk-rock high school and Enya, the woman he has a crush on.
The website that unites his faithful is stocked with tour dates, goofy photos, downloadable MP3s and a very insightful "Fall 1999 U.S. Tour Diary," which he updates daily. His chronicled bout with a slipping transmission is a heart-warming epic.
For the most part, Atom's stranger-than-thou observations and inside jokes have been well-received by his growing legion of under-aged fans, but there's promise beyond that core. He's scheduled to play the prestigious -- and career-making -- CMJ Music Marathon, MusicFest & FilmFest (date to be announced in early 2000), which will give the individualist an opportunity to expose his sound outside of his underground base.
"Sometimes people are quite into it, and dance around and sing along," says the fearless one-man bandleader. "Sometimes people hate it and tell me I suck. Sometimes people don't care at all." He mildly disputes the unofficial "Weird Al of Punk" comparison: "It's fine ... I mean, I'd like to think that I actually write music -- so I think the reference doesn't really fit. Whatever ... it doesn't keep me up at night."
His recorded output is equally bizarre. In 1997, Atom unleashed both "The First" and "A Society of People Named Elihu." His most recent 1999 release is "Making Love," a collection of three 1998 EPs, compilation tracks and "other junk." One of those EPs, the now out-of-print "Atom and His Rockage," showed Atom breaking from form and recording rock versions of his older songs with a fully realized band.
Could such diversions spell the end of Atom's one-man show? Does the erstwhile Goren plan to retire the Package in favor of a full band?
"No," he answers emphatically. "Fuck carrying heavy stuff."