Ataris' Kris Roe Explains the Meaning Behind His Arizona Tattoo, Classic Phoenix Venues, and Warped Tour
Kris Roe's relationship with Arizona has been a tumultuous one. His band, The Ataris, started touring 15 years ago, and Roe's stops in Arizona have always been marked by some seriously bad luck. After a couple near-death experiences, he got a tattoo of the Arizona state flag as a good luck charm of sorts.
Believe it or not, in spite of multiple car accidents and broken bones, Roe loves Arizona. He's been spending a lot of time with former bandmate Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Studios working on The Ataris' sixth album, The Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Tonight, Roe will take a break from recording to play a solo acoustic show at Martini Ranch. He goes on at 9 p.m., so be sure to get there early.
We recently caught up with Kris Roe to discuss the experiences that inspired the Copper star tattoo, his favorite old venues in Phoenix, and how much Warped Tour has changed.
Up on the Sun:So, you're in Mesa right now?
Kris Roe: Yeah, I've been in the area recording. My friend Bob Hoag runs a studio called Flying Blanket Recording in Mesa. The way The Ataris works is I record everything and show the parts to Bob, who runs the studio. He plays drums and I play the other instruments. That's been off and on. I'm trying to finish our album. We've got, like, 20 songs recorded and I'm just trying my best to finish my vocals for the last bunch of songs and put about 12 on the record. The rest will be remaining tracks for split 7 inches and random b-sides and things. Looking to get the album out at the start of the new year.
Awesome. Tell me about your Arizona flag tattoo.
I had several close calls with death in this state. It's sort of become this ongoing joke with my friends and my ex-wife and everybody. They'd be like, 'Alright, call us when you get to Arizona and when you leave Arizona.' I got the tattoo of the state flag...because I love the emblem. I actually have a daughter named Starla and I thought it was the most awesome flag, state or otherwise. I got a horseshoe that I used to wear around my wrist. My friend makes jewelry. I had the horseshoe tattooed below it because spills the luck into the flag. Here's the list of my close calls with death in your lovely state:
I got in a pretty bad traffic accident in Tempe when we were playing in town one time. [I] made a left turn and some guy blew through a traffic light and slammed into me and my ex and totaled her car. It was a miracle seeing her not hurt.
Broke my hand one time jumping off the stage, got in a fight with some kid who was throwing lit cigarettes. The guy was being a stupid fucking kid. Whatever, it was one of those instances where you come to a show to fuck with somebody on stage who's playing a show. It was the last day of our nine month tour, and I was just wanting to get off stage to drive home to California. This kid picked the last minute of the set the last time, it was just something stupid. First I told security to get the kid out and they didn't understand what I was saying. I jumped in the crowd, the guy swung at me, I swung at him, I hit him like five times, broke my hand. That's the last time I ever got in a fight in my entire life. Probably the first time as well.
What venue was that at?
That was at The Nile. But, by far the best one, and this one that convinced me at the time that I had some weird, weird luck here. My friend and I...I finished playing a show here, and we were driving back to California. I hadn't seen him in a long time, it was an old friend of mine that ran a record store that we had our record released in Indianapolis and I had no idea he was living here. I said, 'Dude let's drive to the next show together in your brand new car.'
We were driving the 8 to San Diego and his car just broke down in the desert. His car was literally off the lot brand new. We were like, 'What the fuck's going on?' This is such bad luck I have. We stopped about 100 yards up from a call box and he was like, 'I'm gonna walk to that call box and call. If you wanna stay outside the car, that's fine.'
My mentality was 'Fuck that I'm staying in the car, there's snakes, scorpions, and it's 110 degrees -- no way. I sat in the car and it's safer in here, no problem. I was sitting in the passenger seat, a fucking semi comes along and hits the damn car, sends it off 15 feet. It just felt like someone pushed the car 15 feet, I didn't know what happened. I look and I see this semi just fishtailing and it kept on going. So, we call the cops and I look in the rear view and I see my friend jumping up and down because he sees his brand new car getting smashed and he runs to see if I'm alright. I'm like, 'Yeah I'm alright, I'm just shaken up, what the fuck happened?' The highway patrol come and they were complete assholes to us. They're like, 'Why weren't you guys more pulled over?' Were like, 'Well the car died and we pushed it off as car as we could. What, do you want us to push it off out in the desert?'
They basically said if you guys were like two feet to left, you would have been dead instantly, so it was luck. His whole entire driver side was destroyed. I was shaken up [but] there was nothing wrong with me.
The one time I was driving back to Indiana, a giant cinder block flew off the back of some guy's truck. He passed me aggressively driving at like 110, 115 miles per hour. He goes boom past me on the left and the cinder block flew off the back of his truck and flew underneath my, I had a Dodge Neon, flew underneath my Neon and broke up and exited out the back. It didn't hurt the car, it just scared the fuck out of me. If it would have went through my windshield, it would have killed me.
I was staying in a Holiday Inn out in Chandler or something one time and we were playing somewhere up there, maybe it was on Scottsdale. I remember the door going into the hotel, there was something weird with it. It malfunctioned and my hand got stuck in the sliding glass door.
The last one I can think of was one of the first times we ever drove out here to play from California. This was just my own stupidity, teenage drinking at its finest. I remember we played a show in Vegas the night before, and spent all night drinking Canadian. Me and my friend we just sat in there drinking whiskey out of the bottle until the sun came up. Drove all the way to Arizona with no AC in the van and I nearly passed out and got alcohol poisoning on stage. That one I don't count because it was my own stupidity.
The rest of them yeah, convinced me for awhile, but then strangely enough, here I am. I've been out here six or seven times in the last two years. I love it out here, I feel like this is almost home to me. I don't really have a place back home anymore. It's always keep the shit in storage, tour, and then record. So, yeah, me and fiancé, we really like it out here and are definitely quite fond of it now. The irony of it all is that I never thought I'd be spending the majority of my time in this state. Maybe it was a premonition, the tattoo is actually telling me this is where your home will be eventually. I like to look at the bright side of things, so maybe there's some kind of optimism in it all.
I can't deny it, that shit scared the hell out of me, all those instances. I wrote a song on our So Long Astoria album called "Eight of Nine" and it's basically about all these close calls we have and how we take life for granted. Sort of carpe diem, seize the day kind of thing. I have gone through a lot of things, pretty close calls in my life. I'm grateful for them because I feel they've made me more life aware and more grateful for the things I have and I always remember that. You don't really need this rich, lavish lifestyle. You just need family and friends, the clothes on your back, and just be grateful for what you have.
Has your luck improved since you got the tattoo? You're still here, after all.
Not directly, my life's improved just because of my own life choices. If it's because something directly related to getting that tattoo, then that's just pure circumstance and coincidence. I think obviously your life's formed by the reckless choices that you make and I think there's times in my life there was certain ways I was living my life that I would definitely not do now that I'm 34.
When it came to chaos, I had my share. But when it came to playing shows, I always looked up to the bands that played shows that were very unpredictable. Kind of the opposite of all this auto tune perfect bullshit nonsense that there is today. I like the bands that you go to the show and you never know what was going to happen. That is what got me into punk rock when I was a kid, and why I feel punk rock now has nothing to do with what I'm into. It's the opposite, it's stale, very predictable, perfect, Justin Bieber hair, auto tune nonsense. Punk rock and rock music in general is supposed to be dangerous and unpredictable. I like to have to have an element of that in our shows now. Now I've got the back of an 85-year-old man because I jumped in the crowd, jumped off the PA.
I remember at The Venue Scottsdale I think it was, it looked like this Frontierland old west crappy venue. I remember they had these giant wooden barrels. It really looked like you were on some ride in Frontierland at Disneyland. I think there was some weirdness with the sound that night. I was just frustrated, so I climbed up, they had this...unless you've been there...
I think I was at that show. That was at The Cajun House, I wanna say with Sugarcult?
The Cajun House! Yeah, that place. Thank you for reminding me. I just remember it was a weird show and something was going wrong on our end. I remember climbing up there, I think I jumped off. Too many nights of doing that and now I really pay for it full force.
I won't trade anything. It's been a good time and I'm still going. We can pull off a show that is something current, yet at the same time embraces everything that is and will remain for the fans that listen to The Ataris.
I remember that night. The Cajun House is now called the Venue Scottsdale.
I think over the years we've played probably every single venue this place has to offer. I'm 34, so there's some venues, I don't know if you remember. We started playing out here when I was like probably 19. There was Boston's, there was the old Nita's Hideaway, then of course there was the Tempe Bowl, which was the kind of iconic place everybody...like the Chain Reaction in Anaheim. It was one of our favorite venues to play out here. I'll always remember that place. There's still definitely a good music scene out here.
This show--the acoustic shows-- [the]great thing about that is I'm able to play whatever comes to mind, and take some requests, and play I think a fair representation, a cross section of all of our albums, but at the same time, show our fans some of these newer songs that we've been working on. When we go out and play with a band, we're kind of limited to 20 or 30 songs with the full line up.
Since you're in Mesa, I'm sure you've noticed that The Nile has reopened.
Yeah, we played the Underground right after it reopened. That's the hottest venue, ever. It was 115 outside that night and downstairs all they had was a swamp cooler that was broken, so you gotta add another 15 degrees, so it was probably 130. We looked like we jumped in a pool, we were so drenched in sweat. It was the most disgusting show we've ever played, but it reminded me of what I loved about the fun basement shows and why we started playing shows like that. I'm glad The Nile reopened. I hope that they can keep it going for a long time.
You also cracked your head open at Warped Tour here, right?
You can add that to the list, I always forget that one, but yeah, I cracked my head open with my guitar. That's the price you pay when you're being a chaotic little monkey like I was at the time. It was really hot that night, it was super late when we played. It was a fun Warped Tour.
I saw it was here this past Sunday, and I was like, 'You know, I like Lucero and I like Against Me!, but every other thing on that list was like 'Eh'.' Kevin [Lyman] runs Warped Tour, he's a really great guy, we're really thankful for everything he did for us. For me, being 34, I wish that they'd put some bands on there that are more my speed, but fortunately I think as I grow, I'm more the punk show and indie listener than I am the kind of bands that are on Warped Tour now.
I think Warped Tour has kind of pigeonholed itself into a corner with one type of thing, and even back in the day when Warped Tour started, even before we played it, it was a little bit more diverse. I gotta say that obviously Kevin is gonna do what's good financially because that's gonna stay viable in this economy.
The people that are my age are like, 'Fuck it's hot out there, I don't want to that. I'll wait for a club I like.' Nowadays they have Bamboozle, they have Bonnaroo, they have Coachella, they have the one in the northwest. There's more and more of these three-day weekend festivals that I think everyone realizes that the touring festival like Warped Tour is a thing of the past. That tour would never work if it started today. That tour works because of what it has grown to become. I think he keeps planning to get younger and younger audiences, so it recycles. It's smart, but I wish there was a tour like that went around the US and had diverse types of bands. A bit more indie and punk.
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