THE SKINNY: The Atomic Bitchwax originated as a side project of Monster Magnet lead guitarist Ed Mundell, ex-Godspeed bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, and drummer Keith Ackerman. All three of them were by then veterans of the thriving New Jersey stoner rock scene, and, after almost seven years of jamming in their spare time, the trio finally found time to record and release their self-titled debut album in the summer of 1999. Specializing in high-octane, ’70s-based hard rock infused with stabs of space rock and psychedelia, and characterized by Mundell’s explosive, Tommy Bolin-inspired guitar
heroics, Bitchwax’s debut stunned retro-rock fans with its unexpected brilliance, but their independent label, MIA, suddenly went out of business barely a year later. Thankfully, the group was instantly snapped up by Tee Pee Records, but their 2000 sophomore effort, Atomic Bitchwax II, was clearly rushed, its songs underwhelmingly second-rate, and the media-shy Mundell struggled to come to terms with his more prominent status as star of the group.
In early 2002, The Atomic Bitchwax issued their third album for a third label (Meteor City), the also disappointing Spit Blood, after which they seemed to lose focus as Mundell retreated to his more comfortable, hired-gun role with Monster Magnet. Workaholic Kosnik soon started a new band named Black NASA. But he and Ackerman also resurrected Bitchwax, this time out with Finn Ryan (ex of the space-stoner act Core) on guitar. 3 appeared through Meteor City in June 2005. The album was well received and resulted in massive touring, including stops throughout Europe. Monster Magnet drummer Bob Pantella replaced Ackerman in 2007 and appeared on the band’s fourth full-length, TAB4. Released in 2011, The Local Fuzz consisted of one nonstop track that lasted for over 40 minutes and consisted mostly of a slew of rude, relentless guitar riffs. The band continued on a heavy touring circuit for the next few years, including more international appearances. In 2013 Kosnik joined on as a full-time member of Monster Magnet, also splitting his time between them and The Atomic Bitchwax’s increasingly successful touring schedules. The band released sixth album Gravitron in the spring of 2015.
THEE FAT: Monday, August 17, 2015 – Ottawa, Canada – House of TARG
There are few live performances that stick out in my feeble mind more than the time I had the pleasure of bringing what I thought was an absolutely star-studded lineup to this club I was booking shows at. This happened about 15 years ago, and the lineup was Core, Nebula, and Atomic Bitchwax. Jesus fuck
that was a stacked show. Those who turned out had their minds completely blown by the utter guitar mastery on that rickety stage. Fast forward into the present, and what we all witnessed Monday night was a little reminiscent of that show way back then. When we saw Atomic Bitchwax back in 2000, Ed Mundell was still wielding the axe, and Finn Ryan was still casting guitar spells for Core.
Amongst the flashing lights of this crazy-wicked arcade/music hall/wizard layer, Finn Ryan would now hold court and give an absolute clinic as guitarist for Atomic Bitchwax. Their bio says they’re from a place called Neptune, New
Jersey. Friggin’ right they are; more like the planet Neptune. Such rifftastic fuzznastics must be from another planet. Stoner rock played very loud and very tight in a fuckin’ arcade; what more could any rockandrolljunkie ask for?
As I do for many shows at this venue, I planted my fat ass in a chair at the side of the stage and let it all sock me in the face. One song after another, including stuff like Hope You Die, Kiss the Sun, 45, and It’s Alright, these maniacs bounced those riffs up and down my belly and I couldn’t help but scream at the end of
each song. Seeing a band like that, that close to the stage, fuck anyone who thinks rock is dead. It was right there, alive and kicking the shit out of my soul. From what I remember of past shows, Atomic Bitchwax was a bit trippier than they were this night. That may have something to do with touring with sonic assault smashers Against The Grain from Detroit. I’m not going to get too much into those dudes here, as we have confirmed that they will bless the rockandrolljunkie studio for an upcoming podcast; we’ll have plenty of time to dig further into those brawlers. That being said, that band loads, starts firing at the crowd, and doesn’t stop their riffage until we are all beaten, bruised, and thoroughly satisfied. And, that energy must have grabbed hold of Atomic Bitchwax, because instead of the space rock kings dusting our rolled-and-ready souls, they decided to smash us with some of the craziest, and most technical riffing I’ve seen. Imagine Black Sabbath’s bouncy riffnastics played with the energy of REO Speedealer and the technical rage of NoMeansNo. Good Lord that was something. Just to tuck me in and put me to bed nicely, those crazy fuckers decided to dig into the vault and do one of my favorite songs of all time – the 1971 Pink Floyd classic One Of These Days. When Chris Kosnik started the bass line, I thought he was kidding, they couldn’t possibly have the balls to cover this song as a trio without an organ. But sure as fuck they gave’r, and gave’r great they did. So good. I lost my voice from screaming after that. We found a clip from an Athens, Greece performance from earlier this year, so you can see for yourself.
ONE OF THESE DAYS / SHIT KICKER (LIVE IN ATHENS MAY 2015) by ATOMIC BITCHWAX
Do what you can to see this band. Do it at all costs (…and if you can see them in an arcade with booze, that’s your best bet). That old show that sits so strong in my moemory has easily been replaced by this effort. The gaunlet has been dropped for best show of the year as far as I’m concerned. If you love 70s riff rock and you think that world has gone and left you, Atomic Bitchwax, among many others, will help reassure that there is still a shit tonne of riff rock coming to clubs near you. – FATS
Note: We are super stoked to announce that we are partnering up with long-time Ottawa photographer Andrew Carver to get the best quality shots from events happening in Ottawa. If you know rock in Ottawa, you’ve seen Andrew – he’s everywhere.. All of the shots in this feature are courtesy of Andrew. You’ll see a lot more of him at rockandrolljunkie.com in the future. Check out Andrew’s great website here.