Dead Best: Adam “Atom” Goren Discusses His New Project with Brian Sokel (Franklin, AM/FM)

Adam “Atom” Goren is a respected Philadelphia area high school Physics & Chemistry teacher. However, Mr. Goren is likely better known amongst his students’ parents for his well-known regionally-loved band(s) Atom & His Package, Armalite, Fracture, and T.V. Casualty. Goren released 18 albums across his aforementioned projects between 1997 and 2004.

Goren ended his beloved pop-punk/synth-pop band and namesake Atom & His Package in 2003 when his wife learned she was pregnant and he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. 

Goren has remained largely quite in the years since, becoming something of a mythological elder punk rock super-hero, performing seldomly, and releasing new music even more seldomly.

Now, nearly 20 years since this dissolution of Atom & His Package and his retirement from regularly performing live music, Adam Goren is returning with his first new project since Armalite. Goren has joined forces with his long-time friend, touring partner, and current next door neighbor Brian Sokel to form Dead Best. Sokel is best known for his formative roles within ! franklin and AM/FM, as well as The Jai-Alai Savant, Goner, Cassavetes, Aspera Ad Astra, and Goren’s own short-lived Misfits covering super-group, T.V. Casualty. 

Friends since the first grade, Dead Best is, oddly enough, the first official on-record proper full-band collaborative effort between Adam “Atom” Goren & Brian Sokel. Their self-titled debut was remotely-recorded in the comforts of their own homes from either side of the fence during initial COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns.

We’ve had the unique opportunity to conduct separate, yet complimentary, interview with both Goren & Sokel, which will be running in tandem here at No Echo and over at my site, The Witzard.

Check out the No Echo interview I did with Goren below, and the Sokel interview at The Witzard. Dead Best’s self-titled debut full-length is out in both physical and digital formats December 10th on Don Giovanni Records.

How long have you two known each other and how do you recall first meeting?

We've known each other since we were in first grade together (1980-81.) I recall the name of the gerbil (Rattles) and bunny (Thumper) the class had and, also, that Brian had an Oakland Raiders jacket and cowboy boots, even though I don't think he liked football or taking care of livestock much, but I don't remember our first actual meeting. I was the little dorky guy and Brian was bigger, so it was kind of like my bodyguard without any stakes or threats from anyone.

What made you decide to form Dead Best together?

Brian & I have spent decades obsessively talking about, sharing, and dissecting music one way or another, but never really making it together (aside [from] in a covers band called TV Casualty and a handful of other times.) After wanting to do nothing but make music for much of my life, for the last decade or so, the desire disappeared —I'm not sure why.

If one had asked me a couple of years ago if I had any songs left in my brain, I'd have thought not. At the beginning of The Pandemic while we were all in our houses and occasionally venturing out to sit across the yards from each other (oh, I forgot—Brian & I live next door to each other—totally normal first grade friend stuff,) Brian mentioned he was working on some music-y things. He emailed a file over.  That day happened to be his birthday (NOTE: (large) presents can be left c/o Don Giovanni Records,) which is in the early part of the summer. This meant that my high school teaching face had an excess of time and I added some guitar parts and emailed it back.

We did some variation of this (sometimes, I sent him stuff to start!) a few hundred times and ended up with a pile of songs! Most of the songs were sort of recorded while writing/chopping them up and adding to them. It was neat to build them by springboarding from what the other person sent. Making music with effectively no time constraints (we recorded on our respective home computers) and no expectations ended up being a joy. It ended up being really fun to create something with such a long-time friend and we think it's pretty good. 

When and how was Dead Best's LP recorded?

It was emailed back-and-forth over incredibly short distances from June of 2020 to January of 2021. I recorded my bass and guitar parts in my office with headphones on and sang in my bedroom while feeling guilty about the undoubtable second-hand embarrassment I was inducing among (into? around? on top of?) the family members who were trapped in the house while they heard my seemingly acapella vocal parts. 

Oddly enough, I don't really even know how Brian recorded the stuff he contributed.     

How did COVID-19-related limitations and restrictions affect the writing, recording, production, etc. processes related to Dead Best (LP)?

Since there was so much time at home, it probably facilitated the recording/writing of the songs. I think the time it allowed between additions of parts we made wouldn't have existed if we had been able to play in the same room. It was helpful to sit on parts and have them there waiting after spending some time away from them. 

My memory (aside from first grade classroom pets' names) is not good and I would have long-forgotten any guitar parts, even if we liked them, made in the context of... errr... jamming?   

For fans of your previous bands/projects, how would you attempt to best describe the sound heard across Dead Best (LP)?

It's way noisier and chaotic than anything I've ever done, but I feel like it's catchy and hooky, too.  

What would you cite as some of your greatest sources of personal inspiration and influence while creating Dead Best (LP)?

The period of 2020 into 2021 provided a backdrop for an acute intensity of anxiety about, concern for, frustration with, and disappointment in the humans, but peppered with (sometimes, virtual) hugs, joy, belly laughs, and appreciation of (certain) people, too. I think that runs through the content of the songs.  

How do you think Dead Best (LP) holds up compared to/contrasted against your past collaborative efforts together?

"I have come to this year's training camp in the best shape of my life this year," says the 46-year-old man. There are definitely more guitar tracks per human on this project than any other noun I've been involved in. Less carrying of heavy things, too. Also, I think this project has been the one where I have purposely ripped off the least number of other bands.   

What was your favorite thing about being able to work with or Brian on Dead Best (LP)?

Brian is a do-er and an accomplisher. Brian is, also, a lot more thoughtful than I am about making music. He has reasons for why he inserts certain parts or chooses different arrangements, whereas I tend to be a verse-chorus-verse-chorus bridge-chorus-end-song "I don't know... I like it" kind of song-maker.    

How did Dead Best initially link up with Don Giovanni Records and what ultimately made you decide to release Dead Best (LP) on their label?

I'm a fan of a lot of the stuff the label has put out over the years. I think Brian just reached out and sent Joe [Steinhardt] some of the things we were working on. Joe is a really interesting guy... one of those people who knows a tremendous amount about a whole lot of stuff and even better... he tolerates and addresses my huge amounts of annoying questions about it. I'm completely flattered that he was interested in releasing this pile of songs.   

Without explicitly naming names, what are your personal favorite tracks from Dead Best (LP) and why for each?

I dunno—I really like all of them. Sorry—this is a terrible response. 

It's rapidly nearing that time of year wherein publications start sharing their year-end lists... so, would you mind sharing a few of your personal favorite releases of 2021?

I love that aspect of this time of the year. I love reading other folks' lists and browsing Bandcamp to make new pick-ups. I'm not sure if all of these were released in 2021, but I came into contact with them in 2021 (or 2020 or at some point since 1975.)

  • Grand Collapse, Empty Plinths (flawless and memorable great Welsh hardcore)
  • Threshing Spirit, The Crucible (lo-fi Spaghetti Western-tinged black metal)
  • Blazon Stone, Songs of Triumph & Death (metal that sounds like it should be performed as musical theatre)
  • Bo Burnham, Inside (listening to it depresses me, but I can't get a lot of components of this/this film out of my head.  
  • Rata Negra, Un Vida Vulgar (Spanish surf-y alt-y punk rock)
  • Steel Bearing Hand, Slay in Hell (awesome metal)
  • Slant, LP (great South Korean punk)
  • Sir Babygirl, Crush on Me (it's awesome pop)
  • Suffering Hour, The Cyclic Reckoning (death metal that's weird and sorta kinda melodic. It houses some really bizarre guitar sounds that I like.)
  • Violet Cold, Empire of Love (shoegaze-y one-person black metal-ish out of Azerbaijan (maybe, from Armenia nowadays?) with seemingly pro-LGBTQ+ awesomeness? Yes, please)

Now that Dead Best's sheer existence has officially been announced, what do you plan to do/release next?

Surprisingly, (to me, anyway,) we, actually, wrote more songs that we're finishing up. We like 'em! I've been thinking, as live shows happen more frequently, how a live Dead Best show would work. The most viable path I see to a live show is forcing my kids and their friends, who are like Wunderkinder musicians, to play all the instruments, since I don't think I can play the guitar parts in real life.

Brian & I just stand there and yell the vocals, but hold guitars and, maybe, play them once in a while, so we don't look too [stupid].  Sound appealing? Thanks so much for your interest!


The Dead Best LP is out December 10th via Don Giovanni Records. Hit the pre-order link to get in on the vinyl.


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