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.