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Where Is My Mind?: TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb's Dan Bruskewicz

- by Q.D. Tran

I’ll always remember the first time that I learned about TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb. I was on a balcony in NYC at my friend’s housewarming party, and was talking to the guitarist (at the time) of the band Xylos. I had just started working with The Deli, and he was asking me about Philly acts that were good and were worth reaching out to for trading shows. Then he inquired if I had ever heard of a “great band” called TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, which caught me by surprise because I hadn’t. I had also been doing some booking in Philly for the last few years and paying close attention to venue bills, but didn’t remember coming across that name. TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb was the first band that was suggested to me since beginning to write for The Deli. I came home after a fun, drunken night, and was surprised that I was able to remember their name. I checked out their MySpace, and he was right. They were great, and I eventually wrote my first of many pieces about TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb. Well, today is the release date for their long-awaited follow-up to Idiots entitled Manufacturing Joy. It’s another fantastic LP from Kong and his crew that you should definitely take a listen to and purchase HERE. They’ll also be celebrating its release this Thursday at Johnny Brenda’s. First, check out our interview with TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb’s talented, hard-livin’ frontman Dan Bruskewicz below.
 
The Deli: Where did the moniker TJ Kong come from? Did you already know that there is a musician/producer from the Netherlands who goes by the same name when you chose it?
 
Dan Bruskewicz: TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb started out as the name I chose for my solo stuff. But we ended up agreeing that it fit the sound of this collaboration pretty well so we started using it for that and it stuck. I like to think it's a flexible name that can fit whatever incarnation this project takes. The problem is that no one remembers the name, it's too damn long and you can't say it clearly like you can say "Boston." People say, "Hey! You guys are great! What's the name again?" And I say, "Well, it's TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb." And they say, "B K Nob and the art car- jog"?  And of course, no one wants to talk about arcane film references at a rock and roll show anyway because they are very geeky and draw emotional connections so the folks who DO get it are predisposed to not want to talk after the show because it's like someone caught them masturbating in the bathroom. You're not gonna wanna make conversation after that. 
 
I didn't know there was another TJ Kong until well after the band had been named. Although, it's funny because my Twitter handle is TJ Kong so every once in a while I get people who mistake me for him on Twitter, and I end up getting into conversations with them that involve me using Google translate and telling them things about myself and the band, but never telling them that I am TJ Kong from Philadelphia not TJ Kong from the Netherlands, so there are probably some people in that part of the world who think TJ Kong from the Netherlands is quite prolific and a real kook. 
 
TD: Why is the title of the new album Manufacturing Joy?
 
DB: That's the title because the band wouldn't let me call it "Hot Crunk Poseidon." 
 
TD: What took so long for the release of the follow-up to your last LP Idiots?
 
DB: We changed the personnel in the band, and did a lot of touring and a lot of self-realization exorcizes. All of that takes time. 
 
TD: How do you feel your music has evolved on this album in comparison to your previous releases?
 
DB: Our dream for this recording was to show a little more and make it sound like less. We wanted to show more of our range as far as the different styles we draw from and at the same time we wanted to make something that sounded more real and more raw. Our first demos were very raw, done with just drums and guitar and harmonica and one vocal on a 4 track cassette recorder. We liked those demos. They were like field recordings. We like field recordings. I think blues recordings can very easily sound like elevator music if they are too clean. So we wanted to go back to those original ideas with this LP. The music itself is simply the next generation of songs that we've been working through for a while now. We added some fiddle and a lot of electric guitar and overall the Kong style is a little more well-spoken on this second album. 
 
TD: A lot of your tunes touch on the party life. Would you say that they are more autobiographical or fictitious tales?
 
DB: I can't remember. 
 
TD: Was that you on the track “Eureka Springs, Arkansas”? It doesn’t sound like you singing. Who was that? What's the story behind it?
 
DB: I will simply say that the track was recorded in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is a town that lies in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, a stronghold for off-centered people for many, many years. Eureka Springs has an entire city underground because there were mudslides and road damage in the early part of the 20th century I believe, and they had to build new roads and buildings on top of old roads and buildings. So there's a maze of hidden tunnels and homes and basements all connected beneath what is now Eureka Springs. It is a strange place, and we very much enjoy it. 
 
TD: You obviously have a love for blues/folk/Americana music. Where did that come from?
 
DB: Somehow it came from Nirvana and Fishbone and Soundgarden and Boyz II Men because those were the first recordings I owned when I was 11. If you were lucky enough to experience music for the first time in 1993 and 1994, then you are probably a sponge and demand new experiences from your music and want it like a drug. That's what happened to me. By the time I had started rooting through the history of music and the 60s and what not, I was almost old enough to drive, and of course, that changes everything emotionally. In high school, I was given a tape by an aunt of mine. The tape was Blonde on Blonde in it's entirety, and Velvet Underground's "Heroin" tacked on just because there was extra space on the tape. I became obsessed with it, and listened to it over and over in a red 1993 Geo Storm. From there, I became obsessed with the blues and 70's New York punk. That led me everywhere else. 
 
TD: What are other genres or artists that you love that aren’t reflected in your music?
 
DB: On the way back from a gig in the Bronx last weekend, we were listening to female-fronted hip hop and R&B to keep us awake. I started with Salt N Pepa (the best of the best), then went to Queen Latifa, Da Brat, TLC, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah and Beyonce. We all very much love that shit - no idea if we reflect it or not, but I sure would like to. 
 
TD: Are there any tour plans to go with the new release?
 
DB: We're doing an album release party in Philly at Johnny Brenda's 9/27 and in Brooklyn at Spike Hill on 9/28. We'll be doing some weekenders before Christmas through Chicago and Pittsburgh and Cleveland and Indianapolis and hopefully back to the Ozarks. But all you need to worry about is the TJ Kong Halloween Costume Ball Rock N Roll Murdershow is happening for the 3rd straight year in Philly at Underground Arts on October 27- 5 bands, an all night DJ and people raging in glorious costume. Look out for it.  
 
TD: What’s your favorite city to perform in, beside Philly, and why?
 
DB: The recently deceased Steve Sabol of NFL Films used to say that picking his favorite football player of all time was like picking his favorite noodle in a plate of spaghetti. I think the same way about towns we travel through. There's no way to explain it all for you here. But without giving away all of our secrets I will say we really like New Orleans. 
 
TD: Who would you be most excited to tour with?
 
DB: Sacagawea.
 
TD: Just say “yes” or “no” to drugs, and why?
 
DB: Just say no, because you're wasting all my drugs. 
 
TD: What’s your favorite thing to get at the deli?
 
DB: Advice. 
 
(Photo by Gregg Nixon)
 

 

 

 

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TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb

Manufacturing Joy