Metal Muthas Mondays: Atheist’s Kelly Shaefer

Every so often, we take a little time on Mondays to pay tribute to the Muthas! That is, reprinting the adorable metal/maternal Q&As that run in the magazine. Today, enjoy Justin Norton’s chat with Sandra McGowan, mutha of Atheist’s Kelly Shaefer. 

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I grew up in Cincinnati and lived there until Kelly was nine years old. I left Kelly’s father and moved my two kids to Florida. I waitressed for 10 years, then worked at Publix Deli until I retired at 66. I will be 70 in January.  I live in Bradenton with my boyfriend of over 20 years, Rick, and my dog Cocoa.

What was Kelly like growing up?

Kelly was very driven at a young age. He started out wanting his own photo studio, and pursued that in high school, doing pictures for the yearbook. Then he got into portrait drawings, and charcoal sketching and drawing, and won awards for that. Finally, he saw his sister’s boyfriend playing guitar and decided he wanted to get into music. When I finally bought him an electric guitar, he taught himself how to write music.

What did you think the first time you heard Atheist?

It was clearly very loud and aggressive, but I could still tell the difference between good metal bands and bad metal bands. I thought the lyrics Kelly wrote were really good, not rubbish like some metal bands he liked. Much like his mother, he was very outspoken, and had something to say. He just chose to write it in lyrics and songs.

Do you prefer Atheist or Neurotica?

We had a lot of fun at all of the great shows [Neurotica] played. Plus, I could understand and sing the words a bit more in Neurotica than Atheist. But I was there for both bands. I have no preference, really—it’s my son!

In addition to his vocals, Kelly is known as a lyricist. Did he write lyrics growing up?

Yes, from the beginning he was writing lyrics to the music he was writing with his bandmates. They gradually got a lot better as he matured.

What’s something most people don’t know about your son?

Kelly has never said a harsh word to me in his life! He has always had a lot of respect for women. And he is an amazing father and an amazing son to me.

—Justin M. Norton