DADDY-O'S DRIVE-IN DIRT
SCI FI ARCHIVES
archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.
"Then I hooked up with the band Man or Astroman?, doing pyrotechnics."
-- Joel Robinson on what he's been doing since
leaving the Satellite of Love, episode 1001- SOULTAKER
With those words, Joel Hodgson officially introduced Man or Astroman? to the MST3K
lexicon. But the band's connection to the show didn't start there.
Formed in 1992, Man or Astroman?--ostensibly four stranded space aliens who took the guise of college
students--began performing in the thriving university town of Auburn, Alabama. Their unique blending of punk, electronica
and surf music quickly gained an audience.
In 1994, the band released Destroy All Astromen. On that album was an electrifying rendition of the "Mystery
Science Theater 3000 Love Theme." MSTies quickly took notice.
In 1996, someone else took notice. During a performance in Los Angeles, the band was joined on-stage by none other
than Joel Hodgson himself, who helped them in singing their version of the "Love Theme."
We caught up with the band during their current tour in support of their latest album, Eeviac: Operational index
and reference guide, including other modern computational devices. (Yes, that's the album's title!) In one
of the many oddities about the band--which is composed of members Birdstuff, Blazar the Probe Handler,
Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard and Trace Reading--it is the lone member who doesn't talk or sing
on-stage, Birdstuff, who speaks for the band off-stage:
Satellite News: Did you know that Joel was going to mention the band's name in episode
Birdstuff: I didn't know before he actually did it. It was the first night of a tour
and we were in Chicago, sitting around watching the show, and we were like "Holy sh*t!" And, of course,
during the rest of the tour we were explaining the whole pyrotechnics thing and how Joel lost a pinkie in an incident.
He's a nine-fingered man now, that Joel. (Author's note: It's not true!)
SN: So how did the idea for doing the cover of the "MST3K Love Theme" come
BS: When we were going to Auburn University, Mystery Science Theater was basically
what kept us sane. It's the one thing we had to look forward to throughout the week, besides playing, and we decided
to cover the song for this free single we did for Estrus Records, "Amazing
Thrills in 3D." After that, because of disinformation, people thought that we actually wrote the "Love
Theme." Of course, we tell people that it was Joel who wrote it, that we can't take the credit for it, but
it's weird how people get confused and come up with the most inane, crazy relationships between Man or Astroman?
and Mystery Science Theater. But that's good, I think, because disinformation is pretty much the gasoline that
drives Man or Astroman? and Mystery Science Theater.
SN: There does seem to be a similar philosophy between the band and the show. It's
easy to see how people could mix the two together.
BS: Yeah. When I was going to college, it seemed that the show had a similar aesthetic
to what we were doing. It was campy and it was sci-fi, yet it was very irreverant. That's been a major part of
what we do.
A lot of my friends who are B-movie purists think that it's an absolutely dreadful idea for a show. But I think
it's pure genius. I really enjoy watching a lot of the Mystery Science Theater versions of the movie more than
watching the movie itself. Because you're going to riff the movie with your friends anyway. And if you're complete
geeky losers like Man or Astroman?, who have no friends, then you need Joel or Mike and the bots to watch
it with you.
SN: Okay, so you're at college and you're watching the show. How did the cover of
the "Love Theme" come together? Did you have to contact Best Brains and get permission?
BS: No. As with anything Man or Astroman? does, we don't contact anybody or
seek anybody's permission for what we do. Even if it's impersonating postal employees. It doesn't matter. We do
what we have to do.
Originally, the cover was just planned for the aforementioned free single, which came with our first record,
I believe. Then we did a singles compilation called Destroy All Astromen and it ended up being on that because
a lot of people liked it. The song is basically two chords and it took us about 20 minutes to learn it. It was
a song that we played a lot live and people who were into Mystery Science Theater would yell it out during shows,
so it got to be a pretty decent staple. But we didn't plan for it to be as big a part of Man or Astroman?
as it has been. But it's fun. It's a great song. It's totally what you do when you come up with a song in ten minutes.
SN: And then, in 1996, you sang the song with Joel during a performance in Los Angeles.
How did he become involved?
BS: Somebody I knew in the film industry knew him. He said "Joel would really
love to see you play. Here's his phone number. You should give him a call." So I called him up to talk to
him and he was really hilarious and open. He said, "So let's do the song," and he came out while we were
playing at the Palace in L.A.
I think that's about the only way we'll perform that song now...with Joel. Or maybe one of the bots. Actually,
we want to do the "Waffle Song" with the bots. We'd make an EP of it.
SN: That'd be great for your next project! But let's talk about your current project,
BS: Eeviac is our supercomputer. It's something that's both tangible and physical
on-stage, and it also serves as a metaphor for what Man or Astroman? is. In our own minds, Man or Astroman?
is this strange throwback, retro-futuristic kind of thing that works about 50 times harder than any other band
has to do. We do about 50 times as much to get half the results of a normal band. And that's what supercomputers
were back when they were introduced in the Forties or Fifties. They were these huge monstrosities that took up
the west wing of an office building. That kind of idea of what supercomputing is and what Man or Astroman?
is all about worked out well together.
Outside of that, we just wanted to actually design a supercomputer for the stage. We're not very competitive
people, and we figured that by having the only supercomputer in rock and roll on-stage with us, we'd be
the best. We'd have no competition.
To give you some idea of what it looks like, imagine the WHOPR computer from "War Games" crossed with
the giant Fender amps that Neil Young had on his Rust Never Sleeps tour. We just kind of took it
from there and started programming it. It takes three or four months to program, just for something like an electronic
game of Battleship. It's a very slow-moving beast but we love it nonetheless.
And there's room for it. People have gotten spoiled with these little desktop units. I mean, so many people
have these unused bass boats or home gyms that they don't need. They could make room for a supercomputer in their
house. Easy. And we'll build anyone a supercomputer if they want one. It costs a little over four thousand dollars
and takes us a month and a half. We'll even get the magnetic tape drives working. And the Eeviac is partially influenced
by some of the higher programming systems on the Satellite of Love.
SN: It is? So who's smarter: Gypsy while she's running all the higher functions
of the ship, or Eeviac?
BS: Well, Gypsy probably has a decent degree of higher functioning than the Eeviac does. And Gypsy can vacuum
with her face, as well. But we love the Eeviac nonetheless.
From left to right: Blazar, MSTie Adam Carey, Trace Reading, Coco, MSTie Courtney Bower, Birdstuff,
the author. In the background: Eeviac, the only supercomputer in rock and roll.
Want to know more about Man or Astroman?? Visit their web site at http://www.astroman.com
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