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Man or Astroman?

Smooching the Future with Man or Astroman?

by Shelton Hull

All around the world, man is in the process of rethinking, reconceiving a new philosophy, a new approach for a new world. Or, they should. It seems more like each day brings another effort to fix the financial and creative resources of this country along narrower and tighter channels, as if the simple replication of formula is any substitute for innovation. Is it asking too much from our artists to be original? Well, it depends on who you ask. For Man Or Astroman?, a steady stream of new ideas are par for the course. But they have a leg up on the competition, being from the future and all. It is well-known, though unstated in the corporate media, that Star Crunch and Birdstuff (having originated in grid sector 23-B6-1, home of the defending state champs) crash-landed on Earth in 1992, and formed a band in order to discreetly recover the fragments of space vessel from around the planet. Joining them was Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard, a cybernetic lifeform built by SC and BS from old Atari parts, who plays bass. Their original source materials were old surf records from the '60s. After assimilating those techniques, MOA? undertook a ruthless agenda of creative progression, evolving from their work on (the appropriately named ) Estrus Records to later stuff on Touch & Go, the newest of which is EEVIAC: Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices . They also appear on the recent Del-Fi compilations Delphonic Sounds Today! and Surf Monsters .

   As they put it on their website, http://www.astroman.com, "Currently we employ advanced sounds and instruments that mankind may never fully understand. We have already sold a billion records in the 21st century. Our records in the future are so incredibly alien...we've had to travel back to our present time to record an evolutionary bridge between contemporary harmonic patterns and the mind-shattering tones and structures of the Astro-Men's 21st century "Next Phase" records. If an Earth human heard one of the Next Phase records today, he or she would die. Only by exposing the entire population of the Earth to intermediary sonic structures can we, as Man Or Astroman?, stop harmonic trauma from killing the entire human race."

   As part of this desperate effort to save the lives of millions and promote the new CD, I talked with Birdstuff recently. He was quite nice, especially considering that he was stranded in central Texas, where the locals would have happily dragged him behind their pickups if they knew all this "Next Phase" business.

As technology improves, the backlash against it grows greater. What are the sources for that? Are people afraid of advancing technology, or is there a real threat?

Birdstuff : People don't really input or factor in what human perception is and how they deal with things. Part of it is all these ridiculously small and powerful microprocessing desktop units that could, in a mere six months, foul the whole world up. People that have this great, grand fear of technology are nostalgic for times when computers were used to do nothing more than play Othello or do simple math. That's the state computers need to be in, and that's what we're trying to bring computers back around to, the stage of mainframe supercomputing from 1947-51. We're talking vacuum-tube technology. And that's what the EEVIAC is all about.

Is it an acronym?

It stands for "Embedded Electronic Variably Integrated Astro-Console."

Ahh. Was it all your original design, or did you have access to any classified documents? Is there a specific genealogy for mainframe computing?

The EENIAC, built in '43, was the first successful completely electronic computer. It could add 5,000 numbers per second, which at the time was pretty amazing. The EDVAC was the first machine with a flexible stored program, which could be changed without revising all the circuits. The EDSAC was the first programmed computer with symbols to represent instructions, which was a grand step toward the introduction of binary code. Kind of an influence on the ILIAC, a parallel processing computer made of 60-something independent processing units. And that's how the EEVIAC operates, it's a system of subsystems that are connected to make all the individual bits and elements of the MOA? sound.

Of course, the EEVIAC is superior, because it has a CD burner.

Yes, as well as other modes that people aren't as familiar with. There's direct neural stimulation, which there isn't really a market for yet, because people just don't know how to use the technology. People like simplicity, and people aren't used to thinking about wanting to hear MOA? and having it suddenly appear in their synapses. But we're skipping through the middle phase with this MP3 thing.

What do you think of the MP3?

Chuck D says it's good, so it must be. Also, we like compression. We like to compress things and smash things down to fit all the possible applications. If you have seen the ever-expanding internal but constant outer-size shell of the MOA? Astro-Mobile research trailer unit, then you know we're really into compression.

photo by Frank Mullen

How is the Tesla coil working?

We have a similar version now, only 350,000 volts, and it is tweaked to amazing output. As I told someone last night, "Could you please step back about ten feet for the sake of your own life?" People usually like to move when their life is in danger. The shows coming up will probably be among the last in which we'll be using the Tesla coil in its current show-ending capacity.

Why does the Atari corporation want Coco?

He stole a lot of their technology. He's made out of Atari parts, with modifications by the Activision corporation. In fact, when he plays bass, he makes the same motion as the guy from Pitfall when he's jumping over alligator heads. I don't think they ever thought the technology would become a live, walking, breathing entity. 4K is a lot of memory.

How big is the average human memory?

The human memory is more of an electro-chemical response system that can't quite be described in binary terms. You could argue that it is much more vast and expansive than having 4K of memory in a more abstract analog system. But there is no memory loss with Coco. What he knows, he never forgets.

What is Bill Gates' role in this new electronic age?

To us he is a detractor that gets too much press time. Gates, Steve Jobs and various other hardware and software companies are really going to be in a hard spot in about six months, when everybody's switching over to the EEVIAC mainframe system. I think they'll come in handy, because the EEVIAC is Y2K-compliant, and that is based on the fact that MOA? can rock just as hard in 1900 as 2000. We'll bring in the second coming of the Industrial Revolution.

Will you be designing EEVIAC kits for the population?

Oh yes, that's eventually what this is turning into. As soon as we get out of this whole recording/writing/performing music process.

Could you tell me a little about the Astroman Genome Project?

Well, because of our inability to reproduce on this planet, we had to start the MOA? Clone Project. Both alpha and gamma sets. There was also a beta batch that was very unfortunate and sloppy, something I had to mop up rather often, and I'd rather not talk about that. The alpha and gamma batches toured the country, but the only problem was we couldn't find a way to extend their lifespan to any acceptable lengths. We miss them.

Does the project have any implications for population control?

It has tremendous implications, but the U.S. government, if not some other large Illuminati associated organization, will steal our technology and use it for evil. We hate it when that happens, and that is our greatest fear for this EEVIAC project.

What other Astroman technologies have been appropriated by the rudos?

Coco worked at Colorado Springs, and a lot of the technology that exists now was his own work: molecular transportation, antimatter reversal, genetic cloning, alternate reality replacement looping. A lot of temporal and interspatial movements in other realms have been designed specifically by MOA?, which people can't really fathom.

The band is famed for its highly extroverted album art and stage shows...

The one risk in going beyond the norm with the stage show and packaging is that people will focus on that instead of the music. But we've always seen all elements as holistically together, and we always want to do the most amazing artwork and live show as possible.

How long did it take to construct the EEVIAC?

About a month and a half.

That's pretty fast, for a supercomputer.

Yeah, but we have a whole team of dwarfs that work around the clock. It's not really ethical, but they didn't use a lot of little people in this latest Star Wars movie, so they had to do something. But it's good for space reasons. We make a lot of rooms out of flatbed storage container units. We cut them in half, so we can fit twice as many dwarves as actual human workers. It helps out, and they're looking for employment. We perform a service for everyone.

Do you foresee the development of an Astro-religion or Astro-cult?

Science is our religion, music is our cult. We actually played next to Jim Jones' temple in San Francisco. We played the Fillmore West, and the lot next door was where they decided to go to Guyana and have fun with Kool-Aid. It's been a very cultish kind of tour.

Would the Astromen be willing to assume some kind of leadership role in our society, should the music contribute to the breaking down of our present political structure?

In subconscious ways, we already have. We're just a very slow-moving entity. We know that the world is not prepared -- I mean, you do know that in the future, MOA? has sold billions of records. People stop eating McDonald's hamburgers and start listening to our records for meaning in life and nutritional value. This has a lot to do with direct neural technology. So MOA?, in the present timeline, may be seen as a slow-moving entity, but when you can travel in time, there is no such thing as time moving slowly.

Do you answer to a higher power? Were you sent here by somebody?

Oh, no! If the universe was that logical and mapped-out, we probably wouldn't be here on planet Earth. It is only the inclination for technological disaster that brought us here, and that continues on a linear path on into the future. That's really what keeps it interesting. As long as we can continue to have technical difficulties, and keep on electrocuting ourselves, and playing various sonic vibrations that are soothing to both us and our pseudo-spinal columns, we will continue along the path we have started for grand technological disaster, merely averting it for a moment with the EEVIAC mainframe system. We're just lucky that space is back in fashion.