Five Starcle Men


Five Starcle Men

Happy 2016, weirdos! Here’s our resolution: to get back to updating this site on a weekly basis again. Also to drink less, exercise more, and spend more time with family. Yeah, we don’t like our chances of sticking to any of it, either.

Our first weird band of 2016 was suggested to us by a few readers: Djzen John, Jake Kirby and Andrew. It’s no wonder Five Starcle Men comes up frequently when discussing weird music, because even though they’re about as obscure as it gets (their fan-created Facebook page has a mere 56 likes), and haven’t been active since the ’90s, their small catalog of recorded output is about as bizarre as it gets. The most obvious touchstone is The Residents, and there’s also a little Captain Beefheart and maybe early Ween, in their early bedroom-stoner tape experiment days. But really, most of the stuff on Gomba Reject Ward Japan, a compilation of Five Starcle Men material released for free by Lost Frog Productions via Archive.org in 2007, exists in its own universe of psychedelic tape loops, thrift-store drum machines, detuned guitars and unintelligible lyrics.

Not much information on Five Starcle Men is out, but it appears to have been mainly the work of two young men from Lancaster, California named Glen Hobbs and Luke McGowan. Lancaster is an outer suburb of Los Angeles in the high desert, near Edwards Air Force Base, a surreal yet crushingly boring corner of America full of ex-military burnouts and neatly grid-patterned streets that lead to nowhere. It makes sense that two smart, creative kids from such a cultural wasteland would do lots of drugs (particularly DXM, a cough suppressant with dissociative properties, similar to ketamine) and invent a whole mythology of “alien drug torture” and “deadly cartoon culture governments,” as it says on their Archive.org page. Unfortunately, the experiment came to an abrupt end when Glen Hobbs committed suicide in 1998.

Besides Gomba Reject Ward Japan and its cryptic accompanying bio, which also mentions that “using modern cultural, pharmacological, and other technologies, these young suburban punks constructed highly aestheticized, delusional realities for themselves and their viewers,” the other main artifact of Five Starcle Men’s existence is a video from a 1993 performance the band gave at Mondo Video here in Los Angeles. The video (embedded below) was shot and later uploaded by a friend of the band’s who goes by the name Rich Polysorbate 60. Rich was a longtime member of the L.A. Cacophony Society and has a reputation for making up mythical/historical characters and presenting them as real, so at least one person (a guy from fellow Weird List entrants Baboon Torture Division, in fact) has suggested, not unreasonably, that “it could be a fictitious band invented by Rich.”

While this is an intriguing theory, you can see in the video below that there appear to be two young men at the center of the chaos, wearing matching caps and fiddling with gear and cables. Are they Glen Hobbs and Luke McGowan? Perhaps. It’s also possible that this is Glen Hobbs’ gravesite, even though it’s in Colorado for some reason. And Luke McGowan might be the same Luke McGowan who is now a part-time Professor of Psychology at Cal State Fullerton — that doesn’t quite match the official bio’s note that McGowan “now studies science, philosophy, and history at university,” but it’s close.

In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter who was behind Five Starcle Men. Whoever they are, or were, they left behind some amazing, surreal, alien music. Take a few swigs of Robitussin and enjoy.

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4 thoughts on “Five Starcle Men

  1. Lance James

    I used to drink a lot of cough syrup as a teenager, and this band just struck a chord with me. So, I’ve gone out of my way to gather as much info and material as I can. The most important thing I have gotten so far is a copy of their 1997 album on vinyl, which I have ripped and put onto YouTube (also, FLAC/MP3 downloads in the video description): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgYk8odBSEI

    I’ve been compiling information to do a short article and/or documentary on the group because there’s so little information scattered all over the place, but tracking down the album was exciting enough for me that I figured I’d go ahead and share this. I’ve also tracked down a copy of Whump #1, a fanzine which contains an interview with the band, plus a 7″ EP with tracks from various artists; the tracks from the EP have been uploaded to YouTube by another user already, but the full interview text is nowhere to be found online.

    Still need to track down some of their old cassettes, along with a couple of other projects Glen Hobbs had something to do with; he was in another band with Rich Polysorbate 60 called White Owl (3) that released at least one cassette tape called Dead Racoon, according to discogs.com, and there’s a story he wrote called either “Little Dementia Boy” or “Little Dimensia Boy.” There’s an artist on Soundcloud who has made a song with lyrics based on it, may try and get in touch with him to see if he knows where I might be able to get a copy of the full story. https://soundcloud.com/denator/little-dimensia-boy-pt-ii

    Luke McGowan has also released at least one other album since the FSM days; Robo Ursonate, which is literally the text of the sound poem Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters plugged into a commercial text-to-speech engine. MP3 available at: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Schwitters.php

    Anyway, if I keep going, I’ll basically have written my article in a comments section, so I’ll stop here and see what else I can gather before I decide enough is enough and put it all together.

  2. COLONEL ROB SCHAFFNER

    HOWDY NEIGHBORZ!! YEZ ITZ ME THE COLONEL ROB OWNER OPERATOR OF MONDO VIDEO!! YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT THE ROCKETBOY AND THE SPACEMEN OF WHOM HAD STARKLE MEN OPEN FOR THEM!

    1. weirdestband

      We shall, Colonel Rob! It’s a honor to hear from you. R.I.P. Mondo Video. Weird shit doesn’t have a good home in LA anymore (well, the CIA comes close).

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