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.
We haven’t been posting as much lately, I know. What can I say? Life shit. But when our old Ohio hip-hop pal Mission Man tweeted us his latest video, we just had to share it with you folks out there in Readerland. (By the way, don’t panic: Mission Man did not die in 2012. That’s just a copyright date range in the above graphic. He’s alive and well and still rockin’ the mic.)
MM’s vid for “Love, Funk and Soul” makes us happy, and not just because it features more cowbell. Mainly, it gives us a case of the warm fuzzies because it proves what we’ve long suspected, but seen precious little evidence of: Mission Man has fans. In the clip, they can be seen taking selfies with him, partying with him, throwing snowballs at him, and, at around the 1:08 mark, getting up onstage and dancing with him. Dude’s grind is definitely starting to pay off. Let this be an inspiration to us all.
Just in time for autumn’s end, lo-fi queen Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin has released a video for “Autumn Leaves,” the seventh in her series of visual accompaniments to songs from her 2012 album, Fish Drive Edsels. This may be her most visually arresting work yet, thanks to animation and illustrations by British artist Jodie Lowther. It’s a bit like watching a painting come to life. A painting that just took a few hits of acid.
The next track on Fish Drive Edsels likely to get the video treatment is “Bagboy Cowboy,” a song about a trip to the grocery store. To buy fishheads, no doubt.
One of the weirdest music and art venues in the world is in, of all places, Phoenix, Arizona. There, the self-described “world’s oldest gay Canadian rapper,” Space Alien Donald, does shows and hosts art exhibits in a little house near the airport called Funny World. We hope to visit soon, because it sounds like the kind of place that The Man could shut down at any moment. Especially in a place like Arizona, where anyone suspected of being an alien is just one broken taillight away from getting deported.
Actually, when Space Alien Donald bought Funny World in 2011, he was apparently told by the city that it would be torn down in six months to make way for a parking lot. But three years later, it’s still there. Even in Arizona, the weirdos are winning.
How did a 70-something gay Canadian rapper wind up hosting semi-legal punk shows in his house in Phoenix? We’re a little hazy on the specifics, but according to this article in something called the Downtown Devil, the man born Donald Roth moved to the U.S. from Ontario in the ’60s to work in electronics. After working in Silicon Valley, where he faked his school records to get jobs, he eventually settled in Prescott, a small city north of Phoenix, where he began developing his sci-fi inspired alter ego, Space Alien Donald.
Donald calls himself a rapper, but that’s not quite accurate. He really just kind of sing-speaks lyrics about science, astronomy, aliens and one of his favorite topics, a hypothetical particle called the tachyon that, like many things in Space Alien Donald songs, may be legit science or may be a bunch of pseudo-scientific hooey. He does this over synth backing tracks that sometimes are just the preset beats and chord progressions built into cheap electronic keyboards. So basically, he’s like nerdcore meets Mission Man meets a less schizophrenic Wesley Willis. Only older and more Canadian.
Donald just released his latest album, Must Be Funny, on Related Records. It’s got songs about how aliens built the moon and it has penises on the cover and it’s awesome. You can stream the whole thing over on Bandcamp and buy it for five bucks if you’re awesome, too. Here’s one of our favorite tracks:
To get more of the full Space Alien Donald story, this documentary, made by one of the residents of Funny World (yeah, people live there, too), tells you all you need to know:
Big thanks to Kai of Toxic Chicken for introducing us to Space Alien Donald’s weirdness.
The sixth video from Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin‘s Residents-channeling opus Fish Drive Edsels is a pretty literal interpretation of the song “House Plants.” Fortunately, MacPumpkin’s lyrics are so random that even a literal interpretation leads to some bizarre imagery.
There are plants with eyeballs for fruit and hungry, gaping mouths. (Feed me, Seymour!) There’s an angry frozen octopus and lots of hourglasses, because the song mentions something about “undermation of the hourglass,” whatever that means. Above all, there’s lots of Petunia singing into a megaphone and hanging out in her attic with her house plants, whom she tries to wake up, but never too soon—never too soon.
MacPumpkin is working her way through Fish Drive Edsels one track at a time, creating surreal videos for each of her cracked-calliope tunes. Next up is a song called “Autumn Leaves”—hey, just in time for autumn! I predict this one will feature lots of dead leaves and maybe a jack-o-lantern or two.
When our friend Richard There played a few shows in the U.K. two years ago, one of the performers he was on the bill with was a British singer/songwriter named John Callaghan. I guess he turned John onto our website, because yesterday John wrote to us and shared a few of his delightfully eccentric videos, including his latest one, which we’ve embedded below.
“I’ve been described as ‘weird’ quite a bit,” Callaghan says in his email. “I certainly don’t take being weird as my starting point. I’ve always simply tried to be interesting and good because ‘being good is different enough.'” He calls his stuff “eccentronica,” which is our new favorite made-up word.
Callaghan’s songs, while certainly offbeat, also have an appealing retro-pop quality to them; in different arrangements, they could be Thomas Dolby or ’80s-era Bowie. And his videos are often quite ingenious. Here’s the backstory for how he created this one:
Whenever I’m in a large, empty and private space I always think I should record a music video. And I’ve been trying to overcome my inertia by producing more material, too. So when I had an art college studio to myself for an hour (after posing for a life drawing class) I used the costumes I’d brought to pose in and my tablet to record some footage to toy with.
To learn more about John Callaghan and hear more of his music, visit his website.
It’s been a couple of years since we last got an update from the Land of There and its prince, jester and alderman, Richard There. And in that time, we’ve missed his sparse, haunting, occasionally psychotic bedroom folk songs. He was our first-ever Weird Band Poll™ winner, so he’ll always have a special place in our hearts.
So imagine our delight when Richard emailed us an update in the wee hours this morning. “I´m releasing my new album,” he wrote. “It’s the first time I release something on vinyl and I´m very happy with it. I´m doing it as always without any label and all by myself.”
The album is called Less Is Less and you can pre-order a vinyl copy right now from Richard’s website. You can also watch the first video from the record, for a track called “Axolotl,” but only on one condition: That you turn your monitor sideways before you hit “Play.” Trust us, it’s worth it.
See? Pretty cool, right? The song itself isn’t as weird as Richard’s earlier stuff, but it’s really beautiful. We look forward to hearing the rest of it, even if we have to turn the speakers sideways first.
For “Frozen Fish,” the fifth video from her magnum opus, Fish Drive Edsels, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin enlisted a famous friend for help: Bill Mumy, aka Art Barnes, one-half of legendary comic rock duo Barnes & Barnes. According to our sources at Petunia’s label, Electric Phantom, the video is a dramatic reenactment of how she and Mumy actually met, when she sent him fan mail wrapped around an actual dead frozen fish in tribute to Barnes & Barnes’ most famous song, “Fish Heads.” While we cannot confirm how much of the story is actually true, it certainly makes for an entertaining video—although we’re glad we’re not watching it in Smell-O-Vision.
Art Barnes isn’t the video’s only cameo: Evil sock puppet Werman, who first appeared in Petunia’s video for “Aquatic Plumbing,” also drops by, as does the (as far as we know) nameless apparition that looks like a hand covered with eyeballs from “Lonely Lady,” which has picked up some mad keyboard skills since we saw it last. At this rate, Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin’s videos are going to rival Pee-wee’s Playhouse when it comes to weird recurring characters.
For those of you keeping score at home: Petunia’s next video should be for the Fish Drive Edsels track “House Plants.” Here’s a taste.
(Guest post by Kai Nobuko)
Harry Merry is a living underground legend from the Dutch harbor city of Rotterdam. Dressed up in a sailor’s tunic and styled with an iconic haircut, he is out there to flabbergast with his unique brand of entertainment. His favorite keyboard is subjected to his own wild arrangements, full of odd chord changes and a tone scale of its own. Add Harry Merry’s unique, heavily accented voice and your ears will witness a match made in weirdo heaven.
Harry Merry has released a couple of LPs and a free downloadable 7″ single, “Village Life in 1905.” Coming from his Well… Here’s Another Nice Mess You’ve Got Me Into album is one of his more popular songs that attempts to stay in your head. The promotional video clip for it has been around on the Internet for quite a while, but in case you missed it (or lost a few brain cells and erased it by accident): Here is Harry Merry’s music video for “Stevie Storm.”
For more Harry Merry, visit his website.