Man or Astroman?

Man or Astroman? is a musical group that formed in Auburn, Lee County, in 1992. The band’s musical style centers largely on an instrumental surf rock sound, derived from the guitar-based music developed in southern California in the 1960s around surfer culture. Man or Astroman? embellishes its music and live performances with space-age themes, science-fiction audio and video samples, and vintage and homemade electronic equipment. The band took its name from the American poster for the 1960 Japanese science fiction movie The Human Vapor. Man or Astroman? members maintain that they are aliens who have been stranded on Earth and formed a band to research the planet and recover the scattered fragments of their space vessel while touring. In performances, interviews, and recordings, they use only their alien stage names and personas.

Man or Astroman? Man or Astroman? began playing in 1992, while the original members were students at Auburn University. The original lineup included Brian Causey (aka Star Crunch) on guitar and vocals, Brian Teasley (aka Birdstuff) on drums, and Robert Del Bueno (aka Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard) on bass guitar and electronics; all of the band members were from in and around the Birmingham, Jefferson County, area. The band’s first show was on March 18, 1992, in Birmingham. The first mention of Man or Astroman? in the Auburn University student newspaper, The Plainsman, noted that they were to play at Auburn’s New South Festival on May 9, 1992. Jeff Goodwin (aka Dr. Deleto and His Invisible Vapotron) soon joined the band on second guitar, forming what would be the core of Man or Astroman? for much of the 1990s.

The band’s popularity grew quickly as word of its unique surf-punk sound and engaging live performances spread. Regional tours on weekends and university holidays, as class schedules permitted, helped them build a solid following across the Southeast and drove record sales among their fans. Their first commercial release, Possession by Remote Control, was a seven-inch vinyl recording in 1992 for Homo Habilis Records of Auburn. By 1993, the band had developed a broad following throughout the United States and had signed with Estrus Records of Bellingham, Washington. The band’s first album, produced that same year, with the label was Is It Man or Astroman? Additional recordings with Estrus included the albums Destroy All Astro-Men (1994) and Project Infinity (1995), as well as a number of singles and extended-play records (EPs). The band’s creative output was matched by its active touring schedule. Between 1993 and 2001, Man or Astroman? performed more than 1,500 shows in 31 countries, making it one of the most active touring bands of the 1990s. The largest crowd the members played for was 40,000 at the Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands, and the smallest crowd was two people at an in-store appearance in southern Australia. Because of the enormous complexity and numbers of stage materials used in the shows, Man or Astroman? performances required hours of preparation and disassembly. Tours were a grueling affair often leaving little time for rest and sleep between appearances. Despite their heavy touring schedule, Man or Astroman? released nine more albums and dozens of singles and EPs between 1993 and 2001. Each album marked an evolution in the band’s style and use of samples, computers, synthesizers, and other technology. In 1996, the band moved to the Touch and Go Records label.

In 1998, Star Crunch left to run record label Warm Electronic Recordings in Athens, Georgia, and would go on to compose and perform the theme song for the Nickelodeon TV series, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. After his departure, Man or Astroman? expanded its lineup to include a number of musicians. From 1998 through 2001, the following performers contributed to the band’s sound: Jason Russell (Cap’n Zeno), Hayden Thais (Dexter X, the Man from Planet Q), Erich Hubner (Trace Reading), Richie Edelson (Blazar the Probe Handler), and Jonny Browning (Victor Vector). In 1998, band created the Man or Astroman? Genome Project and sent two “cloned” bands on tour. “Man or Astroman Clone Tour Alpha” featured all-male performers with names similar to those of the original band, including Dorkstuff, Cocoid, Chromo Crunch, and Dexter Y. A second Genome Project band of all-female “clones” soon followed, touring under the name of “Man or Astroman Clone Tour Gamma” and using the names the names Coco Active, Chromita Starita, Tweety-Tone, and Carol.

In 2001, after the tour for A Spectrum of Infinite Scale, the band announced a hiatus. The original touring lineup briefly reunited in 2006 for a number of performances surrounding the 25th anniversary of the band’s second recording label, Touch and Go Records. In 2010, the band again reunited, playing in Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, as well as several dates at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. In November 2010, the band toured the eastern United States and released a limited edition seven-inch EP in support of the book Touchable Sound: A Collection of 7″ Records from the USA. Recently, the band played several dates across the Western United States and Canada.

When not touring, Causey lives in the Athens, Georgia, area and still runs the record label, Warm Electric Recordings. Del Bueno, the mad scientist character of the band, has stayed true to his techno-roots and is involved in the biodiesel industry. In the 2009 AU Alumni directory, he is listed as a project manager for Refuel Biodiesel in Atlanta. Brian Teasley runs Birmingham’s celebrated Bottletree CafĂ© and music venue.

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