All systems go

Man or Astro-Man? invade Taft Theatre

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Man or Astro-Man? will perform Sept. 3 at the Taft Theatre

Going under an assumed identity is nothing new in the world of music. Many, many musicians have made a “name” for themselves under a pseudonym or moniker other than what is written on that artist’s driver’s license or birth certificate. In some instances, rock musicians even choose to take this concept one step further and claim to be from another planet or universe entirely. Such is the case with otherworldly psycho-space-surf rock band Man or Astro-Man?.

According to legend, the world’s first extraterrestrial rock band descended onto God’s green Earth from an unknown grid sector of deep space and landed in the American state of Alabama roughly 25 years ago. In order to assimilate into the college-town environment, they formed a band – going under the aliases Star Crunch (guitar), Birdstuff (drums) and Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (bass/theremin) – and took on the identities of students in order to obscure their real alien selves from society.

Under the influence of thrift store records by The Ventures, Link Wray, Dick Dale and other tremolo-heavy instrumental 1950s and 1960s artists, as well as the long-forgotten science fiction films they often sampled on their recordings, Man or Astro-Man? was born.

“The official story is we are space travelers from a grid sector far away and crash landed in Auburn, Alabama,” Star Crunch elaborated, who is responding to my inquiries via email from an undisclosed location. “We formed a rock band to tour the world in hopes of finding pieces of our wrecked spacecraft. Upon completion, we will leave planet Earth and resume our intergalactic mission. There’s lots of other details, but only TMZ knows those.”

Man or Astro-Man? released their first record in 1992, and due to popular demand, the band soon began releasing records and CDs faster than people could keep up with. So, the band began touring in short order, developing a reputation for live performances with an otherworldly energy and fervor that left most humans in awe and amazement. Sensing the pleasure the humans derived from their live shows, the band soon began touring nearly nonstop, save for a trip to nearby sound laboratories to record new songs, which would further appeal to fans with their increasingly well-honed musical style, which merges surf music, punk rock, rockabilly and space rock into a very identifiable style. But Star Crunch is quick to point out the inspirations for MOAM?’s music weren’t merely musical.

“We are influenced by ideas, whether it be music or other forms. Phillip K. Dick, Kaurasmaki, Link Wray, Robin Williams, The Ventures, Sylvester Stallone (the writer, not the actor), Saarinen are just a few that had good ideas that came to mind.”

Between the years of 1993 to 2001, Man or Astro-Man? released 10 full-length albums and even more EPs, 7” singles and compilation appearances, in addition to the band’s seemingly never-ending tours across North America, Europe and further abroad that brought the band’s earthly and unearthly sounds to listeners and concertgoers all over the globe.

“We’ve played over 2,000 shows across Earth,” Star Crunch said. “Eighty percent of that time, I find I’m just trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in [on] the van or bus.”

By the time the new millennium hit, the members of Man or Astro-Man? were beginning to burn out on their incessant touring and recording schedules. The three aliens decided to take an indefinite hiatus – one that would last several years. But then a chance happening in 2006 managed to bring the extra-terrestrials back together to perform the music of Man or Astro-Man? once again.

“In 2006, our label Touch & Go had a festival and asked us if we’d play,” Star Crunch explained. “They are family and we couldn’t say no. We remembered how to play the songs and there were no fist fights between band members during the process, so we decided to stay in touch.”

A few years later, in 2010, Man or Astro-Man? decided to make an official return to performing and recording music, much to the delight of long-time fans and people just discovering the wondrous sounds the group is famous for. In 2013, the band released their first full-length album in 12 years, entitled Defcon 5…4…3…2…1, which musically fits right in with classics such as Is it Man or Astro-Man?, Destroy All Astro-Men! and other releases from their staggering back catalog.

In the meantime, the band has been treating audiences all over the globe again to their sweaty, no-holds-barred live show, replete with band members in space suits along with bright lights, video projections and other related props to create a one-of-a-kind sensory experience. However, any curious humans wishing to witness these alien beings live in concert next Wednesday at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati may want to heed Star Crunch’s warning:

“The show will attack three senses – aural, visual and, of course, smell,” Crunch said. “Cincinnati is the second show, so the smell shouldn’t be too bad. Dress light. We have asked the club to turn on the heat to 120 degrees to simulate the atmosphere of our grid sector.”

Man or Astro-Man? will perform Wednesday, Sept. 3 at the Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St. in Cincinnati. The Pack A.D. opens. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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