Sex, drugs and Star Trek
“We will stop doing this when reality stops being so miserable”
Trekkies 2 (Denise Crosby, 2004)
There’s no study on trash culture that ignores the fact that, at some point or another, part of the Star Trek: The Original Series cast tried their luck in the music business: Leonard Nimoy, better known as Mr Spock, was responsible for the collision the pop universe of his own series and the one of the mythology designed by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins; William Shatner, the original captain in charge of the Enterprise spaceship, dared reciting Pulp’s Common People and Bowie’s Space Oddity, among others. We could go into the funny and far from incidental discographies of both if this was the goal of this article, but that’s not what it’s about: this is a homage to that bunch of music bands that took their fandom far beyond Where’s Captain Kirk? by Spizzenergi; those that wear the uniform of the series created by Gene Roddenberry, put on make up to transform into the different races that appear at the show or devote their lyrics to the characters, weapons and other trekkie paraphernalia.
The quote opening this article was uttered by one of the members of Stovokor, who on the same year in which Crosby’s documentary was premiered published the demo Metal of Honor. The band, practicing a most guttural death metal, was named after the place in which Klingon warriors rest after they die; but the references to this fictional race don’t end there: Stovokor paint their faces to obtain a physiognomy as close as possible –dark face, prominent forehead– to the Klingon people, dress like these characters or directly interpret some of their songs in the unpronounceable language of the famous galactic tribe. In the antipodes of new and gentle movements such as the one started by Nerf Herder with the song Mr. Spock, Stovokor means being perpetually angry and breathing Star Trek 24/7.
One of the styles that has always been characterised by the inclusion of fantastic references in their songs is garage-surf. This is the genre practised by Thee Shatners, parallel band to the Hi-Fives or The Ne’er Do Wells. It was, in fact, at a The Ne’er Do Wells gig when, after having finished one of their sets, the band reappeared again sporting the robotic outfits and intergalactic repertoire that they would later use in their Star Trek tribute band. Their fake LP (really a short-length vinyl in which they included a conversation of the band with an anonymous drunkard), Thee Shatners didn’t think twice about sampling many sound effects from the classic TV show. Their hit? A cover of Dick Dale’s Misirlou called Mr. Sulu as a tribute to the Enterprise’s Asian officer. For their sound and attitude, Thee Shatners could have easily shared a stage with The Vulcaners, a Vulcan garage band made up of members from The Phantom Surfers and MU330, and responsible for the album Beat me off Scotty –paraphrasing the famous sentence that Captain Kirk used to say when he wanted to be teleported–.
Many trekkie bands have an almost untraceable career. We know next to nothing about Australians William Shatner’s Pants, apart from the fact that they played some Fleetwood Mac covers. Luckily, we can find on the Internet a good few songs by The Vulcan Freedom Fighters, progressive rock band the lyrics of which were sound cuts taken from the series. It’s also relatively easy to come across the material produced by S.P.O.C.K. This Swedish band, who had to turn their name into initials after Paramount asked them for an indecent sum for using the original name, practises a techno pop that is quite similar to the one they do with their other project, Elegant Machinery, and they not only sing about Star Trek, but they also devote some of their to other pop icons, as their song E.T. Phone Home proves quite well. No matter how illogical it may seem, their concerts are always massive!
It’s in Sacramento, California, where two of the favourite bands of fans of the series come from: Warp 11 and No Kill I. With the goal of fostering the loyalty of the greatest number of sci-fi fanatics possible to join the trekker sect, Warp 11 and their melodic hardcore as shown in their albums I Don’t Want to Go to Heaven as Long as They Have Vulcans in Hell, Suck my Spock or the luxurious and conceptual Borgasm (the Borgs are creatures from the show that combine the synthetic and the organic) have also had some influence in bands such as Biri Biri Biri or Cyclones, inspired respectively by the universe of Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica. And if Karl Miller, singer of Warp 11, didn’t form a tribute band to those irritating teddy bears appearing in Star Wars, the Ewoks, it’s because the rest of the members in the band said no way!
No Kill I, Warp 11’s neighbours are, on the one hand, a band that used to turn each gig into a punk melee not too fitting with the attitude one would connect to a bunch of nerds. Once, the bass player broke his instrument in three parts, went to a corner of the stage to drink beer, and stood there watching his own band without him for the rest of the concert! On the other hand, they made so much fun of the owner of the clud they were playing at that the guy refused to pay them (“Calling Kim to ask for our money was better than the gig itself”). If Star Trek had its TV follow-ups with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation, they had a similar luck: after the Sacramento band would appear No Kill I: Deep Space Nine (nineties punk) and No Kill I: The Next Generation (lo-fi punk). The latter are the ones that better continued the legacy of the original No Kill I, even when it comes to their cheekiness: “No Kill I: The Next Generation” declared in Trekkies 2 that “it’s better than No Kill I in the same way that Star Trek: The Next Generation is better than Star Trek”. If that wasn’t enough, No Kill I: The Next Generation are also the members of geek band The Four Eyes, where they sing songs to Robocop, Lost in Space, or that B-series classic, Deathrace 2000.
Maybe no one will be able to hear these bands’ riffs in outer space, but what the hell! “Live long and prosper” to them all!