Welcome to my Astro-Man archive

This site is meant to be a visual archive of every variation of every Man... or Astro-Man? 7" single ever released. Most of what you'll see here comes from my personal collection. As information pours in I will post it, so please comment if you think you have something to add. I have no intention of posting MP3s here. I'm sure you can find the music elsewhere. This is just an attempt to collect information about the band's prolific creation of singles into one spot. If you can get past the fact that I rarely clean my scanner, I think you'll enjoy what you find here.

Use the Table of Contents on the sidebar if you are looking for details on a specific 7".

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Man... or Astro-Man? Ray Gun

One of the pieces of early Astro-Man memorabilia that has long eluded me (and continues to do so) was the fabled MOAM? Ray Gun. I had heard of these being produced and sold, but was never able to find anyone who had one. In fact, the only thing that made me think it was more than just a rumor was a single sentence in an old newsletter from around '93:

Well, wonder no more.

In September of 2015 an eBay auction popped up from a seller in Bellingham, Washington unloading a fruitcake/meteor. Given the address of the seller and the rarity of the item (and the fact that the "to:" field on the fruitcake was made out to 'Estrus'), I had a pretty good idea that the seller was Dave Crider.

As I rushed to explain the pending expense to my wife, the auction ended early. My suspicions about the seller were confirmed in the months prior as I was contacted by another active MOAM? collector -- a guy known to me only as Jarrid Clinkinbeard. As it turns out, Clinkinbeard had bought the fruitcake in the eBay auction and asked Crider if he had anything else he wanted to unload. He ended up buying the fruitcake, the ray-gun, a survival kit, a yo-yo, some Space Dust and toothpaste in a single lot. This is the kind of Astro score that many of us dream about.

Clinkinbeard was gracious enough to snap a few pictures for me. As such, we have a better idea of what was being sold. Here's a photo of the back of the Ray Gun:

We see that it's a Chinese-made noise maker called the Shark Gun, distributed in the US by a company in Delaware called Midwestern Home Products INC. We also know that it makes eight different "space sounds" that promise to reveal the enemy, and that the volume is described as "Extremely Large." I'm not entirely sure what sharks and outer space have in common, but maybe this is something that's lost in the translation.

That other big reveal is how small it is. Here's a photo of the packaged Ray Gun next to a standard 7" single:

It looks to be slightly larger that key chain sized, and a bubble in the packaging looks like the guns are sometimes packaged with a key ring. The standard packaging is augmented by a slipped in, black and white variation of the cover art for the Supersonic Toothbrush Helmet 7" single. The artwork for the single was created by Rowan Moore, and the record came out on the Canadian label Lance Rock Records in 1993 (catalog number LRR 008).

And with that, we get a better understanding of the marketing juggernaut behind the Man... or Astro-Man? merch table in the early 1990s.

Many thanks to Jarrid Clinkinbeard for contacting me about this, and for being willing to snap a few photos for the blog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Intergalactic Fruit Meteor

Picture saved from an eBay listing

It's no secret that the early 1990s were an prolific time for the guys in Man... or Astro-Man?. It seemed like every time I went to a record store there was another 7" single in the "New Releases" section. As bountiful as their recorded output was, their early focus on merchandising was equally prolific. I'd heard of, and had been able to track down, custom packaged drinking straws, lava rocks, dryer lint, and even light switch plates. I'd also heard rumors of MOAM?-branded hatchets customized and then returned to an area Walmart to be sold to unsuspecting rural folks. My knowledge and understanding of early collectibles and ephemera was written up a number of years ago and posted HERE. I had not, however, heard that the band also spent at least one winter schlepping holiday fruit cake. That was until one came up for sale on eBay in March of 2013. I didn't win the auction. It ended up selling for the paltry sum of $45.44 -- which was more than I was comfortable spending on a twenty year-old tin of Christmas fruitcake. I did learn later, though, that several of the people who contribute to this site also bid on it. All of us lost. If we had had the sense to coordinate our efforts we could currently be taking turns displaying the damn thing in our respective dens. 

The artwork looks to have been taken from a late-1950s novelty 7" attributed to the Hal Bradley Orchestra. Here's a picture of the record cover:

The internet being what it is, of course the song has made its way to YouTube.

Here are a few more pictures of the meteor that I saved from the eBay listing. The thing was still (mostly) sealed:

The first I heard of the fruit cake was through long-time astro-pundit Henry Owings. He mentioned the fruitcake in a set of liner notes that he wrote for the reissue of the Your Weight on the Moon 10" record. The label ended up going a different direction with the reissue, scrapping much of what the band wanted to do with it. Owings posted his would-be liner notes HERE. In speaking specifically about late 1993, he had this to say about astro-swag:

" . . .fall of 1993. Birdstuff and I had become quick pen pals in those halcyon pre-internet days where stamps on postcards announcing tour dates were king and our early hang times were spent hovering over the merch table after their sets. Birdstuff would routinely push Astroman?’s newest sellable gimmick on me. Whether it was Astro-Teethpaste (read: a push-tube of Crest), Galactic Fruit Meteors (read: a standard issue fruit cake) or Space Dust (read: dryer lint) they all had an ersatz Man…or Astroman? sticker slapped on it and made their own….and available for only five bucks!"

An old, 4-page Astro-office newsletter set the price a little higher, and confirmed the timeline that Owings set out. We can date the newsletter partly because it used the old Moores Mill Road address, and partly because of its content. Here's a picture of the heading from the front of the newsletter:

 The next page is significant because it lists descriptions and prices of Astro merch available at the time -- stickers for 50 cents, customized toothpaste for $3, and dryer lint for those willing to send the band a SASE.

The more informative part, though, is the "Near Future" section. We know that this dates to mid-1993 because it lists the Kill Geeksville split 7" (called Kill Squaresville here) as coming out soon. It lists, among other things, an aborted 10" release through Sympathy Records and a $4 MOAM? Ray Gun set to come out in January of 1994. This is the first I've heard about a ray gun -- I would be interested to know if they ever made/sold them.

As the "Near Future" section spilled on to the next page, there are two things that stand out to me. The first is the description of the Intergalactic Fruit Meteor that is the subject of this post. It looks like it sold originally for $15. The second is the planned split 7" with the Woggles that was slated to be released by Homo Habilis Records but that never ended up coming out. Here's a cropped image of what I'm describing:

The fruitcake that came up for auction on eBay listed the Woggles as the intended recipients. From what I can tell, the cakes were customized by the band at the time of purchase -- which leads me to believe that the one pictured above was gifted at one point to a member of the Woggles. The only person I know that owned one was Henry Owings. He remembers his own reading "To: Henry" on the front, so this seems to be the way it was done. He also remembers his eventually smelling so bad that he saw no other option than to throw it away.

Still, as this one was labeled "to: the Woggles / from: Man... or Astro-Man?" this represents the closest that the two bands ever came to putting out a split single. Something to think about.

NOTE: All of these pictures came from internet sources. The fruitcake pictures themselves came from an eBay auction. The newsletter pictures came from Facebook photos wherein the band was tagged. I didn't take the pictures, and I don't have any of this stuff in my personal collection.

If you have clearer photos of any of this, or would be willing to scan copies from your collection of old newsletters/mail order catalogs/ etc., please get into contact with me through the sidebar. I would love to clear up any hearsay and share what you have with those who would love to see it.

Thanks --James 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Estrus Promo Astro-Vision Glasses

The Estrus Astro-Vision glasses were an early promotional item that date back to the astro blur of the mid 1990s. The glasses were made in the standard 3-D glasses style using folded and die-cut printed card stock paper. Plastic green and reddish-purple inserts were added for each lens of the completed glasses. These were distributed at the time that Estrus released the second full-length LP Project Infinity in 1995. They were used by the band and the label as a promotional item and were available briefly through the Estrus mail order catalog. Art Chantry was the lead designer of this (and of most Estrus swag back in the day) and he had some help from Lance Thingmaker (who was also involved with the production of the much loved UFO's and the Men Who Fly Them 7" single). Here are a few more pictures of the glasses:

The above photos were lovingly saved from the eBay listing. Thanks Gearhead Records!

When I first created this post, I wrongly assumed that this piece was earlier -- that it had been made in 1993 as the band first signed to Estrus Records. Many people immediately called me out on my assumption. One of these, frequent contributor Benjamin Brinkman, was able to articulate why exactly my guess was so far off. He wrote to me: 

"A better dating of these glasses places them to the summer of '95. The Man or Astro-man? and Estrus logos as seen on the glasses are identical to those on the Word Out of Mind 7" (also a collaboration between Art Chantry and Lance Thingmaker). Per the sleeve details, the WOoM EP was recorded in February 1995 and, as indicated by the price tag date on one of my copies, was in stores by May of that same year.

Digging into my back stock of Estrus mail order catalogs, I noticed the same MoA? logo makes it's first appearance in Sir Estrus Quarterly Vol. 6 No. 2 (May 1995) In this issue is this 4 3/8" x 5 1/2" ad:" 

Brinkman also pointed out that Estrus had a bit of a 3-D obsession in 1995, with 3-D movies playing a part in that year's Garageshock festivities -- with the May 27th show being described in this same edition of Sir Estrus Quarterly as a "3-D EstroPhonic shitfest!". 1995 was also the year that Brinkman scored his own pair of Astro-Vision glasses, from the band themselves after an in-store performance at Ozone Records on August 4, 1995. Interestingly enough, his glasses have the colored lenses reversed from how mine are.

Along the same lines, Chunklet's Henry Owings remembers getting several pair at around this time, and contributor Brandonio Granger got a pair when he ordered a 3-D Project Infinity poster through the Estrus mail order.The glasses were sold separately as well, as evidenced from this ad in Sir Estrus Quarterly Vol. 7 No. 1 (January through April, 1996):

cell phone pic courtesy of Benjamin Brinkman
As far as the process for design and building, here's what Art Chantry posted. This came from Facebook a few years ago:

"One of the fun things we always did at estrus was make crazy promo swag. We had no money, so we had to figure out ideas to pull of and THEN figure out how to get them done with no money. To this day, I'm not sure how we managed to produced so much quality product and generally great stuff with the zero budget world we worked in. A LOT of the big secret was simply doing it by hand. it's amazing what you can get done with a couple of friends, a case of beer, pizza and a bad movie to watch while you work.
For example, these are astro-vision glasses we made as a promo item for one of the Man…or Astro-man? records (I forget with one--maybe Destroy All Astro-Men, maybe Project Infinity). The design is essentially based on those crummy 'x-ray specs' glasses you used to buy out of the back pages of comic books. These things were die-cut and assembled by our good pal Lance Thingmaker. He was a saving grace for us. Lance could do ANYTHING (with enough lead time) and he would do it for us at an affordable price.
I designed the cutting ring and the graphics. Lance added those amazing "split-cellophane" lenses (two-colors side by side in each peep hole). If you wore them, the result was a massive headache. But, they were really cool things we used to promote the record. people ate them up like candy."

I picked up my own pair of these promo glasses last year through eBay. They came to me from the collection of Gearhead Records, as the label was thinning out some of its own promo collection. You'll remember that Gearhead also put out an Astro-Man single, the split 7" with the band Chrome that came with Gearhead #5

This was the second time that something cool had come to me from the offices of Gearhead. Many years back I had won a Gearhead contest by completing a word puzzle and sending it in faster than anyone else. The prize was a lone, personalized Gearhead "Kendall Oil" sticker and a blurb about me in the next issue of the magazine. I present my evidence: 

Here's a bonus pic of my boy wearing the glasses:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Astro Analog Series: Volume 3

Astro Analog Series: Volume 3 is a 7" single released in late April of 2013 by Henry Owings of Chunklet Magazine. It is available through the Chunklet website. The record was pressed on three different colors of vinyl: clear (200), purple (a chunklet.com exclusive and the same color as the foil seal), and black. The clear version sold out during the first few days of the pre-sale. In August of 2013 it was repressed on clear red vinyl. 

This record is the third and final installment in a series of 7" singles that will culminate in the release of a full length record in May of 2013. Like the others in the series, it was mostly recorded in Chicago in February of 2012 with longtime Astro-cohort Steve Albini. It features original members Star Crunch (Brian Causey), Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (Rob Del Bueno) and Birdstuff (Brian Teasley). Rounding out the band is Athens-based guitarist and space nurse in training Avona Nova (Samantha Paulsen).

The a-side is the song "Disintegrate" with guest vocals by Liz Durrett. It was recorded by Daniel Farris at Ole Elegante, Birmingham, Alabama. The B-side features two tracks that are exclusive to this release: "Baby's First Spacewalk" and "Defcon 0." Both of these were taken from the February session with Albini. As they are being touted as exclusives, they will not appear on the full-length.  

The record itself is packaged in a custom chipboard, die-cut cover (the same sleeve used for the first two in the series). This time it will feature a purple and silver sticker seal, identifying the release as Chunklet Industries catalog number CHK7-004:

Here is an early design mock up of what the record would look like. The center is meant to look like the color made from seeing the blue center label through the red acetate window. This color seems to be meant to correspond with the color of the foil sticker and one of the color vinyl options:

The records arrived at Chunklet headquarters on April 25th. As promised, the vinyl colors were black, clear and purple. The purple looks to be at least partially translucent. Purple also corresponds with the foil sticker that seals the packaging. The center labels are turquoise blue with yellow text. Owings posted this picture to social media:

And here is a photo of the red vinyl repress, also courtesy of Owings:

When I ordered my copies of the single I asked Owings to not seal one, so I could scan it for the blog without having to defile one. He did one better; he sent me this:

That's correct, a customized/ruined nerd copy of the single! Here are both sides of the record. Note that the copy was taken from the few junk 45s that were stamped out between the clear and black vinyl pressings. The result is a clear vinyl record with multiple black streaks:

In lieu of a proper picture sleeve, I was given a couple of cardboard stiffeners with extra stickers from all three singles and the yellow and red acetate windows from volume 1 and volume 3:

Quirky? Yes. Awesome? Double yes. This curious package/graffiti probably has its roots in a story Owings told me years ago about the time he visited Tom Hazelmyer at Amphetamine Reptile Records HQ. I interviewed Owings about a book he was putting out. We started talking about record collecting and he told me that he had once asked Hazelmyer if he had any red vinyl copies of the first "Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets" compilation singles left. Hazelmyer took one from a filing cabinet, pulled it out of the sleeve and scraped it over the floor a few times before giving it to him. A single that was worth several hundred dollars on the collector market had just gone from mint to shitty at the hands of the label owner.

Fast forward many years and I ask Owings to not seal a record I'm buying from him so I can photograph it first for my blog. He proceeds to send me a copy without a picture sleeve, with a dozen extra foil seal stickers, in a color that wasn't even commercially available (clear with black streaks was not one of the three vinyl color options), but first he scribbles on the center label with a sharpie and calls me a record nerd. Insulting, sure, but the story makes the record special even if it is difficult to resell. 

Owings also recently posted a picture of the test pressings for the release. According to the label stamp, there are 15 of these out there. Here it is:

Here also are a few scans of my test pressing--front and back, and in and out of the sleeve:

Of the three singles in this 7-inch series, this one is the best. The truly awesome part is that the full-record is even better.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Astro Analog Series: Volume 2

Astro Analog Series: Volume 2 was a 7" single released during the first half of November, 2012 by Henry Owings of Chunklet Magazine. It is, and will be available through the Chunklet website until it sells out. The record was pressed on three different colors of vinyl: clear (200), light green (a chunklet.com exclusive and the same color as the foil seal sticker), and black. The clear vinyl version sold out within a couple of hours. 

The record is the second in a series of 7" singles that culminated in the release of a full length record in May of 2013. Like the first in the series, it was recorded in Chicago in February of 2012 with longtime Astro-cohort Steve Albini. It also features original members Star Crunch (Brian Causey), Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (Rob Del Bueno) and Birdstuff (Brian Teasley). Rounding out the band is Athens-based guitarist and space nurse in training Avona Nova (Samantha Paulsen).

There are three new tracks on the single. The first two, "Communication Breakdown Pt II" and "All Systems To Go," will appear on the upcoming full length. A third track, "Chemical Cats," is exclusive to this release. Both sides spin at 45 RPM.

The record itself came packaged in a custom chipboard, die-cut cover. It was the same sleeve used for the first one in the series. This time it featured a blue-colored acetate window on one side of the sleeve. When the yellow center label is seen through the blue window, the color blend effect seems meant to mimic the color of the foil seal--the same color as one of the vinyl colors. Here is a scan of the empty sleeve:

The top was sealed with a green and silver foil sticker identifying it as Chunklet Industries catalog number CHK7-003. Here is a large image of the sticker that will seal the finished single: 

And here was an early mock-up drawing for the single. Note that the catalog number is listed as CHK7-002 on the center label, an error that was fixed for the actual pressing:

Later, as the single became available for pre-order, the colors of the center label were reversed in the mock up. Here's what the single looked like on the pre-order page of the Chunklet website:

When the records arrived at Chunklet HQ, and before they were packaged up, Owings posted the following picture online. As it turns out, the center label looks nothing like either mock up. The vinyl colors, though, were just as promised. Here it is:

the center label--a yellow field with light blue lettering
I was able to snag a copy of each which, as a collector, I really don't want to open. I did get a second copy of the green vinyl version to open and play. Here is a close up of that record:

The record was repressed on red vinyl in May of 2013. Here is a copy of the red repress, on a shelf next to the 2nd repress of Volume 1:

There was also a final pressing of 100 on purplish "space Junk" vinyl, which came out in May of 2016. At this point Owings recycled the rest of the unused sleeves and vowed to never repress it again. There were also FOUR copies of the record pressed on Coke bottle clear green vinyl. Here's a photo of these two variations (I promise to eventually snap a better picture):

The dead wax near the center label bears the following transcription: 
        A side -- "My goal now? I want to be the all being, master of time 
                        space and dimension." 
        B side -- " . . . then I wanna go to Europe . . ."

When the disc was still in pre-production, several testers were sent out to be listened to and approved or reworked. If you've ever wondered why I keep this blog, it is mostly because at this stage of the game I will occasionally get one of these tests to listen to and give my opinion. This morning's mail greeted me with this package:

It looks like Henry at Chunklet has designed his own 7" record shipping envelope. I love that it sports a warning to the letter carrier to not bend it, but to also keep it out of the sun. Classy. Inside was the most recent test press. This test is limited to 15 copies and was done by a company in Columbus, Ohio called MUS I COL. It was a true test press, with bits of junk vinyl on the outer edge and a center hole so small I had to widen it with the small blade of a pair of scissors so it would fit on the spindle. It was pressed on what I can only describe as "not exactly black" vinyl. 

As had become de rigueur with Chunklet test press records, the test singles were placed in plain white sleeves that were then stamped over with the name "Chunklet" and any pertinent details (like catalog number, number in series, etc.). Some of the stamp ended up on the paper sleeve and part of it ended up on the center label. Where this one is a little different is that the center label didn't offer a completely blank slate--there were markings from the pressing plant already there. Here is a picture Owings posted of the pile of test pressings:

Here is a scan of the one he sent me, number 9 in the series of 15:

And as I mentioned above, the record is not exactly black. When I first looked at it, it looked like a severely dusty thrift store record. As I went to blow the excess dust away I realized that it was just the color of the vinyl, an opaque, mottled black with traces of grey or white mixed throughout. Here is a scan of both sides of the vinyl record itself. Note how rough the record looks, and how the Chunklet HQ stamp is only on one side (and only on the spaces that the paper sleeve didn't cover): 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Astro Analog Series: Volume 1

Astro Analog Series: Volume 1 was a 7" single released in August, 2012 by Henry Owings of Chunklet Magazine. It is currently available through the Chunklet website. The single jumpstarted a series of three 7"s that culminated in the release of a full length record in May of 2013. It was recorded in Chicago in February of 2012 with longtime Astro-cohort Steve Albini. This is the first release of new material featuring original guitarist Star Crunch (Brian Causey) in more than a decade. Crunch is joined by fellow original members Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (Rob Del Bueno) on bass and Birdstuff (Brian Teasley) on drums. Rounding out the band is Athens-based guitarist, and first full-fledged Astro-Woman, Avona Nova (Samantha Paulsen). In case you missed it, her Astro name is a palindrome.

There are three new tracks on the single. Side A features the instrumental song "Defcon 5." Side B starts with "Anti-Matter Man," a track where Starcrunch actually sings, and finishes with "Dr. Space," an instrumental tune that features the accordian stylings of one Jeremy Jacobsen. The first two will figure somehow onto next year's full-length, but "Dr. Space" is exclusive to this release. The record was cut direct to lacquer at Chicago Mastering Service.

The record itself came packaged in a custom chipboard, die-cut cover with a yellow acetate window on one side (and nothing on the other). The top is sealed with a foil sticker identifying it as Chunklet Industries catalog number CHK7-002. The design work was mostly the brain child of Aaron Draplinthough the Astroman logo used on the center label was designed by Henry Owings. Both the logo and much of the feel of the record and sleeve draw inspiration from vintage audio equipment. Compare the final design of the record with that of the 1936 Zenith 12A58 Radio Glass Dial:

Thank you Benjamin Brinkman for finding this connection!

Here is an artist spec and early concept drawing for the single:

This is what the chipboard sleeve looks like in reality, with the foil sticker broken and the record removed. Note the yellow-tinted center from the clear acetate window:

Here are a few assembly pictures from Chunklet headquarters' Facebook photo stream. The first is the roll of foil stickers used to seal individual records, and the second shows several stacks of assembled sleeves (chipboard outer sleeve with acetate windows attached) awaiting the arrival of the records from the pressing plant:

The roll of foil stickers used to seal individual records

Assembled sleeves. Note the sleeve in the foreground with the red acetate window.
This a preview detail of the third volume in the Astro-Analog series.

The center label on the disc is red with yellow text. Here is the artist spec used in the printing of the label:

The vinyl record itself was available in three different varieties: clear, translucent orange and opaque black. The clear variety was limited to 200 copies. The orange one was exclusively available from the Chunklet website. It is also the color that matches the foil seal sticker. The black copies were the ones distributed to record stores. Here is a tweeted photo from Henry Owings that shows all three variations:

I purchased all three varieties of the single, and I got an extra orange copy to open and play. Here is a closeup shot of the orange version of the record:

There was also a second pressing, or re-press of the single after the clear and orange variations sold out. The second pressing looks identical to the first in sleeve and center labeling. The difference is that it was done on clear red vinyl. Here is a photo of the re-press:

There is also a third pressing on gold vinyl that went on sale in May of 2013. Here it is, on a shelf next to the red repress of Volume 2. It's the one on the left:

The final, and fourth pressing of the record was on "space junk" purple vinyl. There were 100 of these pressed, after which Owings got rid of the extra packaging materials so he wouldn't be tempted to make anymore. In addition to the junk vinyl pressing, there was also ONE copy pressed on coke bottle clear/green. Here's photo of both (I promise I'll snap a better picture in the future):

The dead wax bears the inscriptions: "so now I have a Google phonic stereo with a moon rock needle" and "It's okay for a car stereo, wouldn't want it in my house."

There was a series of 12 test pressings of this one. I managed to get my hands on number 5. Here it is a photo of the pile of tests, and a close up shot of my copy:

Check out how the rubber stamp graphic goes from sleeve to record and back to sleeve. Gorgeous.

And, though there was no official insert with the record, some shipments came with swag from Chunklet HQ. Like, for instance, this:

this is pretty close to actual size

THIS JUST LEAKED. A preview of things to come: