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By Brian Turk
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"They were about to make money," Schilling adds, laughing. "But they're really going nowhere now."
Citing Sacred Cattle, Core of the Earth and Maraca 5-O among a long list of local favorites, these Astronauts seem determined to tumble through a stratosphere of their own artistic choosing. An adventurous live act, the 'nauts recall the lumbering, bass-heavy sludge of the Melvins knocking boots with the warmer, snake-charmer tones of Critters Buggin'. Timekeeper Bell anchors a kit of mismatched traps and cymbals -- including a Yamaha timpani -- for a pulverizing audio experience. Just ask the soundman at Ft. Collins-based Woody's Pizza, where the space sailors blew the house P.A. while covering Queen's "Flash's Theme."
"We've never been heckled once," Elkington boasts. "Every angelic chord, every horrendous piece of feedback -- all of it -- is positive. We have our bad days, but we're not gonna write songs about them."
"Deep down, we're an emo band," Bell confesses, trying to keep a straight face. "No one will admit it, but we wear each other's sweaters and hug, and write in our journals under a tree. But we do tune our guitars."
In complete harmony with their own inner spacemen, New Ancient Astronauts seem a fitting musical addition to many of life's unsolved mysteries: the pyramids; Stonehenge; the giant, carved heads of Easter Island; ancient pottery depicting flying saucers; the Raelians; Sun Ra channeling the spheres in a pink wig and Grandma's housecoat.
Moreover, who can say with any certainty if Switzerland's best-selling author of Chariots of the Gods -- a book that claims that prehistoric humans were taught art, science and even bred as slaves by visitors from outer space -- was a prophet or a total charlatan?
"We're not necessarily spokesmen for Erich von Däniken," Elkington says. "But we are definitely the kind of personalities that would raise questions the same way as he would, and make people wonder: 'Why did they do this?'"
"[Däniken] raises some questions that can't be answered," Bell adds. "How the hell did they move 200 thousand-ton stones to build these things? There's all these enormous pictures on the ground in the plains in Peru, and the only way you can make out what they are is from way up in the sky. So there must've been someone up in the sky designing this stuff."
Back on terra firma, the New Ancients concentrate on things they can understand: the rabid fan in Espoo, Finland, who keeps inviting the band to tour Scandinavia; an upcoming Roman Ruins Records compilation called Undead in Denver Vol. III, which features an Astronauts cut; plans to record a soundtrack for a film that doesn't exist.
"It's a three-part Western called The Tenneseean," Schilling explains. "It takes place a little more than a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation, when a poor farmer marries a black woman and they have two sons, two Oreo kids. On one particular night, a mob comes and lynches his wife. So to save the rest of his family, he moves out West.
"The only people that Jacob, the older son, can relate to are these Mexican kids who have this gang of banditos," Schilling continues. "To make a long story short, Jacob's father ends up getting deputized, and the gang that Jacob is teamed up with ends up killing his dad. The whole thing is gonna be an Ennio Morricone-type spaghetti Western. That's like a throwback to the way that songs in the romantic period came about -- with stories told to music."
Conjuring some unholy union between John Zorn and Aaron Copland, the proposed project could certainly use a distinguished narrator -- say, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"Imagine if the voice for Hal 9000 was Gilbert Gottfried!" Elkington says before launching into a mean impersonation of the comedian himself: "ŒI can feel it! I can feel it! My mind is going! There is no question about it! I'm afraid!'"
In space, no one can hear you laugh.