Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Star Trek-Themed Bands: Where No Musician Had Gone Before?

Most of them are still languishing in relative anonymity, but do Star Trek themed bands have not only musical merit but do they even dare to creatively go where no musician had cone before?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe it was those records that date back from the 1960s documenting the singing of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy when memories of the original Star Trek series were still fresh that most of us immediately question the musical merits of the singing careers of former Star trek casts. After seeing and hearing Leonard Nimoy singing the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins you would be asking yourself too if records (they have only vinyl LPs back then) made by former Star Trek casts – and William Shatner is probably the most prolific of the bunch - constitute genuine musical merit?

Even recent cast members of the Star Trek universe, like Keith Carradine’s guest appearance in Star Trek: Enterprise had some Trekkies / Trekkers checking out Carradine’s I’m Easy album released back in 1976. Making that notorious Stereo Review September 1976 music review of Keith Carradine’s I’m Easy by Noel Coppage a topic of recent discussion of my local Star Trek fandom. Especially that part when Noel Coppage declared, “An actual musician could have made this recording, but he wouldn’t have.” Given the perennially “low opinion” of Star Trek related music, do Star Trek themed bands and Star Trek tribute bands not only have genuine musical merit, but do they really go – creatively at least – where no musician had gone before?

Star Trek tribute/ themed/ inspired bands whose ontological definition now cover such a large scope that they are as almost as old as Star Trek fandom itself. Back in 1987, a singer or band called T’Pau – named after that Vulcan high priestess who oversaw the death-match between Captain Kirk and Spock – allowed their green eyed redhead of a singer to score a Billboard Chart hit titled Heart and Soul. Even the rise of Techno music during the 1990s hasn’t spared us from the atmospheric and trip-hop remixes of the orchestral Alexander Courage Star Trek musical themes. But do Star Trek themed bands have the potential for artistic and musical merit – let alone popularity?

When Star Trek: The Next Generation alumnus Denise Crosby set out to investigate the global Star Trek phenomenon in Trekkers 2. The musical world was finally introduced to a bunch of Star Trek tribute / theme bands that not only has musical merit, but wrote songs that many non Trekkies and non Trekkers find appealing. The Sacramento, California based Star Trek tribute band called No Kill I whose rockabilly driven punk rock reminiscent of the Ramones and Lunachicks will probably earn them fame beyond the Star Trek universe if major labels in America are adventurous enough to sign them. No Kill I even started a host of variants – like the original Star Trek series achieved – like No Kill I: The Next Generation and No Kill I: Deep Space Nine who are as interesting as the original No Kill I that started it all. Will a No Kill I: Voyager or No Kill I: Enterprise be not that far behind?

Even though I liked all of the Sacramento, California based Star Trek tribute bands interviewed by Denise Crosby, the one I find indispensable is the extreme metal band called Stovokor. Named after the Klingon afterlife where warriors that had died a worthy death are destined to go, Stovokor to me is probably the most likely Star Trek tribute band to attract non Star Trek fans due to their Death / Grindcore / Thrash Metal based stile. Complete with Klingon prosthetic makeup and costumes that would have Heavy Metal Music fans comparing them to 1992 era GWAR, Stovokor is not only a serious metal band loaded with enough low frequencies to stun and even kill your average Star Trek ignorant bystander. Stovokor are probably the only band in active service that’s truly Klingon Opera ready. Will a Klingon Heavy Metal Opera be not that far behind too? Stovokor should give this a try.

For those Star Trek fans who still harbor the perception that the only Star Trek themed band / tribute band in existence is Russell Watson backed by musicians playing a Dianne Warren composition during the opening of Enterprise. There is a wider universe out there populated with Star Trek themed / tribute bands that even though only have a tenuous connection to over 40 years of Star Trek franchise, almost all of them have enough creativity to be worthy of musical merit. Only time will tell if Star Trek tribute bands like No Kill I and its various incarnations and the Klingon themed Heavy Metal band Stovokor ever reach the upper echelons of the Billboard Charts – or just languish in anonymity like some esoteric fad. Like that Klingon Santa Claus from Germany.

The Knighting of Patrick Stewart: Long Time Coming?

As the venerable Shakespearean actor who gave life to Captain Jean-Luc Picard, did the knighting of Patrick Stewart still came as surprise to most Star Trek fans?

By: Ringo Bones

In our local Star Trek fandom in our own little corner of the world, the news did came as a surprise to us when Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II named the venerable Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart as part of the roster of those to be knighted. We here in our isolated corner of Trekkie / Trekker fandom used to think that that Patrick Stewart was already knighted by HRH Queen Elizabeth II probably after making Star Trek: Generations with William Shatner back in 1995. After confirmation of the said announcement, the now Sir Patrick Stewart does truly deserve the knighthood for giving life to one of the most important characters in the Star Trek universe named Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Although, if Sir Patrick Stewart is knighted for some charitable cause my local Trekkie / Trekker still hasn’t known of, we do apologize to everyone concerned.

Our local Star Trek fandom had reached a somewhat “silent consensus” around 1989 or so that if Captain Picard wasn’t portrayed by someone with Sir Patrick Stewart’s acting prowess, the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation would have been very unlikely. And we here had also reached a “silent consensus” that without the “runaway” success of Star Trek TNG during the late 1980s there would not have been Star Trek Original Series reruns in our neck of the woods. Thus there would have been no Star Trek fandom in our little corner of the world.

The now knighted Sir Patrick Stewart was also very instrumental back then for introducing the venerable works of William Shakespeare to us Trekkies / Trekkers whose former perceptions of the work of that great English bard view it as an “undiscovered country”. Given that he is a venerable member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Patrick Stewart did seamlessly manage to not only make a generation of Star Trek fans more familiar to the works of William Shakespeare, but also convinced us that Shakespeare’s works will still be loved centuries from now. This is probably reminiscent of what the famed anti-Apartheid campaigner and former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela did when he introduced the works of Shakespeare to his fellow inmates in the Robben Island Prison Complex during his 27-year incarceration. Remember, without that famed actor who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his love for Shakespeare, we Trekkies / Trekkers would have never seen or heard Shakespearean plays done in the Klingon language.