Astronaut is Dan Lopatin, Andy Plovnick, and Lee Tindall. In thrall to all things kosmisch, they create spaced-out analog soundscapes reminiscent of Cluster, Giorgio Moroder, and soundtracks to John Carpenter films. On February 7, 2008, Dan and Lee performed live on RF. You can listen to a podcast of their set here. Below is an email interview that I did with the group back in December 2007 for a short article in the Boston Phoenix.
Could you tell me a bit about the history of Astronaut? How did you all meet and what spurred you to form the group?
Dan: I formed the group after jamming with Lee, who had been doing solo noise stuff in the Worcester area as Lasercoffin — really heavy, gross kinda stuff, very different than anything i had played, which excited me. My previous project, Dania Shapes felt like it had run its course. I was getting really into new age, Randy Greif, Phil Niblock, minimalism, repetition — stuff like that. I thought it would be a good idea to make homemade cosmic music at relatively low cost using polysynths, in the face of the prodigious data-center bands of the past. At the time, Andy Plovnick was in Healing Feeling, and had this Crumar analog synth — he hypnotized me with it at one of his shows, and I asked him to join us. It was totally haphazard the way it came together. I don’t think any of us really knew we were in a band until after our first show.
Andy: I met Dan when he came to see Healing Feeling. He was the coolest person at the show. Then I met Lee at Dan’s house when I found out we were all in a band together.
Lee: When we all met there was such weirdo dynamic, we all took roles in the creation without choice. Astronaut from the inception has been fueled by pizza goldfish.
What do you all do outside of Astronaut (other musical activities, projects, etc…)?
Dan: I work in publishing and I’m a freelance music journalist. I recently started putting out solo material under the name Magic Oneohtrix Point Never. I’m also playing synths on a doom-gaze record called Russian Mind with Brad Wallace (Transistor Transistor), and finishing up a tape with Taylor Richardson (Sunburned). All this plus I gotta fix lunch!
Andy: A.R. Plovnick - synth/guitar weirdness, A.R. Plovnick/Isolation - hardcore/punk/synth weirdness, The Concerned Experts Society - group improv weirdness.
Lee: Second sky - solo and collaborative drone slime meets too much candy. A few as of yet unnamed black noise projects.
When did you begin working with analog synthesizers? What appeals to you about them?
Dan: Since I was a kid! In the 80s, my dad played in Russian restaurants, and bought a Roland Juno-60 primarily so he could make accordion and violin and organ patches. I worshiped it like it was my first bike. I erased all his patches in favor of tractor beam sounds and gnarley static, and my music career was born. I’ve never thought about what appeals to me about analog synths over digital. I’m no purist. I mostly just like old polysynths because they were built in a way that invited non-experts and non-musicians to misuse and manipulate sound in a way that preset-based machines never offered. Having said that, analog synths invite cliches as well. 5 years from now, everyone will want Roland JP-8000 rave patches in their experimental bands… if not already. I’ll change too.
Andy: Got into a Univox Minikorg in 2k1, got my first board in 2k2. Drone n buzz appeals to me. :))
Lee: Well, I started working with tone generation and building sounds back in high school. I then moved on to owning a clavi nord lead1 which I still abuse. though I’ve never utillized a true analog synth, the day is soon approaching. I love the accidents and the thickness that can happen with absolute analog freakouts.
What kind of synths do the three of you use? Do you have an all-time favorite synthesizer?
Dan: I use a Jessica Rylan synth, the Roland Juno-60 polysynth, and a Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 polysynth. I feel like I understand the Juno better than any piece of equipment I’ve ever had. It’s my best friend. And it never ceases to amaze me with its hidden capacity in generating weird analog detritus.
Andy: With Astronaut mostly Korg mono/poly, will get into using octave electronics ‘the cat’ with you guys soon.
Lee: For the time being in Astronaut, I use a set of effected tone generators and vocal intonations. We’ve evolved in a way that my wimpy virtual analog board wasn’t cutting it. Astronaut is really all about controlling the drone like a beast in the abyss.
I know you’re all fascinated by 70s synth music (Cluster/Harmonia, Jarre, Moroder, etc) and all things kosmiche. What current artists/music are you inspired by?
Dan: I’m a big fan of Ohio experimental — Bee Mask, Emeralds, and C Spencer Yeh.
Andy: Mojave 3, Blues Control, Midlake, Maserati, Black Moth Super Rainbow.
Lee: Skullflower, Growing, Calmth, Belong, Tim Hecker… lots of doom and metal that gets me in trouble with the boys. Anything that uses rhythm without traditional percussion
Do you have any Astronaut releases or other projects currently in the works?
Dan: Coming out in 2008: a split LP from Astronaut & Bee Mask (Lost Treasures of The Underworld) and an Astronaut/Family Battle Snake split LP as well.
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