With synths and electronica being revived from the 80s, bands and music groups have been forming where the instruments are nothing but a computer and digital sounds. One of these bands, Starship Amazing, has its roots in Anchorage and the two members even belong to UAA.
Starship Amazing consists of two band members: Derek Alexander, a UAA graduate, and Calvin Hansen, who still attends the college. The two have a five track EP and two full records. Their newest one, “The Power of Science is Staggering” contains twelve electrically charged songs. The Northern Light interviewed the band on Friday, Nov. 21.
Q: Where does the name “Starship Amazing” come from?
Alexander: I guess the answer to that question says a lot about how we operate creatively. Calvin came up with a short list of seven to ten band names. I still like some of them. There’s “Edison versus Tesla” and there’s “When a Robot loves another Robot” and “When a Robot loves a Woman.” He just sent me the list and I was supposed to choose the best one. And at the very bottom of the list, there was “Starship Amazing” and I said that’s the one!
Hansen: That was more of the comedy option. You know, I thought Derek would get a kick out of “Starship Amazing.”
Alexander: We kind of prided ourselves on making really cheesy music and it just seemed to fit at the time. I don’t know if it’s going to stick. We’ll see.
Q: Are your only instruments in the band the keyboard and the computer?
Alexander: It’s more like the right hand and the left hand. Really, the keyboard is more of a supplement to the computer. Calvin actually does all the grunt work where he fixes things because I guess I have no sense of timing.
Hansen: He’ll play something, and then I’ll go in and fix the note velocity.
Alexander: Calvin sits at the computer and I goof off. Occasionally I’ll say, “No, that’s not good,” and then go back to goofing off some more.
Q: What instruments do you play?
Alexander: I actually play the guitar. I grew up playing the piano for many years, like in elementary school, but I definitely have renewed interest in the piano. I’m actually looking forward to buying one and playing it again and getting keyboard lessons some time soon.
Q: What sounds do you digitally put into your music?
Hansen: It’s all what is called soft synths, which is basically a computer version of real synthesizers. When we first started out, we got all the free ones we could find and it’s really what we are still using. It’s all what comes with the program. You can use those basic tools to shape sounds. Since we’ve upgraded programs, we have a much larger pallet to choose from. The latest record has a much broader sound.
Q: What would you classify your music as?
Alexander: We really didn’t set out to have any classifications.
Hansen: We didn’t know anything about the certain electronic scenes. We have electronic bands that we like, but we don’t know anything about specific classifications.
Alexander: There is a genre that just takes electronic sounds from Nintendo, Super Nes, and Game Boy games and makes songs out of that. It’s called chip tune. It lends itself very well to those specific sounds, but it requires specific software and is a very limited pallet. So you have to be very talented to do it, and we don’t have that. We have videogame sounding stuff, but we don’t restrict ourselves to such a challenging format. We don’t really listen to any chip tune, but I am a huge fan of videogame music. I’ve always liked the melodic emphasis a lot of videogames have, so those are the melodies in songs I want to hear. When I hear songs that have that melodic drive, I try to emulate that. I guess we make the music that we just like.
Hansen: It can be put under one large electronica umbrella though. Just non-dance oriented electronic.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of this band?
Alexander: We want to do live shows, make money. I want to sell CDs and I really don’t want to get signed. I’ve always been a fan of punk rock and that punk rock mentality. You know, not power chords and singing about girls. It’s about doing it yourself. I’m really proud of the music that we’ve produced and I think that with every song and record we get better. I think we’re getting to the point where we can sell some music. I want to make ourselves popular, but I want to do it just for us. If we could get to a point where Starship Amazing can make money without any major label, then that would be great.
Hansen: Really, my ultimate goal is to make a living off of it. Derek is much more modest. He just wants to make some money. I want to do this as a job.