Terrible Spaceship
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Terrible Spaceship

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Electronic Experimental




"Music Defined review of Terrible Spaceship release show"

Normally when I go to a record release show, or any show for that matter, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m getting myself into. But after I read a couple quotes about this band, I decided to go in with as little knowledge as possible. This remark from the Chicago Tribune pretty much nails it, “equally influenced by Danny Elfman, Portishead and Orson and H.G. Welles.” Going to see Terrible Spaceship isn’t really like going to a concert, it’s more like seeing an avant garde performance piece.

Their idea is a little bit of mad brilliance, really. They take old media, public domain type stuff, and create music to go along with the images. In the case of their debut record, Invaders ’38, they’ve taken Orson Welles’ original radio play based on H.G. Welles’ The War Of The Worlds and built a dance record out of it. There are only a couple spots where there are any vocals from the band, with the voices of Welles, Kenny Delmar, Frank Readick, and Ray Collins delivering the story. The music Terrible Spaceship has designed to go along with the play is haunting, terrifying, and yet oddly fun and exciting.

Taken as a whole, with the images displayed on the large screen at Lincoln Hall, I found myself wrapped up in the story like I hadn’t been in a long time. The way they use their instruments as props for things like heat rays and screams is well done, and I never felt like the music was taking away from the story or vice-versa. I was surprised, actually, by how well it went together.
The audience held their applause for the most part until the story had ended. Itonly lasts about a half hour, so I didn’t know what else was going to be coming up. Turns out they had quite a bit more in store for us. The second thing they played was a unfinished piece based on a Gene Autry serial, which I think they said was called The Phantom Rides.

They called it a western, but it certainly had science fiction elements to it. An underground civilization that looked like something out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was going to kidnap Gene Autry for some reason. There were only two or three chapters finished, but it looked and sounded like it could be a fun one. After that there was an intermission of about ten minutes while the band went to change their outfits.
When they returned, cloaked in lab coats, they kicked things into high gear with their finished but as-yet-unrecorded opus, Zontar: The Thing From Venus. This is the one they consider their real dance record, and I have to agree. Of the three things they played for us, Zontar was my favorite. I won’t spoil the story for you, but basically it’s a really terrible sci-fi B movie that has some truly ridiculous moments.

I’m not sure if this is the first time they’ve played Zontar in it’s entirety, but there were people in the audience screaming at the screen like it was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so I can see it garnering a big cult following. It’s a little bit Mystery Science Theater as well. Some scenes get manipulated a little bit to highlight the absurdity.
Whoever is in charge of culling all the footage and deciding what works and what doesn’t deserves a lot of recognition. Done poorly, the concept could be a complete trainwreck. I found myself enjoying it more and more as the night went on. It isn’t something that I would want to check out every night of the week, but I’m glad I got the chance to see it. If you’re looking for a different kind of entertainment than the usual, I would definitely recommend checking out a Terrible Spaceship show. - Music Defined

"Terrible Spaceship Lincoln Hall Jan. 5th"

In 1938, Orson Welles freaked out radio audiences with his Apocalyptic War of the Worlds alien invasion broadcast. In 2008, Travis Chandler discovered the performance and began layering the recording with electro instrumentals, a live band, retro video clips, and custom animation in an atmospheric sci-fi dance party. Terrible Spaceship’s 8-piece “ambient cinematic electro-horror pop” is a groove-laden mash-up straight from another freaky dimension. The Chicago band’s first album, Invaders: 1938, puts their take on the Welles broadcast to record (slated for release in early 2013.) If the world ends before then, Terrible Spaceship will see to it that at least we go down dancing.

9 PM
$10 - Innerview Chicago

"Terrible Spaceship: This sci-fi funk collective owes everything to Orson Welles."

Terrible Spaceship is a group of musicians who get inspired simply by looking up. Its sci-fi sound features an incredibly funky combination of head-nodding drum breaks, gravity-defying melodies and choppy guitars, which are all weaved together by cleverly placed snippets of film dialogue. Thanks to polished musicianship (five of the members are also in longtime Chicago funk collective Bumpus) and elaborately crafted stage shows, the group seems destined for intergalactic fame. Still, bass player/composer Travis Chandler took some time out to give Centerstage the whole story on Terrible Spaceship's mysterious origins and futuristic plans.

Who makes up Terrible Spaceship and what are your respective talents?
There's a small army of us. I'm [Travis Chandler] the bass player and composer of the music, Zack Marks is on drums, James Johnston plays guitar, Andy Rosenstein is on keys and glockenspiel, Brent Pulse and Adam Kaltenhauser play a wide variety of bells, whistles and samples we collectively refer to as the "science," and Whit Nelson runs our video show, which Tim Frick helped to create.

How did you guys form?
I'd been saving up break-beat instrumentals for years while playing with the band Bumpus, but hadn't really done anything with them. One day I was in a thrift store with my girlfriend and found a record of the 1938 Orson Welles "Invaders from Mars" performance on sale for 99 cents. I brought it home and threw it on, and was totally mesmerized. It's such a great story, and Orson Welles is an incredible narrator. On my second listen, I started realizing how fun it would be to wrap my instrumentals around the narrative told on that 1938 record. I never thought it'd be a live act, but when a couple of my bandmates pushed for the idea, we decided to give it a shot as a performing band. We took clips from old science and social education films from the era and developed an accompanying video that tells the story as well. So far we've played three shows, and it's going really well, I think. We're not like anything else I've seen, and I'm proud of that.

The science-fiction theme seems like a fully realized concept for you.
I've always been drawn to cinematic music and big beats, and with this project I've really been able to do both, which is exciting for me. It's also incredibly fun for me to work this material into a narrative, and that's really become the hallmark of this band. The first record was completely driven by that 1938 Orson Welles record. The second album, which we're performing the first five songs of live, is based on an old sci-fi movie. It's the story of Zontar, an alien determined to rule the planet. Come see the live show, and more of the story will unfold.

With so many heads involved, what goes into making a song for you guys?
I write all the songs at home on my couch. Sometimes other places, but I'd say 99 percent of the tunes I write are put together on my laptop while sitting in my living room. How exciting is that?

The songs are composed exclusively in Garageband, the free software that comes with Macs, and I bring it to Chris Harden at IV Labs for mastering. Then the band and I work the song over like crazy for live performance. Usually we memorize and play everything exactly as it is, and then begin to branch out slowly from the original tracks. I am very, very lucky to work with such talented and patient bandmates on this stuff. It's a really difficult act to pull off live — when you are syncing the music to video, there is no room for mistakes. The guys put everything they've got into it.

What's a typical day like for Terrible Spaceship?
Run the set, run the set with video, have a beer, run the set with video again...

How did you link up with Stephanie Izard (of "Top Chef") for her new show?
We all like Stephanie. She's great, and one of James' old friends. They go back long before her victory on "Top Chef." James asked me if I'd be up for scoring her podcast, and I love that kind of work, so I agreed. Stephanie is incredibly fun and easygoing, which makes her a delight to work with. Her new restaurant, The Drunken Goat, is opening up soon, and I plan to eat there as often as I can.

How does Chicago inspire Terrible Spaceship?
This is the city of my birth, and I love it. I feel like Chicago artists are always trying a little harder than everyone else, struggling to be heard above our noisy coastal competition. I'm proud to be a Chicago artist.

Where can we grab an album?
The first record is currently available on iTunes. The follow-up record, Terrible Spaceship presents: Zontar, The Thing from Venus! will be available by the end of the year. You can check us out at http://www.myspace.com/terriblespaceship.

What other projects do you have coming up for this year?
Raising my four-month old daughter. That ought to keep me busy enough.

Extraterrestrial life in Chicago, your thoughts?
Yes, please.
- Centerstage

"Terrible Spaceship: Zontar the Thing from Venus!"

Chicago-based sci-fi super group Terrible Spaceship are landing at Martyrs' on March 9 to debut the new multimedia project Zontar the Thing from Venus!

"Zontar" reaches deep into the depths of 1960’s movie schlock and pulls a cinematic orchestral dance party out of it.

Drawing heavily from public domain scientific documentaries and animations from the era, the performance video also includes clips from the ridiculous and wonderful film itself.

Terrible Spaceship features members of Bumpus, Dance Floor Plans and Any Kind.

Purchase tickets here; Zontar commands it!
- Radio One

"Terrible Spaceship"

The debut album from Terrible Spaceship is audio sci-fi. The group blends classic old-time radio samples with inventive instrument rock and jazz. Their new album, Invaders 1938, is at times wild and funky ("Stardust") and at others strange, haunting, and mysterious. For some it will take them back to their childhoods, and other it will be unlike anything they have ever heard.

When the band performs they perform their new multimedia performance “Zontar, the Thing from Venus”. A special preview appearance of the Zontar set is scheduled for Friday March 9th at Martyrs in Chicago. The album and companion DVD will be released in the summer of 2012. - The Deli

"Terrible Spaceship Brings "Zontar, the Thing from Venus" Show to Martyrs By Katie Karpowicz"

I always knew that "Mystery Science Theater 3000" couldn't be the only effective and entertaining way of recycling those awful 1960s-era sci-fi horror b-movies. Enter Chicago-based Terrible Spaceship's new show "Zontar, the Thing from Venus." Orchestrated by the band's dancey, electronic grooves, "Zontar" puts the bands in front of a video montage created by campy clips and animations from oldschool sci-fi flicks including the 1966 not-so-classic film with the same title.

Terrible Spaceship: Achievement Of The Century - More bloopers are a click away
Terrible Spaceship brings "Zontar" to Martys (3855 N. Lincoln Ave.) this Friday, March 9. This is also the first time that Chicago fans can hear the band's recently added brass section. Tickets to the show are $8 and it's 21+. The openers--Bambi Raptor, RON., and Longtital--start playing at 9pm.

You can stream Terrible Spaceship's debut album "Invaders 1938"--an homage to Orson Welles' famed "War of the Worlds broadcast--here. - Gapers Block

"Do This: Terrible Spaceship @ Martyr's"

We don't know quite to aptly describe the performance by our pals Terrible Spaceship. They seem to nail it best when they call themselves, "multimedia ambient synthetic horror pop." Featuring members of Clip Art, Bumpus, and Grammar, their unique mix of audio and video is a surreal experience but also a hell of a good time. And you're in luck because they're bringing the show to Martyr's tonight giving you a great way to kick off your Rocktober. They're playing along with the aptly named Lowdown Brass Band and the piano-pop trio Lying Delilah. It's an eclectic mix but all three bands are worth the trip up Lincoln Avenue. - The Chicagoist

"Chicago’s Terrible Spaceship adapts Welles’s War of The Worlds, by Jack M. Silverstein"

With Invaders 1938, Chicago band Terrible Spaceship gives fans of 1930s radio drama a new reason to enjoy Orson Welles’s 1938 classic The War of The Worlds. The band’s musical adaptation is thrilling in its creativity and mood — its as satisfying a listen as TWOTW was frightening. The album is streaming on facebook and bandcamp, and according to the band’s twitter feed, it will be available for download early in 2012. - Performer Magazine

"NPR review of Terrible Spaceship by Robert Steel"

Seventy years ago, radio history was made when Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre Company broadcast their version of The War of the Worlds. That recording inspired Chicago musician Travis Chandler to create the project “Terrible Spaceship.”

Full audio review available through the link provided, including samples of the music as played live on NPR. - Chicago Public Radio

"Review of Dave Coresh and Terrible Spaceship by Andy Downing"

There aren't many bands that claim to be equally influenced by Danny Elfman, Portishead and Orson and H.G. Welles, but that's the mix that Terrible Spaceship strives for on its self-titled debut, a mix of atmospheric trip-hop grooves and crackling audio snippets lifted from Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast. The project, a brainchild of Bumpus' Travis Chandler, achieves liftoff on the eerie "Access Denied," a mash-up of down-beat drums, radio static and electronic noise that sounds like DJ Shadow remixing an episode of "The Twilight Zone." - Chicago Tribune


"Invaders: 1938"
Release date: Jan. 5th, 2013
Available on iTunes, Bandcamp, and streaming everywhere.



Terrible Spaceship is probably Chicago's finest science fiction dance band. The band rediscovers media from the past and resuscitates it into a modern music and video multimedia experience. Utilizing both samples and live instrumentation for its original scores, the band has been described by the Chicago Tribune as "equally influenced by Danny Elfman, Portishead and Orson and H.G. Welles." (bit.ly/t6anLo).

Band Members