Back to the future

Mazinga Phaser's neon glories

They speak of genre fusing as if it came in a Big Gulp cup, ready to jump into the new millennium head first. Even though they don't want to be called a 'Denton band'--three of them live in Fort Worth and Dallas, after all--they speak highly of the town's scene, which right now is tighter than it ever was.

"People now realize that you can do a lot of things with music. When you see your friends doing a fusion of genres, you start pushing yourself, too," Wheeler says.

"I think people got fed up having no choice," adds Dover, who moved to Denton three years ago with the ambition of being in a punk band. Instead, he got exposed to Kraut rock and experimental music and started Mazinga Phaser as a performance art-improvisational unit that welcomed whoever wanted to express themselves. Hermeyer kept coming back, and slowly the rest of the members joined on a permanent basis until the current lineup solidified a year ago.

"The idea was to be original and creative," Wheeler says. "We decided that no two shows should be alike, and we should try to be as original as possible. We want to surprise people--and ourselves, too."

"Live, we try to create an environment unlike anything we've been to before," Jenkins says. His role as invisible sixth member is as important as that of the five musicians: He provides the light show and the films that play in the background at live performances, as well as pieces of spoken word and artwork.

"We try to create a holistic environment, a multimedia experience that will involve all the senses," Jenkins continues. "We played at a 1,500-person rave one time; that was the first rave that any one of us had been to. People dug it because of the ambience of the music and the lights."

"The thing about a rave is that you have thousands of people waiting to be stimulated, and it's all a matter of the quality of the stimulation that you give them. Dallas has a very strong dance scene, and it would be great if we could turn them on to phase [shifters], feedback, and actual six-string strumming instruments," he adds.

"Hawkwind plays in raves in Europe," Nelson interjects.
Live, Mazinga Phaser lives up to its "no two shows should be alike" motto. It can be as loud as a rock band, with Williams pounding away like Keith Moon while Dover or Hermeyer embark on long, distorted guitar solos, or it can be brooding and ambient, relying on samples and synthetic noise.

The band played another rave a few days later; unfortunately, Hermeyer, Nelson, and Wheeler were unable to be there. Dover, Williams, and Jenkins pulled it off, however, with the help of another guitar player and a few record samples. Winning the battle against a shoddy PA system, the half-band played a fascinating set that put "space rock" on the lips of the mostly unsuspecting audience. It was rock and quite spacey, but it was very different from the just-released CD.

"In this record, the rock aspect of the band wasn't as emphasized," Dover says. "Matt [Castille] contributed a lot in the way of production and overall sound. Our next record is going to be very different." Dover talks about material the band is preparing to send to Sonic Boom, founder and leader of the late British noise band Spacemen 3, known for its droning excess. In a pleasing display of synchronicity, the very first song Mazinga Phaser ever played was a Spacemen 3 cover, and now Boom has launched his own record label, called--surprise--Space Age. Dover sees the band going for at least 10 years, forever exploring musical possibilities.

"We're all pretty much married to it. Each one of us has made personal sacrifices for the band that we wouldn't have made if this wasn't for the long run," Wheeler enthuses.

"We see the value of blending all our minds together," Nelson says. "We can go out and do individual side projects, but they won't be like what we can do together as a band. The thing with us is, as soon as we finish a song, we hate it already and need to move on to the next one. There are so many ideas out there that I can't see how you can ever run out."

A lot of bands have a germ of an idea and then make albums trying to build it up into a popular infection; Mazinga Phaser has enough ideas for an epidemic.

"Bands like Stereolab get a groove and redefine it on each record," Dover says. "We try to find a new groove with each record.

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