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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Set Phasers To Rock

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday October 30, 06:58 pm
Ultimate Power Duo shoots for the stars with their latest project


Saturday 8


The latest awesome scheme from Saskatoon’s Ultimate Power Duo is finally coming to fruition — which is especially impressive, considering it all started years ago as a drunken conversation between bandmates The Riz and ScottRP. UPD is releasing a space concept album called Space Joe: Ad Astra to the Stars, along with an amazing accompanying graphic novel, drawn by mostly Saskatchewan talent.

We were drinking some Big Bears and we ended up writing a sequel to ‘Space Joe’, which was an old [song from our former band, Bent],” says ScottRP. “We thought it would be great to do a space concept album that was over-the-top and unnecessary. The thing about us is: once we sort of say something like that, we have to prove to ourselves that we can make it real.”

The result is the story of Joe, an Air Force brat who has his first zero-G experience in high school, before making his ascension to the stars as an adult. Once there, Space Joe meets an array of alien beings, and transcends humanity like no one since Dave Bowman.

UPD (which is rounded out by drummer AKdoubleAK) has technically been writing this record for over 12 years, slinging jam ideas into the memory banks over time, whenever they recognized riffs that would fit the project. Musically, it’s rooted in the same driving, punkish rock attack that UPD is known for, though there are a couple of slower songs in the mix. They also chose to wink pretty knowingly at music fans, by purposely exploring some of the clichés traditionally involved in a concept album — whether spoken word moments, sci-fi soundbites or just general excess.

There’s like, a bazillion guitar tracks and overdubs,” says ScottRP. “We went way over the top. We took some samples off NASA’s website — satellites and space landings. Different robot voices.”

The recording (done in Barrett Ross’s Church studio) also took some time, as it kept getting a bit tangled around the schedules of the players.

[The Riz] had moved away halfway through,” explains ScottRP, “so we’d piece it together whenever Barrett was able to record or I was able to make it in. That went on forever.”

Along with the album comes the graphic novel, a loose embodiment of the lyrics and themes on the record, all created by different comic book artists. And if UPD thought the record took a while, putting together the graphic novel would prove to be an even bigger task.

It was excruciatingly hard [to get artists lined up],” says ScottRP. “At the time it was hard to find all those resources, people that made comics in Saskatchewan, because the focus was to use Saskatchewan artists. At one point we had quite a few artists into it, but they had their own deadlines and their timeframes didn’t work out. A few of them dropped out, but a few others picked up some [extra pages] because they were digging the project.”

At one point they ran out of money, and had to sell advertising space to local businesses to keep the project rolling. It’s that kind of ingenuity that makes this project all the more special, and eventually great artists like Donny Sparrow and Riley Rossmo fell into place.

Once everyone was in on it, it got easier — you know, ‘so-and-so is doing it.’ They don’t want to be left out, so they wanted to get in on it too.”

But the so-called fun didn’t stop there; the band took a crash course in comic editing. Different artists worked in different ways, each according to their skills, which left still more project management to be done.

You get the artwork, but then there’d be no text on it,” says ScottRP. “We’d write the script based on art submitted. Other times they used the lyrics as dialogue; other times they’d write their own dialogue, based on the loose synopsis that we gave them. There’s a couple that just did the art and we had to get someone else to do the lettering.

I wasn’t expecting all that, to be honest. So it was way more work than I thought it’d be and it took forever to get done, but I think the finished product is going to speak for itself,” he says.

The band is also talking about taking the concept album on the road, perhaps with some gigs on the ever-growing comic con scene. Cons are big business these days, popping up all over North America in both big and small centres, and UPD sees opportunity.

We’re going to hit the comic cons next year and sort of play gigs around those,” ScottRP says, “promote the book to that type of crowd. It’s an untapped market for musicians to play in and around.”

In the meantime, you can grab a copy of the album and the book at the Ultimate Power Duo release show at Vangelis on the 8th. They aim to do it in full ‘70s concept-album-excess style.

When you do a concept album, you have to do it front to back, right? That’s what we’re going to shoot for.”

No matter what level of success the band sees from the album or the comic, one thing is for sure: they’ve upped their game and created something stellar.

It’s been 12 years in the process of making it,” says ScottRP. “I’m just glad all the artists were cool enough to jump on board and be patient with it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project — I don’t think we’ll do anything like this again. But it was our first time doing it, and I think it turned out pretty awesome.”

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