News Reports and Articles
Alien Rock in Roswell
An interview with Michael from the UFO rock band Element 115
By Philip Mantle
The UFO subject made its way into popular culture many years ago. It has been used extensively in advertising, movies and of course music. We had the rock band UFO and today there is the FOO FIGHTERS. David Bowie sang about his 'Starman', The Carpenters and their 'Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft', to name but a few. The list of UFO themed songs in popular music is quite extensive. While visiting Roswell, New Mexico as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations, I met with Michael from the rock band Element 115. They had performed in Roswell on Thursday July 5th, the day before I had arrived so I missed their concert. I met with Michael in the Cover-up café while I was taking part in a radio interview for the Jerry Pippin Show. Element 115 is no ordinary rock band and they even have an alien drummer.
Michael simply likes to be known as Michael. No surname. As he explained if the angels can simply have one name then that's good enough for him. I took the opportunity to get an interview with Michael to try and learn more about Element 115. That interview is reproduced here in full. All photographs are courtesy of Michael and are copyright Rivera Photography, Roswell, and used by permission.
Q: Michael, could you tell me from where you got the name for the band.
A brave man by the name of Robert Lazar claims to have worked at Area 51, Groom Lake, in Nevada on reverse-engineering alien spacecraft obtained by the US government. He reported that he discovered the fuel source, and it utilized at its core, Element 115. He claims that Element 115 is unique in that the strong gravitational force of the atom extends beyond the nucleus and is detectable. Any electromagnetic force which is detectable can also be amplified and directed. It basically enables the craft to create a strong gravity force which can bend the space-time fabric. That's powerful, and so are we.
Q: How did the band get together in the first place.
The first iteration of the band formed in 1995 and put one record together. Personal differences broke the band up before the CD could even go to market, and since I came up with the name, I kept it for further iterations to come. The initial meeting of the current line-up happened at a friend's birthday party in 2002. I met Kevin, the former keyboard player there, and Carla, whom I already knew, but was not playing bass yet, was there as well. We started practicing together and went through a couple of bass players before I asked Carla if she'd like to really learn bass and play in the band. In 2004 she joined, and in January of this year Jess became a full member.
Q: How did the alien drummer idea evolve.
We had a hard time finding a guy with a digital drum set (for volume control) who knew the classic rock material we wanted to play. I made a joke that maybe we'd have better luck finding an alien to play drums. Kevin said, "Well, why don't you just make one?" and then laughed. I sat for about 10 seconds and said, "I could do that." Then came the infamous phrase from Kevin: "If you can pull that off..."
Two weeks later "AL" made his first appearance.
Q: How is the drummer put together and operated.
I purchased a 3-D model of an alien and a cheap drum set model. I then modified what was purchased and built a nice fireplace for a cosy effect, which also provides movement even when "AL" is sitting still. Then, I settled on a camera angle which would allow for all of his drums and cymbals to be seen, and revealed a little of his legs so that movement can be detected by the viewer when he operates the kick drums and hi-hat.
The first version of "AL" (called AL 1.0) used his long fingers as drum sticks, and had a single kick set. I animated every drum hit and roll for each song, one frame at a time. It was a long and tedious process which took over 1,000 hours of animation time to do the first 30 songs we played. Seeing this as an unbearable inefficiency for adding new material, I came up with the idea of making a MIDI to animation converter. That was the beginning of AL 2.0.
The 2nd version of AL is a (Macromedia) Director program I wrote with each drum hit as a callable sequence. When I write a new drum track, I play it into a program called Metro in MIDI, then massage the MIDI file to throw out things I don't need, and keep just the start time, note information, and the volume of each hit. I feed that file to my Director program with the MIDI to animation converter embedded in it, and AL plays the file in real time. I capture that on the computer screen at 832 x 624 (the resolution of the video wall) and save it as a QuickTime video file.
I then take the MIDI file into Pro-Tools and make the drums more real with compressors, reverbs, flangers, etc. That digital audio file is synchronized with the video animation in Final Cut Pro and I create a movie file for each song. All the song files (movies) reside on my Mac laptop. A second program I wrote, which is the one that operates live on stage, calls up the proper movie file when I click on the name of the song we want to play next. When that name is clicked, the program loads the timing data for the light show, tells all of the processors (guitar, vocal, etc) what patch to use, and then waits for me to press "PLAY." It's really that simple (he says with a sly grin).
No MIDI is played live. The only thing not played live on stage is the drums, and since I played those tracks originally, I don't consider that to be cheating.
Q; Would you like to introduce us to the other band members. Who's who.
On bass and vocals (and sometimes piano) is Carla Darin. She has only been playing for about 3 years. She's awesome. She's about 100 pounds and carries as much gear as any of us guys.
On rhythm guitar, keyboards, and now vocals (he hits A above hi C) is Jess D. He's 15. He's been playing seriously for about a year. He's also awesome. He's home-schooled, and generally beyond his contemporaries whether we're talking music, philosophy, or even politics.
Q: You've played quite a few gigs, so how was it playing live in Roswell for the 60th anniversary events.
We weren't in town 10 minutes before we stopped at Applebees (the restaurant chain that we should own since we almost always eat there or at IHOP) and were recognized by customers there. The second day, the day of the show, we were asked to do an interview on the radio, and they started playing our music right then. Roswell is a great town. When they make the alien theme park, we want to move there and be the "house band."
The night of the show, winds kicked up in the football stadium venue and almost toppled part of our video wall. The crew which set up the stage saved one stack from falling over and secured it. We're thankful. That one stack alone cost over $5,000 (there are 3 of them) and that show would have been irreparably damaged if they hadn't saved it.
The show was great, and as you can see from the pictures, the stage was awesome.
Q: What was the crowd's reaction to you in Roswell.
We are a phenomenon there from what our mySpace friends tell us. They are anxiously awaiting the release of our album, which is due September 1st. I think AL had a marriage proposal or two.
Q: Do you see the band breaking into the mainstream rock scene or are you content to stay as you are.
The band will break into the mainstream for a few reasons.
1. We have something no one else has. Even the Gorrilaz don't have the kind of music we do, and don't normally have a lot of interaction between humans and the characters on stage.
2. Classic rock is like the cliffs of Dover. It'll ALWAYS be standing as other music fads come and go. Even though we're writing new songs, they have that great classic-rock feel and sound. Harmony leads, harmony vocals, and musical integrity are mainstays of our songs, and people love that.
3. Our message is one of personal growth, responsibility, and positive change. We understand that action must be taken to realize the changes we all know we need. The songs we write often call for that action.
4. We're a family show. Unless one is in favour of pre-emptive wars, poisoning oneself with chemicals, implanting chips in humans, or averse to the ultimate in diversity (an alien drummer) they won't be offended by an Element 115 show.
Q: Is there any one song that you have written that is linked to a specific UFO event.
No. We do have a song on this upcoming album called "People of the Planet Blue" which is about a race coming here to share our planet with us. Their planet was destroyed, and they need to live here for a while. We aren't the cheesy tin-foil-collared typical UFO band. We're a serious act that just happens to have an alien on drums.
Q: Are all the band members interested in UFO's.
Absolutely. We understand that the last several risings of man were spawned by extraterrestrials, and such conclusion is reached through all ancient writings, including Hopi, Hammurabi, and the Bible (the sons of God mated with the daughters of man, the Nephilim, etc.)
We'd like to see the ETs come out of the closet. It seems that the humans need to have a one-world government before that happens. Unfortunately, the one-world system that seems to be gaining ground is the one which enslaves 99.99% of the world for the benefit of the remaining .01%. That is an unsatisfactory situation for those of us who respect and appreciate the sovereignty of the individual. Therefore, the struggle for a unified government with the ideals of the individual's right to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness is far from over.
Q: Have you or any of the band members had their own UFO sighting.
I've seen a UFO in Phoenix, and I'm on a "ready-team" who gets called whenever anything is spotted by any member of the team, which includes Jeff Willes among others. We are armed with cameras, night-vision, and video processing gear.
I was also visited in my own house. I was summonsed, as it were, out of bed while my wife was immobilized, and they chatted with me in my kitchen. What was most interesting is that for once I felt like an intellectual insignificant. You see, I had straight A's all through school, got my Bachelor's degree in 18 months (Summa cum Laude) in computer science, have written over 250 CD-ROMs, 50 CD-Is, and 100 DVDs on education and training for corporate topics from martial arts to dental procedures to engineering projects, and have a photographic memory, so I remember every detail of every disc that I've made. I worked through the '80s on missile systems test equipment doing hardware and software design. Next to these four 8-foot tall beings, I was a little kid both in mental acuity and stature. They did communicate to me that they appreciated my sense of humor, though. Ironically, I can't remember any details of the conversation we had that night.
Carla has seen and heard unexplained things, but can't definitively tie them to a UFO or alien source.
Q: And what of the future, what are your plans.
The band is what I work on at least 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. I'm marketing, writing songs, recording, working on animation, giving AL more things to do on stage, and whatever I can do to make our show more entertaining and enlightening for our audience.
We plan on taking this project global with emphasis on Europe and Asia. We're starting to get offers for sponsorships, though I haven't heard back from DW whom I'd like to have for AL's drums. All we need is the right person to see the potential with merchandising (with an alien drummer? come on!) and someone who has the foresight to see the resurgence of classic rock with the next generation of music consumers, and we'll be a household name worldwide!
Q: For those who are interested in learning more about the band or perhaps even booking you for a gig, how can they find out more information.
We are all over the web. You can type "Element 115 band" into any browser and we're #1. Our website is www.Element115theBand.com and we can also be reached at our theBand@Element115theBand.com email address.
Space prevents a longer interview with Michael but this interview does give us an insight into the band, their origins and where they are heading. Keep an eye on their web site for further details. It goes to show again just how far the UFO subject has been integrated into popular culture. It also further emphasises that the festival in Roswell is exactly that, a festival. It has had its critics, but having been there and experienced it myself I found the criticism completely unjust. The Roswell festival has something to offer for all.
It would not surprise me in the least to learn that Element 115 has hit the big time complete with AL the alien drummer. I wish them well and would like to thank Michael for this interview. I for one look forward to their new CD in September 2007.
Philip Mantle is an international UFO author, lecturer and broadcaster. He is the author of Alien Autopsy Inquest now available on Amazon. He can be contacted at: email@example.com. His new book 'ALIEN AUTOPSY INQUEST' is now available on Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk.