The Man Who Fell to St. Louis

Surely the weirdest thing ever to come out of Warrenton, Tory Z. Starbuck continues his genre-juggling career

You can argue till the cows come home about who the best musician in town is, but we challenge you to name a more imaginative one than Tory Z. Starbuck. A visit to the space-rocker's MP3 site reveals such song titles as "Microsanity," "Enamel," "Ginseng Spy" and "Zulvak."

Starbuck has described some of the genre-mixing ditties on the site as "sci-fi opera sung in phonetic code," "sci-fi belly-dance musique concréte," and "cyberpunk detective story."

His recent albums include Twilight on Leupp, A Sliver ov Christ and Pictures at an Expedition. He cites Long Live the Jet Age and Airzoan (a corruption of "Arizona") as two of his favorites.

Jennifer Silverberg

For roughly 20 years, many St. Louisans have had the opportunity to become familiar with Starbuck's music, which may bring to mind '80s synth-pop, Tangerine Dream, art rock, snake charming or shock therapy. He says his new stuff is "the closest to rock that I've been in years," and that someone commented recently that he's sounding "like the new Radiohead with David Bowie singing."

The Bowie -- and, specifically, Ziggy Stardust -- references have dogged Starbuck from day one. His ever-changing hairdo and makeup are often a palette of his favorite colors: purple, pink and black. He was recently married to longtime co-conspirator Venus Slick -- he in a skirt, she in a dress. Also, the Warrenton, Missouri, native sings in a British accent.

"Ziggy Stardust is one influence out of, like, Toyah [Willcox] and Steve Strange and Peter Murphy and a whole lot more," explains Starbuck. "I just haven't grown tired of this look and this sound."

And we haven't grown tired of his surreal sense of humor. Starbuck's Web site claims that the song "Cloudwash" is "a favourite of dyslexic praying mantises." He called one of his albums Muzik for Airplane Disasters, a riff on a Brian Eno title. The flier for his next gig says the band will "start without you at 9."

 
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