IT’S EARLY JUNE, and I’m standing in the control room of a basement recording studio in the Corktown district of Toronto. In the live room, the four members of Tupper Ware Remix Party (TWRP) are warming up for a take, noodling on their instruments and laying down super-tight fragments from The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and A-ha’s “Take On Me.” Doctor Sung (TWRP’s fearless leader, easily identified by the pylon helmet he wears) guides the band into what seems like a semi-improvised, semi-rehearsed tune in which he repeatedly entreats a young woman to get on the dance floor. Eventually, Sung signals to the band and they stop on a dime. His posture stiffens as he cries out “Battle Stations!” and, four beats later, TWRP is launching full bore into a blistering rendition of “Computer Wife,” a song from the band’s 2012 release, The Device.
While TWRP’s brand of interstellar party funk is incredibly fun, the arrangements they compose are also technically demanding. The band members have created synchronized dance routines for most of their songs and wear elaborate costumes one would think would surely encumber movement and vision. If you’re one of the few who recalls the short-lived 80’s television show “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future”, TWRP’s fashion sense may inspire feelings of nostalgia.
As the studio’s sound engineer glances through the glass door into the live room, he cracks a wide grin. He remarks that no one is going to believe that TWRP is actually executing the songs live, that they’ll think it’s all overdubbed. He makes a good point: in a culture where shortcuts and cheap tricks have become commonplace in all forms of entertainment, one might consider it normal for a band to overdub audio for their video.
But TWRP is not normal. TWRP is literally out of this world.
Over the years, there’s been a lot of speculation surrounding the origins of TWRP. For this story, I conducted a series of interviews with Doctor Sung, who wanted to put the rumours to bed and set the record straight. What follows is the true story of the origins of TWRP, as told to this human journalist by the band members themselves.
Doctor Sung was born around the time of the Big Bang. His parents died of boredom when he was just a small child, leaving him orphaned in the first Ice Age. Billions of years later, upon earning the 69th degree of his black belt in keytar (a keyboard that one straps around the neck and shoulder in the manner of a guitar), he had an epiphany and discovered his life’s purpose: to release humanity from the clutches of boredom through epic rock music.
To achieve this purpose, Sung carefully selected his band-mates from various corners of the multiverse. He chose the name “Tupper Ware Remix Party” because he liked the sound of those noises which, at the time, held no meaning for him.
Sung discovered drummer Havve Hogan unconscious in a cave during the Mesozoic period. Sung sensed a powerful energy field around this sinister, Frankenstein-like creature with red LEDs for eyes and, after numerous botched attempts to resuscitate the brutish cyborg, he met with success when he installed an 808 drum machine where Hogan’s heart had been.
Conducting anthropological surveys in the Paleolithic period, Sung observed a troublesome tendency in Hogan – to maim and murder early Homo sapiens in the plains as they hunted antelope and buffalo. However, his ability to hold down perfect time had endeared him so profoundly to Sung that the doctor excused his murderous behaviour.
While Hogan was recruited from the past, slap-bassist Commander Meouch and shred-guitarist Lord Phobos were located in a distant and complicated future. Meouch – a space pirate with a humanoid body and the head of a lion – was born in the more provincial reaches of the galaxy and made his fortune smuggling funk (apparently a controlled quantity in the future) to star systems that had been historically square.
One such solar system was home to Lord Phobos, a philosophical rocketeer. Phobos’s people had evolved over many millennia, their culture reaching a universal high-water mark of scientific and intellectual discovery. When Meouch arrived on the scene with his smuggled funk, Phobos’s world collapsed into a flaming orgy of chaos.
Swearing revenge on Meouch, Phobos pursued his ship and was on the verge of destroying it when Sung sprang through a nearby wormhole and corralled them both. Having modified Meouch’s ship for time travel, the trio travelled backwards to retrieve Havve Hogan and then forward to Earth in the year 2007 (roughly one millennium before Meouch or Phobos were born), an era that Sung’s calculations had indicated would be ripe for TWRP to thrive.
In the eight years since their arrival on Earth, TWRP has honed a sound that contains elements of Iron Maiden, Daft Punk and Parliament Funkadelic, all in the style of intergalactic space aliens. Because TWRP’s music is impervious to genre classification, their fan base is extremely diverse. They book a lot of gigs through universities, where their party funk is (predictably) incredibly well received, and in 2013 (less predictably) they travelled to China to perform on a floating stage for a three-day water festival in Liuzhou. This summer, the band is zig-zagging across Canada and dipping into the northern U.S. in support of their excellent new four song E.P., 2Nite.
Back in the Corktown studio, having run through a few takes of “Computer Wife,” the members of TWRP relax and remove their instruments. Havve Hogan’s red eyes dim and he slouches forward (to recharge, I presume), drumsticks in hand. Outside, Commander Meouch lights a cigarette, and Lord Phobos blasts off into the air, guitar in tow.
“He likes to run scales on top of the CN tower,” Sung explains. “He’s a Jays fan too. They’re playing with the Dome open today, so he’ll be able to catch a few innings.” It occurs to me that TWRP could travel back in time and watch the Blue Jays win the World Series (twice!) and I suggest that this might be a nice surprise for Phobos’s birthday. Sung says he’d have to perform a complex series of equations to locate Phobos’ b-day on our twelve month calendar, but says he’ll look into it (I get the impression he’s humouring me).
Sung, Meouch and I stroll down towards Bolet’s Burrito on Sherbourne to grab a bite. Almost six and a half feet tall (owing to the cone-shaped helmet he wears, as well as his perfect posture), Sung is extremely animated and verbose as he describes his love of nunchaku, a weapon best known in our culture as the Ninja Turtle Michelangelo’s weapon of choice. Commander Meouch, meanwhile, chain-smokes sulkily, sneering at me from time to time, baring his razor-sharp teeth. He disappears into Rabba’s Fine Foods as we arrive at Bolet’s and I ask Sung if it’s difficult working with such introverted individuals.
“It’s true,” he explains. “Havve is a mute monster whose existence defies logic and Lord Phobos is a wise and gentle soul who swore a sacred vow of silence long ago. Meouch, on the other hand, is usually a talkative, fun-loving guy. Perhaps even more outspoken than myself. However…” Sung pauses. “Well, it’s rather awkward I’m afraid, but Meouch has a deep-seated mistrust and hatred of journalists. Try not to take it personally.”
Sung orders a small bean-and-cheese burrito on whole wheat (vegetarian because the idea of violence against animals sickens him; small and whole wheat because he’s watching his waistline). We take a seat among the decorative sombreros, and Sung opens up about the challenges of living on Earth.
“It hasn’t been an easy road for us,” he says gravely, gazing into my eyes from beneath his dark visor. “But I think we’re finally finding our groove. Havve hasn’t killed in months; Phobos seems to be moving past the process of mourning the collapse of his civilization. And as long as we have ample opportunities to bring the funk, Meouch is happy.”
I ask Sung about his own happiness. “Happiness?” He replies. “I’ve never known happiness. At best, I’d say I’ve been able to find meaning. I’ve lived through many aeons. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. One day all those moments will be lost, like tears in the rain.” He starts crying gently. I immediately recognize this speech as Rutger Hauer’s final monologue in Blade Runner, but Sung seems pretty upset so I let it slide.
I take the pause in our conversation as an opportunity to start in on my burrito, but at that very moment Meouch bursts through the door with a fresh pack of cigarettes and a box of condoms and sits down across from me. I spill a glob of guacamole onto the sleeve of my cardigan and Meouch roars ferociously and lunges towards me.
Sung is up in a split second, unholstering his nunchakus to neutralize Meouch. He knocks the apoplectic beast to the floor and cradles him there in an advanced judo hold. “Human with guacamole is one of his favourite meals,” Sung cautions. “Plus, the journalist thing doesn’t help. You’d better get him some burritos quick, at least half a dozen.” I locate some napkins to wipe off my sweater and place an order for seven (better safe than sorry!) large beef burritos. The cashier shoots me an odd look and I gesture vaguely at the wrestling match that’s going down between a pylon-headed doctor and a funky, bandana-clad lion, as if this explains everything. The woman shrugs and cashes it through. I make sure to get a receipt.