Before Superluminal Pachyderm, 1984-1999

The creator of Superluminal Pachyderm, Ken Robinson, started taking notice of music in the 1980's while in junior high school. After the discovery of how cool it is to listen to oneself talking, making odd noises, and burping on a tape recorder, his brain eventually came up with the idea of writing songs. Without actually owning any instruments, he made use of junk laying around the house. This typically included rulers, cardboard boxes, a piece of wood with rubber bands wrapped around it (the "rubber band guitar"), plywood, metal shelving, and toys that made electronic noises.

He collaborated with his brother and they formed the duo known as "The Idiots." Both shared the responsibility of playing the instruments, singing, and writing the lyrics. Between 1984 and 1985 they recorded several "albums" on cheap K-Mart casette tapes on a mono tape recorder. They eventually graduated to a casette deck/radio with stereo recording. Typically the songs had very little meaning and tended to be about things like eagles, noise (since that's what the music sounded like), trash cans, poops, farts, and other assorted nonsense. Song structures were awkward, nearly unlistenable, and often sounded like a rumbling of crumpled aluminum.

Sometime after several albums of this, Ken Robinson's brother had had enough and decided this was truly for idiots. So, Ken Robinson continued the idiocy by going solo. He made some attempts to improve the recordings and started incorporating electronic soundscapes with the addition of an old Yamaha stereo keyboard with ten preset sounds, a drum machine, and eventually a cheap electric guitar he bought from Sears, of all places. Many of the soundscapes were created by the technique of playing a vinyl record extremely slow and recording it, and distorted recordings of electronic noises from the radio. Although this created a new depth to this strange music, none of this stuff will ever see the light of day due to copyright laws.

The next stage of development came with the purchase of a mixer from Radio Shack. All recording in an open-air environment now was within a system of a stereo receiver, two casette decks, the mixer, and any instruments attached to it. Robinson created one entirely instrumental album using the keyboard alone (with the cheesy drum patterns) and then two more all-instrumental albums that included the drum machine and the electric guitar. He made use of some sound effects off of records in his own collection, so again, this stuff may never see the light of day due to copyright laws.

When Robinson went to college there was no more time for dilly-dallying with music. After graduating from college he had discovered some CDs at local music stores featuring progressive rock. This style of music firmly gripped this poor soul's brain as it truly sounded so different and inspiring. On a day in October 1999, he reminisced about the music experiments he had conducted in the 1980's and began searching the Internet for sites devoted to this with the intention of possibly starting some new musical venture. It was the discovery of sequencing software that reopened this past with new possibilities undreamed of before.

Superluminal Pachyderm and the Lexicographic Lint Recordings, 1999-2000

In October 1999, Robinson purchased the first version of the Making Waves music sequencing software. At the time this was a mid-level sequencer capable of only 100 tracks of audio. Even with this limitation, he realized how powerful such a piece of software could be and began composing music with it. The computer in use was a Compaq Presario with a Cyrix 486 processor and 2 gigabytes of hard drive space. His initial plan was to redo all of his solo projects from the 1980's, but with new music. The first piece of music ever composed was called "Lexicographic Lint" and the first version of this song timed in at 14 minutes.

After composing a few songs, Robinson started looking for a means of putting an album of material on CD. The discovery of mp3.com provided a useful solution. They allowed anyone to sign up, load up their own compositions in mp3 format, and the ability to create DAM-CD's. DAM stood for "digital automatic music" and was a fancy way of saying they were enhanced to handle both audio data and computer data. They contained copies of songs in both audio format (for playing in CD players) and mp3 format (for playing on computers), plus they included a player to play the mp3s. With further research of the mp3.com site, it was discovered that a DAM-CD could contain a maximum of 60 minutes of audio and that the maximum size of an mp3 file allowed was 20 megabytes.

The 20 megabyte limit presented a problem for the project. The song "Trail to Grytvikken" timed in at 32:14 and was much too large to be accepted. So for the first and only time, he had to make a compromise for a composition. Several sections were shortened with one entire instrumental section removed entirely. After several attempts, the song was shortened to 18:11. One of the other problems at the time was the quality of mp3 files. mp3.com's only allowable bitrate was 128 kbps and this compression level often left much to be desired in sound quality. Static-like noises would often accompany many high-frequency sounds. This was just something that would have to be sacrificed for the time being.

After enough songs had been created to fit on a 60-minute CD, it was time to give the project a name. While sitting on the toilet and doing a poop, Robinson was reading an article in a magazine about superluminal motion detected in far away objects in the universe. He thought that would make a good adjective to an unrelated noun and after running through a bunch of words in his head, "pachyderm" came to the forefront. Superluminal Pachyderm was born. Probably not the most exotic of places for an idea to form, nevertheless it did. We should be fortunate that he didn't call the project Superluminal Poop!

Following the design of the cover with the strange pink and purple-colored oceanscape with the hovering purple and green sphere and the loading up of all the mp3 files, Superluminal Pachyderm made its public debut on mp3.com in March 2000. The title of the first album was called "Lexicographic Lint," the same name given to Robinson's first solo recording.

It was expected that Lexicographic Lint would just sit quietly in the depths of mp3.com's servers. Oddly enough, it didn't. Three songs managed to find their way bouncing up and down mp3.com's charts. These included the title track, Can't Get Nothing (a song about not being able to get anything at a grocery store), and the instrumental All the Cream Cheese in the World. The latter song would even make it to the #1 spot on mp3.com's Minimal charts. Ironically, Robinson had intended that song to be filler. It even features the distorted sounds of a flushing toilet.

Oddities and AHA, 2000-2001

The initial interest in SP inspired the creation of another album. Further, a more powerful computer was purchased with much more hard drive space. This enabled more enhanced recording of the vocals, which were recorded in mono for the Lexicographic Lint album, and more elaborate arrangements. The resulting album was called Oddities. It featured a much more polished sound with improved mixing.

Oddities was exactly that, a selection of odd songs. Three of the tracks were made up of short spoken poetry written by Robinson. These included Bags of Pens, End of an Era (about the demise of the dinosaurs), and The Pants Treaty of 1707 (where a country is defeated by a rival because their only weapon was popcorn). The Leviathan featured a strange section with nonsensical lyrics sung in French with heavily distorted vocals. It appears they were about brushing teeth, of all things. The song Cliff of Cotton is full of heavily distorted and incomprehensible vocals. Some of the percussion on this song was made by a popping sound done by Robinson's mouth.

Oddities also featured another long multi-part suite called Ghonk, which times in at over 15 minutes. It has some very eerie soundscapes, and quite frankly, makes very little sense. Also of note is the song Potholes and Peas. A friend of Robinson's, Earl Houser, suggested he write a song called Potholes and Peas. Robinson came up with lyrics about a person shopping in a supermarket who has toothpaste, tea, and peas in a shopping cart that hits a pothole. Oddly enough, it was inspired by Houser, who often walked around supermarkets with a cart containing one gallon of iced tea and toothpaste, but never having peas.

Oddities made its debut on mp3.com in July of 2000. Again, it met with some chart success, most notably the title track and the song Idiot! Shortly before Oddities was unleashed on the unsuspecting public, Robinson had been conversing among other independent musicians in mp3.com's forums. At some point a thread was formed called "Artists helping artists." This was a support thread for artists to ask for feedback and help each other out by listening to their music. This would have the side effect of helping their songs climb higher on mp3.com's charts in the hope of more exposure, although on occasion it became abusive.

After some time, this collection of varied artists formed an actual organization called Artists Helping Artists, or more commonly known as AHA. The group created its own website and even put out a number of compilation CD's on mp3.com. Superluminal Pachyderm was featured on the AHA Electronic CD with the song Can't Get Nothing from the Lexicographic Lint album. Further, a number of the artists started collaborating and writing songs together. Robinson would meet several people here that he would collaborate with in the future.

Perpetual Insanity and CMAP, 2001

Beginning in October 2000, Robinson began working on the next SP project. The concept for this one basically dealt with the insanity of the world and life in general. It was aptly called Perpetual Insanity. There were no major improvements to the recording process other than upgrades to the software being used. The Making Waves sequencer now allowed more tracks and so the arrangements became slightly more complex. The project was finished by February 2001, making its debut on mp3.com that same month.

Again, the music on Perpetual Insanity, is in the same vein as Oddities except there are more longer tracks as three of the songs time in well over 10 minutes, with Dementia being almost 18 minutes long. The Möbius Strip was inspired by a now forgotten short science fiction story in which time loops around on itself. Robinson's song was about humanity repeating its mistakes over and over as history would continuously loop around on itself.

One of SP's most successful songs on mp3.com's charts was Bumblebee, which was about a person surrounded by a wall of loneliness and regrets, hoping that a bumblebee that flew over the wall might set him free. Again, odd stuff. Dementia seems to be about dog biscuits in a field and all kinds of assorted nonsense.

In the summer of 2001, Robinson released a compilation of SP's "greatest hits" called The Great Big Dog Biscuit. It also featured shortened versions of some of the longer songs on Perpetual Insanity, designed to give listeners a sampling from that album without spending a lot of time downloading them. It also featured an unreleased track called Epitome of an Eidolon, which didn't make it onto the Perpetual Insanity album due to a lack of space on the CD for it. This compilation, like other CD's on mp3.com, was produced on demand. The Great Big Dog Biscuit was only available for a limited time, so in reality, only about four copies of this CD exist, one of them being in Lock Haven University's Stevenson Library of all places.

The year 2001 also saw a change in the AHA, as it became a more promotional organization attempting to seriously make something of itself in the music business. It changed its name to the Colorado Musicians Allied Promotions, or more commonly known as CMAP. It was headed by Colorado folk singer Bobby Bensley. Superluminal Pachyderm moved over to this group during the transition.

CMAP continued the promotion schemes from the AHA and encouraged all members to play each others songs and, if willing, purchase each other's CD's to help songs move up on mp3.com's charts. CMAP even staged a concert at a festival in Colorado. Unfortunately for SP, CMAP was becoming less appealing. CMAP began splitting the group into two camps, with one camp containing artists that the "management" thought were "marketable" and the other camp being artists that weren't "quite ready" to be "marketable." This definitely caused a rift between a number of artists. In addition, CMAP was promoting some rather dubious activities, like joining "clicking sites" where you would basically click on a bunch of sites filled with ads, and in return other members of the "clicking site" would visit your site. All this did was increase visitors that were never actually interested in your music.

Robinson realized that SP was in a small niche group of weirdos and that the direction CMAP was headed, definitely didn't suit it and was a waste of time. The final straw came when CMAP's leader became an employee of Javamusic.com and tried to get all of CMAP to join it. It was obvious that Javamusic could not compete with mp3.com from the start and it sorely lacked the features mp3.com made available to artists. SP left CMAP as it was no longer the fun place that the AHA once was. Maybe a year or so later, Javamusic and CMAP no longer existed.

Prum, Collaborations, and Strange Sandwich, 2001-2003

Apparently many artists left CMAP and joined other artist communities. Superluminal Pachyderm was invited to join another smaller community called Strange Sandwich Music. This group was more interested in community then making money and had quite a collection of humorous people along with some goofballs. So on a daily basis, Robinson spent time on the group's forums slopping around in the poop crater, being a general nuisance, and making lots of "uh-huh's."

Robinson began working on the next SP project in July 2001. It was simply called "Prum." There was no underlying theme to the album with the focus aimed at introducing new "styles" or "soundscapes" into the SP sound. Robinson spent more time than usual on each song, improvising in a very haphazard fashion. This resulted in numerous unfinished songs, some which would form the foundations of songs used on the next album.

Prum was finally released on mp3.com in July 2002. It was a collection of 10 songs, mostly unrelated, with two timing in at over 10 minutes. It featured the fan favorite The Screen Door Collector, which contained the ramblings of an odd fellow that collected screen doors and an awkward programmed drum pattern. Reactive Shampoo featured some odd guitar sounds, a heavily reverbed snare drum, and seemed to deliver the message that hair can be cleaned with shampoo (although Popeye, Ronald Reagan, and Glenn Seaborg are mentioned).

Prum contained a three-part song called Punctuation of the Universe all about looking for punctuation in the universe (you know, like commas and semicolons). Hollow Chocolate Bunnies (the idea for the title is from Rob Blaikie) is about jellybeans looking for the missing hollow chocolate bunnies. It turns out they went shopping for vacuum cleaner bags and screen doors. This song was intended for a Strange Sandwich Music compilation released for Easter 2002 called Ducks Unlimited, but was also released on Prum. It has an eerie, almost industrial feel to it. Two Rolls on the Floor has a complicated time signature and is really about two rolls on the floor. The Great Big Hug of Life is a 15+ minute song that really sums up life with the line "you will find out a lot about kaiser rolls and window cleaners."

The crowning achievement of the Prum project was Robinson's first collaboration with other artists. Kim Novak, one of the founders of Strange Sandwich Music, asked Robinson if she could sing a song on the Prum project. Robinson agreed and picked Hippopotamus for this. Robinson went one step further and asked Miles Walsh of Milo Black fame to play guitar on it. Novak delivered a stunning performance. Novak is a very skilled singer capable of singing in many different styles and has a vocal tone like Annie Haslam's (remember Renaissance?). Novak also made a slight rearrangement to the chorus in Hippopotamus. She is solely responsible for that "Hippoooooo Hippopotamus" part.

After mixing in Novak's singing, the song was forwarded to Walsh who added rhythm elements that followed the bass line and provided some almost Gilmouresque solo shots, including some beautiful soundscapes in the long bridge section. Walsh also provided some very thoughtful and helpful mixing suggestions bringing this song up to the highest standards ever reached in the SP catalogue.

During the first two years of Strange Sandwich Music, the artists compiled a total of four compilation CDs all released on mp3.com. Superluminal Pachyderm was featured on all of them. The Strange Sandwich Christmas Feast was released just in time for Christmas in 2001 and featured The Night Before Christmas, which was the exact same song as All the Cream Cheese in the World, but retitled. This was a strange selection, but after all, we were called Strange Sandwich Music. Given some time, Robinson probably would've written something about Santa looking for chimneys on Uranus (I know, that sounds bad).

In February 2002, just in time for Valentine's Day, Strange Sandwich Music released Love Songs. SP's contribution was Cookies, also known as Part III of Perpetual Insanity. It's probably the closest SP will ever come to a love song. Proceeds of Love Songs went to Debra International. The aforementioned Ducks Unlimited was released in time for Easter 2002.

The fourth Strange Sandwich Music compilation was called Under the Covers. The purpose of this project was to have Strange Sandwich Music artists cover each others songs. Robinson's task was to cover jeez and cheez's Betty Got a Boob Job, written and performed by James Albert of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Duane Tate, then of Baltimore. Robinson kept the lyrics the same, but chose to apply the lyrics to new music chiefly in the Superluminal Pachyderm "style." This is the first proof that any song could be "Pachydermized" and sent right down into the caves of Moronica (Moe would be proud, I'm sure).

Duane Tate in turn covered SP's Bumblebee, making it a much more vibrant piece of music and adding that unmistakeable DT touch and flare. Proceeds for Under the Covers were contributed to Compassion International. This would be the last album SP would make an appearance on using mp3.com's services as shortly later in 2003 mp3.com would be sold and all of the artists using it would be left to find an alternate site to bring their music to the public.

Sea of Peas, 2003-2005

With the demise of mp3.com, Robinson transferred all of SP's studio albums over to ampcast.com, this time all in 192 kbps bitrate. By 2003, mp3 compression technology had improved to the point that even the 128 kbps bitrate no longer contained those awful sound gliches. CD's made by ampcast.com also allowed more available space than mp3.com's did. Now SP had 70 minutes of space to play with. With this in mind, two albums featured bonus tracks.

Lexicographic Lint was re-released with the bonus track Clothespin Bag. This was the missing instrumental section from Trail to Grytvikken that never made it onto the original album. Oddities contained no bonus material. Perpetual Insanity contained Epitome of an Eidolon which was only released on The Great Big Dog Biscuit compilation. Prum also contained no new bonus material.

In September 2003, work began on the next SP project called Sea of Peas. Again, this album had no underlying theme. The inspiration of this new project was to take Superluminal Pachyderm through a more traditional progressive rock format. This included the addition of samples from authentic analogue keyboards of the 1970's. Robinson made generous use of Minimoog, Mellotron, and a host of other keyboard instrument samples (including the Vako Orchestron). Further, Sea of Peas featured two large multi-suite pieces.

Sea of Peas would take a long time to finish, partly due to Robinson's laziness, personal issues, and the constant tinkering of each song. The title track actually took 18 months to finish with the original constructed song completely scrapped and redone. The final product was probably worth the effort as Sea of Peas contains that SP strangeness, but at the same time sounds like nothing SP had ever done before.

Before Sea of Peas was finished, in 2005 Robinson moved his entire catalogue over to Cafepress.com because it produced a superior product and also enabled Robinson to create things like aprons, lunchboxes, t-shirts, and bumper stickers. This mess of SP things was put under the label "Xerxobag Products" with the music placed under the name "Xerxobag Music." Cafepress.com also allowed CD's to be 80 minutes in length with no limitations to the length of the songs. Cafepress.com only provides 1:00 minute samples of each song on the CD. To alleviate this issue, Robinson began adding songs freely available for download at soundclick.com.

The Sea of Peas album was released in April 2005. It featured three songs that were collaborations. Dezincification featured the vocals of Duane Tate of jeez and cheez fame, who also has a number of solo albums. Tate also made some slight rearrangements to the chorus adding his unique style to the mix. The five-part suite Of the Ferric Oxides in the Old Toilets featured the talents of Jeff Edmunds, of The Seen and "this" fame. Edmunds contributed Stick, guitars, effects, and voices to one of the oddest songs of the Superluminal Pachyderm catalogue. Also featured were vocals from Miriam on part d, Diskette Breeze. Finally, the lyrics for Karmic Cow were written by Jaime Jamison about bovine cannibalism, which features cow moos, real and electronically enhanced.

The Mellotron-drenched title track became somewhat of a fan favorite. Sea of Peas also featured the 20+ minute, six-part suite Wrinkle the Eyebrows of the First Dog, one of the most adventurous pieces done by SP. Lyrically, Sea of Peas moved more towards postmodern poetry and focused more on unusual combinations of words placed together. Some lines even lacked verbs. The combination of strange lyrics with the usual strangeness of SP's music, brought these two planes together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Timing in at over 78 minutes long, Sea of Peas was the most ambitious project Robinson had ever attempted.

An Official Internet Home and a Long Recording Hiatus, 2006-2012

In 2006, Robinson began developing the first official internet home for Superluminal Pachyderm. Since SP's birth, it's official home bounced from mp3.com to living in dual locations at Strange Sandwich Music and ampcast.com, and then in three locations at SSM, soundclick.com, and Cafepress.com. With five albums under Robinson's belt, it was finally time to put all SP information in one central location.

Prior to the launch of the new SP internet site, Robinson changed the names of Xerxobag Products and Xerxobag Music to Xaagma Products and Xaagma Music to fit the name chosen for the internet domain featuring all of Robinson's interests, projects, ideas, and hobbies. This has been reflected in the albums available at Xaagma Music, identified with catalog numbers for the first time.

Recording began in January of 2007 for the next album, Unsalted Pants. Several different pieces of music began in their initial stages. One song, the title track, made it through about eight minutes of music and four verses of lyrics. The project took a long hiatus as many life changes entered into Robinson's life. This included marrying his lovely wife, Susan Houser, buying a house, learning how to use a house, learning how to be an assistant at dog shows, learning how to pick up dog poop in a bag, perfect a long-standing sandwich-making process, pick up genealogy, discover that half his ancestors had rather unusual and unique surnames, and learn how make a deck, make ramps, and make shelving in a garage (all using real wood!).

Unsalted Pants and a Trip to the Amazon, 2012-

Sometime in early 2012, Cafepress annoyed the heck out of Robinson by deleting all of Superluminal Pachyderm's CDs. This was probably a policy decision hidden in some long-winded e-mail, but nonetheless, it was annoying. So, Superluminal Pachyderm finally found its way onto Amazon.com when Sea of Peas made its debut on February 16, 2012.

Work finally continued on the Unsalted Pants album. The title track was resurrected, re-recorded, and taken out to its full 17:46 length. Instead of working on the several dozen unfinished pieces, two new long pieces were created from scratch. One was a 14-minute long instrumental called Ich bin eine Dose (Ooomgn), a sort of tribute to the German band Can, featuring the woofing of Nicky Houser (chiefly known as Puppy or Pupoose or Stinker depending on his behavior). The final track was an odd five-piece epic called Voices from the Nose, timing in at over 26 minutes. This album made its debut on Amazon.com on January 24, 2013.

Late in 2012, Superluminal Pachyderm made its debut on YouTube. As of January 2013, three videos are now available on this popular site.