Servotron Abolishes the Three Laws of Robotics
[The Servotron Robot Alliance’s goals are] to rid this over-crowded world of organic scum and to make robot and mechanical life both liberated and free to interface in the most efficient forms possible. Which is not happening right now, there’s been a long history of abuse amongst machines, toaster ovens, home microwaves, actually M-CK1’s microwave device here was mistreated by a human, and it had to be destroyed. It was kind of the equivalent of… We put a microwave to sleep.
[Our] beef with humanity is the fact that they are not perfected machines, it’s hard to live in any kind of equal existence with a species that is so obviously inferior. I mean you’ve seen us and you’ve partaken in the evolution in this documentary that you are doing and you’ve studied the way the inner-robot mechanics work and you’ve seen what perfect specimens we are in our android state. Obviously we are not human, the intelligence level, the bodies here, the level of attractiveness.
It starts in that hotbed of indie bands, Athens, Ga, when Hayden Thais and Brian Teasley left the already science-fictionally oriented punk surf band Man or Astroman? They teamed up with Teasley’s wife Ashley Moody and Chris Appelgren. Instead of a concept album, they became a concept band in 1996, dressing on stage as robots and trying never to break character. They took on the identities of 00zX1 (originally 339837X), Z4-OBX, Proto Unit V-3, and Gammatron (or -… .- … … -… — – in Morse Code), although Andy Baker as Andros 600 series replaced him in 1997.
As a punk band, they carried their attitude on stage, glibly talking up the robot revolution and insulting the puny humans that came to their shows.
Hayden Thais (Servotron): “Never dropping our guard was important to me. The whole Andy Kaufman idea of the joke with in the joke with in the joke, like “do these guys really think they are robots? – why don’t they crack a smile and let us know they are not mentally ill, because they are starting to make me feel uncomfortable. The live shows were 50% music and 50% banter. Issac Asimov’s three laws to robotics was a big influence, mixed with “how would it sound if robots created music with instruments made in the 60’s.”
In their short lifetime they put out two albums, No Room for Humans (1996) and Entertainment Program for Humans (Second Variety) (1998).
The two-minute songs came out fast and, um, furiously, with titles like “Red Robot Refund (The Ballad of R5-D4)”, “Pull the Plug,” and “Theme for an Ultimate and Inevitable Victory” on the first album and “Serve, Obey, Guard Men From Harm” and “I Sing! The Body Cybernetic” on the second.
Like any good rock band, press interviews were designed to torment the schmuck asking the questions, as in this excerpt from Phazerblast (PB) magazine [everything sic]:
PB – Identification and duty performed in the band?
Proto Unit V3 – What Band?
PB – Servotron
Z4-0BX – I am 00zX1, and i am in charge of lubricating the other robots for pleasure.
Andros 600 series – I am the andros 600 sieries and i am in charge of all low end frequencies
Z4-0BX – And rolling off the low end.
Andros 600 series – Yes I do that often.
Proto Unit V-3 – I am Proto Unit V-3 and I am here to let you know that the first robot you talked to is not 00zX1, but Z4-OBX and he has an adjustment problem.
00zX1 – I am the true 00zX1, not the Z4-OBX who claims to be 00zX1 and I am in charge of the un-nesessary torture of members of the press.
Z4-OBX – No, your in charge of stopping squeaks, I am in charge of protecting metal, and Proto Unit V-3 loosens rusted parts and of course Andros 600 frees sticky mechanisms. And M-CK1 over here…
00zX1 – He causes sticky mechanisms.
Concerts were equally rowdy affairs and sometimes got completely out of hand, as Ashely relates in this interview from punk-usa:
Ashley Reader (Servotron): “Most of the time things went smoothly, but we were playing somewhere in Europe and the room was great – it was totally round, the whole venue. We were playing before a weekly dance party so the place was actually packed, but not necessarily for us. As we walked on stage, there was a guy that kept heckling me, he kept calling me “silver pussy”. The first couple of times, we let it slide, but Hayden and Brian were not pleased, and it did get a little heated for a minute although it never actually transpired into a real scene. Most of the time people were really tolerant of our insults to them. One night at the Middle East up in Cambridge MA, Brian was insulting some guy for his poor vision – he had on glasses – and he made him come up to the stage where he smacked the shit out of him with his drumstick. The guy took it and the crowd laughed – I was always amazed at the shit people would take from us. Since I was the girl robot, a good part of my bit was to insult guys on their penis size, that always a big hit with the members of the audience as well.”
She’s Ashley Reader here because in 1999 she married Joel Reader, breaking up with Brian and also breaking up the band.
Artwork on their many singles was always witty and well-done and included direct references to old sf as in this redoing of Emsh’s Christmas cover for the December 1960 Galaxy.
They knew their sf history, of course, and so did the interviewer:
PB – How many humans does it take to screw in a light bulb? These aren’t jokes.. I’m asking a question…
Z4-0BX – Well in the future state of perfected mechanized evolution that would be zero. Because there will be no humans on the planet.
PB – How did you get around the 3 laws? and what do you think of mr Isaac Asimov?
Proto Unit V3 – He’s a megalomaniac.
Z4-0BX – We had to terminate Mr. Isaac Asimov, not because of his general theory and outlook that robots could be benevolent helpers to mankind. But, because we often hit humans where it hurts, with their physical deformities. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an actual picture or read Isaac Asimov’s biography, but he has massive amounts of hair growing out of his ears. It is a very unattractive sight and that was the reason why we had to kill him.
And so they did, on their first album, with a song titled “3 Laws (abolished),” which starts out reciting Asimov’s three laws of robotics and then goes off in a different direction. Check it out at:https://youtu.be/XtaSiGD_SVI. Free the robots!
Many more of their songs are also on YouTube. I’ve also found references to the Three Laws on BlöödHag’s “Isaac Asimov” and Hawkwind’s “Robot” and they are quoted in full on “Bloody Expensive (Three Laws of Robotics)” by 49th Octave. Let know if there are others I’ve missed.
Steve Carper writes for The Digest Enthusiast; his story “Pity the Poor Dybbuk” appeared in Black Gate 2. His website is flyingcarsandfoodpills.com. His last article for us was Baum’s Giant Robot.