Barbara rUFO

For the last 12 years, every four years, I have made music about a mythical place called Barbara Island. This year sees the fourth and last chapter, titled Barbara rUFO, and I would like to tell the whole story of how it came to be, and why it finishes in 2018. This is a longish story, but don’t worry I’ll keep it tight.

We could start late in the last century, when I found two painted wheat bags on a telegraph pole outside my house. One of them looks like this:


At the time 2018 seemed a long long time away. But time speeds up.

Over Barbara Island

In 2006 the National Art School held a fund raiser. I was asked to contribute a live performance, and I said yes. The school is housed in a very old prison with small stone cells, but the show was to be held outside. As it was winter, they would supply tiki lamps. I thought ‘tiki lamps!’ and started to make something a little Martin Denny and a bit stormy. As it turned out the night was very stormy itself, and the show had to be held in a small jail cell. Not very exotic.

At the time I was making what was to be the last Severed Heads album, called Under Gail Succubus. This was a silly band name I had come up with years before – I always thought it worth using someday. I added the live show to the main album as a bonus, and thought it would fun to call it Over Barbara Island. And so – Gail and Barbara.

It was the last full Heads album (although many years later some shorter special projects went out under that name). In 2008, the band was lowered into a grave.

A funny side note is that a local agency tried adapting some of Barbara for a Coca-Cola advert. Three attempts did not get run-it-up-the-flagpole, and so sadly Things did not Go Better With Barbara.

Return to Barbara Island

In 2010 the body was exhumed for the Sydney Festival, and as a consequence I was asked to perform at another charitable event – this time for Rainforest Rescue. Again, yes, and again it seemed a good time for palm trees. This event was more bumpy bumpy and so Return to Barbara Island is a lot more streamlined that the volumes before or after. I made videos for each track, but the screen was a gaggle of hexagons and so no one really saw what I was showing. And like the previous event I don’t think there was too much benefit for the Rainforest, but I got an album out of it.

Around this time I wondered of there really is a Barbara Island, and there is. It’s very cold, but maybe not forever.

Barbara Channel Three

In 2013 Severed Heads played the Adelaide festival. We were both dead and alive, an echo, and I was desperately trying to come up with new material with which to move on. But being a full time academic, delivering a computer game for the festival, and being carer for an invalid spouse I was overwhelmed. It wasn’t going to happen in time.

It was 2014 before this material came together, and here was the four year cycle demanding that it be obeyed. So it was to be Barbara again. Channel Three refers to radio and there are many radiophonic touches – but much of what appears to be shortwave is actually synthesisers. I’d regained a hardware sound studio, including some of the gear I had owned back in the 1970’s, so there’s some familiar old sounds in there. But to buy the gear I needed the job that meant I never had time to use the gear.

When the UK magazine The Wire requested some music from ‘Severed Heads’ it was a horrible dilemma – this was me, Tom, not Severed Heads. But without the old name there was no interest. I had to supply them with some of Barbara, which mean ‘moving on’ was yet again defeated.

This is around when I pulled out my wheat bag with the UFO message. 2018 was four years away, and it dawned on me that there must be a Barbara FOUr, actually a Barbara rUFO in this year. I needed to go back to the wheat bags.

Barbara rUFO

By now I knew of the UFO Man, Alan Philp. I had seen him standing out in the mall, sun hat on and wheat bag around his neck. But by this time he had faded from the collective memory and needed to be brought back. In 2017 Severed Heads toured on an image that recalled his message.


But it was only in 2018 I found his image on a older blog site. This is Mr. Philp.


We must respect the message that he gave us for decades. When the UFO comes this year, what will it want? Will be a handshake or a spanking? Will we end up gods, or meat Popsicles? This is what Barbara will tell us I hope.

Since 2014 I have become successfully underemployed, the band continues, the bad times that ran through all the previous chapters have faded away. I have just finished Barbara rUFO today. It is the last Barbara, and perhaps, UFO willing, the last normal album I do. It is time for change.

I hope you will like it, but please also hear the earlier chapters, they do not cost. I will let you know when the UFO lands.

13 thoughts on “Barbara rUFO

  1. I remember the first Barbara Island had quite a impact on my listening. I will revisit all of them and visit the new.

      • Ok, this is a bit delayed response. The porn vocoder thing. I found myself thinking, “has this been done before? I mean someone somewhere has had to have done this before.”

        Google hasn’t provided any good answers. Regardless, I think at some point all porn will probably always have a “vocoder” option in the sound menu.

        What with all the robot fucking going on.

        • And a nice bit here. I listen to this in my car quite a bit on the drive to work. It is remarkable to say the least. Good stuff. I do like the first better, not sure if there is any good reason for that. But this is very close to number one for my ears in the Barbara Island world.

    • No sir there really was an Alan Philp, and he was well known back in the day. I love the signs, they usually hang up in my lounge room.

      There is only a lot of music at the moment because I have to go quiet for a while, and this will fill the gap I hope. Nothing more this year.

  2. I’m really enjoying this latest UFO themed album. Nice work Tom, and thanks for all the background details. The Barbara Island series is some of my favorite music of yours.

  3. I’ll bet you can’t find Jesus at this point. Well, neither can I.
    Although, I have to say that I don’t miss the toads.
    Now things are too fast. Way too fast.

    You know, instead of videos why not try D3.js and Angular or Raphaël? That would be cool. You could mix it up with different js libraries, and then you could run it with sliders or drop downs on an html file. Or maybe cycle through datasets. You know, like webkit. I mean you can run it right off your C drive, maybe with a connection to a CDN that serves D3. This is the shit you got me into back when I didn’t know what an index.htm file was. I was so jealous that you and others knew how to code in html 3.2 that I had to learn, and so I went looking through the source code of sites in the Wayback Machine starting with its earliest captures in 1996 and then progressed all the way up to ‘I don’t know what the hell’ because it’s all splintered off now into specific aspects that defy knowing all of any one thing. So, thanks for that.

    Forget all that and do what this guy does:

    He’s got lights flashing on and off and who knows what’s going on and that’s alright, right? There’s no audience consensus, because no one can see anyone else. They’re all just identifying with what they drank and then they leave thinking ‘damn that was a good time’ and then they buy your stuff thinking they can replicate that.

    I like Wolfgang Voigt. There’s not much to his music but it’s primitive without meaning much, which is ok. You know what I mean?

  4. i believe it all.when the ufo arrives its not comming here to be nice.theyve come back to destroy us b4 we gain the tech to leave this planet and fuck up yet another
    sister crack de mort-missionary of the order ofperpetual indulgence

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