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By Chris Gore | August 30, 2002

Last year at the Sundance Film Festival, Rocket Man Cory McAbee redefined the rock n’ roll musical with his feature writing and directing debut The American Astronaut. The film wowed festival audiences throughout 2001 and landed into theaters in a limited theatrical run last October.

It should come as no surprise that a filmmaker who launched his career with a bizarre rock n’ roll, song and dance musical shot in stark black and white, began his career in an experimental rock band. “About twenty years ago drummer Bobby Lurie and I put together our first band. It was awful. After a few shows Bobby moved away,” the softspoken McAbee admits.

But Cory would return to the stage under the most unlikely of circumstances. “Years later, I started working in bars as a doorman. One night, the owner of a club asked me if I would sing an old Ink Spots tune. I didn’t want to use my own name,” McAbee explained. “A painter friend of mine named David Tomb flippantly suggested that I call the act ‘The Billy Nayer Show.’ The name meant nothing. That night, the owner of a nightclub from down the street was there. He gave me a steady gig.”

McAbee’s performance rock band experimented often with forms of music. “The act consisted of a trombone, a saxophone, a piano and me. After about a year, the piano player left and Bobby Lurie moved back to town. We found a bass and guitar player and continued playing old songs together under the name ‘The Billy Nayer Show,'” McAbee revealed.

The transition from music to film was an odd one indeed. “One night, I asked Bobby if he still liked playing the sets. He said, ‘No.’ and I said, ‘Neither do I.’ I told him that I had been writing songs that weren’t anything like what we were doing. He said we should work on those instead. We decided to keep the name ‘The Billy Nayer Show,’ and I began working on an animated short called ‘Billy Nayer.’ I’d never made an animated short before, but I thought the band needed one.”

Doesn’t every experimental rock band need an animated short to accompany their performances on stage? Film Threat caught up with Cory one year after his Sundance debut to discuss The American Astronaut, film, music and vaginas made of glass…

Get the interview in part two of CORY MCABEE BLASTS OFF>>>

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