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The best kept secret in music



"Rasputina have cabin fever–as we can safely assume they do, and Zia have earth fever: an obsession with escaping our atmosphere. Literally, in Zia's case. Singer-songwriter Elaine Walker chairs the New York Chapter of the National Space Society, pitches colonizing Mars (not to mention "commercializing the moon"), had Zia tracks launched into the stratosphere, and named a song on their current Big Bang! CD after Nibiru, the phantom 12th planet that–in the unlikely event it actually exists, as crackpot Sumerian scholar Zecharia Sitchin claims–clips our solar system every 3600 years.

Now, I know what you're thinking– Zecharia Sitchin is no crackpot! I'm just a rock critic, not a rocket scientist, so believe what you will. Not that Zia don't have their facts straight: "Nibiru" doesn't assert the existence of Planet X, rather . . . something wordy about slaves, scholars, and gold mines, but it's clearly intended as a spaceflight of fancy. Soundwise, the song stitches together a squelching synth bassline, tensely driving drum machinery, and quavery electronic washes–the cold, "exotic" sounds we associate with extraterrestrial travel and club scenes from B movies set in the near future. But Elaine's raspy hook, complementing the pounding buzz of a "Bombs Over Baghdad"-style break, blooms into her silky slink through the chorus.

"What Zia is doing now is potentially as radical and innovative as what Throbbing Gristle were doing in 1975," sez Genesis P-Orrige, and maybe he should know, having fronted the latter. Zia's industrial and electro-derived style is familiar, but apparently their songs are written using non-"Western" microtonal scales, on instruments invented by Elaine–MIDI triggers on circuit boards that locals Walker, Liz Lysinger, and Matt Dallow hit with sticks. Very Nibiru. Fantasy, probably, but yet another signifier for distance, escape, and difference. That none of this sounds as groundbreaking as it might be indicates the flip side to everything that defines Zia. Their beloved space is cold–and absolutely silent–yet full of potential; their audience splits into hardcore astronomy geeks and hardcore goth geeks; their songs are at turns abrasive and radio-ready." - Village Voice, by Nick Catucci, June 4, 2002 issue, pg. 67


Just the stage setup of the electronic pop trio ZIA makes it clear these brainy earth babes are coming from a galaxy far, far away. And now they've got a boy, too: Geeky goth kid Matt Dallow recently joined "Blue Liz" Lysinger and founder Elaine Walker, who serves as president of the New York City Chapter of the National Space Society. Zia craft Hefty bags and duct tape into sexy stage wear, and use keyboards, pre-programmed drums, and various synthesized noises to jet-propel their songs about the big bang theory, supernovas, and being misunderstood for reading space zines. To trigger sounds, they hit rigged-up circuit boards or the buttons on some kind of homemade guitar . . . thing. When not appearing at an NYC nightclub, they wow crowds at science-fiction and space conventions around the country. zia@ziaspace.com -Lalena Fisher - Village Voice, by Lalena Fisher, Best of NYC 2001 Issue


Music and art that accompany a social movement are usually considered to be "folk art" or "folk music". Folk music is normally associated with acoustic guitars, vocals, and other organic timbres. However, what could be more suitable to accompany the technology driven pro-space movement than technology driven music?

Elaine Walker is an artist and musician who feels this way. Her all-electronic band, ZIA, debuted in 1992 performing their own brand of aggressively futuristic music with an optimistic edge. It is a strange blend that parallels the pro-space movement. They aggressively strive to conquer each technological milestone, with the long-term goal being an optimistic outlook for humanity.

The pro-space movement is also a social movement. As engineers and entrepreneurs are building hardware and carving out new markets, pro-space advocates are promoting a new outlook for humanity on a social level. Pro-spacers are forever finding creative ways to promote the idea of a spacefaring civilization with outreach projects, magazines, local chapters, lobbying campaigns, books, art and even music. There are a lot of stories to tell, with a lot of potential lyrical content.

As we strive toward our goal of a spacefaring civilization, stereotypical walls are broken down to make way for fresh new ideas, such as SpaceShipOne's unique design, or Pathfinder's bouncing landing gear. In the same spirit, Elaine has broken down walls of artistic conformity, creating her own electronic musical instruments such as her "Planetar" and "Chaos Controller" instruments, and has even created her own musical tunings, deviating from the standard western 12-tone scale.

Pro-space music works on a few different levels. Like most folk music, it can tell the story as it's happening. It will serve as one more record of the movement from the perspective of someone who experienced it. It also is meant to spread the word and enlighten the pop culture and others who may have not otherwise thought about the idea of a spacefaring civilization. Pro-space-music can be an advertisement for space ventures, literally as an accompaniment to video animations, or as theme songs.

But more importantly for Elaine, it can be an encouraging accompaniment to the people who are accomplishing the real milestones - the people building hardware, inching out new markets and etching out legislation. From time to time, Elaine can be found singing to these pro-space-heroes downing margaritas during a hospitality hour at a pro-space conference. These relaxed and reflective moments during our movement are highly deserved by these soldiers of space.

When Elaine became President of the Boston Chapter of the NSS in 1996, she decided to bring together her love for space and futuristic music even more than she had in the past. At Robert Zubrin's urging, Elaine entered two songs, "Frontier Creatures" and "Ad Astra" into the first National Space Society song-writing contest. After hearing these songs, Marianne Dyson invited Elaine’s band, ZIA, to perform for the main banquet at the 1999 ISDC. This performance spawned invitations to play and sing at many other pro-space conferences in the years that followed.

The electronic-pro-space-music of Elaine Walker and her band, ZIA, can be heard on their website http://www.ziaspace.com/ZIA in the MUSIC section. ZIA is currently working on a music video featuring a song written about humans-to-Mars, with video footage of Elaine on Devon Island during the NASA Haughton-Mars Project 2003 field season. ZIA is also working on a 4th album and a DVD compilation of sexy, spacey live shows, videos and interviews. - space.com, by Richard Godwin, Jan 27, 2005


The notion that traveling between planets could someday be as easy as traveling between continents finds its roots in science fiction. But a thriving community of activists is doing its part to make that idea a reality. Among them is Elaine Walker - Pro-space activist, microtonal music composer, and founder of the band ZIA, whose music promotes space exploration.

Elaine considers herself first a musician, and in fact she writes and sings most of ZIA's songs. A classically-trained pianist since the age of six, and a graduate of the New York University with a Masters Degree in Music Technology, Elaine wrote her thesis on Chaos Music Theory. She currently lives in Phoenix where she spends her days doing music editing for the Pokemon cartoon.

So music is in her blood, but so is space. Just look at a sample of Elaine's repertoire - "Space Man," "Back to the Moon," and "To Mars!" - or the names of her solo albums, "Space Dancer," "Frontier Creatures," and "Space Elevator Music" - or ZIA's new album "Big Bang!"

In fact, space activism is so woven into her life that Elaine maintains a resume of her pro-space activities. The resume includes a serving as president of the New York City Chapter of the National Space Society and NSS Region 8 chapter organizer, designing and maintaining several pro-space web sites, singing at national and international space conventions, and organizing several special events. She is currently helping to organize a July Lunar Development Conference in Las Vegas and is Groups Team Leader for the Extropy Institute, a futurist organization. She serves on the board of directors of both the National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation.

For science fiction lovers, space travel is a form of entertainment, but Elaine feels it's something more.

"We have always been a frontier species, since our beginnings. We will always need a new frontier beyond our horizons," she said. "The only periods of time throughout the millennia where humans have become stagnant socially and technologically coincide with being stagnant geographically, and we aren't left with many new frontiers on the Earth. To continue to evolve and thrive as a species we must push outward into space to create new challenges for ourselves, technologically, socially and spiritually."

"Besides, what if we're someday faced with a natural disaster like an asteroid collision, and we need to evacuate Earth? What about overpopulation? Eventually we'll run out of space on Earth, leaving us with the options of limiting our growth or relying on disease or war to keep the population down. These are depressing alternatives," she said.

"To the contrary, it is a grand adventure to spread out into space and not only learn to adapt to different extreme environments, but learn as much as we can about our universe and where we came from," Elaine said. "I cannot think of a more profound calling."

Elaine is particularly excited about the idea of humans traveling to Mars, and she's been watching developments the Mars Exploration Rover Mission with great interest.

"Although the landers don't carry instruments that would be needed to test for actual life or past life, they're gathering data that will help determine whether Mars was ever conductive to life in the past. If the results are positive then hopefully the next rover to be sent out will be equipped with life detectors! And we finally have a mission that is studying potential radiation hazards to possible future astronaut missions," she said.

Elaine's interest in promoting space exploration started in the early 1990s when she read the "Frontier Files," started by Rick Tumlinson, founder of the Space Frontier Foundation. Tumlinson is one of a "small, potent combination of folks who are really making things happen," Elaine said. Others include Pascal Lee, co-founder and chairman of the Mars Institute and leader of the research on Devon Island with the NASA Haughton-Mars Project; Henry Vanderbilt, Director of the Space Access Society, known for "keeping NASA on its toes"; and Peter Diamandis, founder of the X-Prize Foundation, sponsor of the X-Prize, a $10 million prize to jumpstart the space tourism industry.

When asked about her interest in science fiction dealing with space, Elaine admitted that she doesn't read much science fiction, though (not surprisingly) she has read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Series, as well as most of David Brin's books and Isaac Asimov's works.

"I like his science fiction, but even more, I like to read his short essays on different science related topics," Elaine said. "He can actually write an article describing the different atmospheric layers of Earth's atmosphere, and make it interesting and even humorous. I have been caught laughing out loud on NYC's subways, learning the most mundane of science facts via Asimov."

Having watched plenty of bad Mars movies, she would like to see a realistic movie about pioneers settling in s - Ultraverse, by Chris Africa, Vol 1, issue 3


Our incipient Geek Goddess section is ready to go and to that end we've managed to get some time with electronic music legend Elaine Walker of ZIA. Part pop band, part electro-industrial outfit, part pro-space lounge act, for the last decade ZIA have been performing a wholly unique kind of music. Using hand-crafted electronic instruments to write and perform complex, microtonal pop songs inspired by space exploration, the writings of Zecharia Sitchen and Elaine's dreams, ZIA remain an experience unlike any other.

Happy to build drum kits out of circuit boards, chat up space luminaries, hack C code, and make a holy racket at rock clubs, Elaine been called a genius, a goddess, and for all we know a geek as well. - Geek Goddess, by Steven W. Schuldt, Semptember 30, 2000


Local Musician And Corporate Exec Work Together On Proposed Spaceport For The Average Citizen

"I'm reading about satellites. I'm reading about companies," trills Elaine Walker's voice over a deep, warbling synthetic bassline. "I'm reading government policies. I've read about the shape of the universe." She's on stage at the Continental in Manhattan, wearing a very tight silver spacesuit. On either side of her, the other two members of Zia, the "pro-space" electronic band she founded in Boston 10 years ago, are striking circuit board MIDI triggers with drumsticks. "The vela supernova," Walker continues to sing as she slinks and bounces in time with the circuit-board percussion. "I've read about the Mars Lander Rover." As far as I can tell - I'm squinting at a Quicktime clip of the video on the band's website, www.ziaspace.com - Walker's bandmates seem to be clad in garbage bags and duct tape.

In a telephone interview, Walker said that the video was for a Spacewatch.com documentary. Since the website's audience tends to be older and more conservative than most New York clubgoers, Walker explained, "We didn't dress as sexy as we usually do."

With a repertoire of unearthly synth sounds and lyrics that advocate human expansion into outer space, Walker and her band have gained a following among astronomers, rocket engineers, and science fiction buffs. Walker has performed at several space conferences and sci-fi conventions around the country, and last year New York's Village Voice honored Zia with the title of Best Band to Belong on Mars.

When she's not performing, writing songs, or designing and building electronic instruments, Walker serves as president of the New York City chapter of the National Space Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes human space exploration.

According to her biography on Zia's website, Walker became interested in space travel in the early 90s, after graduating from Berklee College of Music. By the mid-90s she had begun attending lectures offered by the Boston chapter of the NSS, which elected her president after four months.

Walker moved to New York in 1999 to work on her Master's degree in Music Technology at NYU. Shortly after making NYC her home, she founded a new chapter of the NSS. It was in this role that she met entrepreneur Michael Urban, and his plan to build the world's first public spaceport.

[...] - Weekly Dig, by Eoin O'Carroll



ZIA's music tends to be very fast and aggressive, and Walker shifts between distorted yells and more traditional singing. Walker does occasionally break out of this mold, most notably on "Stick Men," a slow, haunting song with powerful vocals. Like most of Walker's music, "Stick Men" is written entirely in microtuning, and the technique is particlaulry effective in the song.

Microtonal composition breaks away from the standard 12-tone piano tuning. Walker uses 19 note per octave tuning, as well as the octave-less Pierce Scale. Walker was first exposed to it at Berklee School of Music and says it has changed the way she looks at music. "Ever since I was in first grade, I remember asking my mom 'what about the notes in between?'," she says."So I've always known there were other notes, but I was so young I hadn't even explored this [12 tone] tuning. "It's a beautiful tuning, and it's worked for hundred of years," says Walker of the traditional tuning system. "I still think it's a great tuning, but my god, we've been using it for so long, and isn't anyone getting sick of it? Doesn't anyone really think about that?"


Originally from New Mexico, Walker's first band, Blue Cartoon, was an outfit with more of a Berlin/New Order sound. While Walker was into this kind of music, she also listened to hardcore and even played synthesizer for a hardcore band at one point. Upon moving to Boston and going to clubs, Walker discovered bands like Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy and realized that these two styles could be brought together.

[...] - Chaos Control Magazine, by Bob Gourley, 1993


Martians (2006)
Big Bang! (2000)
Disevolution EP (1998)
Shem EP (1996)
ZIA v1.5 (1994)


Feeling a bit camera shy


ZIA is an exclusively electronic band who began performing on the East Cost in 1992 and have since made their way to Arizona.

ZIA bangs out pro-space and sci-fi music on futuristic instruments. The notes and samples are triggered ALL LIVE with drum sticks!

Microtonal musical scales run rampant throughout the ZIA repertoire, adding an eerie, futuristic edge to the songs.