MARTINI RANCH were a project made up of the late cult Hollywood actor Bill Paxton (Near Dark, Weird Science, Aliens) and the multi-talented musician Andrew Todd, who in 1988 on their one and only LP Holy Cow, carved out a bizarre yet fun synth laden venture that not only encapsulated their own unique musical and visual talents, but also those of their peers.
Along for the ride were members of DEVO, who undoubtably played an influence in MARTINI RANCHs’ sound. Bob Casale takes on selected production duties, with Alan Myers lending his drum skills and Mark Mothersbaugh on keyboards and vocal sample duties. Alongside this welcome addition was Cindy Wilson from THE B-52’s, who’s distinctively pitched vocals feature heavily across the tracks ‘World Without Walls’, Hot Dog’ and opener ‘New Deal’. Even more intriguing is the appearance of follow actors Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop), who is credited as a whistler on ‘Reach’, and Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) who donates his voice to the informercial satire ’Fat-burning Formula’.
But the madness doesn’t stop there. Drafted in to take care of visual duties was Hollywood luminary James Cameron (The Terminator, Aliens) who directed his one and only music video – the epic neo-western ‘Reach’ which featured a smattering of faces from the era including fellow director and Cameron’s soon to be wife Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Near Dark), Judge Reinhold, and Paxton’s Aliens/Terminator alumni Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser and Jenette Goldstein. All dust, motorcycles, female bodybuilders and sci-fi leanings, the video was as large in scale as you would expect from the people behind it.
On the flip side of this was another video directed by photographer Rocky Schenck (who Paxton had incidentally worked with on Barnes and Barnes ‘Fish Heads’) for ‘How Can The Labouring Man Find Time For Self-Culture’. This video took a different approach, mimicking the dystopia present in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and German Expressionism, once again with friends and acquaintances in tow including another Paxtons’ Weird Science co-star Anthony Michael Hall and Aliens co-star Michael Biehn.
Some would say Martini Ranch were perhaps an indictment of the time, but the genius of it’s inception surely lies in that very premise and it’s undeniable that the talents of Todd and Paxton do in fact make for one hell of an interesting pop group.
Infectious, satirical, avant, pop and unashamedly overboard, in 2017 it’s hard to believe a musical project this big yet bizarre even existed. Well it did, and here it is.