The All-Stars: N.A.S.A.

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Photograph by Nick Zinner
WRITTEN BY
Steve Kandell

FACE TIME: Ever since A-listers lined up to virtually duet with Frank Sinatra in 1993, pop collaborations have become devalued as events, even as they've increased in frequency. But unlike your standard rap remix featuring phoned-in cameos, the cavalcade of stars guesting on N.A.S.A.'s The Spirit of Apollo -- the brainchild of Squeak E. Clean (né Sam Spiegel, brother of Spike Jonze, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' coproducer) and Brazilian DJ Ze Gonzales -- delivered their verses in person, and together. With one exception. "Tom Waits and Kool Keith in the same room was just gonna be too weird," Spiegel says of their suitably eerie team-up, "Spacious Thoughts." "They're totally in their own worlds."

Watch: N.A.S.A., "Hip Hop" featuring KRS-One, Fatlip, & Slim Kid Tre

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: Spiegel and Gonzales started concocting baile- funk-influenced tracks right after they first met in 2003, but it wasn't until a year later, when they corralled Karen O, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and the Pharcyde's Fatlip to record "Strange Enough," that the concept of doing an entire album this way took hold. Five years and countless phone calls later, David Byrne, Kanye West, M.I.A., and Chuck D are among the visiting dignitaries. When the percussive "Whatchadoin?" needed guitar heroics, Spiegel tracked Nick Zinner to an L.A. hotel. "He said, 'Dude, I just took a Valium, I don't want to do anything,' " Spiegel says. "But he fi nally came over and completely destroyed it."

SPACE ODDITIES: Spiegel and Gonzales are consulting the Wayne Coyne handbook as they craft their live spectacle, which will stop at Coachella in April. "We have Martian booty-dancer girls, crazy cyclops aliens, people in astronaut suits," Spiegel says. Just don't expect a sequel to Apollo anytime soon. "It was a massive undertaking and the idea of spending six years doing another is daunting," he says. "But you never know."

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