Powerman 5000 – Interview [2003]

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Powerman 5000

In Atlanta and sick as a dog, but Spider says ‘the show must go on’.

Have a lot of the questions you’ve gotten lately about the transformation?

I think a lot of people are interested in what has happened and why we had an entire record done and pulled it. It’s a pretty simple story actually. We made a record and when it got down to the wire, it felt wrong. We really make a point to change and grow with each record. That record was a good record and our fans who stole it off the internet seemed to like it, but we didn’t seem to have taken the right steps forward.

I remember doing an interview with you guys for it and I was wondering when it was going to go up.

I know, we did a lot of set up. I think it took a lot of guts for us to pull that record. You work hard and then on the release and it ships a lot of units. It was shaping up to be a hit record and we stopped it for the right reasons.

Was fun to shed the costumes?

It was cool because we are identified with costumes, but what most people don’t realize is that we have three records before Tonight and we never wore costumes. It’s cool to not get to a point where you paint yourself in the corner as the band wears spacesuits. We have new band members and we have been out of the scene for a little bit so it’s a good time to comeback.

In the track “Transform” you sing “You won’t last that long/You might as well transform” is that about continually exploring down the road?

That line could be interpreted many different ways. But one interpretation is that your window to opportunities in life can open or close pretty quickly.

In the last twenty years bands don’t transform, but in the ‘60s band slipped in and out of personas and had fun with it. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

You are right, it doesn’t happen anymore. I think that there was a time in music that it was encouraged and now it is frowned upon because fans are less and less open to change and want the same formula over and over.

It reminds me of Metallica who made a little change that caused a big uproar. But Godsmack puts out an album that virtually sounds the same to all their other albums and they get knocked for not changing. So you really can’t win.

You are right. If you change your fan base cries and if you stay the same they think you are lame. I’d rather have people mad at me because I changed rather than staying the same and playing it safe.

It’s lose-lose for bands. I wonder if listeners are getting lazy. So as an artist is it more important in essence to make music for yourself?

The great thing for me is that my label, Dreamworks, encourages me to take chances, but a lot of record labels don’t encourage it. The rule of thumb is that if you have a formula that works keep milking it for every penny that it’s worth.

Is that the foundation for the track “That’s Entertainment”?

That is the one song where I made it pretty clear about what I was talking about, mostly I like to be pretty vague in my ideas and leave them for interpretation. But that was just a big dumb song about music. Look, I might be part of the problem too. I’m not suggesting that what I do is any different than pop artists, it was more of an observation than anything else.

Well I think with pop they milk and milk fans for everything like you said. But with what we’ve been given in pop is what we used to get when there was quality and foresight.

Everyone wants to make a quick buck. There is no sense of longevity in a bands career and everyone wants to have whatever is next. That is why the music industry is in such a bad place because there are very few career artists. There are big hit records, but when record number two comes around nobody cares.

That makes me wonder about the whole RIAA thing who blame everything on MP3s, but my personal opinion is about just what you said, no one cares about artists anymore because its about the quick fix and not careers.

I think it’s a combination of both. I think it has affected sales. The reason people are stealing music in droves is because the industry has created it’s own problem by making music that is a disposable product. That is translated to kids they might as well steal it because it doesn’t matter. It’s a vicious cycle. It is because music is treated as garbage now and when music isn’t held in high regard there is no guilt involved in stealing it.

I remember being a kid and getting the cassette, getting the insert, getting the lyrics and all of that. You could make a copy of your friends tape, but it just wasn’t as fun. Obviously today it’s a hell of a lot easier downloading an MP3, but there still has to be something said about truly wanting a piece of an artist and having their MP3 just isn’t the same thing.

The other problem is a generation of kids coming up that probably haven’t set foot in a record store and they probably have bigger record collections than we do.

Transform is rock. Does it make for no expectations from here out?

When we make a record there is no real goal in mind except to make the best music we can. The best thing is the chemistry of the band is a lot healthier than it was and it lends itself to a fantastic record because we wanted to play together. In the past we made the albums in bits and parts and I think that lent itself to a more artificial sound.

Do you want fans to listen to the lyrics or just enjoy?

I’m not that choosy. Whatever level a fan connects is cool. But it is encouraging when you meet fans who really get into the lyrics and come up with their own concepts. That is very rewarding, but if a fan likes it because it rocks that is cool too.

Have you noticed that as you grow older that you aren’t as interested in music today that attempts to have that rebellious nature?

I tend to listen to the same stuff that first moved me and I will always relate to that. I do find myself losing a connection with what is going on now, look as you get older you don’t really give a shit about what some kid who is sixteen has to say because you have already lived it. I think there is such an overemphasis on youth today. I made a comment the other day that soon we’ll be listening to bands in diapers. I just think it’s such a manufactured vibe because I don’t believe in these bands who are sixteen years old crafting these pop songs. I don’t buy it. I think these pop rock bands are as manufactured as these boy bands are.

Is there a lack of depth in these new bands? Or is it a false rage because they aren’t the Sex Pistols.

What has happened is that the new generation of bands has maintained the wrong element of the bands they want to emulate. The punk rock bands that are around today haven’t maintained the great element of what punk rock was about which was the meaning behind it. They have the sound right, but they aren’t saying shit. If you put a lyric sheet from Good Charlotte or Simple Plan and put that next to a Backstreet Boy’s lyrics sheet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. They sing about their girlfriends, its bullshit. The Sex Pistols and the Clash sang about ideas and politics, now it’s just about being Southern California goofballs.

They took the marketability of Green Day. Really they took the essence out of punk, it was about going against the rules. They took the punk out of punk.

It’s not even just about punk. There are a lot of bands that are still trying to live off that Nirvana sound. They have the sound right, but there is nothing there. They are an empty shell. I wish more people would tap into what those songs were about instead of just trying to sound like them.

Empty shell, that is perfect. The soul is missing.

It sounds great and right, they are catchy, but there is nothing below the surface.

It all brings me back to the RIAA thing and people stealing music. If you stole music from Nirvana you had the feeling you were hurting someone that was there for you.

Right. With the Clash you felt like those guys were fighting for you and you were part of a community. There isn’t that loyalty to Sum 41. It doesn’t happen that way anymore.

It’s just a bunch of kids with spiked hair and there are more.

Right. Blink-182 replaced Green Day and Sum 41 replaced Blink-182 and Good Charlotte replaced Sum 41 and so on, tomorrow there’ll be more.

What is the plan for the summer?

We are going to go back to our roots and play smaller venues instead of getting out on the road on the big tour packages like Lollapalooza.

Is it a step forward or a step back?

It’s a little of both. I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s all great. But we are taking two steps back out of necessity. We are following up a big hit record but that was three years ago. So I can’t count on anything, but I’d be foolish to think that anyone is waiting for us to come back. We are looking at this as our first record. We are pretending we are a brand new band again and we aren’t making any assumptions. In that respect it’s not taking a step backwards it’s a huge step forward because it is the right thing for our band and for our fans.

I’d assume fans will think it’s sweet to see a band they really like at a smaller venue. Sort of up-close and personal.

Exactly. It’s not the most comfortable place to do it, but in a lot of ways it is more rewarding.

+ charlie craine

1 COMMENT

  1. […] Hip Online caught up with Powerman 5000 frontman Spider One and asked if he thought there was a lack of depth amongst the new crop of bands. “What has happened is that the new generation of bands has maintained the wrong element of the bands they want to emulate,” he said. “The punk rock bands that are around today haven’t maintained the great element of what punk rock was about which was the meaning behind it. They have the sound right, but they aren’t saying sh**. If you put a lyric sheet from Good Charlotte or Simple Plan and put that next to a Backstreet Boy’s lyrics sheet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. They sing about their girlfriends, its bullsh**. The Sex Pistols and the Clash sang about ideas and politics, now it’s just about being Southern California goofballs.” Check out the entire interview here. […]

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