Powerman 5000 – Interview [1999]

Powerman 5000

Talking with Spider.

How’s it going?

Not too bad. I’m hanging in there. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff lately, so I’ve really been busy. I’ve been getting the new video together and we are going to be touring with Kid Rock pretty soon.

What video are you making?

“Nobody’s Real”.

Have you already shot the video?

No, pretty quickly. We are in the planning stages right now.

How involved are you with all of it?

Probably too involved. (laughs) I think I do more than I have to, but that is the way I operate. I engross myself in every aspect of it. I’m designing sets with people, clothes, and writing treatments to the directors. I’m pretty heavily involved all the way around.

I read you like getting into the art for the album cover, producing, and just about everything.

Yeah, I do all the artwork for the cd packaging, all the ads and posters. Stuff like that. So if you see anything and it has something to do with the band, I’m sure at some point my hand was in it somewhere.

I like the artwork too. Our site has a lot of stuff like that from like the ’40’s and ’50’s because it is so positive, yet it seems really odd when you have this ’50’s feel on the same page with, say, Marilyn Manson.

You are right about that and we do base a lot of our stuff on the ’40’s and ’50’s vibe with the old Sci-fi kind of thing.

I know you’ve been asked this a million times, but I guess I still have to ask in case someone doesn’t know: where did the name Powerman 5000 come from?

There was an old super hero in the ’70’s called Powerman and I obviously got the name from there. The 5000 just gave the name a cool sound, a cool vibe, I guess. You know, it gives it that cool feel, like if you say Deathray 2000. No deep meaning behind it.

I read probably fifteen interviews that you’ve done and it seems that no one can get away from saying, “Spider, the younger brother of Rob Zombie”

Yeah, that gets a little overwhelming at times. I’ve been doing this for so long and the band has been together for almost nine years now, and sometimes people don’t do their homework or they just don’t know the history, so that is the only connection they can make. I understand it. And it’s not like I refuse to talk about it, but it does get old.

I don’t think anyone really realizes you’ve had releases before this. How would you say the style has changed?

We try to progress with everything we do; it’s not a calculated thing. We just do what we feel like doing at the time. The band, when we first started, was more rooted in a rap style, like what a lot of bands are doing now we were doing nine years ago. With each record we do, we try a few new musical challenges to keep things interesting.

To test yourself?

Yeah. And we all have so many different influences and interests that we just can’t always do them all, but we try to give ourselves a new way to look at things. We’ll try a new approach vocally, or whenever we write a new crop of songs I’ll always say, “Make sure you do some things you’ve never done before instead of always falling back on what you are comfortable with.” There are a lot of bands that do that. A band will find their sound on a record, then they’ll put out a new one two or three years later and it sounds exactly the same. I never understood that.

Speaking of writing, I was wondering how you write. Do you sit down and try to write or does a melody come into your mind?

It is always a combination. I might come with a line or title of song and I’ll bring it in and someone will have a piece of music. Then I’ll bring that piece home and write the lyrics. It is a back and forth collaboration, musically and lyrically. It isn’t like one guy sits down and writes the whole song. Piece by piece, we’ll put songs together.

What did you grow up listening to?

I lot of different stuff. When I was younger I was a Kiss fan and stuff like that. In high school I grew into the punk-rock scene, like Minor Threat. Then when the hip- hop thing exploded I was into that. I was always finding new things.

Do you remember writing your first song?

My first song? Man. Uh, it definitely wouldn’t have been a Powerman song. I picked up the bass when I was fourteen, and I started a little punk-rock band in high school. That would probably be the first time I wrote a song, but I’d be hard pressed to remember what it was. And I’m sure I’d want to forget, too. (laughs) It was probably a horrible thing.

So you were messing around in bands through high school?

Yeah. I always wanted to be in a band. I was always attracted to that. So from an early age I was doing the music thing. Back then it wasn’t like the thirteen-year-olds today who are so suave to the music business. It seems like kids are just way more educated, with MTV and they are so much more in tune with what is going on. When I was in high school it wasn’t like that. I didn’t know about record deals, major labels, and independent labels. It was just like, “Let’s start a band.” It wasn’t until years later that you could make a living off it.

I remember being a kid and we didn’t even know when a record was being released until it was in the store.

Yeah. There is just so much more information now, for the better, I think.

On the new record, you were involved with the producing. Is producing something you’d like to do with other bands?

Yeah. I’ve been looking for bands to get involved with. When we go on the road, I always encourage people to bring demos because I always like to hear what is going on. Maybe when this settles down and we are done touring for this record, I would definitely like to get involved in the studio with another band. I’m pretty heavily involved with the production side of it with Powerman, so to bring that to someone else would be great. And sometimes it is easier to hear what another band could be doing because you get that distance from it.

Did you pick up a lot from Sylvia Massey (producer of Tonight The Stars Revolt!)?

Yeah, but you can learn from everybody. Everyone we’ve worked with, I’ve taken some knowledge from. Sylvia is all about enthusiasm and experimenting. She just likes to try crazy shit, just to see what happens. She pushes you to not be afraid of failing.

What is the deal with Wal-Mart pulling the album?

You know, there is some dude somewhere on this crusade against music, and I guess we were his flavor of the month. And it is kind of disturbing that some guy can have that kind of power. And the record is pretty clean. There is like one ‘fuck’ on the album. It wasn’t that they pulled it so much, but they wanted a parental guidance sticker on it. They pulled it temporarily, but I think it’s back in stores now. It is just absurd.

Honestly, I didn’t know that the word ‘fuck’ even showed up on there.

It is so subtle and minimal that it boggles my mind that someone would care. I mean, it is one of the fucking cleanest records you could hear. It is funny, the week that that went down, we sold more records than we have so far.

I like the quote in your bio where you quoted Arthur C. Clarke, “The future isn’t what it used to be.” So my question is, and I think this is what you were getting at, do you think our real future is scarier than the one envisioned in the ’50’s?

Yeah. That’s what I was getting at. It seemed back then there seemed to be a much more positive feeling of what the future was going to hold. They believed that the world would be a better place to live and technology would bring good things. Now the vision of the future is pretty pessimistic, with so many problems, like it’ll end up being an overpopulated mess. But sort of looking back on what people used to think is pretty refreshing. It is just a travesty that everyone is just so down-and-out and so negative. In making this record, I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to be like Trent Reznor, where like in every interview he talks about how depressed he is and how life sucks. But in order to get in that mindset I have to look back on a different time and how people used to think.

I was reading an article in Business Week and they had some article on the twenty-one ideas for the next century or something like that, and it was scary. Like computers that would build artificial life, and placing our minds and souls into robots. That is the scariest thing I’ve heard to date.

There is that weird dual problem with technology. On one hand it can bring you wonderful things, but on the other hand it can be bad.

It seems that we just want things to make us lazier.

I often think about things like that, when you think about common everyday household items that you don’t know how they work. Like a cd player with the laser stuff. You take these things as so common place, yet they are so beyond the scope of your average person’s thought process. I mean, you’re like, ‘How the fuck does this thing work?’ (laughs)

Lastly, I was wondering if there was anything you look forward to seeing in the future?

I don’t know. I’ve always been a fan of Sci-fi so it has been more of the surprise of things to happen, for better or worse. I mean, there are things that I have now that didn’t exist when I was a kid, so it is exciting. I guess I look forward to the unknown.

And the fantasy of it?

Exactly. Just to see what will happen. You know what is crazy is that everyone thought that the year 2000-2001 would be the defining of the future, and we are in the middle of that right now.

+ charlie craine

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