getting animated with Ken Jay!
We all know Static-X is intense, and during an interview with drummer Ken Jay I found out they’re really a cool bunch of guys too.
We discussed a lot in our half hour conversation, mostly music, but also touched upon the departure of previous guitarist Koichi, meeting Tommy Lee, being an influence, and the Catcher In The Rye. These guys are as real as you can get.
You wanted Static-X. We’ve got them.
How is everything falling into place?
Perfectly. Honestly, the best thing about finishing the record is getting back on the road again. It’s been more fun for us since we got Tripp in the band, he’s a lot more vocal and adds a lot to our image onstage. He’s a trip to be around. We’re having a blast.
How long was the record in progress?
We started tracking in early November and wrapped it up around February. We recorded in our practice space. We didn’t mix there though. It was kind of casual. We took a couple days off at Thanksgiving, I took a couple weeks off around Christmas, Wayne got a cold for a little bit so we took a week off. It was really casual, and really good. We were really prepared and did a lot of work. Mixing was probably three weeks.
Having the experience, was the approach any different recording Machine?
Well, we were pretty prepared the first time we went in. That is just one of the strong points to this band. We’ve always been over-prepared. This time around it was the same thing except it was a lot easier. Last time around we tracked some of my drum parts in the practice space and then added more in the studio, this time we did everything there and then mixed at a studio. Working in the practice space was such a better process. We had all the gear, why not do it?
You guys are obviously influences on lots of kids. How does it feel to have such an impact?
It’s great. Wayne and I personally never considered ourselves masters of our instruments, but we knew we were good and we were always going to be well rehearsed. You know, I’m a huge sports fan and I have no problem admitting I was an athlete in high school, but even at that time I was ostracized because I was good in sports, but I also was good in art and read a lot. I get really disappointed now when kids are shut down or discouraged from the arts yet everyone wants their kids in sports. Some parents think their kids aren’t normal if they aren’t a football or basketball player. That’s just a bunch of crap.
Is there anyone when you were growing up you really admired or idolized?
There were a lot of people like that and then I grew out of it. I met a couple of guys when I was younger and it shut down my perception of what they were going to be like. They were assholes. That’s why Static-X has always presented themselves as normal guys, because everybody has a bad day. At least if you are a normal guy and you have a bad day people are a lot more understanding. If you are mister rock supergod and you have a bad day then that is not acceptable. Rock stars don’t have bad days. So I pretty much grew out of that phase. Tommy Lee was a big deal. I met him last summer and he is really a great guy.
I think that most twelve to fifteen-years-olds see groups as being out of this world. Motley Crue was like that for me too.
Dude, Tommy was such a huge deal to me. I’m still awed by the fact that he is such a great guy. I’ve always thought maybe he was getting a bum rap for the Pam thing. After meeting him I think he did get a bum rap. I think he is bad boy by reputation only. He is just a really cool guy who wants everybody to have fun. Music is that guy’s life, music and his kids.
Do you think that we don’t have the rock gods like Motley Crue anymore because there is just so much exposure now with bands or do you think it’s because there are just so many bands to choose from?
I think the fans have a lot more access to us. It’s good in a lot of ways but more harmful in ways. You always have to watch for that lone nut out there that puts you on the pedestal. There are some real nutty people out there, and I’m not saying I’m sane by any means. (laughs) People get really intense about this, and I appreciate that, but it can put you in some scary situations. It’s all about the access. Bands can choose to go with it or run from it.
I always think of Kiss. When I was growing up, the only time you saw them is either from the rare magazine article or their album covers.
Think about how much that stigma has sold.
Even when they weren’t great.
Exactly. They sold the biggest chunk of their albums in the ’80’s!
And those were the worst albums.
Yeah, the best were between ’73 and ’77.
The makeup years.
Are there any bands out there that you like today?
There are no bands out there that have had much of an effect on me since, well, I have to admit, even though people slammed it, that Korn’s last album moved them. The first was great, the second was pretty good, the third was ummmm, and the last one I kind of think there was something really intense there.
Do you find that you listen to older stuff?
Yeah. I’m going through a big Police thing. I’m a huge, huge Police fan. I think those were three of the most talented guys to end up in a band. People who say they don’t like the group because they aren’t heavy enough are crazy. Ghost In The Machine is one of the darkest albums ever recorded. It may not be super loud, but it has such a dark edge to it.
Sting has the most distinct voice. I mean, you can’t deny how it gets into you.
No joke. I was just sitting around the other day thinking about how bad I wanted to hear the song “Omega Man”. That to me is a really heavy song. It has great lyrics and sounds so huge. I broke that out of the box set and they didn’t remaster it and it’s just so heavy. I love it.
Being that you spend so much time on the road, are there qualities you see in the other guys that you would like to have?
No. I hate those guys. (laughs) We are all alike in a weird way. I admire them for putting up with me. We’ve all been, well, obviously Koichi (Fukuda, ex-guitarist) couldn’t take it. Sometimes I wonder if it was something about the band. He just was never a good communicator and it wasn’t the language barrier, he just didn’t give a shit. He didn’t care about anything other than himself. So it was like, ‘Okay, goodbye.’ The four of us, man, I don’t know about their qualities. We just have fun. You know, that is one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked.
Cool. I just find it interesting because the best bands always somehow took a few guys who had their own strengths and together they were invincible, like the Beatles and even the Police. It’s like a perfect puzzle.
I know. There are little things about each of us. Tony (Campos, bass) is pretty messy. Wayne (Static, singer/guitar) and I are both neat freaks. Tripp, we are still learning. As far as individual qualities, it’s so weird to talk to all of us. I was the only one that was sort of a popular guy in high school. I never had a best friend, I was kind of loner in a weird way, and we were all like that. Music was the one constant in our lives. We are very different people and I admire all of them.
Speaking of being on the road, how do you keep the intensity up?
Nobody in the band really parties. There are no drug users. I’m the only addict in the band, which is smoking. I’m allergic to pot. Wayne will have a few drinks at night to sleep, because he doesn’t sleep well on the bus. The stage is our therapy. It doesn’t take much to remember what frame of mind you were in when you wrote a certain song. And then you throw the crowd into that and there is the intensity.
When the crowd roars, that has to really get you high.
Totally. We always have prided ourselves on being well rehearsed. We are very territorial when we are onstage. It’s like this stage is ours for the next hour and if you invade it we will kill you. (laughs) Other than that we are happy-go-lucky. Just don’t threaten me onstage because I will kill you. (laughs)
Is it hard to come down after the show is over?
You have to leave it out there. It sounds schizophrenic. Like athletes think of themselves wholly as the guy on the field. That isn’t healthy. If that is the only thing you associate with then there is something wrong. That is why it took Troy Aikman so long to retire. He didn’t think he could do anything else. I know this is the best way for me to get out my aggression and frustration of the past, but do I think I’m always going to have to do that? No. I love doing it, but do I want to be forty-five-years-old playing a song called “I’m With Stupid”? No. Besides, look at the examples we’ve got. Look at the Stones. Give it up.
That is probably the best example. They are such legends, and what is worse is everyone remembers you for what you’ve done lately.
Same goes with athletes. Like they talk about Jordan coming back. How much would that tarnish his reputation if he sucks?
Exactly. I don’t think he would, especially being a Chicagonian and huge Bulls fan. If the Stones would have stopped with Steel Wheels…
It would have been perfect.
Yeah. And the last ten years I’ve been like, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing?’
You still want to see them because it’s like seeing a car wreck.
(laughs hard while trying to speak) I’m trying not to laugh at that, but it is so right. (continues to laugh)
You can’t take your eyes away form it even though you know it’s so wrong.
Exactly. (still laughing) This is so wrong. It’s like the old saying, ‘It’s like watching old people fuck.’ That’s what it’s like. (we both laugh) I get that when I watch those guys. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of theirs.
I’m a fan too. Not huge, but a fan so I can respect their past, but that last album was embarrassing.
Yeah. What were they thinking?
Good question. They’ve seemed to be a band that found the road to be home. Is that what it’s become for you?
I’m comfortable with it. Obviously twenty-two months of it does get old. By the time we got done touring, we were a machine. We didn’t have to manufacture anything. But everything about it was tough. We were all on one bus and it seemed like everybody was fighting. The band always got along good, at least Wayne, Tony and I. But it was really time to get off the road. It just got old. When your reality is a tour bus, that is bad. So you have to figure out a daily routine away from the road, but we were never allowed that because Koichi quit the band and it was devastating, but for the long run it was good. I can now look back on it and laugh, but back then I was an emotional wreck at that point. I think that is why I’m so bitter about him leaving, because I never got a chance to relax because of that. So every chance I get, I make fun of him. That is my own little form of therapy. Being on the road is tough and not everyone can do it, but I love it.
The schedules for bands today are so much longer. In the ’60’s and ’70’s, bands didn’t go out like that.
Six to eight weeks would be a long tour.
They could bang albums out every year because they didn’t tour for so long.
I know. We played Boston sixteen times. That is a major market to play that many times. For us, we just rolled with it. But looking back, it was way too long. But the benefit is that we sold cd’s because of it. That is the plus side. It’s not going to happen anymore. We learned we can say no. You have to roll with it and take what you can get though because it is a very harsh industry, but also we can guarantee our sanity for another album if we cut this tour shorter.
Because you went out and hit the road for so long, did you have the experience of a lifetime?
We had a lot of knowledge before we went into it. We have always been more prepared than most bands. We had a friend, who was a tour manager for another band, who told us that we learned how to tour faster and more professionally than any band she has ever known. That was a big compliment.
You get good when you’re doing it so much.
I know. You learn about touring, I’m not saying this about fans but people in general, you see the bad side of human nature. You see it a lot touring because your bus is your safe house. It takes you a while to realize it, because for the first few months you are doing anything possible to get off that bus and explore and then after that you want to stay on it. It’s a scary world out there.
I remember being at a show with Fastball and we were on the bus behind the Goo Goo Dolls and there were always people standing around it. All I could think about is how they were like prisoners.
Yeah. I mean, we aren’t as big by any means as they are, but there are some towns where you do feel like that. Like talking about fans. I really enjoy the fact that someone got something positive from our music and it has changed their lives for the better. We’ve always believed no one was going to give it to us and that we had to work our asses off to get it. We hope to convey that through our music. But on the other hand, you wonder if someone is out there with a copy of Catcher In The Rye and a handgun. And that was twenty years ago.
We went on to talk for a while about music and all of those idols come and gone. At the end of the conversation, I asked Ken how he wanted to come away after it’s all over and done. His answer: ‘Just a regular guy.’
+ charlie craine