It’s hard to believe how many bands nowadays have either passed or are approaching their twenty year anniversary. Powerman 5000, in existence now since 1991, is still hard at work, writing, recording and releasing new music. Even though the band has gone through several line-up changes over the years, the one constant has always been frontman Spider One (also known for being the younger half-brother of Rob Zombie). The band hit its peak in popularity after the release of 1999’s Tonight the Stars Revolt! which produced the hit singles “When Worlds Collide” and “Nobody’s Real.” The group’s latest record is called Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere came out in October and is classic Powerman 5000. The band will be out touring behind the new record which should keep them busy for virtually all of 2010. Recently we caught up with Spider to talk a little bit about the new album and what’s been going on with Powerman lately.
Your new album is called Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere. Now that it’s just about the drop, how do you feel about the record?
Spider: You know it’s funny I guess we just put up a listening party on some site that you can go stream the whole album and I actually did it and I was really excited to hear it you know, to hear it with fresh ears again in a different context. I haven’t been this excited about an album in a long time, I feel like we really nailed it. We set out with a real specific purpose on this album which was to reclaim a certain sound that I think we had a big part in creating and bringing back that sci-fi element that really was such a big part of this band that we sort of strayed away from on the last couple of records and fans I think were really kind of wanting it back. And finally, those two things came together which was what we wanted to do and what the fans wanted and I think this album clearly just hits it out of the park. I really think that we captured the spirit of Tonight The Stars Revolt but we’ve gotten better, I’m a better vocalist, we’ve become better songwriters, I’ve got some new guys in the band who really understand how to construct a great song and so yeah, I’m thrilled man.
This is Powerman 5000’s seventh studio album now and first in three years. What would you say is different or new about the new record in comparison to your previous album?
Spider: They’re actually probably polar-opposites. Destroy What You Enjoy was sort of called ‘Destroy What You Enjoy’ for a reason, it was kind of me having to tear it all down because the band had been through so many ups and downs and so many line-up changes and people in and out… some people didn’t quite fit in, you know it was just kind of a mess. So we tried to make this stripped down punk rock record, basically just kind of tearing it all down and all the fans said we hate this and rightfully so, back then I couldn’t quite understand why everyone was so down on the album but now with some perspective I totally get it. You don’t want Star Wars with no spaceships, you kind of expect something from a band and I know that record was a total left turn. But with the new album Somewhere on the Other side of Nowhere, it’s the opposite, it’s sort of a return and puts together all those pieces, I guess what people expect from the band and I guess what we do best, that sort of blend of metal and electronic and dance. So yeah, they really are polar-opposites and I think that it will be a refreshing return to form.
Now this title Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere is an interesting one. Is there a significance or story behind it?
Spider: Not really a specific story, whenever I write or I’m working on stuff I like to surround myself with stuff you know, when we track the music we always have some visuals going, you know Godzilla movies or something, if it sounds good while you’re watching that movie you know it must be cool kind of thing. And the title just kind of popped into my head and it sounded to me like some kind of weird, trippy sci-fi novel or something you know what I mean? And it could be… it almost sounded classic rock but it was very futuristic sounding, you know is it positive, is it negative… I’m a big fan of like ah, I suppose interpretation, a lot of people often say “what’s the message?” and I think that the whole point sometimes is that you know it’s not what’s the message, it’s sort of like trying to find the message you know, search for the message, that’s the fun part and I think that I’m a big fan of that. The title is definitely on track with that philosophy.
What was the writing and recording process like for Somewhere on the Other Side of Nowhere? How many songs did you write in total?
Spider: It was done in so many starts and stops, that’s why it ended up taking so long, the days of the machine, the big label and all those things, they’d give you a bunch of money and you’d sit on your ass for a while, those days are gone, we had to work. We’d come home and we’d work on the record for a week but then it was like “alright we got to go make some money” so we’d go out and tour a little bit then come back home and work on the record for a little while. So it was very much stop and start but the advantage to that was that it really gave us time to live with some stuff and develop the sound of the record so it all feels very… you know it makes sense together. So that was sort of the way it was done and it was done in a very do it yourself way, you know Evan and Dave the two guitar players are very studio savvy so it was a real advantage to have that. It’s very interesting that you can make a record now by yourself that sounds as good as those records that you used to spend half a million dollars making. I mean it’s exciting, it should be encouraging to any kid out there who is sitting around complaining that he can’t catch a break. The breaks are there man, you can do things now that you couldn’t have dreamed of doing when we started, I mean I’ve been doing this for a long time. I remember back when we used to record our rehearsals on cassette tape you know what I mean? Now you can make a god damn record in your rehearsal space. But yeah, it was a very long process.
We didn’t write a lot of songs, we had a lot of ideas but as my guitar players would agree I’m kind of picky so they would deliver a CD with thirty ideas and I would say “well, I kind of like one of them” and they would pull their hair out and go back to the drawing board. But you know, this is the first time I wrote an album with these guys so it was a learning curve you know in terms of what I liked and having to be kind of the last guy to put the stamp on it, they in some ways had to please me which isn’t always easy. But we got it, I think that it took a while but we really gelled at the end and made some amazing stuff.
Now who took care of the production duties on the new record?
Spider: We recorded it ourselves. Evan is like the main guy and he’s like this mad scientist who creates miracles with like the minimalist stuff, he just has this way. You know I think that that’s proof positive that it isn’t about the gear you have and how big the studio is, he just works in the most basic of pro tools situation and creates magic, he really is a talented guy that probably has a big producing career ahead of him, I’m always stunned by what he can pull off. But it was really a combination of everybody getting together and pulling it together, me being the guy, the puppet master you know “do this”, “do that”, “don’t do that.” I’ve always tried to stay away from learning the technical end because I think that it might slow me down a little bit.
Do you have a favourite track on the new album?
Spider: Ah, it sounds like a cop-out but I do like all the songs, I think they’re all strong. I have some favourites, I mean I definitely like “Show Me What You Got” because I think it makes a bold statement of sort of the band being back, it’s just such a great way to open up the album, just crushing you know. But another one I really like which is the sort of left turn in a way is this one called “Do Your Thing” which is just sort of like one of those super infectious songs and I hate to use the word pop because will think of pop and they think “The Jonas Brothers?” It still rocks and it’s very Powerman but there’s something about it and you know a lot of people have responded you know it was one of those risky songs we thought well either people are going to love this song or hate it and so far I’ve had more than one person tell me that’s their favourite track on the album.
You just recently finished filming the video for the album’s first single “Super Villain” with director Robert Hall. Could you let us in on what the video is about or the concept behind it?
Spider: Sure yeah, I mean it’s an interesting idea, we thought that we wanted to frame the death of a super villain and the song would sort of represent his life sort of flashing before his eyes before he dies. The video opens with one last thunderous punch from a superhero to a super villain; the super villain goes down and loses his evil mask which coincidentally looks exactly like the robot masks that the band wears. The super villain is portrayed by this guy Jonathon Schaech who’s an actor who’s been in a bunch of movies but probably most known for his role in this movie called “That Thing You Do,” I don’t know if you remember that, that Tom Hanks movie and it had that song that you couldn’t get out of your head about this band in the ‘50s called The Wonders. Anyhow, he came down and did a great job and played the super villain and so you know he goes down and you kind of get sucked into his brain and we have a great performance. You know we shot the whole thing on green screen which was weird, I’ve never done an entire video on green screen, we haven’t finished the edit yet but it’s a very challenging process. I can’t imagine these movies that are made entirely on green screen, how they can keep track of what they are doing, it all looks the same you know. But yeah, we’re in the middle of editing now, if I hadn’t gotten so ill we’d probably be a little further along in it but we hope to have it done soon and hopefully everybody will dig it.
To promote the new album, you have a number of U.S. tour dates lined up until the end of November. You have so much material to choose from, what can we expect in terms of a set list?
Spider: Yeah it’s always a challenge because you have those people who want to hear old stuff and you have the newer fans who don’t really care about the first album. We like to definitely give a little bit, you know if we can, a little bit from each album. I’m definitely a fan of trying to give people what they want, you know I’m not one of these guys who are like “oh I don’t feel playing ‘When Worlds Collide.'” Man, that’s why people come to the show, they want to hear particular songs. We try to stack it with you know, I use the term loosely but the hits, the most recognizable songs and then we put in the ones that we think are just great fun to play and we definitely want to put a bunch of new songs in the set but we also know that you got to ease people into that. So yeah it’s always a challenge trying to figure out what to play but we do have a lot of material. We usually come up with a pretty decent set, we just did a show in LA and we tried out a couple of more new songs and people really seemed to dig them so maybe we’ll add a couple of more new ones.
What is the song writing process like within the band? Do you do most of the writing or do the other members contribute a lot?
Spider: It’s definitely a combination. The one thing I can say that I write everything is the lyrics and the melodies and stuff. But I’m not a musician, I never really claimed to be, I mean I can sort of get my way around a guitar a little bit and play a couple of beats on a drum kit but I’m that kind of guy. It’s funny, when Dave the other guitar player joined the band he said to me “how did you guys used to write songs?” And I told him I would basically sing the riff and then the guitar player would figure it out and enhance it and he was like “ohh, I knew it, I couldn’t imagine a guitar player writing these songs” which I thought was really funny, I took that as sort of a weird compliment. So sometimes it’s like that you know, it’s an idea, it’s a sound or I have a riff in my head and I sort of sing it to these guys and they figure it out and make it better. But you know, on this album Dave wrote most of the music and Evan closely behind and you know with the rhythm section, there’s a way a bass player plays that a guitar player doesn’t really get so he comes in and adds his flair to it… the drummer always comes up with his own stuff. It’s a collaboration and I’ve always tried to maintain that no matter how many member changes we’ve gone through, I always maintain it as a real band that functions as a band and it’s not a solo project.
What does Powerman 5000 have planned for the New Year?
Spider: There will probably be some more touring, you know I’d love to shoot another video because I love to do that, it’s just fun. I think we tour up until the end of November, then everybody kind of lays low for the holidays, maybe we’ll do a few radio shows here and there and then we’ll see where we’re at in January. As terrible as it is to tour in the middle of winter, you know you always end up in the mid-west somewhere in a snow storm; most likely we’ll be hitting the road again early 2010. [ END ]