Powerman 5000

An interview with Spider One
by Tommy Rage
June 2019

Spider One of Powerman 5000

Spider One of Powerman 5000

When global annihilation, robots with supernatural powers, and dead cross-dressing punk stars are your musical themes, you know that you are out there to have fun. That is exactly what Powerman 5000 has been doing for the last 25 years. Releasing their ninth album in October 2017, New Wave, vocalist and band originator Spider One has continued to carry on the success of Powerman 5000 with his misfit musicians: Ryan Hernandez (guitars), Ty Oliver (guitars), Murv Douglas (bass) and DJ Rattan (drums).

The success of Powerman 5000 came early on for the band with their third release in 1999, Tonight the Stars Revolt! Radio stations across the US embraced the bands hybrid mix of Nu Metal and electronica on songs such as “Supernova Goes Pop”, “Nobody’s Real” and the chart-topping hit “When Worlds Collide”. Spider continued his success with Powerman 5000 with hits, “Time Bomb”, and “Bombshell”, as he entertained fans with the bands evolving music style mixed with his love of pulp science fiction, avant-garde themes and uncensored lyrics. The band’s 2017 release New Wave continued that theme explains Spider. “New Wave, its classic Powerman 5000, but I would say that the one difference is that we scaled back a little on the electronics and it has a bit more of a dirty vibe to it – which always lends itself to a great live performance and playing it live. It’s a down and dirty Powerman record.”
 
The first single that came off the record was an ode to one of Spider’s long-time musical influences. Spider talks about where “Sid Vicious In A Dress” came from. “I was about 14 or 15 years old when I stumbled on to old punk. It was music that connected with me as a kid, and it made me want to start playing music and be in a band. Before that, it was just whatever was on the radio. But as soon as I stumbled on to the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Clash, it was game on from that point and I knew that being in a band was the coolest thing you could do.” 

Being such an outspoken frontman for Powerman 5000, Spider doesn’t hold back on sharing his thoughts and emotions, especially when it comes to paying tribute to one of his personal rock icons with the song “David Fucking Bowie”. “I’ve always been more attracted to bands and singers that seem otherworldly. I think there is a place for the t-shirt and jeans and the grunge thing, but at the end of the day, I was a kid who loved KISS, Elton John and David Bowie, punk bands and bands who were image conscious. Even new-wave stuff like Devo; it was always stuff like that [which] stuck with me. It seemed like there were these people that came from another place and knew things I didn’t know [laughter], and David Bowie was the king of that. Not only musically, but stylistically, in terms of challenging the audience to accept very strange things and I love that kind of stuff.”

All 10 tracks on New Wave have that 90’s metal feel, which stays true to the Powerman 5000 sound. Songs like “Footsteps and Voices” and “Die on Your Feet” are reminiscent of early PM5K songs. Spider slows the records briefly with “No White Flag”, only to return with punkish-metal anthems like “Get a Life”, and “Hostage”. The sound of the band’s early influences can be heard throughout New Wave, and were perhaps best shown back in 2011 when the band released a full length cover-album tilted Copies, Clones & Replicants. Spider explains how their cover album came about. “That wasn’t even supposed to be a record [laughter], it was just this weird project. We got approached by a record label to do 12 or 13 cover songs that they could use for licensing and promoting. So we said ‘Yes’. Then they said that they were going to release it as an album. It shows the influences over the years that I’ve taken from anything in the 80’s, which were formative to me, and it was right in the middle of my youth. We listened to those records (Van Halen, Devo, The Cars, INXS, Twisted Sister) and they were 80’s-centric. When people look back at the 80’s, sometimes they think of it as a joke, but I think our cover album gives some perspective on how great those bands really were. At the end of the day, I think it came out pretty cool.” 
 
Having created and produced the horror/black comedy series Death Valley for MTV in 2011, and non-stop touring with Powerman 5000, Spider isn’t one to sit still for very long. Revealing the news about a new album, Spider hints at what’s in store for the band’s twelfth release. “The album is close to being done. It’s more of just trying to figure out how to present it. It was once where you could write an album with ten or eleven songs on it and put it out, but now the possibilities are endless. For us, it’s more about how we release it. We could start releasing stuff tomorrow if we wanted, but we are trying to figure out the best and most creative ways to do it. We are bringing out one new song for this tour, so they will hear at least one new song.”

Continuing to create new music and still receiving extensive radio play for older Powerman 5000 hits, Spider is proud of the bands 90’s hits. “That album (Tonight the Stars Revolt!) was our biggest success in regard to notoriety and songs. It was really a complete shock and surprise that it happened. When we made that record, I thought that it was a very strange kind of record that would only appeal to certain kind of people. There weren’t too many people singing about worlds colliding and making videos with the lead singer shooting lasers out of his hands [laughter]. I thought only nerds would like it. Then radio stations started playing it and MTV played our videos and the next thing you know, we had a hit record. I never thought in a million years it would be a cult following [laughter]!”

Gearing up for a stop in Janesville at the Back Bar on Friday June 21st, Spider notes how much he loves playing in Wisconsin. “We love playing the Madison area, it’s a weird oasis in the middle of the Midwest. We’ve played so many events and shows in that area, like Taste Of Madison; which is real trippy. It’s massive and you play facing the capitol, it’s got such a great visual. It’s where people just get it. It’s one of those places where it shouldn’t be as cool as it is.” 

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CD: New Wave Record Label: Pavement Music
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