Static-X 2019 Wisconsin Death Trip
photo by Matt Zane
Wisconsin Death Trip. No, it’s not a Travelocity road-trip review. Metal fans will recognize it as the breakthrough album from Static-X. Debuting in 1999, Static-X took metal to a new level. By combining industrial metal, with an evil-disco-electro sound, Static-X soared to the top of the charts with their hits “Push It”, “Bled for Days” and “Love Dump”. With his trademark high-spiked hair and “chintail” beard, the gritty guitar workings and throaty growl vocals of Wayne Static took the L.A. band to the forefront of the Nu Metal scene.
After six albums and a solo project in 2011, Wayne Static tragically passed away in 2014 due to a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs. The tragic passing of Static led to the bands break-up as fans scoured the internet for bootleg recordings and rumors of unreleased material. Now, 20 years after Wisconsin Death Trip was released, a new album has emerged.
The original line-up of Static-X returns with bassist Tony Campos, guitarist Koichi Fukuda and drummer Ken Jay, and features the last recordings of the deceased frontman, Wayne Static. When asked how the project originally began, bassist Tony Campos explained, “We discovered some hidden gems. We found some of the stuff Wayne had left behind, and we thought that fans deserved to hear that stuff. That’s really how the whole thing started. We have been working on it for the last year and a half or so; and we think fans are going to be really happy and excited to hear this stuff and to hear Wayne one last time.”
Set to release later this fall, Project Regeneration is the band’s seventh release and reunited the band with their former producer. Eager fans await the band’s first single, but might have to wait just a bit longer, explains Campos “We don’t have a single yet, but we have narrowed it down to a few songs. We actually just handed stuff off to our long time original producer Ulrich Wild, who is mixing the record for us. We are handing everything over now so when we leave to go out on tour, Ulrich can mix it, and then when we get back it should be ready for a fall release. I just finished some more bass and vocals last night.”
Bringing all three band members back together was a special moment for Campos. “For the three of us to be back together in a room after so many years have gone by, that in and of its self was monumental. It felt really good. I haven’t [played] with (guitarist) Koichi in ten years, and I haven’t played with Kenny in over 15 years. To get to play with these guys again and to play these songs again felt really good! What was funny about playing with them again was that the stuff from the first two records came back automatically. Just simple muscle memory, and it was real easy. The other stuff from the later records, stuff I had to actually go back and listen to the songs [laughter]. I even forgot that I did backing vocals on some of those songs [laughter].”
As the three members pulled the music and previous lost material together for the new album, the decision was made early on not to attempt to replace Wayne. “It was a thing where we didn’t want to present it as ‘Static-X With Their New Singer’. We didn’t want a Van Hagar situation, we didn’t want Static-Hagar [laughter]. The guy we are going out on tour with, who we are calling Xer0 (Zero), is an established musician in his own right; and has had success with his own band. In order to keep the focus on the original band, and on Wayne, we felt that it would be appropriate to hide who he is. Since Xer0 knew Wayne himself, it was personal for him. He felt that in order to capture the vibe and what Wayne was, and to channel the energy of what Wayne was, it was best to hide to identity behind a mask.”
The Static-X evil-disco sound remains alive and well on Project Regeneration, thanks to the unity of all three musicians, and their desire to give fans one last taste of the original Static-X sound through lost tapes of Wayne recorded years ago. Campos explains how the album came together, “Originally is was just five demos that I received from one of our old producers. Tapes that Wayne had given to him before his passing. At first, only one of the songs had Wayne’s vocals on it. In the process of working on this, we found three songs that didn’t make the Start A War (2005) record. So, we kept Wayne’s vocals and rewrote the music, and all of a sudden we had four songs. In the process of looking for our live backing tracks, we discovered another set of demos that Wayne had done and a lot of them just had vocal tracks on them. At that time, Wayne was recording on two different machines, one for vocals and one for guitars. The tapes for his guitars went missing. So we had to rewrite the music, but we had his vocals. It was like doing it the way we did it back with Wayne. We actually had a full album with his vocals, and we really didn’t need any guest vocalist. The majority of the record is going to be Wayne’s vocals. On a few songs we have Xer0 singing, but we managed to get a good friend, Al Jourgensen from Ministry to sing on one song. Al was really cool, and we are huge Ministry fans. If Wayne was alive today, he would be stoked to be doing a song with Al.”
With the 20th anniversary of Wisconsin Death Trip, Campos explains what it was like looking back at their hit album and how that helped them to create a similar sound with their latest release Project Regeneration. “It’s crazy, it doesn’t feel like 20 years”, reflects Campos, “20 years go by in a blur [laughter]. It’s kind of surreal. Recording this album was almost like how we originally worked on stuff. All the songs that made it on Wisconsin Death Trip were done by Wayne coming in with a guitar riff or drum program, and we would jam it out and come up with songs. The bitter part is that he is not here to work with on this album, but still having that process between the rest of us, it put us back in that mindset and brought back a lot of the memories of the early days.”
Having polished their sound with the band’s touring lead singer Xer0, Static-X released a short video of the band with the masked singer preforming the fan favorite song “Bled For Days”. “I’m sure that a lot of fans are wondering how we are going to pull this off”, laughs Campos, “So we gave them a little preview. Wayne definitely had an impact on all of us for sure, it’s unfortunate that he isn’t here with us. Had Wayne been able to overcome his demons and distance himself from his addictions, if he had done that, he would be here right now. You would be talking to him instead of me. We are going out on tour to honor and remember our friend. The moment deserves it, Wayne deserves it, and the fans deserve it, and I think they are looking forward to experiencing Static-X one more time.”
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CD: Project Regreneration