American rock band Powerman 5000, known for their unique sound, a concoction of rock, industrial and alternative rock, and punk, continue to create and be innovative with their latest masterpiece of madness, the LP entitled New Wave.
New Wave was released last October via Pavement Entertainment with the goal to recreate the noise of a live show. Songs like “David Fucking Bowie” (tribute), “Cult Leader”, and “Sid Vicious in a Dress”, bound to join a list of the bands classics. Singles such as “When Worlds Collide” and “Nobody’s Real” as well as their most recent chart topping single “How to be a Human”.
Powerman 5000 has found commercial success over the years, ranging from soundtracks for television, film, as well as video games. Film soundtracks such as Dracula 2000, Blade II, Freddy vs. Jason, Little Nicky, Spawn, Zoolander and Bride of Chucky have all featured their work. One of the bands most popular tracks, “When Worlds Collide” can be found on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video game.
Music Madness located Spider One in Flint, MI getting tattooed while on tour and checked in on the state of Powerman 5000.
Spider One: Just full disclosure for this interview, as we speak, I’m getting a tattoo, so if I scream or wince, it’s not you. It’s just that I’m in pain.
Music Madness: No worries, man. You getting a Mike Tyson style tat? Where and what are you getting?
Spider One: Yeah. I’m getting my entire face tattooed ’cause I want to be hip like the young rappers these days.
I am in Flint, Michigan and I am getting the ultimate nerd tattoo, it’s a tattoo of Mr. Spock from Star Trek on my arm.
Music Madness: Right on. I know you guys have been on the road a ton this summer, I had the opportunity to see you guys back to back in April in Tampa and then Orlando. Did someone steal equipment from you guys while playing in Florida?
Spider One: Oh yeah! That was those outdoor festivals… Yeah that was weird. We hadn’t been to Florida in forever, like I couldn’t even remember. For whatever reason it’s just never on the routing, so it’s kind of nice to get down there and play some shows.
We played a show in Cape Coral, which I’d never heard of before and yeah we had some gear stolen but it’s like, of course. It’s like this running gag on; I think it was Adam Carolla used to do this game “Did it happen in Florida or Germany?” And it was always like terrible, horrible, ridiculous things. And it was always either Germany or Florida.
They actually found the guitar. The police actually found the guitar which was kind of amazing, I was shocked. I mean we’ve been touring for, God I can’t remember how long and that’s the first time we’ve ever had that happen so … Pretty good luck. It’s bound to happen to everybody.
Music Madness: One of the cool things about Powerman 5000 is that you always seem to break the mold. It’s never what the hip thing to do is, it’s whatever you guys are feeling at that moment, it’s never based on what everyone else is doing, and that holds true on the latest LP, NEW WAVE. Is that by design?
Spider One: I think it’s, for better or worse, it’s just my natural instincts. It just never seems to be… I’m either like, ahead of the curve or behind it or somewhere on the side of it but yeah, I never seem to be where everybody else is at the moment, which I’m thankful for. I don’t know if it’s helped us or hurt us in the long run. Look, I think a lot of bands are motivated by “how can we be more like that band?” Or “how do we get on the radio?” So they generally try to adapt to what’s going on. Oh, that hurts, ouch. I’m getting tattooed.
But for me, it’s sort of the other way around, I always just kind of go like “well what do I feel like doing?” And sometimes that lines up with popular opinion and sometimes it doesn’t but I feel like I’m the one that has to go out there for two years and play these songs and talk about them so I might as well at least stand behind them. And I think, too, like a lot of my sensibilities… You know, I grew up a Boston punk rock kid, you know what I mean? So for me it was never about trying to fit in or be popular, it was just about following your own path and so I’ve just never really strayed from that attitude.
Music Madness: You know, the lyrics and the names of some of the songs … Especially on the more recent album, New Wave, gives me this industrial punk version of some old school Frank Zappa stuff. Just a little more in your face.
Spider One: You’re the first to ever put those two thoughts together, but I’ll take it. I think I know what you mean; it’s almost like you’re tackling real subject matter but in a way that’s unconventional and almost humorous in a sense. You know, you don’t take it incredibly serious. I’ve always been a fan of a lot of British bands, because I think they have a very unique take, lyrically and otherwise, whereas American bands tend to be a little more obvious. When I listen to rock radio, all I hear is a bunch of bands talking about fighting back and standing up and not backing down, and I don’t even know what they’re talking about. Like, I’m not quite sure what they’re standing up against. So yeah, I always liked bands that were a little more quirky and clever in the way they approached stuff.
Music Madness: The band has been touring machine since the release of New Wave last fall. Is that by design, to put out new music, then get out there, and tour, tour, tour?
Spider One: I think, to me, it’s sort of like the last thing you have as a band, you know. Everything has gone to streaming and there’s not really the excitement anymore of putting out albums and having that physical product in record stores and all that stuff. It’s gone, so the live aspect has always been the heart of a real band and still continues to be and really now, it’s kind of the last thing you have, and I feel like you live and die by it. You’ve gotta go out there and prove yourself every night, every time you play a show you know inevitably there’s people there seeing you for the first time and you have a chance to win over a fan or have them walk out thinking you suck, so you know… It’s kind of, what we do.
We try to do it as much as we can; I don’t tour nearly as much as we used to but I feel like we’re always somewhere on the road, doing something.
Spider One: I mean I love all of it because it’s all creating. That’s all I know how to do, to kind of make something out of nothing. Whether it’s writing songs or I’m home working on some kind of script or comic book or whatever, trying to pitch a TV show, I approach it all with the same energy and excitement. It’s nice to balance though, because sometimes you will get burnt out. You go on the road, you do 30 shows and then you want to think about something else other than Powerman, so it’s nice to have other outlets, you know… There’s painting or whatever it is, to focus on.
Music Madness: Very cool. The one thing that always blows me away about PM5K, I think it’s amazing because most people don’t realize it, is how many soundtracks and video games use Powerman 5000 music. How did all of that come about?
Spider One: Yeah, that was something we really focused on a lot, early on when we first started putting out major records on DreamWorks and stuff. It really wasn’t that accepted by bands, a lot of bands were really precious about their music and didn’t want it on video games or on movies and for us it was like “Yeah!” Like anything, any video game, any movie… Anything at all, we were super excited to be a part of it.
It was just our philosophy from the beginning; let’s just say yes to anything because we figured who cares how someone finds out about the music, as long as they find out about it. So it ended up paying off pretty big, we got on a bunch of soundtracks and then a big video game; we were on that Tony Hawk video game which to this day, people still come up to me and tell me that’s how they discovered the band. It’s just a matter of being open to these outlets that many other bands weren’t open to.
Music Madness: I did laugh, though, I started looking at all these credits and I was like “seriously?” Were you guys on 90210, or did you guys do music for it?
Spider One: No, we were on it. It was crazy. This is ancient history; 1994, I think? And we were just this local Boston band kicking around. I think at the time I was essentially homeless, just couch hopping because I didn’t have any place to live. Then through a friend of a friend of a friend one of our early EPs got in the hands of Jason Priestly, who was a star on the original 90210 and he just became a fan and somehow convinced the producers of the show to have us on and we were like “Fuck it, why not? What do we have to lose; we’re a bunch of losers from Boston.”
So we went; they flew us to LA and we did two episodes and it was the most ridiculous, fun thing we’d ever done and we actually got paid and we were like wow, we made some money. It was just a hysterical thing to be a part of that and the history of that show because it was so enormous… I don’t know if people really know now but at the time that show was so popular and just like a cultural phenomenon.
Music Madness: What else do you have going on other than touring? Anything cool coming up with Powerman or with yourself?
Spider One: I’ll be touring clearly; we gotta finish out this headlining run and then September we’re gonna do another quick little couple week run with Mushroomhead and then… You know, honestly the new record isn’t even that new anymore, in October it’ll be a year so it’s really time to start writing some new songs and thinking about the next one. I think over the holidays we’ll just be doing a lot of songwriting and recording.
Music Madness: Now that the LP has been out while how has it been received? I saw where there was some initial confusion on the “David Fucking Bowie” song where some people didn’t understand it was a tribute.
Spider One: Oh yeah, look. Any time you put out a record, because now everyone has a voice… It used to be like you’d get a review in a magazine and now it’s like you get 10,000 reviews from everyone who feels like putting a comment on something so you’re always gonna get some good and bad. I will say that overall, the response from the fans for this new record is great and we played a few songs from the new album live and they’re going over great. I think people are digging it because it’s maybe a little more raw than the last couple of records and I think it’s really been going over well with everybody.
Music Madness: Alright, cool. Thanks for your time and good luck on the tattoo as well as the remainder of the tour.
Spider One: Awesome. Thanks a lot, man.
Current Members: Spider One (Michael Cummings) – lead vocals, DJ Rattan (Rattan Cayabyab) – drums, percussion, Murv3 (Murv Douglas) – bass, Ty Oliver – lead guitar, Erik Himel – rhythm guitar
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Interview by Steve Carlos