Spider One - Powerman 5000

November 8, 2004

You guys got together in the early '90s. Since then, what have you guys been up to?

That's right. We got together, we worked really hard, and we wrote a bunch of songs. Did everything do-it-yourself style back in the day when we lived in Boston and built up a really strong following there which inevitably led to putting out some indie records and that made some noise. That led to DreamWorks signing us back in '97 and we put out a few records for those guys. Made them a bunch of money and sold a couple of million records for them. Then just recently DreamWorks has sort of dissolved basically. They got bought out by Interscope and pretty much fired the whole staff and let a bunch of bands go. It's all about reinventing right now and just keep going. We're writing a new record right now and we're shooting for early next year to put it out.

I find it amazing how a lot of these labels are being bought up and all these people lose their jobs. I think that sucks.

Yeah, it's a bad time in some ways but I think that what's actually good about it, what's going on right now, there are fewer and fewer major labels and they get bigger and bigger because they all merge. What's happening is, it's building a really healthy time for indie labels which have all but disappeared over the last few years. I'm excited about that aspect of music going back to a lot more indie labels because they tend to put out more adventurous stuff. I think in some ways it's going to help at least the creative side of music. It's getting back to bands having to figure out how to do it themselves again. I feel fortunate because that's how we always functioned even when we were on a major label. We never depended upon anyone to do anything for us. Basically we looked at the major label as a bank. A place to get some money but we still did everything ourselves. A lot of bands unfortunately don't think that way and they just point themselves to get a big deal and think that's the end to all their problems.

I think the days of multimillion record deals are long gone.

They're still there for certain people but there's definitely a bigger disconnect between superstars and other bands. I think the fact is that it should have always been like that. The problem with the labels is they would throw enormous amounts of money at anyone they signed which is just crazy. An unproven artist doesn't need to make a million dollar record. It's absurd.

I think you should definitely work for that sort of thing. You've had an interesting history. You guys always put out records where you just had your own sound and you don't sound like anybody else. Every record is a bit different and that's been pretty successful for you guys.

It's definitely the way we approach it. Sometimes I think that that's part of our success and other times I think that maybe that's been one of the things that held us back because it's never been the kind of band to necessarily follow what's hot at the moment. Or like you said, from record to record we definitely try to change things up and not keep repeating the same formula. In fact there was a record that we made in 2001 called Anyone For Doomsday? that I did feel like we sort of repeated a formula. We were coming off our big platinum record and I think there was a moment maybe where we got a little bit complacent and we made a record that in my mind felt like we just followed a pattern. In fact I decided not to put that record out and a lot of people thought that was career suicide and maybe in the long run it was. I don't know. The fact is, sometimes you actually do things because you love to do it and I thought we could make a better record. We pulled that record and took some time and eventually made the record Transform which was an entirely different record. It's interesting but I've always loved bands that challenge their fans and at least attempt to do something different every time they make a record and not put out the same crap all the time.

It couldn't have been too suicidal because here you are with The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, Vol.1.

Which is an interesting record in itself because it's all the really old stuff before anyone knew who we were. It was kind of a fun record to put together. That's exactly why I did it is for fun. I was rediscovering all this old material that we never released. A lot of it I had even forgotten about. I was surprised at how productive we were back then and then I thought it would be an interesting little record to put out on my own label. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, Vol. 1 is for the hardcore Powerman 5000 fan. It's not necessarily the kind of record that is going to capture a mainstream audience. It's just basically a little history lesson as to how the band began and all the strange musical adventures we went on back in the day.

I thought it was some excellent material and it was a lot of fun to listen to.

Yeah, I think it's a pretty compelling listen. Not until I put it all together did I realize how strange the band had been over the years just going from almost straight rap thing to all the different weird moments that we would experiment with to finally get to where that would end up reaching a lot of people.

What made you decide to put the record together?

I don't know. I don't remember necessarily why. I think it was just like I said, I was probably cleaning out a closet somewhere and discovered a box of tapes and just started listening and just discovering all this stuff. I thought before all these old DAT tapes and CDs just start disintegrating, why don't I do something with all this material. It was just a little project that we were working on. Just a couple of members. By the time it was done, I had found about 20 songs. I said let's make this a new record and see what happens.

You had lineup changes during the years. You guys managed to hold things together for 14 years. What do you attribute to your longevity in that regard?

I always thought of being in a band and being in the music business as a game of endurance. A lot of people fool themselves and think that it's something that just happens quickly. I just love to do it and it's a lot of work and there's been many times when, like you said, original band members quit the band. It would have been a lot easier to just throw in the towel and say this is too much work and let's go do something else but I'm just driven by the love of making music. Even now with the DreamWorks deal just sort of gone, the easy route would be just to say fuck it. It's too much now. The fact is, why stop? Your success or your happiness shouldn't be dependent on somebody else's decisions so I just keep working. I'm a bit of a workaholic and I just keep at it. It's one of those bands that yeah, there have been a lot of member changes. I'd love to be U2 and have the same members for the past 25 years but that's just not what this band is all about. It keeps things interesting. The fans never know who's going to be on the next record.

I find it amazing that a band can actually hold together that long. That's really not a normal thing because personalities clash.

Yeah, and I think a lot of people just give up. They give up really easily. The first sign of trouble, they throw in the towel or they don't get signed fast enough. Powerman 5000 was a band for about seven years before we got our first major record deal. That's a long time to just keep working and believing in yourself. A lot of bands think if they don't get a deal in six months, it's not worth it.

It really shouldn't depend on business so much.

It shouldn't. I think that's where the problem begins. We never used to think about record deals. We just were a band and we just played shows and wrote songs and that's what we did. Then the other stuff just through the work started to fall into place but we never had that as a priority. We never thought about that. We didn't know anything about that. A lot of younger bands are a lot more savvy now about how things work and they know how to contact A&R people and set up showcases. We didn't know any of that stuff. We were making music.

I think the Internet has probably played a large role in that.

Yeah, I think much more information is out there now so people are figuring out how it's done. The funny part is with all that information, nothing has changed. There's really still, if you're a rock band, one way to be successful and that's just hard work. Get out there and play and find fans. There's no easy way.

You were talking about working on new material. Can you tell us a little bit about what the new record is going to be like?

Who knows? I don't know. One cool thing we've been doing lately is we've been doing a lot of songs for video games which is an amazing way to preview songs and get your music in the hands of a lot of people. We just did three new songs for this wrestling video game that will probably go on to sell 3,000,000 copies. We just completed a song yesterday for another video game and it's a great way for us to get new songs out there and judge the feedback from the fans. It just keeps us working. Who knows what the next record will sound like. I know what these new songs sound like. It's not necessarily an indication of what the record will be like.

How did you get hooked up with the video game industry?

We've always been the kind of band that's opened to licensing a lot of songs to video games and to movies and things like that. They just seek out music and sometimes you just get a call saying they'd love to get a Powerman 5000 song on their next game. You've got to adopt those relationships. That's what we've always done.

Can you tell me a little bit about some of the video games that your songs have been on?

There have been a number of them. To be honest with you, I'm not even sure. I think the biggest one we've been a part of is with the first Tony Hawk video game. It's funny because I meet a lot of fans who say that's how they discovered the band. They were playing Tony Hawk and they heard this song. That's absolutely proof positive that it works. That was probably one of the bigger ones. Like I said, a new one. We're on a wrestling video game. We're on a motocross video game that comes out next year. Just a bunch of different ones.

It's amazing how many times I do interviews and I hear the name Tony Hawk come up in connection with music. So many musicians mention that guy.

That guy has built an empire around skateboarding. It's amazing.

Besides working on a new record, what else are you guys up to?

Just getting things rolling. Writing stuff takes up most of our time and we just played a couple of shows. We've been off the road for almost a year now so we're starting to get that back together and we played a couple of shows out here on the West coast that went amazingly well. We're shooting for next year to get back on the road and do more shows. The normal stuff that a band does. Just make music. The possibilities of what's going to happen next year are wide open. It's an exciting time.

I got a kick out of your brother's movie, House Of 1,000 Corpses. That was pretty damn cool.

He just finished the sequel. I think that comes out early next year.

Is he doing that full time now or is he still sticking with music?

It depends what day you talk to him. He changes his mind. I think that he definitely is hoping to turn the movie thing into a full time thing. I know he still gets drawn back into the music. I suspect he'll probably do another record. After that, I don't know. Who knows? He changes his mind all the time.

You two are really amazing.

Well, thanks.

Is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, Vol. 1 doing pretty well?

It just came out. I don't know. I don't judge it's success like I would a record of new material. It's the kind of record that it's a small record and it's going to be one of those records that just over time sells. There's no single that we go to radio with. There's no nothing. It's just a cool little thing for fans who are interested in it. Again, I judge the success of that record on a whole different level than I would a new record. Sure, it's doing great. It's great when you sell a lot of records and we've done that. We've had records that have sold a lot and records that have not sold a lot. For your own sanity and your own success in terms of being a creative person, you really have to stop thinking about that. If that's what motivates you, then you're in trouble from day one. You just got to do what you do and let other people worry about that stuff.

I thought that was funny when you said you made millions of dollars for that one label. You didn't say that you made millions of dollars for yourself.

I mean please. You've seen Behind The Music. It doesn't work that way. The band is the last group of people to get paid. I've done okay but there are other people who have certainly made more money than I have off my own work. You know that going in. You certainly can't be bitter about the way the industry works.

Powerman 5000