Spider One On Touring, Longevity, And Comics

Powerman 5000 is currently in the midst of the second leg of the New Wave Tour and will be pulling into Greensboro's The Blind Tiger on...

Powerman 5000 is currently in the midst of the second leg of the New Wave Tour and will be pulling into Greensboro's The Blind Tiger on April 25th. We spoke with frontman Spider One about the tour, rebellion, cover songs, the band's longevity, his art, and more.

You're on the road with the second leg of your New Wave Tour. What can fans expect?
Honestly, we pride ourselves on a great live show. Over the years, the music business has changed and no one buys records anymore, everything's changed. I feel the one thing as a band that you have is your live performance. It's one of those things where you can make a fan for life with a great show or you can have someone leaving the venue going, "Well, that sucked." So I guess they can always expect us to put on as intense a show as we possibly can. To me, it's always very important and part of being in a band.

They can also expect really smelly wardrobe. We go on tour, play six nights a week, four weeks straight without a break, and one pair of clothes for stage. It should be a form of punishment—whoever makes the most mistakes that night has to ride with the wardrobe.

You kind of hinted to this, but what's an average day like for you out on the road?
There's not a heck of a lot to do, but it's a great excuse to do nothing. The way I look at it, my only job is to have one really great hour and fifteen minutes, or however long the set is on a particular night. I always feel justified, if I want to sit there and watch a marathon of Shark Tank on my iPad, I can do that as long as I put on a good show. It's funny, you have all this travel time, this downtime, that I probably could've learned ten languages by now over the years, but you tend to just sit there and stare out the window. Our band and crew tend to be comprised of a lot of really nerdy people, so there's lots of discussions of '80s He-Man cartoons and who was the best Batman and all that sort of stuff.

I read in an interview that you did where you said your New Wave album was about holding on to rebelliousness. What did you mean by that?
I always feel no matter how old I get, for whatever reason I still have this weird seed inside of me that feels like I'm still fourteen with an ambiguous punk-rock fight-the-system fuck-the-man kind of attitude. I think a lot of us start out like that. I grew up with friends and we all had that same rallying cry attitude but over time, the world around you chips away at it until you just go, "Oh, fuck it. I give up." Is it a natural thing to let go of that feeling and give in to adulthood and the real world? Or is it important to hang on to those ideals and that spirit of when you felt like you could take on the world? I don't know if it's a badge of honor or if you should be embarrassed if you still have that feeling.

I don't know if that made any sense, but it's kind of a concept of not letting yourself be chipped away as time moves on. Inevitably, we all sort of are. We all grow up and we all become a little less idealistic and a little more realistic. I think it's important to do as much as you can to hang on to that spirit.

I was a big fan of Copies, Clones & Replicants. Any chance we're going to see a Volume II of that?
I don't know. That record was such a bizarre thing. It wasn't even supposed to be a record. That came about because we were approached by a company to do a bunch of cover tunes. "Hey, do a bunch of cover tunes and we can license them out to film and TV." In the fine print, it said, "We can also release this as an album if we choose to." And I thought, "No one's going to want to put this out as an album." Little did I know, they actually did. I never really wanted to make a cover tunes album, but when I look back on it, I feel like it's pretty cool. There's some ones on there that I'm pretty proud of and I'm always thinking of other cover tunes to do so never say never. There definitely could be another one.

The other funny thing about doing a cover tunes album or doing cover tunes in general is when I started that I thought, "Well, this will be easy. The songs are already written!" It ended up being more work than doing an album of originals because I didn't just want to do a copy of how the original person did it. And then you're burdened with the problem of you're never going to do a version as good as the original. It ended up being way more work than I ever would've imagined.

At this point, you've pretty much spent half your life with Powerman 5000. Why do you think it's managed to last so long?
I think it lasted this long because I just never stopped, quite honestly. That sounds like a joke, but it's kind of true. I would stop doing it if I felt like I didn't have an urge to... I don't know what to say. You can't base on whether you continue on the level of success because the level is ever changing and you also gauge success very differently depending on what's happening around you. Whatever it was that hooked me when I was a little kid about the idea of having a band and being in a band still sticks with me. I still like that idea. Ever since I was little and I saw The Clash and I was like, "Those guys seem fucking cool!" and "They seem like they have a really good time together." I just still have that feeling so I've never wanted to stop doing it. There are times when I regret not going to college or have some sort of backup plan, but at the end of the day it's like The Godfather, "Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in." That's what music is. It sinks its hooks into you and doesn't let go.

What's been the biggest moment of your career?
There's been so many things that have happened to me that I'm like, "Wow! I can't believe that I'm here." or "I can't believe that I"m doing this." It's difficult to narrow it down to one. Hearing my song on the radio was a huge deal back in the beginning. When MTV was a relevant place for music videos, getting on MTV was really weird. The last job I had before going completely full-time was working at Tower Records. I was there stocking the shelves with Metallica records and CDS and then at a certain point, you're like, "Wow, we're on the same stage as them." or "Our music video is being played after the Christina Aguilera music video." It starts to become this really weird, surreal thing that's happening to you. But I think at the end of the day, getting the platinum record was probably the biggest thing, because as a kid you'd see these platinum records on walls of a recording studio and it seems like the Holy Grail. When we ended up getting one, it was a pretty huge thing.

Let's talk about your art. Are you able to devote much time to it when you're out on the road?
I should, but I don't do a lot on the road. I have recently acquired an iPad Pro which you can paint and draw on and it's pretty fucking amazing. Since I've gotten that, I've been re-energized with doing art digitally, which I never really did before. I was pretty old school, ink on paper, paint on canvas. This allows me to be more creative in different environments. Recently, I've been leaning toward more illustrative stuff, I've been working on some comic book ideas. I'm working on two comics right now. It's such a great contrast to music and it's something that I've done since I was four years old.

I noticed that a lot of it, at least what you've shared, revolves around pop culture icons. Is that pretty much true with most of your art or is that just what you've chosen to share with the public?
I think a lot of it stems from that. That's a couple of series I've done in terms of painting. Just like the band, so much that inspires me is pop-culture related. My earliest influences were Marvel Comics, Star Trek, I would sit and watch endless hours of TV as a kid and watch any movie I could. I would just watch my favorite movies over and over and over. So those are the things that shaped me the most and they seem very trivial and silly, but they were and still are a huge part of my life and very important to me. I'd say a majority of my art is based around popular culture themes. I haven't painted any landscapes yet.

You mentioned your comic books. Can you tell us what those are going to be about?
They're two very different concepts. One is a really dark, serious, horror-based theme. It's so crazy and dreamlike. It's almost like Ray Donovan meets Charles Bukowski with monsters if that makes any sense at all. The other one I'm working on is a comedy and it's called Living The Dream and it's based on an unknown local heavy metal band from Plaistow, New Hampshire, so you can only imagine the comedy right there. We've had some great music-based stuff like Spinal Tap, but I feel the idea of an unknown band starting at Level Zero is untapped gold.

Here's a question from one of our readers: Do you think you and your brother (Rob Zombie) will ever work on a TV show or movie together?
I don't know. The odds are against it only because I think we both have such a singular vision. I think it would be really hard to collaborate. In terms of actually working on something together, I don't think it would go well because what are you going to tell the other person because they already know what they want and how they see it. But never say never. It would definitely be a fun challenge for sure.

Final question. You're in charge of a music festival and you choose any five acts, living or dead, to perform on the bill with you. Who do you choose?
Wow. Five acts living or dead. I would definitely bring back The Clash as headliners because they were probably the most important band to me growing up. I'm trying to think of someone new, someone modern. I really like the Arctic Monkeys. I think I'd throw them on there, they're a great band, probably the best rock band around right now. But then we're going to need a break, so we'd have to mellow it out so we'll have Lana Del Rey play to switch it up because she's great. We should probably have a rap thing in there. We'll bring MCA back from the dead and throw the Beastie Boys in there. I need one more... We're going to take a left turn with some country music and put Dwight Yoakam in there. That's going to be the best music festival ever.

What song do you all perform together as the final jam?
We'd get together and do one big version of "867-5309" by whoever the hell that was.

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Strange Carolinas is the Travelogue Of The Offbeat, a wry look at the interesting, unique, and offbeat roadside attractions, people, music, art, food, and festivals in North and South Carolina.


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