Static X Interview - Success on a Death Trip
Along with Powerman 5000 and Staind, Static-X have helped re-define contemporary alt-metal. Their debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip, has been greeted with rabid fan response, and the propulsive single "Push It" has become a favorite at high-octane radio stations across the country. Percussive and assaultive, the band combines staccato guitar bursts with clanging electronic samples, but always soaks its songs in enough melody to appeal to mainstream audiences. Michigan-born guitarist and vocalist Wayne Static and guitarist Koichi Fukuda supply the group's sonic framework by contrasting crunching low-end riffs with dissonant high-end squeals, and as simple as their playing is, it provides the perfect, surging compliment to Wayne's primal vocals and the band's industrial rhythms.
As intense as Static-X's music is, it's the band's tireless work ethic that has helped keep its music alive. In addition to turning heads from the second stage of last year's Ozzfest, the group has toured exhaustively, gradually building up from dodgy dives to packed theaters. And having just received an invitation to play the main stage of this summer's Ozzfest, the Death Trip seems like its destined to go on for a while. Guitar.com recently caught up with Wayne and talked about industrial music, electronica, simplistic guitar playing and, of course, death.
Guitar.com: You seem pretty influenced by early industrial/metal bands like Godflesh and Ministry?
Wayne Static: Totally. Ministry was probably the greatest influence on this whole band. A lot of the songs were inspired by old Ministry songs. I was even a fan of their early pop, synth stuff.
Guitar.com: Isn't it sad that pioneers like Ministry and Front 242 aren't selling nearly as well as the crop of bands that was directly influenced by them?
Static: Yeah, well I don't think Ministry are done yet. They're doing Ozzfest along with us and Pantera this summer, and they'll do another great record after that.
Guitar.com: Your debut album, Wisconsin Death Trip, has really taken off.
Static: It's been slow and steady. We passed gold mid-January.
Guitar.com: What do you credit your success to?
Static: There's something about the grooves that we put down. They're sort of infectious to everyone and they cross over to the metal crowd and alternative radio and old people and young people. Everyone seems to be into it. There's also something about the drum beats we use. And we've toured non-stop since the record came out. It's a combination of all those things.
Guitar.com: Your music has been compared to that of Rob Zombie. In fact, "Push It" sounds a lot like "Meet the Creeper."
Static: No, Zombie's really not much of an influence. It's more like an inspiration. When Astro-Creep 2000 came out that was around the same time that we were just starting to experiment with adding electronic instruments to our music. It was very inspirational to see this band doing it successfully in the mainstream. The main influences other than Ministry are Prong, Crystal Method, Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and then some of our peers from the L.A. area like Coal Chamber and System of a Down, who we played a lot of shows with before we got signed.
Guitar.com: So you're heavily into techno and electronica?
Static: Yeah, that's where I get my inspiration to start a song. I'll be digging on this groove from Prodigy or something, and I'll go, "You know what, I want to do a song that has this feel to it." So I'll come up with a couple drumbeats and some guitar riffs that have that kind of feel. That's where it all starts.
Guitar.com: A lot of artists have mixed techno beats with heavy guitar, but not many bands have gotten it right. However, you seem to strike a nice balance between the two.
Static: I think it's because we don't rely too heavily on the electronic stuff. We're still a live band. It seems like some bands rely too heavily on the drum loops for the rhythm. And if we can't pull it off live, we don't do it.
Guitar.com: Is the title Wisconsin Death Trip a reference to Jeffrey Dahmer?
Static: No, that's actually a book title that we stole. It's been out of print for about 20 years. It's a historical book about life in this small town in Wisconsin from 1890 to 1900. And it's about everything that happened, but it focuses on people dying and how they died. And there are pictures of dead people as well as stuff about natural disasters and fires and stuff like that.
Guitar.com: Are you death-obsessed? Do you dwell on the darker side of life?
Static: Yeah. I don't know why, but it seems like all of us are drawn to dark imagery and scary things.
Guitar.com: Do you have any overall band approach?
Static: On this record we just really approached everything from a live standpoint, and we wanted to make our shows really appealing. We wanted to be able to sound good and come across through any crappy PA system we happened to be on. For the next album, I think we're gonna start incorporating some more breakbeat kind of stuff. This album was more industrial metal, and I think the next one will be more techno metal. But we're still gonna keep the live aspect of it intact.
Guitar.com: What's the craziest thing that's happened to you onstage?
Static: On this tour, all the shows were sold out, and at two shows in a row, the crowd broke the barricade. One night in Philadelphia they broke through and the PA stacks fell over onto the stage and just about crushed [guitarist] Koichi Fukuda. So you gotta really keep your eyes open.
Guitar.com: How would you describe your guitar technique?
Static: It's pretty much rhythmic. I try to keep things broken up with a lot of space in there. Going out to see a lot of bands, you see guitar players who do all this complicated shit, and live it just turns into a wall of noise. You can't even hear what they're doing. So we try to keep everything really broken up with a lot of space in there. And it really makes the whole groove breathe better. In the past, I approached the guitar more with Sabbath and Pantera riffing, and we wrote some cool songs, but they didn't really stand out.
Guitar.com: You've got a really tight, low-end grind, but then you also get these sonic squeals on the high strings.
Static: I think if you go up high once and a while, when you come down to the low shit it just sounds that much heavier.
Guitar.com: Do you use pretty standard barre or power chords?
Static: I don't really use any chords, really. All the low stuff I just play with two fingers or even just one note. And then for the high stuff I do a lot of octave things where you mute out the in between things with your spare fingers. It's an old Jimmy Page trick. If you're just playing one string high it doesn't sound good, but if you balance it with the octave it sounds pretty cool.
Guitar.com: You've played guitar since you were seven, so you must have more skill than you demonstrate in your music. Do you ever want to break out and do leads?
Static: No. I used to do that. Some of the old stuff I worked on was more complicated, and I worked on some leads, but I got really bored with that stuff. I got really bored with guitar in general. And that was when I took a step back and tried this whole new approach. My philosophy now is if you have to practice it, it's too hard so don't bother doing it. I like to have fun onstage. I don't want to have to concentrate on difficult riffs. The audience doesn't give a fuck how hard the stuff is to play, they just want something that rocks. So if you can make it rock and keep it really simple, that way you can have more fun with the audience and not worry about your playing so much.
Guitar.com: What have you learned over the past year?
Static: I learned to take a shower when you can get it, take a shit when you can, and change your socks every day. That's about it.