Static-X’s Xer0: Wayne Static’s Family Has Made Tour Incredibly Personal
Static-X spent a good portion of 2019 on the road, celebrating the legacy of Wayne Static and inviting fans to join them in revisiting the music of the 1999 standout debut record Wisconsin Death Trip for its 20th anniversary. As 2020 arrives, the group is pushing forward with a two-volume set, Project Regeneration, containing the final vocal performances and musical compositions of late frontman Wayne Static. The first volume will arrive May 29.
In advance of the upcoming release, we had a chance to speak with the group's mysterious masked vocalist Xer0, a longtime friend and fan of the band, on what it's been like stepping front and center to help the original lineup celebrate Wayne's legacy. Xer0 also speaks about the acceptance he's received from Wayne's family and the Static-X fans and shares some insight on his mask. In a second installment of this interview, we'll discuss with Xer0 his involvement with the forthcoming Project Regeneration album. Check out Part 1 of our chat below.
When you were first approached to take part in this tour, what was your initial reaction?
It didn’t really happen like that. My involvement began way early on, in the studio, back when this whole thing was a lot more exploratory. Tony [Campos] came across a handful of unfinished demos that Wayne [Static] left behind. He was discussing the music with Wayne's family and some of the bands previous producers, while exploring his options for how to best expand on the material.
I’ve known Tony and Wayne for like 20 years. I’m a producer and a vocalist / guitarist, and I live in L.A., so it was kind of unavoidable that I would be involved with this project to one degree or another. In retrospect, this feels like it kind of falls under that mystical category of “meant to be."
I had some basic dialog with Tony, and I just started listening to what he had and it just began to quickly grow into something really exciting to me. I became very inspired by the challenge and the more I got involved, and the more I begin to dig into what was there, the more responsibility I began to feel toward doing this for Wayne and I just got sucked into the project further and further.
Wayne’s family has expressed their support for this as well. What did they share with you about Wayne as you and the band set forth with plans to honor him?
Wayne's family made it very clear to us that they hoped for Wayne's spirit and for the music of Static-X to live on. They hoped for his unfinished works to be fully realized through the original line up of the band and for Ken [Jay], Tony, and Koichi [Fukada], to continue on with Static-X for as long as they wish.
It was very emotional seeing his family on tour. I really didn’t know what to expect at first, because this is such a unique situation. Wayne's sister Aimee came to meet me on the tour bus immediately after our show in Atlanta. She just wrapped her arms around me and we both just started to cry. I totally lost my shit, and I couldn’t get it together. I was just sobbing and I felt such a connection to her and I could feel the love that she had for her brother being projected onto me … It was so emotional, and I felt like I had just received the ultimate form of approval for what I was doing.
That was the moment that I realized how incredibly personal this all really was. I mean, from the start, I took this all very seriously and I was incredibly committed to respecting Wayne and making sure that people understood that my role was not to replace him, but to represent him on the 20th Anniversary tour. But it was his sister Aimee’s love that really brought it all home for me.
A few weeks later, Wayne's mom (Darlene), dad (Richard), brother (Jeff) and his other sister (Lisa) came out to the show in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and it was more of the same. Wayne's father actually pulled me aside, and he just looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Keep doing this.” He told me that I was making him proud and that I was doing a better job than he ever could have imagined. I didn’t know what to say to that. It choked me up. I just hugged him and thanked him for the support and tried to hold it together.
My experience with Wayne's mother was something that I’ll never forget. She put her arms around me and hugged me so tight that all I could do was imagine if the roles were reversed, and it was my mother hugging Wayne and thanking him for keeping my spirit alive. That’s some heavy shit. So much emotion, so very personal. I’ve been playing music and touring professionally for a long, long time. I’ve made lots of records and I’ve had lots of what I would define as incredible, memorable moments, but this is by far the deepest, most meaningful thing that I’ve ever taken part in.
How much do you take in what Wayne did as a performer in translating this material live? Are you attempting to replicate any of his stage mannerisms or specific vocal deliveries in the live performance and how much is you putting your own stamp on the material?
It's all about the Static-X vibe man. This was the 20th anniversary of Wisconsin Death Trip, so I did not feel like it would be appropriate for me to insert very much of myself into the experience. I felt that it was my job to recreate a vibe and to bring us all back to 1999, and to deliver Static-X in the most familiar way possible. It was really that simple to me.
That’s why I chose to wear a mask, that’s why I took the time to spike up my hair every night. I wanted to give people the best Wisconsin Death Trip experience that we possibly could and to celebrate Wayne and that great album that they made together.
I really didn’t watch any old videos of Wayne or attempt to imitate his mannerisms. I didn’t have to ... truthfully, when you are glued to a mic for the majority of the show and playing guitar the whole time, it sort of is what it is and the grooves that this band plays sort of lend to certain types of natural motions.
At the end of the day, nobody is gonna do Static-X better than Wayne Static, so I just did my best to deliver the songs and to sing them like they were meant to be sang. The songs, and the band and the energy of fans took care of the rest.
I go back interviewing the band during the Wisconsin Death Trip era and remember what an integral part of the group Ken Jay was at that point. Static-X have had a long history since then, but spending this past year with the guys, can you speak to what it means for Ken and Koichi, who weren’t there through the group’s entire run, to have this chance to come back and see this through? And can you comment on how special this lineup of musicians is, having spent the past year with them?
That question has got some real depth to it. Ken is a very special dude, and he was Wayne's original partner. Billy Corgan introduced those guys to each other 25 years ago in some little hobo town in Illinois. They moved to L.A. together and they started this whole thing together. I’ve known Kenny for 20 years, but we have grown very close over the last year of touring and living together. He’s a very kind and gentle dude, and I’ve watched him heal on a nightly basis through playing these songs and interacting with the fans and just giving and receiving love. There is a tremendous amount of gratitude within Kenny for this opportunity. He was a big part of creating Static-X, and he’s a very spiritual guy. I am honored to call him my friend and to have his approval for my role in what ultimately started out as he and Wayne's band.
Koichi is just priceless. Anyone that has ever been behind the Static-X curtain can tell you that without Koichi, there would be no Evil Disco. He is such an important part of the band's techno sound and the electronic elements that he contributes both now and in the beginning are irreplaceable. He’s another great human being and the energy that he brings to this band both on and offstage is very special. He is also incredibly grateful for this opportunity and for his ability to heal through this process.
And what can I say about Tony? He’s just the man.. He’s a monster bass player and because he is so humble, its easy to forget how much Tony’s voice helped to define the Static-X sound. His voice is all over Wisconsin Death Trip and it just wouldn’t be the same without him ... "Bled for Days," "Push It," "Fix," "The Trance Is the Motion"... his voice is all over the place.
As a bandmate, he sort of keeps everything in check. He’s like the Mayor of Otsegoland. He’s a great teammate. There is no ego with Tony. If he likes what you are doing, you’ll get a nod of approval and if he’s not feeling it, he’ll definitely let you know. It’s great because it all comes from the right place. He just wants what is best for Static-X. I’ve known Tony for 20 years and he hasn’t changed a bit. Even when he and Wayne had differences, those differences were rooted in Tony’s love for Static-X and in his willingness to fight for what was best for the integrity of Static-X. That’s truly his role. Tony is the one that calls bullshit, because he truly loves the band.
In addition, the idea of the tour being a traveling memorial for Wayne was 100 percent Tony’s idea. He insisted that Wayne's face be projected on the big screen each and every night, so that the fans could all have a chance to pay their respects and salute their hero. That was a very non cost effective decision and for me, it clearly defined what this was all about for Tony.
There is something really special about the chemistry of those four guys and they really made up an incredible live band. They weren’t put together in a board room like so many other bands from that time frame. They were just four individuals that came together and made something magical. They didn’t match at all and that’s probably why it worked so well. The band's success is a testament to the strength of that debut album and the connection that the four of them made with fans through all of the touring that they did back in the day.
This anniversary tour has brought a lot of things full circle for a lot of people. Tony, Ken, Koichi, myself, Wayne's family, the fans ... It's pretty incredible. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a band put so much emphasis on remembering a fallen member, while also pushing forward. It’s been very special to be a part of. I know that Wayne would be blown away by the amount of love that has been bestowed upon him around the world through this process. Wayne is more loved and revered now than he has ever been before.
As someone who has to perform with the Xer0 mask nightly, did you have any suggestions on what you wanted it to be? Who created the mask and was there anything specific you wanted represented in the look?
I honestly had no interest in singing for Static-X without a mask. I needed a level of separation from my own identity in order to properly serve Static-X and to respect Wayne's legacy. Again, I didn’t create this band or the vibe, so why should my face be at the forefront? From the beginning, a mask was just something that felt very necessary to me.
In time, the design of the mask will likely morph and mutate, but I really have no desire to ever perform with Static-X without it. I also felt that it was important for me to spike my hair up during the 20th anniversary of Wisconsin Death Trip, because I wanted people to be able to get lost in the lights and the vibe and at times feel as if they had been transported back to 1999.
With something like this, the stakes for the first show of a tour were even higher than normal. What was your reaction to that first night performing as Xer0 and can you speak to the general overall response from fans? Has anything surprised you or has it all gone pretty much as you thought it might before you played your first show?
The first night was insane! Huge crowed and totally electric energy. I honestly wasn’t nervous. I think the other three guys were on a whole other level of intensity, because a piece of them, probably never really thought that this moment would ever happen. For me, it was just time to get it on. I was very prepared and I was ready to get the first one out of the way.
I’ve literally seen Static-X perform hundreds of times. I know the songs are great. I know the band is great. I knew that if people showed up to see us, they would be blown away by the vision we had for this. I knew that people wanted Wisconsin Death Trip, and I knew that they had no real idea of how the hell we could give them that without Wayne.
We knew that Wayne’s spirit will always be part of this, so we chose to embrace it and celebrate it. We worked so hard on the production and the interactive elements. Truthfully, I knew that we were going to give the fans exactly what they wanted, even if they didn’t quite know what they wanted yet.
I realize this may change from show to show, but do you have any favorite songs to perform on a nightly basis and what makes those tracks stand out to you in the live setting?
“I’m With Stupid” is awesome to play now, especially because I had a hard time with it early on. Wayne's delivery is very tricky. Lots of weird vocal patterns, weird ass words and he’s singing way higher than your ear will sometimes lead you to think. I really don’t think that I have a favorite to perform. I just do my best to give my best each night for the band and for the fans.
We can all have appreciation of someone else’s art. Is there a song or lyric in Static-X’s catalog that feels specifically personal to you or is something where you think, "Damn, that’s good, I wish I would’ve written that?"
I love the band. I love the songs. I always have. I feel like we share a lot of similar influences and that’s even more reason that I needed the disconnection from my own self, because I need to interpret those influences differently as I apply them to Static-X. At the same time, the lyrical content is really all over the place. Wayne and Kenny wrote really weird lyrics together, and it's part of what made the music so special.
The first time I ever heard Static-X was live back in 1999 and emotionally, I would probably say that "Love Dump" was the first Static-X song that really hooked me and connected with me. I really enjoy playing that one live.
Our thanks to Static-X's Xer0 for the interview. The band's 'Project Regeneration, Vol. 1' is due May 29 and you can pre-order the disc here. Meanwhile, the band still has tour dates scheduled for 2020. You can see the stops below and head to their website for ticketing info. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our chat coming Monday (May 11).
Static-X 2020 Tour Dates
July 10 - Flint, Mich. @ Machine Shop
Aug. 04 - Budapest, Hungary @ Durer Kert w/Life of Agony
Aug. 06 - Josefov, Czech Republic @ Brutal Assault Festival
Aug. 08 - Kortrijk, Belgium @ Alcatraz Festival
Aug. 09 - Leeuwarden, Netherlands @ Into The Grave
Aug. 11 - Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Melkweg w/Life of Agony
Aug. 12 - Cologne, Germany @ Essigfabrik w/Life of Agony
Aug. 13 - Dinkelsbuhl, Germany @ Summer Breeze Festival
Aug. 14 - Sulingen, Germany @ Reload Festival
Aug. 15 - Berlin, Germany @ Astra w/Life of Agony
Sept. 18 - Appomattox Park, Va. @ Blue Ridge Rock Festival
Sept. 25 - Novosibirsk, Russia @ Podzemka
Nov. 23 - Moscow, Russia @ GlayClub Green Concert
Nov. 24 - St. Petersburg, Russia @ Kosmonavt
Nov. 26 - Krasnodar, Russia @ Arena Hall
Nov. 28 - Samara, Russia @ Zvezda Club
Nov. 30 - Yekaterinburg, Russia @ Teleclub
Dec. 2 - Novosibirsk, Russia @ Loft-Park Podzemka
Dec. 4 - Riga, Latvia @ Palladium Riga
Dec. 5 - Tallinn, Estonia @ Helitehas
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