Static-X: Wayne Was Our Bruce Dickinson and Our Eddie – Interview
When Static-X bassist Tony Campos waited in the dark on June 18, he didn’t know what to expect. No one did, really. It was, after all, the first Static-X show in years, coupled with the fact that frontman Wayne Static passed in 2014. The tour stirred up a bit of controversy; namely that there’s a new masked singer, Xer0, complete with Wayne’s signature hair, and the upcoming album Project Regeneration—the first Static-X album in 10 years—featuring the late frontman’s last recorded vocals.
“Waiting on the side of the stage as the intro rolled, I haven’t been that excited, nervous or jumpy in so long,” admits Campos the afternoon after the show. “And the emotions of remembering Wayne . . . it was surreal. I'm still sort of speechless. But it’s also bittersweet.”
When original members, Campos, guitarist Koichi Fukuda and drummer Ken Jay, reunited to discuss a Wisconsin Death Trip 20th Anniversary Tour, it was about revisiting the platinum-selling debut album. But equally, it was a memorial to Wayne Static.
The band didn’t want to use a hologram or Wayne’s pre-recorded vocals; it needed to recapture the vibe and spirit of Static-X. Xer0 had toured with the band in the early days and known Wayne toward the end of his life. They just had to talk about the best way to represent Wayne on stage.
“We started thinking of all these different merch designs we had, like the Wayne skull shirt and that’s where the mask came from. Wayne was our Bruce Dickinson and our Eddie. I know he would’ve dug us representing him onstage like this. It also helps keep the focus on remembering Wayne and celebrating the anniversary as opposed to, ‘Oh, here’s Static-X’s new singer.’ That’s not what we’re trying to do.”
There have been accusations about the tour being a “cash grab” and complaints about a frontman “pretending” to be Wayne. Campos explains that from the beginning he approached Wayne’s family to ensure they were okay with what the band was doing. Barred from the memorial by Wayne’s wife Tera Wray, who passed from an overdose not long after Wayne, the band never felt as though they had a chance to properly say goodbye.
“Wayne’s family is behind us, and who knew Wayne better than his family?” Campos said.
But amid any negativity or backlash, the fans showed up. With a long ebbing musical intro and a Wayne montage that often flashed across the screens throughout the show—spurring cheers from the crowd—it was all about the visuals.
Xer0 brought a slightly higher register and his own mannerisms to the stage, growling that this is a memorial to Wayne Static and celebration of Wisconsin Death Trip. On the rumor that Xer0 is Dope’s Edsel, Campos laughs.
“We’re actually having fun with all the different speculations. Years ago playing with Soulfly, the guitarist Mark Rizzo joked we should recruit Tommy Vext to sing and rename the band Static Vext. Sometimes if people are persistent about the question, I tell them it’s Tommy Vex.”
Campos, Fukuda and Jayare also generating a buzz with the news that they’re putting the finishing touches on Static-X’s seventh album, Project Regeneration, which features several vocals and musical compositions by Wayne Static.
It started with five demos Campos received from a producer friend, who had gotten them from Wayne shortly before his passing. One featured Wayne’s vocals, so they planned to finish the other songs with guest vocalists. They also considered three songs that didn’t make Start A War, and while looking for the live backing tracks, discovered more demos from Wayne. Now, Campos says eight or nine of the 12 tracks feature Wayne.
“What’s cool about this later stuff is that Wayne was singing a lot as opposed to the staccato gruff style he’s known for. When Wayne wanted to sing he could really sing—he had an awesome voice. So it’s a treat that fans get to hear him actually sing more.”
All of the songs on Wisconsin Death Trip started with Wayne coming into the rehearsal room with a guitar riff or two, and something on the drum machine. “Our typical writing process was basically what we found on the demos. So it was kinda like working with Wayne again,” Campos says, adding that there is also a guest vocalist on a track. “The two bands Static-X ripped off the most [are] Ministry and Prong. Al Jourgensen sings on the record, and that’s pretty monumental. If Wayne was here he’d be flipping out just like me.”
With show dates already sold out, the band added 10 more U.S. shows to the Wisconsin Death Trip 20th Anniversary Tour. You can check out tour dates here.
“It’s unexpected and overwhelming. After the first show when we got off stage, myself, Kenny and Koichi all hugged,” Campos says laughing. “Then we sat down and were like ‘Man, Wayne should be here doing this with us.”
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