Static-X Triumph Through Emotional Journey Saluting Wayne Static on New Album
Update: A new 'Project Regeneration, Vol. 1' album sampler has been added to the bottom of this post. Check out bits of the new songs in the player provided.
The date is almost here, with the members of Static-X about to complete their goal of honoring late bandmate Wayne Static by issuing the first volume of their Project Regeneration set this Friday (July 10).
Loudwire was given an advance listen to the new album, which features some of Wayne Static's final vocal recordings. We also had a chance to speak with the band in advance of the album release, getting additional detail on the timeline of the recordings, discussing the painstaking process of putting the record together around Wayne's uncovered demos and speaking on the personal nature of reuniting the Wisconsin Death Trip era lineup to work with Wayne's recordings. Plus, they also share some of their favorite Wayne Static stories.
As for the record itself, the dedication to honoring not only Wayne Static but their collective legacy shines through, making Project Regeneration, Vol. 1 one of the best releases of their career. Fans of the "evil disco" vibe will be grooving at high energy to the infectious sounds, though it's safe to say that you can feel all eras represented. You should be able to feel it in the heart and in the ears that this one was a labor of love. This serves as not only a love letter to Wayne, but the fans as well. Check out our chat with Static-X about Project Regeneration, Vol. 1 below:
I do want to start with the demos. Listening to this record, there are certain songs that feel reminiscent of the early era Static-X and put me right in that Evil Disco feel. I wasn’t sure how much of that was a byproduct of this being the Wisconsin Death Trip lineup of the band.
Part of the fun was trying to pinpoint where these demos might have come in the timeline of the band’s career. I was curious if there were more specifics as to when Wayne recorded his vocals on these songs, because it feels like it could have spanned different periods.
Tony Campos: It's hard to say for sure, when Wayne recorded some of that stuff. We used those DA88 machines for both our live backing tracks and for demoing stuff and we had them for the better part of our career. My best guess is, the vocals from the main tape that we were able to salvage were probably recorded sometime between Shadow Zone and the end of the touring cycle for Start a War. There's some programming in there that sounds like Koichi, and he recalls collaborating with Wayne while on that tour, but none of us can clearly decipher what came when.
We can say for sure, that the vocals on the songs "Hollow," "Bring You Down," and "Something of My Own" were recorded during the Start a War studio sessions. Those songs were the weakest out of the 16 songs we were working on, so they got left behind. Wayne's vocal performances were great, but the music underneath just wasn't as strong when compared to songs like "Dirthouse" or "Start a War."
It was cool to revisit that stuff and write some heavier, more authentic feeling, WDT style riffs underneath Wayne's voice. There was one song on the original five demos that I first got a hold of that had Wayne's vocals, which ended up becoming the song "Follow." I'm guessing that was done around 2013/2014, shortly before his passing.
Static-X, "Hollow" Video
Tony, this project began with some of Wayne’s demos being passed on to you. What are your recollections of first listening to what was shared? And how exactly did things evolve from there in you bringing Ken and Koichi into it?
Tony Campos: When I first heard the demos, I thought there wasn't much there. It was just one or two riffs and some programming for each song, and only one had any vocals on it. I think also, I didn't dig into the material too much because it hadn't been too long after Wayne's passing. I guess it was just too soon.
It wasn't until late 2016, I had a lot of down time at home, so I revisited the demos, and began to see some of the potential. I had already been back in touch with Ken and Koichi, so the following year, I reached out to them and shared the idea of finishing up the songs.
Xer0, you previously discussed this not being a normal album and having to work with the vocals provided. That must have led to some improvisation surrounding what you had, as we can hear in some of what sounds like sampled dialogue in some of the tracks to help fill in around. Am I hearing samples or did you and the band record something new to create some of those little pieces of dialogue?
Xer0: The samples are just part of that early Static-X sound, though we may have overdone it a bit on this one (laughs). Actually, a good bit of that stuff was already within Wayne's demos, so we wanted to preserve those visions. Some of it is a recreation of old movie samples and some of it we just made up.
Very early on there was talk of possibly having some guests, but when more Wayne demos were found, that became the base of this record. That said, were there any guests that did make the final cut on the album or is it just the core group?
Tony Campos: Al Jourgensen does a guest vocal on the last track of the album called "Dead Souls." It's one of my favorite tracks on the album. The original demo reminded me of a Ministry song called "The Fall," and I thought Al would be perfect for it. Al even told me, "You picked the right song for me." Ministry was a big influence on us, and I know Wayne would be so stoked to have Al sing on one of our records. I really appreciate him doing it.
We may circle back to some of our other friends for Vol. 2, but we really wanted to work to get the most out of any of the vocal tracks that Wayne left behind. There are still a bunch of songs with Wayne's vocals that we are working on for Vol. 2.
Ministry's Al Jourgensen
Xer0, since this was not the normal type of recording process, which of these songs came together the easiest and was there one that gave you the most difficulty in providing what you wanted out of it?
Xer0: That’s a tough question. This was a very unconventional process. Like Tony mentioned earlier, the music for songs that featured Wayne's voice were mostly built entirely from scratch. We had those couple of the demos recorded during the Start a War album sessions, but almost all the rest of the tracks featuring Wayne's vocals were absent of any music underneath them on the demo tapes. In the end, we got really lucky finding what we found and the logic behind why the vocals were all by themselves without any music isn’t as strange as it might seem.
I’ll elaborate. When somebody is using DA88 tape machines to record demos, they will generally connect two machines together and each machine will record onto its own separate tape. The machines link up and play the tapes back simultaneously. All of the tapes that we found were damaged from moisture and several simply wouldn’t play. The main tape that we were able to extract most of Wayne’s vocals from only had tracks with vocals and programming recorded onto them. I’d imagine that there was a second tape somewhere, but it was either missing or it was one of the several tapes that were completely trashed.
I wish we would have been able to salvage more, but what we did recover, was through a painstaking process of piecing things together over a number of days.
Tony, much of this has been not only about saluting Wayne, but also recreating, revisiting and reviving the feelings and emotions of the Wisconsin Death Trip era. Given the different nature of this recording process, what were your feelings after signing off on the completed record that fans are about to hear? What did this time with these guys in the studio mean to you?
Tony Campos: Yeah, things are way different now than they were when we made WDT, but we really got into that headspace and vibe of that era. Even on the songs where Wayne is singing more, as opposed to the gruff, staccato style he's known for, we feel like we could've written those riffs during that era of the band.
We're really happy with the end result. Being in the studio, working with the guys again, as well as working again with Ulrich Wild, was a blast, and just another cool way to reconnect and remember all the good times we had with Wayne.
Static-X, "All These Years" Video
While the album does pay proper respect to Wayne, it is still a very personal record for each and every member involved here. Are there little Easter egg nods to your own past Static-X history within the music you wanted to put in personally recognizing your own previous histories on this record?
Tony Campos: I wouldn't necessarily call them Easter eggs, but there certainly are nods to the past, like the Otsego song. There's a certain familiarity, certain notes, chords and phrasings that are present, that help give it that WDT vibe.
Ken Jay: Ulrich is the bigger Easter egg, to be honest about it. He has two rules for us when recording; 1) Screaming is fun 2) Everybody should have fun in the studio. However, musically we had to get back to the "fun" part of what we were. I thought that that would really be the true way to honor Wayne.
While we do have an edge, one of the things that made the band initially was the bounciness and fun of Death Trip. So to me "bringing the disco back" seemed to be the most important element of the past to recapture. That isn't really an Easter egg, just a healthy nod to the past!
Xer0: I was just happy that we were able to get an Otsego song on this record. We also have an Otesgo song in the works for Vol. 2.
Do you have a favorite song on the record, and why does that track stands out to you?
Tony Campos: I really love "Dead Souls,"the last song on the record. It's got this really dark, sad beauty to it. Koichi wrote this really awesome guitar line for it. We haven't had acoustic guitar on a track since "December," which was the last song on WDT, so in a way, it kinda brings things full circle. We always had an experimental track at the end of the record, so it was really cool to get to do that again.
Ken Jay: It is all incredibly emotional for me to listen to. That caught me off guard a bit. For some reason though, "Terminator Oscillator" just grabs me for some reason. It sounds like we could have recorded it in between Death Trip and Machine. It is just straight up stupid fun.
Koichi Fukada: "Dead Souls," I don’t know exactly why but this song keeps on playing repeatedly in my head.
Tony, Ken and Koichi, this lineup was the one that introduced most of us to Static-X. How vital was this past year plus to get that feeling back of playing together again and appreciating what each of you bring to the Static-X sound? How long did it take in the studio before it started feeling like the Static-X that you each were looking for?
Tony Campos: Just being in the same room with Ken and Koichi again after so long was a great experience. Once we got into the rehearsal room and started jamming some old songs, it came back pretty quick. After that, we knew we still had that vibe and love for the songs, and that we could pull this off in a way that the fans would appreciate.
Koichi Fukada: When we first got together after all these years and started playing songs, to my surprise, it was instant for me to feel like we are back in Static-X.
Ken Jay: Personally, the physical preparation was hardest at first. I quit working early in 2019 and just focused on working out and playing. Within 15 seconds of starting the first song ("Bled for Days" for those interested) at the first practice in the rehearsal space I knew that not only did I miss playing those songs and the band, I felt we were going to be on top of our game so to speak. For some reason we just "fit together." That all came back quickly.
In reality the emotional part was what we had to figure out and the most difficult. We are all grown men now. We each had personal feelings to get through during the tour that came to the surface. I think during the album tracking, rehearsing, press, etc, maybe we just repressed those feelings a bit.
Seeing Amy (Wayne's younger sister) in Atlanta was an incredibly emotional experience and prepared us somewhat for seeing the rest of Wayne's family at the Grand Rapids show. I feel like those moments in Grand Rapids after the show with Wayne's family, because of the outpouring of emotions, it felt like all of the pressure we had been putting ourselves under was just gone. It was a relief.
It wasn't like we hadn't felt like a band before that or that we weren't having fun. That particular show just still seems like such a milestone for the band as a whole. We could move forward after that.
You’ve got a great record here and while touring so far has been dedicated to saluting Wisconsin Death Trip, are there any tracks off Project Regeneration, Vol. 1 you’d like to see added live when touring resumes?
Ken Jay: "Terminator Oscillator" seems to be getting a lot of love. I think we should plan to play that one soon.
I wanted to offer you each a platform to share a favorite Wayne Static memory and the chance to speak on what a gift it has been to have these vocals to help bring this band back together.
Tony Campos: Man, there's so many. One that comes to mind, it must've been like '97-'98. We had just played the Troubadour, and both Wayne and I had eaten some pot brownies from a fan named Cisco that used to come to our shows all the time. He swore they weren't that strong, so we figured we'd be alright. When we got back to the rehearsal space to put our gear away, the brownies hit us both hard. We were completely useless, and just sat on the loading dock laughing our asses off, while Ken and Koichi put away all our gear. I think that's why I never saw him smoke weed or eat another edible again.
Having these tracks with Wayne's vocals was certainly an unexpected surprise, and just the most amazing opportunity to get to work with our old friend again. The demos he left behind that didn't have his vocals were cool, too. In a way, it was kind of like working with Wayne back in the day, as he would come into the rehearsal space with a program on his Alesis HR-16 and a riff or two. Vocals would come in last. With these vocal only tracks, it was a kind of an "in reverse" process. We had to write around what Wayne had already laid down. It was a different process, but a really cool way to interact with Wayne again. The entire process has just been a very special experience.
Koichi Fukada: We really had great chemistry between from the beginning. The WDT or that EVIL DISCO sound was a result of the chemistry that we all had together and Wayne was our creative hub that brought all of our different musical influences together.
Ken Jay: When I tried out for Wayne and Eric Harris (Deep Blue Dream) in late summer of 1988, I worked my butt off for 10 days after getting their demo. Their demo was so different than anything I had ever played. I had really only been in cover bands that played a few originals, but this demo was unique to say the least.
I didn't have any money to rent a practice space but the carriage house I lived in at the time had a basement/crawl space that I could set my drums up in. Mind you, it had a concrete floor but the ceiling was only about five feet tall. I had to lower my cymbal stands and use kind of a side arm delivery just to hit the cymbals. This was also August in Chicago, My "practice space" had no air conditioning and even running a fan didn't help at all. The fan just spread the humidity out!
I memorized every single note of those six songs and worked on my tempos. I had it nailed. The night of my audition I borrowed a car, packed up my drums and head to the band's practice space. I had only met Eric to get the demo and not had the pleasure of meeting Wayne yet. Eric had told me, "Yeah, he's just really quiet." So, I am fairly sure that while Wayne shook my hand that first meeting, he didn't really say, "Hi", "Hello" or "Greetings" ... he really was THAT quiet.
So I get set up and stretch out a bit. Wayne and Eric just decide to play the songs in the order on the demo and have me count off. I felt like things are going fairly well for the first 30 seconds or so and then Wayne abruptly turned around and flagged us all down. I thought we were done already. I thought, "Man, I thought things were fine," but I was a little heartbroken about it and stood up to start taking down my cymbals.
Wayne looks at me and says very loudly, "Can we possibly PAY you to stay in this band?" To this day it still just makes me smile.
Xer0: I’m just grateful and proud to be a part of something that has this much of a rich history. I give all of the glory to Wayne and to the three original guys who stood next to him and helped to define this great band's sound. This is a very unique situation, and I am honored and humbled to be part of it all.
Beyond the Project Regeneration tour and the album release, where would you like to see things go from here?
Tony Campos: Where do we go from here? Well, we still have Vol.2 to get done. That's the next goal, so we're just focused on that, and just enjoying the moment. After this, we'll see. It's really up to the fans. If they want to keep seeing us do Static-X, I'd love to keep working with Ken, Koichi, and Xer0. Ultimately, we do what we do for our fans. We're nothing without them, and we are eternally grateful for their support through all the years.
Ken Jay: At this point, if it could be safely done, I would REALLY just like to be able to tour.
Koichi Fukada: As we are working on Project Regeneration, I realized that Xer0 functions in a band as our creative hub just like Wayne used to be. I'd like to cherish this because this kind of chemistry is so rare. With this newfound chemistry, I believe Project Regeneration came out as one of our best and I'm sure Wayne would be proud.
Xer0: Looking forward to getting Vol. 1 out to the fans and finishing Vol. 2. After that, maybe I can come back as a robot and we can do a tour for the 20th anniversary of Machine. Tony, Ken, Koichi?
Thanks to Static-X for the interview. The band's Project Regeneration, Vol. 1 will arrive this Friday (July 10) and is currently available to pre-order at this location. You can also get it digitally via Apple Music and Amazon. The band is hoping to return to the stage this year. Stay up to date with their touring at their website.
Static-X, Project Regeneration, Vol. 1 + Sampler
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