Published on November 14th, 1999 | by Gerry Galipault0
Powerman 5000 generates a platinum-selling revolt
It’s enough to make a Zombie brother proud.
Powerman 5000, the heavy-metal-meets-sci-fi-disco band fronted by vocalist Spider One, younger sibling of Rob Zombie, has just earned platinum status – sales of more than 1 million units – for its second DreamWorks album, “Tonight the Stars Revolt!”
Spider is on cloud nine, or somewhere out there in space.
“It’s always been a goal for us,” he said recently. “We’ve always wanted to be big, but it’s still shocking when it starts to happen.”
Influenced by the futuristic writings of J.P. Saticoy, Powerman 5000 is like a musical version of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” It’s marooned in outer space, destined to a life of low-budget films and all things pop culture, along the way brandishing crunchy guitars, thundering vocals and an unmistakable sense of humor.
Spider and his space rangers – guitarists Adam 12 and M.33, bassist Dorian 27 and drummer Al 3 – wield an impressive arsenal of textured noise, holding true to its never-ending battle to eliminate “boring rock ‘n’ roll.” That has been their aim since they teamed in their native Boston in 1990.
Only now is it catching on commercially.
“There’s a few reasons for that,” Spider said. “The climate of radio and MTV is way more receptive now. But I would like to think it’s also because we created better songs and made a better album (than 1997’s “Mega!! Kung Fu Radio”).
“It’s been a long nine years. We were like any other band; you know the type, playing on a Tuesday night in a bar in front of 20 people, lugging gear through the snow. But as the years go on, you build up a following in your hometown, then pretty soon the record company weasels start sniffing around. It was a long, gradual process for us, and I kind of prefer it that way over gaining big-time success overnight. We truly earned this.”
With Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson bringing rock to its knees, it was only a matter of time before Powerman 5000’s evil genius was accepted by the mainstream, Spider says.
“You eventually reach a saturation point,” he said. “Like now, people are getting fed up with the pop boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and things like Britney Spears. It happened before the whole grunge came along, too. Paula Abdul and M.C. Hammer were all over the place, and then people overloaded on that, so when Nirvana and Pearl Jam appeared, it was like, ‘Oh, what a breath of fresh air.’
“People get tired of being bombarded by bubblegum crap. Rock ‘n’ roll needs bands like us, to help shake things up.”
When the early going was tough, Spider had at least one sympathetic ear in his corner, brother Rob Zombie (born Robert Straker). They shared an affinity for horror flicks and the primal heavy metal of Black Sabbath, and they both had humble beginnings in common. Zombie’s first group, White Zombie, went unnoticed for six years before signing with Geffen in 1991 on the strength of its growing underground cult following and eventually reaching platinum heights.
“It was kind of cool to have his perspective on things,” Spider said, “because he had seen it all. We talk a lot about the business.
“We grew up together in the same house and we were only two years apart, so naturally we developed the same interests. We were nuts and obsessed with music, comics, the arts, not the usual things for kids like Little League. We were in our own little world.”
Above all else, Spider wants Powerman 5000 to continually evolve musically.
“The philosophy behind the band has been that we can go in any direction and not freak our fans out,” he said. “For us, it’s important to leave it open. By providing a variety of sounds and styles, it won’t come as a surprise to fans when we do something different. You never know what we’re going to do next.
“The thing is to be one of the handful of bands that survive; like, I can see Korn surviving past the imitators. I’d like to think we can do the same thing. We want to be around for a long, long time.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I don’t remember the first album, but I think the first 45 I ever got, embarrassingly enough, was ‘Top of the World’ by the Carpenters. I was like 4 years old. What did I know?”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “This wasn’t really a rock concert, but the first show I saw was Steve Martin on his ‘Wild and Crazy Guy’ tour when he was doing ‘King Tut’ and stuff. Looking back, I feel fortunate to have seen that. I think the first real rock concert I went to was Linda Ronstadt, outside Boston. Of course, I had her poster on my wall, the one of her in short shorts and standing on roller skates.”
BWF (before we forget): Fire away with Powerman 5000 on the Web @ www.powerman5000.com. … The Powerman 500 album discography – “True Force” EP (Curve of the Earth, 1994); “The Blood-Splat Rating System” (Conscience, 1995); “Mega!! Kung Fu Radio” (DreamWorks, 1997); “Tonight the Stars Revolt!” (1999).