DM: First of all, thanks for sitting down with us. Also, thank you for doing the tour and sharing Wisconsin Death Trip again with all of the fans, I, like I’m sure a lot of us, have been listening to the album for 20 years.
Tony: Well, thanks, man.
DM: To be able to celebrate Wayne’s life, as well as share the music you guys made together, is really cool.
Tony: Oh, we appreciate it.
DM: Does it feel like you are reconnecting with your longtime fans and were you expecting the reunion tour to be as successful as it is?
Tony: It’s turned into a lot more than we thought it would and has far exceeded our expectations for sure. But it’s a pleasant surprise. I definitely see a lot of fans that have come back 20 years later.
Ken: The wild thing is they’re bringing their kids.
DM: Wow, that’s interesting.
Ken: I think we’re all surprised. We’ve played places we had played before, frequently people have said, “man, I never got to see you the first time around, this is my first time seeing you.” and we were like, “dude, we were here 14 times.”
DM: Honestly you guys played St. Louis a ton.
Ken: Yeah and on one tour too. So yeah, that’s sometimes a little strange but I think that we were all pleasantly surprised with the amount of the younger fans we’re getting.
DM: Well, that’s really cool too because you never know if an album will really be timeless and be able to connect with more than one generation.
DM: Was it difficult to tour so much on your first album or did the music still feel fresh after all that time?
Ken: It felt fresh, but about two and a half years into it our management told us, “you can say no to a tour”. We toured so much and we had very short breaks, if at all. I mean we didn’t even really take breaks in between tours. It was like, “Oh you got two days to get to the next tour.” That’s probably one of the contributing factors to Koichi leaving. I was definitely burned out by the time we got to Shadow Zone. It strains relationships because you’re just constantly around each other. But because of that, we’ve got a pretty strong bond now. I find it interesting that we’re not far enough removed from it. So when you actually hear the word “timeless” I can’t qualify it. It’s just so much fun to play.
DM: It seems that the level of work ethic in regards to tours 20 years ago is probably what is still making these shows sold out today, all these people got to connect with you on a deeper level from seeing you so often. Do you have any favorite memories from those early years of touring?
Tony: The first Ozzfest we did. It was so epic. That was the first time we got on an actual bus…even if it got repoed.
Ken: but we paid our bills, just so everybody knows. But yeah that was really epic, the nu metal thing had hit and it was the original lineup of Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie, and Slayer.
DM: I’m glad to hear you say that because as a fan Ozzfest 1999 felt very special too.
Ken: Yeah, it was, it was felt pretty historic to us at the time. Tony was younger than Wayne and Koichi and I, but even he knew the gravity of what we were doing…It’s Black Sabbath.
Tony: Yeah, despite the copious amounts of alcohol I consumed. I knew the magnitude of what we were embarked on.
DM: You might need that much alcohol to deal with you being on the same tour as Black Sabbath, especially on your first album. That’s pretty big.
Ken: It was, it was pretty unique. It was just the whole process. You know, they had done what, one reunion tour and like ’96 ’97?
Tony: Yeah, I think so.
Ken: I mean, it was pretty intense.
DM: Fast forwarding to now, since you’re at the tail end of this tour. How did it feel to step on stage the first night of this reunion?
Tony: That first show, I haven’t been that excited, nervous, and pumped up… It was a really cool experience and I think it was close to selling out the venue in Arizona. Just hearing the crowd going nuts while you’re waiting backstage, it was a really cool feeling to have again.
Ken: Yeah, it was. I’m not even going to hide the fact that when we first started touring, I was the most intense one. I was just determined to go, “I’m not going to make mistakes. I’m always going to be there for my guys.” But I put probably quite a bit of undue pressure on myself but eventually it kind of beat the nervousness out of my system. Before a show I had a warmup routine and everything. Fast forward 19 years or so and I was physically ill, it was awful. I was scared to death, the same thing is going through your head, “I got to be there for my guys.” This is what I do and, and drummers are the foundation for everything and everything we do is so tight.
DM: Yeah it’s very tight and very rhythmic.
Ken: Yeah but I was physically ill about it. Plus, there was the pressure, even if we knew we felt good and positive about what we were doing, it’s the first show. Our rehearsals had gone great. The first rehearsal, 15 seconds in, we were like “man, why would we ever stop doing this?” But you’re going out and you’re putting it out there to the public and so you don’t know how the reaction’s going to be. Then the lights go down and the place kind of went nuts. There’s been a series of milestones. Playing in front of Wayne’s family was a big one.
DM: Okay, I can imagine.
Ken: Tony gets their approval on everything, but you’re putting this out there in front of them. There’s a lot of pressure from that. Once we did that it was taking it over to Europe, which was a big milestone. We’ve always felt we were doing the right thing. Now we know it.
DM: It’s understandable that you felt that pressure before that first show because you can ride a little bit on nostalgia, but you’ve got to be good still.
Ken: That’s important and that’s a good word. It’s a word we’re going to focus on for a minute, “nostalgia”. Yes, there’s a nostalgic element to this from the memorial aspect, but it’s also that we can do this. I mean, we did it before.
DM: Yeah, absolutely.
Ken: That was just the pressure we put on ourselves to do it, to not make it purely nostalgic.
DM: It definitely doesn’t come off that way. There has been an energy in the crowd at the shows I’ve seen from this tour, a kind of a rare feeling that you don’t get at all shows, where you can tell it’s something special.
Ken: Why do you suppose that is with these shows?
DM: I do think there’s a splash of nostalgia, but I think like we said earlier your relentless touring when you started forms a deeper connection with the fans. Also, the music was original and didn’t really sound like anyone else. Some of the bands from that era you look back on are sort of laughable. Static-X doesn’t feel that way. It feels like reconnecting with an old friend hearing these songs again live.
Ken: That’s good. I don’t know that we’ve ever done anything where it was kind of formula at all. It’s just, this is how we feel and we all feel good about it and we will keep going that way.
DM: Yeah, speaking of not being formulaic, let’s talk about Wayne for a moment. He was definitely an iconic front man visually, performance wise, and in terms of songwriting. Potentially an era defining performer for nu metal. Is there anything that you are trying to get across to the fans about him as a person or him as an artist with this tour?
Tony: Well that’s the thing, you just want to represent his vibe and energy and have people reconnect with that. I think the way we’re doing it, I think it connects with everybody.
DM: Yeah, I fully agree with that.
Ken: One of the great ironies of that is, at first you have this element of maybe we should have Xero watch Wayne and you think that mimicry is the way to go. Then you realize that Xero’s got his own thing. It just works. It’s just a lot of fun for us. That was how it was with Wayne. It’s a different thing, but it’s still funny and amusing. There’s always something new every night to keep us on our toes.
DM: That’s a good way of putting it that I never thought of when thinking about Static-X. It’s fun and amusing, many metal bands are taking themselves far too seriously. This tour feels more like a celebration than a memorial.
Tony: We’re not taking ourselves too seriously.
DM: No and It just feels more genuine.
Ken: Musically, everything had an edge but I think one of the reasons for the staying power of Wisconsin Death Trip and what I’m hearing from people is just that, it’s just fun and it’s bouncy. We were listening to a lot of dance music at the time when we wrote that. We took rehearsals and writing very seriously. There is some dourness to metal bands, we’ve had people take pictures of us as a band and they’re like, “look tough”. We kind of laugh about it. That’s the thing about this band is it’s got its edge, but we really enjoy what we do. So it’s kind of hard to have that scowl all the time.
DM: When you first were writing and recording this album did it feel like you had something different and special on your hands or you were just writing and being yourselves?
Tony: It was just “that sounds cool” or “that’s stupid, let’s do it”.
DM: I love that. Where’s there a “that’s stupid let’s do it” part on the album?
Tony: Sweat of the Bud… “Turn up the drum machine as fast as it goes! that’s dumb, let’s do it!”
Ken: The whole thing seriously started off as a joke. Tony has a little sister, she was listening to a lot of techno at the time. We’ve got Koichi so there’s the keyboard element and the programming. Tony comes in one day and is like, “Hey, my little sister listens to this really annoying music with this keyboard that goes “EEE EEE EEE EEE” what if we did that with guitars?”
DM: That’s awesome.
Ken: “Love Dump” was a friend of ours that was a huge stoner. We were sitting around one night, Wayne and I and this guy and a couple other friends. Wayne and I are having some beers and we’re drunk and this guy goes, “Man, what would happen if you guys wrote a ballad, but you screamed your balls off?” We were like, “that’s dumb”. Then Wayne goes “it’s really not a bad idea” and so I came up with a drum part and that’s how this stuff started.
DM: That’s really cool to hear that.
Ken: I know bands kind of have to do this now, but you hear, “Oh, it’s our best album ever” but it’s up to the people. It’s up to the consumers. It’s really not up to the band.
DM: For sure.
Ken: Just enjoy it and put it out there.
DM: I think that comes across. So does playing these songs again live as well as working on a new album make you want to create together again?
Tony: Yeah. I mean we’ve, we’ve already been in the studio working together on this material. So yeah, we definitely have had that experience.
Ken: Tony said it best and he said this in a couple of interviews, which is everybody’s got their own thing, their own projects. He’s got stuff to do almost immediately after we get done with this tour. I teach drums, so I’ll probably go back to that and Koch, he’s got a young son to raise. That being said you start, at least in my case, I start thinking about things.
DM: It seems like it would be alluring to keep this going.
Ken: It’s just been an amazing experience and I get to be back with my best friends again.
DM: It’s clear Wisconsin Death Trip is special to a lot of people seeing as how many of these shows have sold out. What are some albums that are that important to you?
Tony: Metallica, Master of Puppets. Slayer, Reign in Blood. Ministry, the Psalm 69 record.
DM: Those are all classics for sure.
Ken: For me, I’d probably have to say like Ghost in the Machine from The Police. Also, I love Up from Peter Gabriel. Also, The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails. Those three albums. I listened to a lot of classical and jazz too, but from a drumming standpoint and just the layers on those albums. Yeah, it’s stuff that directly influences me. Up came out after Wisconsin Death Trip but I just love how Peter Gabriel uses drums, and the drummers that have worked for him are amazing.
DM: Those are good. Is there anything else you guys want to share with our readers?
Tony: I’m just really grateful for all the positive vibes that we’ve been getting from the fans all over the world. And then, like I said before, this is exceeded any expectations we had. So, we’re just really humbled by everyone’s support and just thanks. Thanks for coming out man.
Ken: Yeah, thanks for the support and we’re humbled by it and it’s just been a blast, thank you. We’re just glad everybody enjoys it.
DM: You know what? I think the fans are grateful too. And if I can speak for all the people who were at Ozzfest ’99 melting in the sun, on that side stage watcing you guys, we thank you as well.
Interview Conducted By: Sean Cantor