How Powerman 5000 Survives in a Post-'90s Music Industry

Powerman 5000 was formed in Boston the early '90s in Boston–long before the dawn of nu metal. Although critics over the years have tried to lump the band into categories ('sci-fi metal,' 'action rock) all that matters is that Powerman 5000 has survived, and persevered, having well over two decades of inner turmoil, numerous line up changes, and massive successes, including music in major movie soundtracks, video games, and eight full length albums, as well as the band's most popular single, from 1999's Tonight the Stars Revolt, the hit single “When World's Collide.” This weekend, the band returns to Pomona for a show at the Glass House. Lead singer, and sole original member Spider One recently spoke with the Weekly about how the music industry has changed since the '90s, advice he would give to younger, up-and-coming bands, and Powerman 5000's newest record, Builders of the Future, due out May 27.


OC Weekly (Alex Distefano): What is the biggest difference in the music industry, in terms of when you formed in the '90s, compared to today?

Spider One: It's very different, to me the biggest difference is the fact that in the '90s there was one goal: to get a major label record deal. That was success; once you got there you had very few things to worry about. Back then, the goals were to get a deal, get on MTV and get on the radio. Now all those things have become either nonexistent or diminished in their importance. I don't think too many bands today worry about getting a major label deal. The power of radio and MTV has gone down significantly. Today it's an entirely different dynamic of what bands focus on. One thing that hasn't changed is the importance of playing shows and being a great live band. It's still all about winning people over, making new fans, getting people into your music; one at a time, ten at a time or hundreds at a time. Bands have to be good live.

Powerman 5000 played the first two Ozzfest tours in 1996 and 97, so would you consider touring on one of today's metal or rock festivals, or have you been approached?

Well, we already take place in a lot of radio festivals all over the country, all year long. In June we're touring Europe, and the band will be at all the major festivals out there. I don't know what's in the states; I guess all there is for metal is the Rockstar Mayhem Tour. We talked about playing that but it didn't go down as planned this year. There's nothing like playing in the summer to masses of crowds for a short period of time in the day. But we also love playing at night smaller clubs where the vibe is way more intimate. But the festivals are definitely a blast too, and it's a quicker way to get your music to as many people as possible.

What can fans that see the band live expect for a set list? Do you alternate between older material and newer songs?

Recently, I stopped playing from the early first two albums because it just seemed like such a lifetime ago, and didn't fit in with our current sound. But, from our first record, Tonight the Stars Revolt, through our latest album, I try to play at least a few from each. I know there are more popular songs that people know and like, and I am into giving people what they want, I'm not going to play all new songs that no one knows, I want people to leave the show satisfied. But this tour we've been playing a lot from our new album, and the response has been great so far. The four songs we have debuted have been very well received. I like to have an overall balance and never want to get settled in and comfortable just playing older songs.

Tell us about the band's new album, Builders of the Future, some have called it a concept album. Is this accurate?

I wouldn't necessarily call it a concept record. But I feel like by the time you're done with it might sound like one. It's definitely an observational record about life and the madness of humanity. It's very sonic and is the sound of electronic music mixed with metal. We never set out to make a “concept album” we just did what felt right.

Tell us about the album of cover songs you put out in 2011, Copies, Clones and Replicants. What was your favorite song to cover, and have you ever played any live?

We never have played any of our cover songs live, but you never know in the future. The funny thing about that album is that is was never meant to be really. We got approached to record a few covers for another unrelated project, and it just ended up being an album, which was kinda fun. I liked our version of 'Space Oddity' by David Bowie, and 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' by the Clash, because we approached it so different musically than the original.

What advice would you give to up and coming newer bands seeking success in the music industry today?

I get asked that a lot by bands that we play with, who open up for us. I say the same thing. Don't get caught up with trends, just do what you want to do and play it as best as you can during the live show. When you play live, you have one shot to win over new fans. You can't depend on a major label to pump tons of money into making you look good. It's all about being a good live band, if you aren't, you got nothing.

What are the band's plans for the release of the new album, where can fans catch you guys live?

Well we have the show in Pomona this weekend, which should be a fun time. Plus, for the record release party, on May 27th, we're having a show at the Viper Room in Hollywood, which will sell out since it's a tiny place. We're also going to Europe in June, and then later this year we have a co-headlining tour with Hed(pe).

Be sure to catch Powerman 5000 live, May 24, at the Glasshouse in Pomona. For more info, and tickets, please visit Ticketfly

See also:
10 Punk Albums to Listen to Before You Die
10 Goriest Album Covers
10 Most Satanic Metal Bands

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