Starting a War
by Pete Crigler
Static-X was one of those nu metal bands that I got into when I was in middle school. They were very heavy with tinges of industrial and electronics sprinkled throughout. They always seemed pissed off on every record but as time went on, they came to be very reliable. Every two years, you could expect to hear the same type of record from the band no matter what year it was. Behind the scenes, there was so much drama and conflict going on, one would think it was a soap opera and not a rock band. Here is that story.
The band began as the brainchild of Wayne Static, a guitar player out of Chicago known for his hair, which stood up on end, looking like he was constantly full of electricity ready to shock someone. He got his start slugging it out in the Chicago clubs with different bands, one even included a pre-fame Billy Corgan. After hooking up with drummer Ken Jay, the pair moved out to L.A. and eventually hooked up with bassist Tony Campos and guitarist/keyboardist Koichi Fukuda. Settling on the name Static-X, they set about to make a difference in the nu metal scene by incorporating more deep singing and electronics. Playing the L.A. clubs helped the band land a deal with Reprise Records. Setting up shop in the studio with producer Ulrich Wild, the band went about making their debut album.
In the summer of 1999, nu metal and rap-rock were all the rage thanks to bands like Staind, Sevendust and Limp Bizkit. Then, suddenly Static-X came out with Wisconsin Death Trip, an album that was completely different from the rest of the pack. Heavier with more shouting and less rapping, the band definitely made an impression. Several songs had a danceable feel to it which made the band an initial hit in clubs. Then they released "Push It" as a single and then things went through the roof. The song was heavy, catchy and instantly recognizable, not to mention had a video that looked like an older clip from Tool. The song became an instant hit and after a year of nonstop touring, including two stints on OZZFest in '99 and then again in 2000, the band had a platinum album and were the toast of the rock world. Unfortunately, it would be awhile before things were ever this easy again.
After finishing touring and beginning pre-production for their eagerly anticipated sophomore record, guitarist Koichi Fukuda quit the band out of the blue. It was announced that he had left to due to personal differences and he was soon replaced by Tripp Eisen, formerly the guitarist in second tier rap-rock band Dope. Finishing up in the studio, the band hit the road again in 2001 as Machine was released that spring. While lacking a major hit like "Push It," the album still debuted at number eleven and eventually went gold. Constant touring followed and the band finally took a break before beginning work on the next record.
It was 2003 and the band was back in the studio. The day before recording was to begin, drummer Ken Jay up and quit, stunning the rest of the band. Scrambling, the band's new producer Josh Abraham called up drummer extraordinaire Josh Freese (Devo, Guns N' Roses, Nine Inch Nails) and he flew in and completed drum tracks in a week's time. This time around, the band were trying something different. The president of the record company asked them to tone down the profanities and maybe try a little something different with their sound. Reluctantly the band agreed and the result was Shadow Zone. Despite having a good-sized hit with "The Only," the album was panned by fans and critics and the band quickly brushed it aside and kept on touring.
Work began on a new album in 2004 when the shit hit the fan. Halfway through, Tripp Eisen was arrested for engaging in sex with a minor. Apparently, he had met her online in a chat room, telling her that he looked like the guitarist for Static-X. Eventually, she flew out to meet him and he was busted in a parking lot with the girl in his pickup truck. He was quickly arrested, jailed and became a convicted sex offender. Understandably, he was thrown out of the band as quickly as possible and a replacement was found in none other than Koichi Fukuda, coming back to the fold. The band had also finally replaced Ken Jay with Nick Oshiro, formerly of Seether. With a new lineup firmly in place, work on the album resumed.
In the spring of 2005, Eisen was sentenced to jail and had to register as a pedophile. The band carried on with the release of the very angry Start a War. The first single, "I'm the One" was a different type of song for the band. Not a whole lot of electronics and a guitar solo, which was very rare for the band. By this time, they had developed a reputation as a very dependable band. This, being their fourth album, you knew you were going pretty much the same sounding record that you would've gotten from their sophomore album. And that wasn't a bad thing, if you wanted to hear the same type of record year in and year out, you knew you could rely on Static-X.
By 2006, I was in my sophomore year of college and was getting into different types of music. It was still heavy, but it was more punk than anything else. But I could always go back and listen to some good old metal. Static-X, meanwhile, after completing a successful run of touring had returned back to the studio to craft album number five, which was a monumental moment for a band like this. Here's why: by this point, all other bands of their ilk and sound had been dropped or split up after poor sales of one or two albums.
Static-X had come back with Cannibal, in 2007. I had already moved on by this point but I was curious about what the album sounded like. So that fall, at school, I went on Limewire and listened to the record and I'll be damned if it didn't sound like the last couple of records. Pleasantly surprised, I latched onto "Cuts You Up" as my favorite track. Never a single, the song still ranks as one of their best songs. Just very catchy and very riff-heavy, the song stood out as one of the coolest metal songs of the year. Touring heavier than ever, including one final stint on OZZFest, the band maintained their fanbase and continued at the same rapid pace as years' past.
By this time, bassist Tony Campos had embarked on a second career as a session musician, playing on records by Soulfly and Ministry as well as filling in with Fear Factory and Prong. Meanwhile, the band continued touring but tensions were building beneath the surface though it would be a bit longer before they spilled out into the public.
By 2008, the band had reentered the studio to begin work on album number six. They were now working with John Travis, who had produced Cannibal and had also worked with Suicide Silence and Monster Magnet. In the spring of 2009, the band released Cult of Static. This time around, I had really moved on and didn't even bother listening to the record at all. Recently, I went back and listened to some bonus tracks they had done for B-sides. They had decided to do cover songs of hair metal classics including "Talk Dirty to Me" by Poison and Whitesnake's "In the Still of the Night." Given their vocals and the grinding music, the songs sounded like shit but Wayne acknowledged they were done as a joke because they needed some B-sides and were thrown together rather quickly.
The band went back on the road but by this time, drummer Nick Oshiro had rid himself of drugs and alcohol and departed the band midway through the tour. It was thought that the departure was just temporary and he would be back eventually. Meanwhile, the band drafted in a fill-in and kept on touring.
Sometime in 2010, the shit hit the fan. It was announced that Campos had decided to leave, as he was busy with Ministry and that the band was going on an extended hiatus. Wayne then announced he was starting a solo career and that Koichi was devoting time to his new family. That was the story at the time and everyone believed it.
Then in 2011, while he was out promoting his debut solo album, Pighammer, Wayne began lashing out at his former bandmates. The person for whom the venom was really unleashed was Campos, who co-owned the name Static-X with Wayne and with whom Wayne was engaged in a legal battle. Wayne said that he wanted to go out and tour as Static-X with all new musicians but that Campos wanted more money than Wayne was willing to pay and as a result, Campos was denying Wayne the opportunity.
In 2012, Wayne tried to go out on the road as Static-X, even though the band was his solo band and he was the only original member. After a few months of doing shows, Wayne announced that the whole venture had been shut down and that Static-X was basically dead and buried. Again, he blamed Campos for the whole thing, thus starting an ugly war in interviews where Wayne would slam Campos again and again. Campos, deciding to be the bigger man, refused to really say much in retaliation, so much so that by 2014, Wayne looked so much like a stupid asshole well past his prime that it was getting kind of funny whenever you'd would see a headline where Wayne would be trying to drum up some publicity for himself.
In the summer of 2014, Wayne announced he and his solo band would be doing some dates where they'd be doing Wisconsin Death Trip in its entirety to celebrate the album's fifteenth anniversary. He then announced he'd be doing a co-headlining tour in the fall with Powerman 5000 with American Head Charge opening up where they'd be doing the Wisconsin revue. It was during this time that Wayne embarked on a series of interviews where he dissected everything Static-X had ever done and seem to be slamming and trashing everyone who'd been in the band. In October of 2014, an interview was published by Guitar World which was the most damning interview Static had ever given. Among the revelations given were that the writing of 2001's Machine nearly caused the breakup of the band: "I spent that whole two years writing ‘Machine' in the back lounge of the bus. ‘Cause my whole mindset was ‘Holy shit. We've got a platinum record and we're gonna go home after this and we gotta get back in the studio and people are gonna expect another platinum record.' So while everybody else was out partying and having a good time, I was sittin' in the back of the bus writing ‘Machine.' Which I wrote 100 percent by myself. That caused a lot of [problems] and that was when everything went to shit with the band. The band got really pissed off because we had split ‘Wisconsin Death Trip' four ways ‘cause we were all broke and we had all worked our asses off and everything. Then the time came to record ‘Machine' and I'm like ‘Fuck you guys. I'm not splittin' this four ways. You guys fuckin' partied for two years while I sat and wrote this record by myself. This is gonna be my first solo record."
Most interesting was when Static was asked about the breakup of the band: "Yeah, it just fell apart. No one had the same goal anymore. Like Koichi got married and had a baby so that's all he cared about was the baby. He didn't care about the band anymore or going on tour or making a record. Nick, all he cared about was his rehab shit and turned into a complete dick. Me and him were drinking buddies and we were friends on the road and me and him hung out all the time... He turned into this total dick who would lecture me about drug use all the time. And then you got Tony who thinks he's the coolest guy in the world because he hung out with Al Jourgensen for a year and suddenly wants to be a part of everything when he never was before. Everything was just a mess, man. It was just a mess."
Before the release of Cult of Static, Static had gotten married to porn star Tera Wray and their marriage had inspired some tracks on that record, including the single "Stingwray," and it was rumored that the marriage was causing conflict in the band as other members looked at her as a kind of Yoko Ono. He had also gotten sober with his wife after the end of the band, giving up drugs and becoming more of a social drinker rather than a hardcore alcoholic.
On the afternoon of November 1, 2014, the day Static was to head out begin the tour with Powerman 5000, he was found dead by his wife in their bed. He was only 48 and would've celebrated his birthday three days later. Initial reports speculated that he may have died of an overdose but his wife refuted those reports within days of his death. His death came as a complete shock to the scene he had helped popularize and many musicians posted tributes in the wake of his passing. Among those were Koichi Fukuda and Tony Campos, who both posted tributes on Facebook, sending condolences to Static's parents and siblings, but conspicuously not his wife, which many people in the metal community found a little more than interesting. Both, did however, make comments wishing they could've patched up their differences before his unfortunate passing; sadly, that would never happen.
In his last ever interview, given to Revolver Magazine, Static spoke about his future plans, "I'm working on another record, here and there when I have time off. We have been touring a lot, so it's been kind of difficult to sit down and write a whole song. I need a year off, with nothing else to do, in order to really write the whole record. So I think what I'm going to do is write an EP. It's been three years since Pighammer came out and that's way too long. I'm hoping the next year to get a new record deal and release an EP and tour with that."
About four months after Static's death, the coroner's report was released. The cause of death was described as an overdose of prescription drugs combined with alcohol. The drugs were Xanax and Oxycodone, which Static had been taking to combat his panic attacks. No one was surprised by the coroner's findings. Static and his wife had given up hardcore drugs about five years previously but Static still had a problem with alcohol, which ultimately caught up with him. As of press time, Static's wife had not made a further comment about this.
With Static's passing, the music of Static-X will no longer be heard in a live capacity, but one can still go and listen to all the great music the band released in their lifetime. Though Static may have turned sour and rotten towards certain people towards the end of his life, his musical legacy is secure.
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