Not since four musicians with dodgy abilities slapped on some whiteface makeup and named themselves KISS has a band been known so much for its look, or, in this case, the haircut of the band's leader, Wayne Static. And therein lies a story. Ten years ago, Static was trolling the bars of Los Angeles, trying to figure out not only what kind of music his band would play, but more important, what he would do with his hair. What to do? All the other bands had jumped all over the freshly-unearthed-corpse affectation championed by Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson -- that style was as dead as they looked.
"I was studying all these local bands, checking out what I liked and didn't like, but they all had these cool looks going on. I had to do something," says Static, whose tone is disturbingly serious. "I started growing a goatee and had a shaved head at first."
Yeah, Static and a thousand other metal geeks, all of whom had piercings and tattoos, too. So as the hair grew out from his shaved head, Static began experimenting with a secret elixir that eventually yielded this funky evil Abe Lincoln top hat made of hair. Naturally, that invites another question.
"Yeah, dude, on the weekend if I'm just hanging out with my girlfriend, I'll let it down. I don't think that KISS spent their time off with all that shit on their faces."
Static-X's multiplatinum 1999 debut, Wisconsin Death Trip, featured a beat-laden, hybrid metal-industrial sound that Static has often described as "evil disco," giving lazy headline writers their quick fix the world over.
Back in 1995, the first incarnation of the band leaned heavily on metal influences like Pantera. Then Static came across some old Ministry. "I was listening to the really early stuff like 'Twitch,' and I wanted to have those beats in my songs," he says. "But what if I replaced the keyboard stuff with guitars doing those repetitive riffs? 'Love Dump' was the first song I wrote with that formula. It's all about the beat for me, dude."
Still, when pressed about it, Static reveals that "the beat" isn't just for him. "Okay, it works like this: You get the beats in there, and the chicks will dig it. You get more girls coming to your shows, and even more guys will start showing up. The closest I've heard anybody else doing this kind of thing is maybe Rob Zombie, but he's got that one-dimensional voice."
"Love Dump" and other early gems like "I'm with Stupid" didn't get the gargantuan push from commercial radio that KISS enjoyed with bar-band staples like "Rock and Roll All Nite" in the mid-'70s. Even so, Static's scattershot roaring vocals and lyrics spiced with key words like "darkness" and "crucify," combined with the band's pummeling guitars, mesmerized a legion of musically disenfranchised 14-year-olds. Now all Static-X has to do is make sure it doesn't follow in the same footsteps laid down by Paul Stanley's platform boots. And Static states emphatically that he does not want to be part of a band whose best music was recorded at the very beginning of its career.
This month, the band released Beneath Between Beyond, an 18-track collection of demos, soundtrack releases and the inevitable brand-new never-released songs. For some bands, this odds-and-sods-type album might be a signal that they have nothing left to say, but Static claims that Beneath is the first step in his plan to become the hardest-working mutha in the metal biz. Like the pop bands of the '60s, Static-X plans to release a new album every year, alternating original releases with quirky stuff -- and doing it of his own free will, unlike some classic rockers whose seven-album deals amounted to wage slavery. Most of the material is already written for the group's next all-original record, to be released in 2005.
"This is our choice," he says. "We've been touring for so long, and we have this momentum built up -- we don't want it to stop. Now that the big labels are having all these problems, it's hard for anybody to get noticed, and if you aren't out there all the time, the kids move on to something else."
Perhaps some Static-X fans already have. A proposed date in The Woodlands was scrapped in favor of a smaller club show at Meridian. But Static shrugs off such setbacks and vows to press on.
"I think a lot of bands today are just lazy," he says. "Man, everybody knows I'm a workaholic. If I'm on vacation, I feel guilty if I'm not writing a new song. I like to head out to the desert for some four-wheeling to kind of ease my mind a bit, but there's always this little focus in my head about the band."
One of the things on his mind right now is the next oddball album, which will be a CD of nothing but covers. That idea sprang from one track on the new Beneath release, a remake of "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" that didn't make the final cut on the 2002 Ramones tribute CD.
But don't expect there to be that much more in a similar vein. "Sure, there might be a KISS cover on there," says Static. "I'm thinking about stuff that nobody would expect us to play, like Alice in Chains. But it's the disco stuff I really want to do, like maybe Bee Gees or Donna Summer. I love that stuff, dude."