When Powerman 5000 frontman Spider One decided to name his third album Anyone for Doomsday? it seemed like he had unwittingly placed some wicked apocalyptic mojo on his own spikey-haired head.
The record was due in August, but it never came out. Three months later, bassist Dorian Heartsong (a.k.a. Dorian 27) and drummer Alan Pahanish (Al 3) left the band (see "Powerman 5000's Bassist, Drummer Split").
But now, having dug himself out from the rock and roll rubble, Spider has emerged with a clearer vision of what he wants from his group's next album. Following six months of conceptualizing and writing, Powerman 5000 have cobbled together 20 songs and are working with a new drummer named Adrian (Spider isn't yet ready to supply the musician's full name).
"The whole experience has been like trying to grow your hair long," said Spider on Friday. "At first it never seems to get any longer, and then one day you wake up and go, 'Sh--, my hair's long.' We were working and working and not sure where we were going, and all of a sudden it's like, 'Damn, we've got some good songs here.' "
Spider said he scrapped Doomsday because it wasn't creative or experimental enough and it lacked a danceable groove. In short, it was just too doomy.
"Every time I'd listen to it I'd think, 'This is a f---ing great, kick-ass modern rock record, which is as good or better than anything I'm hearing in the genre. But it's not good enough for me because it doesn't represent what I want to put out as a record.' To me, doing a straight-up kick-ass rock record just isn't enough. I'm not in the business to compete with Slipknot. It was never important to me to be as aggro as possible all the time. One thing we've always done that has made us attractive to a lot of people is we've made fun, danceable music underneath layers of screaming guitars. Doomsday didn't have that, and I really missed it."
The new album will likely incorporate new wave, punk and heavy metal styles, making use of varied instrumentation including horns and acoustic guitars. Spider said he hopes to have the disc out by summer and begin touring shortly thereafter.
Although most of the new songs are still untitled, the one that has a name, "Stereotype," succinctly sums up Spider's current frame of mind. The tune opens with a mellow acoustic guitar passage before blasting into a riff that's part Cars, part Ministry.
"It's kind of this desperate plea to somehow find a way to be original," Spider said. "There's one lyric in another song that goes, 'The opposite of bravery has always been conformity,' and that's really where I'm at right now. This is gonna be one of those records where you just make it for yourself and don't worry about what anyone else is gonna think."
But while the new Powerman 5000 album is being created to satisfy Spider's selfish desires, he insists it won't alienate longtime fans.
"You're gonna be able to tell who it is, because the essential songwriters are the same and my vocals are the same. It's definitely leaning towards a bit more melody, but it ain't f---ing Creed, that's for sure. For me, it's getting back to the reason why Powerman started, which is to throw all these different elements that seemingly may not go together into the pot and stir it up."
It's likely, Spider said, that some of the songs originally slated for Doomsday will make it onto the new LP. At this point, the most likely candidates are the more offbeat tracks like "Danger Is Go!" and the electronic-based "Megatronic."
In keeping with his nonconformist work ethic, Spider wants to work with a producer who's not known for manning the boards for alt-metal bands. His first choice is Gorillaz member Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, who has recently worked with Lovage, Zack de la Rocha and others.
"To bring that kind of a spirit to an aggressive rock record could be pretty fantastic," he said. "It's kind of fitting in my world that the most exciting record of the last year was an album by a bunch of cartoon characters."
Now that Powerman 5000 are back in ass-kicking gear and are actively auditioning bassists (they hope to announce their new full lineup by the end of the month), Spider said he's more excited about playing music than he has been in years. "It just feels like a brand new band," he said. "I feel like I'm back in Boston in 1996 in a rehearsal space creating this new monster and there are no rules."